Films can be an excellent resource in your composition 102 class, and several instructors have built their decades course around the culture of film. Additionally, the writing program each year hosts a decades film series. Many of these films can be viewed in full or in part online at Daily Motion, Internet Archive, and even YouTube. These sites often have useful newsreels and other clips related to specific actors or films. For good web overviews decade-by-decade, see


The Sheik (1921)

Sheik Ahmed (Valentino) desperately desires fiesty British socialite Diana (Ayres), so he abducts her and carries her off to his luxurious desert tent-palace. The free-spirited Diana recoils from his passionate embraces and yearns to be released. Only after being kidnapped by desert bandits does Diana realize how much she has grown to love Ahmed, who comes to her rescue in the nick of time. (

The Gold Rush (1925)

A lone prospector ventures into Alaska looking for gold. He gets mixed up with some burly characters and falls in love with the beautiful Georgia. He tries to win her heart with his singular charm. (

The Son of the Sheik (1926)

Men and women, fathers and children. Ahmed, son of Diana and Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan, falls in love with Yasmin, a dancing girl who fronts her father's gang of mountebanks. Among the cutthroats is Ghobah, a villainous Moor to whom Yasmin is promised. In ruins near Touggourt, the city where Yasmin dances, she and Ahmed meet secretly until one night when her father and the gang capture the son of the sheik, torture him, and hold him for ransom. Will Ahmed believe that Yasmin set him up for capture? Even if true love finds a way through webs of deceit, what will the vigorous and imposing sheik say about his son consorting with a dancing girl? (

The Unknown (1927)

Alonzo is an apparently armless knife thrower who uses his feet to encircle Estrellita with blades. Zanzi is killed by Alonzo (who really does have arms). Estrellita allows herself to fall in love with Alonzo (she fears men's arms), so he goes to a hospital and has his amputated. Meantime Malabar cures Estrellita of her fear of men's arms, so Alonzo tries to have him killed during a circus act. (

The Jazz Singer (1927)

Jakie Rabinowitz comes from a long line of cantors. He has inherited the singing ability of the Rabinowitz men before him and has also inherited his place as cantor at the local synagogue following his father. But Jakie instead wants a life as a jazz singer, something he has known since he was a young teen. This move places a wedge between him and his father, who disowns his son. A grown Jakie, choosing the stage name Jack Robin, does have some success as a jazz singer in touring musical revues after Mary Dale, an established musical performer, hears him sing. When Mary gets her big break to star in a musical revue on Broadway, she decides to bring Jack with her. But a chance at reconciliation with his father may come at the price of his Broadway debut. (


All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Frankenstein (1931)
Scarface (1932)
Freaks (1932)
Shanghai Express (1932)
Red Dust (1932)
Design for Living (1933)
King Kong (1933)
The Thin Man (1934)
Duck Soup (1933)
It Happened One Night (1934)
Top Hat (1935)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
Modern Times (1936)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Stagecoach (1939)


His Girl Friday (1940)
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
Bambi (1942)
Casablanca (1942)
I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
The Phantom of the Opera (1943)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Laura (1944)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Gaslight (1944)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
Rope (1948)
The Heiress (1949)
All the King's Men (1949)


All About Eve (1950)



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