1940s Short Documentary Movies

Public list by WPS with 119 movies or TV shows/series

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119 movies found (page 1/4):

A New Romance of Celluloid: The Miracle of Sound(1940)

| 15min | Documentary
3.4/5 (with 3 votes)

This short documentary, presented and directed by MGM sound engineer Douglas Shearer, goes behind the scenes to look at how the sound portion of a talking picture is created.

Directed by Douglas Shearer

The Town(1944)

12min | Documentary
2.5/5 (with 1 vote)

The Town was a short propaganda film produced by the Office of War Information in 1945. It presents an idealized vision of American life, shown in microcosm by Madison, Indiana.

Blood of the Beasts(1949)

20min | Documentary
3.8/5 (with 33 votes)

An early example of ultra-realism, this movie contrasts the quiet, bucolic life in the outskirts of Paris with the harsh, gory conditions inside the nearby slaughterhouses. Describes the fate of the animals and that of the workers in graphic detail.

Directed by Georges Franju

People of the Po Valley(1947)

11min | Documentary
3.2/5 (with 20 votes)

A documentary short detailing the life of Italians living on the Po River in the 1940s.

Listen to Britain(1942)

20min | Documentary
3.0/5 (with 25 votes)

A depiction of life in wartime England during the Second World War. Director Humphrey Jennings visits many aspects of civilian life and of the turmoil and privation caused by the war, all without narration.


12min | Documentary
3.1/5 (with 11 votes)

Early documentary by Michelangelo Antonioni.

Kokoda Front Line!(1942)

2.6/5 (with 9 votes)

This iconic and Academy Award-winning newsreel shot by Damien Parer contains some of the most recognised images of Australian troops in the Second World War.

Directed by Ken G. Hall

So Much for So Little(1949)

3.0/5 (with 8 votes)

Little Johnny Jones, to be born in the next year, is shown growing to a ripe, healthy old age, thanks to the efforts of his local public health officers. But without them, he might be one of the 5% or so that dies in the first year. The price for the public health service: about 3 cents a week.

Directed by Chuck Jones

Show-Business at War(1943)

17min | Documentary
3.8/5 (with 1 vote)

A multi-studio effort to show the newsreel audience the progress of the Hollywood war effort.

In the Street(1948)

16min | Documentary
3.3/5 (with 9 votes)

Images of street life in New York's Spanish Harlem during the 1940s.

Directed by Helen Levitt, James Agee, Janice Loeb

With the Marines at Tarawa(1944)

18min | Documentary, War
3.4/5 (with 4 votes)

Documentary short film depicting the harrowing battle between the U.S. Marines and the Japanese for control of the Pacific island of Tarawa.

Directed by Louis Hayward

The Silent Village(1943)

| 36min | Documentary, Drama, History, War
3.4/5 (with 2 votes)

The true story of the massacre of a small Czech village by the Nazis is retold as if it happened in Wales.

Directed by Humphrey Jennings
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Traffic with the Devil(1946)

19min | Documentary
3.2/5 (with 4 votes)

This "Theater of Life" series short looks at traffic problems in Los Angeles, California, as described and experienced by Sgt. Charles Reineke, a traffic enforcement officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Churchill's Island(1941)

21min | Documentary, War
3.1/5 (with 3 votes)

The people of Britain resist the German air force and navy with help from North America.

Directed by Stuart Legg - With Lorne Greene

Van Gogh(1948)

20min | Documentary
3.3/5 (with 7 votes)

Oscar Winning 1948 short film by Alain Resnais, not to be confused with either the Short 1966 TV doc or the 1991 feature film by Maurice Pialat, both of which shared the same name.

Directed by Alain Resnais - With Claude Dauphin

Of Pups and Puzzles(1941)

10min | Documentary
2.8/5 (with 2 votes)

This short film shows how the war department utilizes a Ph.D., a chimp, and three dogs to help design aptitude tests for men applying for work.

Directed by George Sidney - With Eddy Chandler

Screen Snapshots (Series 23, No. 1): Hollywood in Uniform(1943)

10min | Documentary

Actors are seen in their new roles as military men during WWII: Robert Stack displaying his remarkable skill as an artillery training officer; Tyrone Power as a Marine drill instructor; Rudy Vallee leading a military band; and Glenn Ford in the everyday grind of a Marine private.

Directed by Ralph Staub

10,000 Kids and a Cop(1948)

| 18min | Documentary, Comedy

A documentary showing the constructive approach taken by the Lou Costello, Jr. Youth Foundation in Los Angeles toward prevention of juvenile delinquency. William Bendix, as a neighborhood policeman, visits the Foundation and discovers the juveniles who used to give him trouble now engaged in sports and activities, furnished them gratis, under self-supervision. Abbott and Costello furnish a couple of bits to liven it up some.

Seal Island(1948)

27min | Documentary
3.5/5 (with 4 votes)

Seal Island is a 1948 American documentary film directed by James Algar. It won an Academy Award in 1949 for Best Short Subject (Two-Reel).

Directed by James Algar

Swedes in America(1943)

17min | Documentary
2.8/5 (with 4 votes)

1943 documentary with Ingrid Bergman.

Directed by Irving Lerner - With Ingrid Bergman

To the People of the United States(1943)

| 21min | Documentary
2.5/5 (with 2 votes)

World War II public education film about sexually transmitted diseases focused on syphilis.

Directed by Arthur Lubin - With Jean Hersholt

Cavalcade of Dance(1943)

2.6/5 (with 4 votes)

Ballroom dancers Veloz and Yolanda perform the various dance fads of the first half of the twentieth century.

Battle of Brains(1941)


This film illustrates the difference between World War II and the war of 1914, emphasizing the importance of mechanization, and contrasting the mobile tactics with the immobility of trench warfare. The scientific approach, both to problems of military strategy and to new weapons, is all-important. The film shows some of the work done by Canadian scientists to make these weapons as effective as possible.

Directed by Stanley Hawes

Torpedo Squadron(1942)

2.7/5 (with 4 votes)

John Ford splices together footage of Torpedo Squadron 8, all but one of whom were later shot down and killed in the Battle of Midway.

Directed by John Ford

A Ship Is Born(1942)

22min | Documentary, War
2.1/5 (with 3 votes)

This Vitaphone 'Technicolor Special' (production number 8001) portrays the behind-the-scenes story of the building and manning, during World War Two, of the USA supply line to Victory against the Axis powers, the United States Merchant Marine service.

Directed by Jean Negulesco - With Knox Manning

Heart to Heart(1949)

21min | Documentary
2.6/5 (with 2 votes)

This Theatre of Life short focuses on heart disease, and how bad diet, lack of exercise, and the stress of fast-paced living contribute to the rising rates of heart disease and heart attacks.

South of the Border with Disney(1942)

4.0/5 (with 3 votes)

Disney short.

Directed by Norm Ferguson - With Walt Disney

Conquer by the Clock(1942)

10min | Documentary
2.5/5 (with 2 votes)

Conquer by the Clock was a short dramatic propaganda film produced by the RKO Pathé in 1942 to encourage wartime industrial production. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 1943.

Directed by Slavko Vorkapić

A Call for Arms!(1940)

8min | Drama

"What a life for a couple of nudes!" Two dancers find a new way of doing their bit for the boys in this frothy wartime propaganda short. Lord Kitchener's famous finger persuades Joan and Ireen, dancers in a 'Non Stop Nudes' revue (not that we see anything that warrants that title), to make a radical career change. Swapping their skimpy costumes for dowdy munitions factory overalls, they join a growing domestic army of women keeping the machines rolling. Belfast-born Brian Desmond Hurst was essentially a feature film director, whose best-remembered work is the Dickens adaptation Scrooge, but whose credits also included the war films Dangerous Moonlight (1941) and The Malta Story (1953). The Call for Arms was one of three propaganda shorts he made between 1940 and 1941, the most memorable being Miss Grant Goes to the Door, in which a pair of village spinsters outwit a Nazi paratrooper.

Directed by Brian Desmond Hurst - With Jean Gillie

Library of Congress(1945)

20min | Documentary
2.9/5 (with 2 votes)

A 1945 Oscar nominated short documentary about the Library of Congress. It is one of 26 documentary shorts produced between 1942 and 1945 by the U.S. Overseas Film Bureau, and intended to show foreign viewers something about America and it's values, this one focuses on the important institution in Washington D.C. which preserves written and other works that have been copyrighted, as part of the country's heritage.

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