It Happened One Night (1934)
Director: Frank Capra
I love this film. It set the benchmark for my favourite film genre, the romantic comedy, with its fantastic chemistry between the two leads, witty dialogue, and scenes of slapstick. The film also has a great grasp of its setting: America in the Depression, where people are moving around the country, looking for work. The 'Daring Young on the Flying Trapeze' scene is one of the most memorable scenes in all the film, creating a lovely sense of people's camaraderie; everyone joins in singing together, and even Ellie and Peter are kind to each other for a while.
There are so many scenes in the film that are a joy: that one, the striptease, the Walls of Jericho, the hitchhiking demonstration, the 'Quit Bawlin' dialogue, all of it is wonderful. The fact that it is Pre-Code makes this film all the more interesting: a year or two later and the striptease scene would not have been allowed.
I have noting negative to say about this film: it is a joy and is still funny and clever eighty years later. Unlike some modern romantic comedies that get the balance of 'rom' and 'com' wrong (and get too sentimental), this film is perfectly balanced, making us care for the characters so that we want them to be together. Another of my favourite films, Roman Holiday has a similar plot, but manages to distinguish itself from its cousin. Both would make a lovely double bill (though I would watch Roman Holiday first, so that It Happened One Night can pick you up after the other film's ending.)