40 must-watch movies to consider yourself a film buff

3 of 41

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

There’s no era quite like the 1930s to get you kicking up your heels and singing a song. Okay, maybe not, considering the country was in the grips of the Great Depression, but director Mervyn LeRoy and choreographer Busby Berkeley were determined to make the most of it. Gold Diggers of 1933 is the story of a wealthy composer who aids a fledgling Broadway production in the hopes of bringing it to greatness.

The plot is incidental and would kick off a string of “let’s put on a show” narratives that would pop up in every decade after. What makes Gold Diggers of 1933 is Berkeley’s spellbinding choreography. The inventive song and dance man wanted the camera to capture the body as a canvas, and several of his musical numbers involved moving parts and moving bodies, creating a swirling, painterly depiction of movement that’s amazing to witness.

It’d be horrible to watch if it was actually a Broadway show, but that was Berkeley’s intent — to show what was possible with the musical specifically on film. The cast is fantastic, with Joan Blondell’s rendition of “My Forgotten Man” a haunting ballad for a time where many men felt that way; musical sweethearts Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell are there to create some romance; a pre-Fred Ginger Rogers gets to sing the title song, “We’re in the Money”; and comic actor Guy Kibbee would become a presence in other Berkeley productions, but is at his funniest here.

Where to Watch It: It’s currently available to stream on FilmStruck. It’s also available to rent on Google, Apple, YouTube, and Vudu.