The Lady Vanishes (1938) on IMDb

Here is the Best Picture of 1938 according to the The New York Times. Alfred Hitchcock directed the story of a woman who befriends an elderly lady during an unplanned stopover on a train trip across Europe. Soon after resuming the journey, the woman can’t find her new friend, and everyone she asks tells her they have no memory of any such old woman.

The Lady Vanishes has several elements in common with other movies in the Internet Archive Top 100. (Spoilers ahead if you’re reading this countdown backwards from 1 to 100.) The characters Charters and Caldicott (played by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne) were so popular that they returned in Night Train to Munich (#67). The brief shot of an English Channel ferry also appears as an Irish Sea ferry in Oh, Mr. Porter! (#33). And of course there’s another cameo by Hitchcock, who made similar appearances in The 39 Steps (#18), Young and Innocent (#89), and Sabotage (#93).

 Night of the Living Dead (1968) on IMDb

Not only is Night of the Living Dead one of the highest-rated movies in the Internet Archive Top 100, it’s also the most downloaded movie in the Archive’s Feature Films collection. It was to be released as Night of the Flesh Eaters, but when the title changed, the original theatrical distributor accidentally left off the film’s copyright notice. Under US copyright law at the time, this caused the movie to go directly into the public domain.

Despite the lack of copyright, the movie is one of the most profitable ever made, earning over $12 million on a budget of less than 1% of that amount. Its public-domain status also helped make it so influential, as it effectively wrote the rules on zombies as reanimated, flesh-eating cannibals. The explicit gore surprised and repelled original audiences, but there’s no denying Night of the Living Dead’s endurance.

 Nothing Sacred (1937) on IMDb

In this Technicolor screwball comedy, the first filmed in color, Carole Lombard stars as a woman who learns she is no longer dying of radium poisoning but doesn’t want to return the money she’d been paid for her story. Nothing Sacred is also the story of unscrupulous newspaper men, a theme from screenwriter Ben Hecht that was featured in another of his movies in the top ten of the Internet Archive Top 100.

Lombard was the screwball queen, and it’s nice that we got to see her at least once in color before her death in 1942 in an airplane crash while returning from a war bond tour. Enjoy her here in one of the best movies you can watch and download for free.


 Pygmalion (1938) on IMDb

It’s back-to-back Leslie Howard films in this section of the Internet Archive Top 100. He was nominated for a best actor Oscar for his work in Pygmalion, and George Bernard Shaw won a best screenplay Oscar for the adaptation of his play about the professor who bets that he can transform a Cockney woman into a high-society lady. It was later remade as the musical My Fair Lady.

Leonard Maltin gave this film a perfect 4 stars. Wendy Hiller won a best actress award from the National Board of Review for her portrayal of the student Eliza. It’s just a great movie, which is why it belongs here in the Top Ten.


 The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) on IMDb

Here is a story that provided many of the roots of the modern comic book hero. As Wikipedia put it, The Scarlet Pimpernel is the name of a chivalrous Englishman, Sir Percy Blakeney, who exhibits characteristics that would become standard superhero conventions, including the penchant for disguise, use of a signature weapon (sword), ability to out-think and outwit his adversaries, and a calling card (he leaves behind a scarlet pimpernel at each of his interventions). The 1903 novel arguably established the idea of a secret identity.

Leslie Howard, who starred in this 1934 film, made a similar modern-day version of the story in 1941’s “Pimpernel” Smith, which is #60 in the Internet Archive Top 100. Nothing beats this original, where Howard rescues innocents from the French Revolution instead of the Nazis.