The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) - Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger, Tim Whelan, Vincent Korda, Zoltán Korda, William Cameron Menzies


The King of Bagdad is kicked off his throne by the evil Jaffar, but finds a friend in the thief Abu. Together, they seek to rescue the princess, restore the kingdom and bring us on one of cinema's all-time greatest adventures.

The Thief of Bagdad won the Academy Award for Special Effects in 1941. While the technology might seem unremarkable 70 years later, the visual style does not. The brightly-lit, three-strip Technicolor that Michael Powell would master combines with the beautiful matte paintings and the over-the-top costume and set design to create a feel that is perfectly appropriate for the story. The Thief of Bagdad isn't like modern adventure movies which invariably attempt to make everything as photorealistic as possible. Instead, it embraces its role as a beautiful, exotic fairy tale.

Even audiences who haven't seen The Thief of Bagdad will recognize bits of its legacy,  from Aladdin to The Ten CommandmentsThe Lord of the Rings and countless others.

Nowadays, you'd expect to see a sweeping crane shot or CG flyover to show off the expensive set. The Thief of Bagdad doesn't waste that kind of time. It runs at just an hour and forty-six minutes, which is forty minutes shorter than the shortest Pirates of the Caribbean movie. This is amazing when you look at the number of different locations the prince and the thief visit, and at the complex storyline. And when you realize that 6 different directors worked on the film, the story's clarity and coherency is remarkable.

The Thief of Bagdad isn't quite as well-known as other family classics like The Wizard of Oz or Peter Pan, but it should be a staple in any home with young children who like good movies and great adventures.

The Thief of Bagdad is #306 on the TSPDT Top 1000 list I'm blogging through.  I've now seen 399.

You can stream The Thief of Bagdad legally online in its entirety below: