Best Picture Nominees: 1931

This year marked the end of Chicago gangster, Al Capone's career in crime, as he was convicted of tax evasion and sentenced to 11 years in prison. It also marked the first rumblings of what would later become the most horrible war the world has ever known, as Japan invaded Manchuria.

The Academy nominated eleven films from 1930-31 to be presented with awards in the spring of 1932. The ceremony was the first in which the 'Best Picture' category was officially recognized (previously in the first three years in which awards were presented, the top award had been 'Best Production'). So technically, "Cimarron" was the first film to win Best Picture.

For more information about 1931, see The Learning Network's Fact Monster.

Cimarron (Wesley Ruggles)
Won Best Picture
The filmed version of Edna Ferber's western tale about a typical American frontier family and the rise of Oklahoma to statehood, Cimarron was one of the few Westerns to win so many awards (three). It would be another 60 years until another western (Dances with Wolvesin 1990) would receive the same honor.

The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch)
Nominated Best Picture
Maurice Chevalier plays Lieutenant Kiki of the Austrian royal guard in this romantic comedy. One day, as he is smiling and winking at his new girlfriend, Franzi (Claudette Colbert), Princess Anna from the neighboring kingdom of Flausenshaum drive by, and Anna (Miriam Hopkins) intercepts a wink meant for Franzi. Anna falls for Kiki, marries him, and whisks him off to Flausenshaum. Franzi follows and enjoys a brief affair with Kiki, before Anna finds out. Franzi then gives gives Anna lessons on how to win the affections of her husband.

Bad Girl (Frank Borzage)
Nominated Best Picture
A simple love story and touching melodrama of the hardships of a young, lower-income New York couple who must marry when the wife unexpectedly gets pregnant.

Trader Horn (W.S. Van Dyke)
Nominated Best Picture
While on safari in Africa, Trader Horn (Harry Carey) and Peru (Duncan Renaldo) find a missionary killed by natives. They decide to carry on her search for her lost daughter. They find her as the queen of a particularly savage tribe and try to bring her back to civilization.

The Champ (King Vidor)
Nominated Best Picture
A sentimental tearjerker, this is the story of a down-and-out ex-heavyweight boxing Champ (Wallace BeeryWallace Beery) and his adoring son Dink (Jackie Cooper). Training in Tijuana for an eventual comeback, he is also a drinker and a gambler. He is threatened with separation from his boy when the boy's mother who had abandoned them, now married to a wealthy husband, returns for him. In the climactic boxing bout, the Champ wins the match, but dies in his son's arms in the locker room.


The Front Page (Lewis Milestone)
Nominated Best Picture
This is a screwball comedy about Hildy Johnson (Pat O'Brien), a newspaper reporter, engaged to Peggy Grant (Mary Brian) and planning to move to New York for a higher paying job. The court press room is full of reporters who invent stories as much as write them. All are waiting to cover the hanging of Earl Williams (George E. Stone). When Williams escapes from the inept Sheriff (Clarence Wilson), Hildy seizes the opportunity by using his honeymoon money to payoff an insider and get the scoop on the escape. However, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou), the Post's editor, is slow to repay Hildy, hoping that he will stay on the story. Getting a major scoop looks possible when Hildy stumbles onto the bewildered escapee and hides him in a roll-top desk in the press room. Burns shows up to help. It all comes down to whether or not they can keep Williams' whereabouts secret long enough to get the scoop--especially with the Sheriff and other reporters hovering around.

Five Star Final (Mervyn LeRoy)
Nominated Best Picture
Editor Hinchecliffe (Oscar Apfel) wants to boost circulation for his "New York Gazette" and city editor Randall (Edward G. Robinson) puts his top reporter on a 20-year-old murder case. As the accused is now a happy wife and mother, she pleads with Randall to drop it. When he won't, she shoots herself, leading to more trouble.

Skippy (Norman Taurog)
Nominated Best Picture
Norman Taurog won the Best Director award for Skippy. He was directing his own ten year old nephew (Jackie Cooper) as a health inspector's son who wishes to save an impounded dog and befriends slum children. The screenplay was written by young Joseph L. Mankiewicz and was based on a popular comic strip--Percy L. Crosby's Skippy.


Arrowsmith (John Ford)
Nominated Best Picture
This is a film adaptation of a Sinclair Lewis novel. In it, a small-town, young research doctor, Dr. Martin Arrowsmith (Ronald Colman) tries to remain true to his medical ethics. He leaves his practice to conduct research to help stop bubonic plague in the West Indies. He suffers personal tribulations when his wife Leora (Helen Hayes) dies. Tempted by commercial interests and quick, big money offers, he nearly strays from his calling, but remains true to his idealism, although tempted by a vampish rich girl (Myrna Loy).

East Lynne (Frank Lloyd)
Nominated Best Picture
Melodrama carried into the 20th Century from the 19th, starring Ann Harding and Conrad Nagel.

M (Fritz Lang)
IMDB Highest Rated
Peter Lorre stars in this thriller about a psychopathic killer who is murdering children in a German city. The Police search is so intense, it is disturbing the 'normal' criminals, and they decide to help find the murderer as quickly as possible.

Memorable Scene from
"...young Elsie Beckman (Inge Landgut) bouncing her ball against a billboard and standing in front of the poster (Who is the Murderer?) that offers a 10,000 Marks reward as the shadow of psychopathic child-killer Hans Beckert (Lorre) falls over her, Beckert's look backward toward his reflection and realizing that he has a letter 'M' (meaning 'Morder') chalked on the back of his overcoat - branding him with the mark of Cain as a child-murderer, the out-of-tune whistling of the murderer who is identified by a blind beggar and captured, and the final sequence in the kangaroo court as the tortured offender piteously cries out to defend himself: 'I can't help myself'..."

City Lights (Charles Chaplin)
Subtitled "A Comedy Romance in Pantomime," this is generally viewed as Charlie Chaplin's greatest film. It is a silent film--released three years after the start of the era of sound. Chaplin was responsible for the all aspects of the film's production. In it, the famous Little Tramp character suffers as a result of his attachment and efforts to aid a blind girl and a millionaire, as he persuades both of them that life is worth living.

Buy Posters and Prints at!


Frankenstein (James Whale)
Solonor's Pick
This is the monster film! It is the screen version of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel and was produced for Universal Pictures in the same year that the studio made Dracula. The film launched the career of Boris Karloff, who's great performance communicated a hint of the humanity of the Monster behind its hideous, stitched and bolted-together body.


Le Million (Rene Clair)
Pretty pictures, song and music, comic confusion and Paris--they are all here in this French comedy about young lovers in search of a winning lottery ticket.

Dracula (Tod Browning)
Dracula is one of the earliest classic American horror films. It is the adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, but the screenplay was more closely adapted from the successful stage play by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston.

With this film, Hungarian stage actor Bela Lugosi, who had starred in the smash-hit Broadway play and took over the part for the film when Lon Chaney, Sr., died, established himself as the definitive screen vampire.

Although it's hard to believe today, segments of the film were censored in overseas viewings: a gigantic beetle's emergence from a coffin, the appearance of Dracula's three zombie-like wives in his castle, Renfield's begging scene to allow him to eat spiders and flies, and the reading of a newspaper account of vampire bride Lucy's victimization of children.

Download PDF with IMDB and other rankings for these movies.

Navigate to Other Years

1930 <- Main Menu -> 1932

Many posters provided in affiliation with

Search For Posters on!

Filmography links courtesy of IMDb link-it programme.
Many film synopses are summarized versions of complete film biographies found at, used without permission.

All posters are from, or other sources as noted. Non-commercial posters are used without permission, and are not intended for commercial use. These works will be immediately removed upon request of the copyright holder.

Oscar« and Academy Awards« and Oscar« design mark are the trademarks and service marks and the Oscarę statuette the copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This site is neither endorsed by nor affiliated with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Best Picture: 1931
What is the Best Picture of 1931?

The Smiling Lieutenant
Bad Girl
Trader Horn
The Champ
The Front Page
Five Star Final
East Lynne
City Lights
Le Million

Current Results

Navigate to Other Years

1930 <- Main Menu -> 1932

Home   ¦  Sitemap   ¦  Search   ¦  Thanks   ¦  E-Mail