Carole Lombard: Essential 1930s Movies

Carole Lombard was one of the most celebrated actresses of the 1930s, leaving an indelible impression on classic cinema. From pre-code dramas to the screwball comedies she’s known for, her films had a profound impact on the industry and continue to delight audiences today. Below we’ve compiled a list of 11 essential Carole Lombard films from the 1930s; all of which exemplify her singular talent, charm, and wit. Whether you’re a fan of her work or simply looking to explore a piece of film history, these titles are guaranteed to both entertain and educate.

The 11 Best 1930s Carole Lombard Movies, Ranked

11. Virtue (1932)

  • Genre: Romance / Crime / Drama
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Pat O’Brien, Mayo Methot
  • Directed by: Edward Buzzell

Virtue is a very interesting drama starring a young Carole Lombard. In this pre-code crime drama, Lombard plays a con woman ready to start anew after being arrested for prostitution. She meets a taxi driver (O’Brien), goes straight and gets a job as a waitress, and falls in love with the man. But her past life of crime may catch up with her.

10. Now and Forever (1934)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama / Music
  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard, Shirley Temple, Guy Standing
  • Directed by: Henry Hathaway

Now and Forever combined the great talents of Gary Cooper, Carole Lombard, and little Shirley Temple. It’s a lot of fun! In Now and Forever, Cooper plays a swindler, Lombard his girlfriend. When the swindler is reunited with his daughter (Temple), he tries to mend his ways.

9. No Man of Her Own (1932)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Grant Mitchell
  • Directed by: Wesley Ruggles

No Man of Her Own is one of the best 1930s Carole Lombard movies for many reasons. Firstly, it’s a great romantic flick. Secondly, Lombard starred opposite future husband Clark Gable in their only film together. Even though they weren’t together when making this movie, it’s still so fun to see these two legends together!

No Man of Her Own follows a card sharp (Gable) who leaves Manhattan when his girlfriend threatens to turn him in… only to then fall for a beautiful librarian (Lombard) in the small town he’s hiding out in.

Related — The Top 10 Best Clark Gable Movies of All Time

8. True Confession (1937)

  • Genre: Crime / Comedy
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, John Barrymore, Una Merkel
  • Directed by: Wesley Ruggles

There’s so much to love about True Confession. Lombard stars opposite frequent collaborator Fred MacMurray here, to great success. In True Confession, she plays a compulsive liar who decides to confess to a crime she didn’t commit in order to help further her lawyer husband’s (MacMurray) career. So a fun kind of movie!

Related — The Most Popular Fred MacMurray Movies Today

7. The Princess Comes Across (1936)

  • Genre: Mystery / Crime / Comedy
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Douglass Dumbrille
  • Directed by: William K. Howard

Another Lombard-MacMurray collaboration, The Princess Comes Across is a whole lot of fun. Lombard plays a Brooklyn girl pretending to be a princess of Sweden, all so she can land a successful acting career. MacMurray plays an interesting man who falls for her while on an ocean liner to New York. As the two meet, a murderer hits out on the liner. A lot’s happening in this film — and it’s very entertaining!

6. The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)

  • Genre: War / Action / Drama
  • Starring: Fredric March, Cary Grant, Jack Oakie, Carole Lombard
  • Directed by: Stuart Walker

The Eagle and the Hawk is a riveting World War I drama, with Lombard as a supporting character. The film follows an RAF pilot (March) who struggles with the difficulties and mental stresses of war, though tries to overcome it. A great pre-war movie!

Related — Cary Grant: Top 10 Movies From the 1930s

5. Hands Across the Table (1935)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Fred MacMurray, Ralph Bellamy
  • Directed by: Mitchell Leisen

Hands Across the Table was the first movie Lombard and MacMurray starred in together. It also happens to be one of the best 1930s Carole Lombard movies ever made! Lombard plays a manicurist at a hotel with the intention of securing a rich husband. While she meets a wealthy suitor (Bellamy), it may be the man (MacMurray) who lost all his money that interests her the most.

4. Nothing Sacred (1937)

  • Genre: Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly
  • Directed by: William A. Wellman

Nothing Sacred is SUCH an entertaining film. With Fredric March and Carole Lombard on screen together, how could it not be? Plus, it’s the only color film Lombard ever made!

In this romantic comedy, Lombard portrays a deathly sick girl who believes she is dying from radium poisoning. However, when her doctor says that she will live, she’s ecstatic… until a very handsome reporter (March) comes around looking for a tragic story of a girl who’s going to die. So, she keeps up the charade and acts as if she will die… and the whole thing is marvelous to watch.

3. In Name Only (1939)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, Kay Francis, Charles Coburn
  • Directed by: John Cromwell

In Name Only is a very entertaining romantic drama — and one of the very best Carole Lombard movies from the 1930s. This 1939 film follows a wealthy man (Grant) who grows upset when he learns that his wife (Francis) only married him for his wealth and prestige. Stuck in a passionless marriage, the man struggles… until he meets a widow (Lombard), and the two fall in love.

Related — The Top 10 Best Kay Francis Movies of All Time

2. Twentieth Century (1934)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: John Barrymore, Carole Lombard, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

Twentieth Century is one of the best comedies ever made — and many consider it to be one of the first screwball comedies ever created. It’s a delightful watch, and that’s mainly because of the Lombard and Barrymore opposite each other. Two greats, in a screwball comedy? Yes, please!

Twentieth Century follows a theatrical director (Barrymore) who discovers that his former flame (Lombard), his former star whom he helped raise to great heights, is on the 20th Century Limited train with him. So, he decides to try to win her back on the train ride, though the others around her have other ideas.

1. My Man Godfrey (1936)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: William Powell, Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Gail Patrick
  • Directed by: Gregory La Cava

My Man Godfrey is many things. The best movie Carole Lombard made in the 1930s. One of the best comedies of all time. One of the best films, regardless of genre, of all time. This madcap comedy is delightful — even after multiple rewatches. It just never gets old!

Carole Lombard plays an eccentric Manhattanite intent on winning a scavenger hunt and finding a “forgotten man”. She meets Godfrey (Powell), a homeless man, and wins the scavenger hunt. She also gives him a job as her family’s new butler, where Godfrey slowly learns that everyone in the house is crazy — in such a delightful way, of course.

My Man Godfrey is a screwball comedy, but it’s also a social commentary about the difficult times during the Great Depression. Add a little bit of romance in the mix, as Lombard falls in love with Powell, and you’ve got a great film.

My Man Godfrey is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #114)!

Related — The Top 10 Best William Powell Movies of All Time

What’s Your Favorite 1930s Carole Lombard Movie?

Comment below your go-to Lombard film from this decade. Are there any movies of hers that aren’t on this list that you feel should be? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts, as well as what Lombard movie you would recommend everyone watch at least once!

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