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21 Best Movies of Cary Grant: Legacy of Hollywood’s Leading Man

Best Cary Grant films

Welcome to the Memorial Film Collection of Cary Grant

Watching the best movies of Cary Grant is more than just having a really good time. It’s also about paying tribute to the late Leading Man of Hollywood’s Golden Age.

He may have passed away, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, he will never be really gone. Whenever you feel like traveling back in time to witness Cary Grant‘s unique acting style, see his chin dimple or hear his distinctive transatlantic accent, all you have to do, is sit back, relax, and enjoy one (or more) of his greatest films.

But which Cary Grant movies should you watch?
Well, if that’s your question for the day, you came to the right place. We’re just about to present the Top 21 Films of Cary Grant.

The Best Movies of Cary Grant is an episode of FrameTrek’s Hall of Legends: A mega-journey dedicated to identify the greatest artists of World Cinema, and their most significant works.


Meet Cary Grant, the Leading Man of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Young Cary Grant, Best movies of Cary Grant

With a captivating screen presence, Cary Grant was one of classic Hollywood’s definitive leading men from the 1930s until the mid-1960s. He was known for his debonair demeanor, light-hearted approach to acting, and sense of comic timing.

But let’s go back to the beginnings.

Born as Archie Leach, he became attracted to show biz and theater at an early age. To escape poverty and a fractious family, he left school at age 14 and ran away from home to perform with a troupe of knockabout comedians and acrobats.

He established a name for himself in vaudeville in the 1920s and toured the United States before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s.

Grant initially appeared in crime films or dramas but later gained fame for his performances in romantic screwball comedies, many of which are frequently cited among the greatest comedy films of all time.

He did not take himself too seriously, thus he was able to play with his own dignity in comedies without sacrificing it entirely.

Grant reached a level of fame rarely achieved, let alone sustained over decades. His success was also a testament to his surprising versatility as an actor.

As he aged, during the 1940s and 1950s, Grant transitioned into darker fare, becoming one of Alfred Hitchcock‘s favorite male stars. The resulting suspense-dramas involved Grant showing a more ambiguous nature in his characters.

Sometimes referred to as the epitome of elegance, Grant represented a kind of style, charisma, and sophistication that seems impossible until you see it on the screen. But that on-screen persona was a carefully crafted image, one that hid a very difficult personal life.

I’ve often been accused by critics of being myself on-screen. But being oneself is more difficult than you’d suppose.

Cary Grant

The actor often joked that he wished he was Cary Grant. He was always torn between his origins as a poor kid from Bristol and the Hollywood legend he became.

So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about, when it comes to Cary Grant, but we are here to concentrate on his Top 21 Films, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

After all, an actor is as good as his greatest performances. Thus, the finest way to familiarize yourself with Cary Grant, is through watching his best films.

Ready? Buckle up then, and let the best movies of Cary Grant carry you to the glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age!



Presenting the 21 Best Films of Cary Grant

Chronologically


The Awful Truth (1937)

The Awful Truth (1937), Leo McCarey, Irene Dunne, Best films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy romance film directed by Leo McCarey and co-starring Irene Dunne.

Story: Unfounded suspicions lead a married couple to begin divorce proceedings, whereupon they start undermining each other’s attempts to find new romance. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The dialogue and comic elements were largely improvised by the director and the cast during filming.
✪ Cary Grant quickly became an accomplished improvisational actor during the shoot. He ad-libbed with such speed and composure that his co-stars often “broke character.”
✪ Grant was so convinced this film was not working, he begged to be released during production. The film turned out to be a big hit.

Great comic direction by Leo McCarrey and memorable onscreen chemistry from stars Cary Grant and Irene Dunne make this screwball comedy a charmer.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Awful Truth among the best Cary Grant films?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies of All Time”.


Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Bringing Up Baby (1938), Howard Hawks, Katharine Hepburn, Best Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Katharine Hepburn.

Story: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard, Baby. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant frequently socialized off the set. They loved working on the film so much that they frequently arrived early and spent their time working out new bits of comic business.
✪ Cary Grant was not fond of the tame leopard that was used in the film. A double was used in the scenes where his character and the leopard had to make contact.
✪ Before the movie was released Cary Grant had been worried that he might never become a major star after all, since he was already nearly 34 at the time of filming and younger actors like Errol Flynn and James Stewart were already established stars.

With Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant at their effervescent best, Bringing Up Baby is a seamlessly assembled comedy with enduring appeal.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Bringing Up Baby among the best movies of Cary Grant?
✓ It is included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Received acclaim from both critics and audience for its zany antics and pratfalls, absurd situations and misunderstandings, perfect sense of comic timing and light-hearted surprises.
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Holiday (1938)

Holiday (1938), George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, Best films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor and co-starring Katharine Hepburn.

Story: A young man in love with a girl from a rich family finds his unorthodox plan to go on holiday for the early years of his life met with skepticism by everyone except for his fiancée’s eccentric sister and long-suffering brother. (IMDB)

With a sparkling surface and an undercurrent of melancholy, Holiday is an enchanting ode to nonconformists and pie-in-the-sky dreamers everywhere, as well as a thoughtful reflection on what it truly means to live well.

Criterion

Why is Holiday among the best Cary Grant films?
✓ Considered on of the best comedies of the 1930s, and an important stepping stone in the career of Cary Grant.



Gunga Din (1939)

Gunga Din (1939), George Stevens, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Best Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Adventure comedy film directed by George Stevens and co-starring Victor McLaglen and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.

Story: In 19th century India, three British soldiers and a native waterbearer must stop a secret mass revival of the murderous Thuggee cult before it can rampage across the land. (IMDB)

Funny, suspenseful, and spectacularly entertaining, Gunga Din is an expertly calibrated adventure flick with some unfortunately outdated ideas about race.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Gunga Din among the top movies of Cary Grant?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list. Also featured in AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Cheers: America’s Most Inspiring Movies.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

Only Angels Have Wings (1939), Howard Hawks, Jean Arthur, Top films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Adventure romance drama film directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Jean Arthur.

Story: At a remote South American trading port, the manager of an air-freight company is forced to risk his pilots’ lives in order to win an important contract as a traveling American showgirl stops in town. (IMDB)

Why is Only Angels Have Wings among the top Cary Grant movies?
Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


My Favorite Wife (1940)

My Favorite Wife (1940), Garson Kanin, Irene Dunne, Top Cary Grant films
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy directed by Garson Kanin and co-starring Irene Dunne.

Story: Missing for seven years and presumed dead, a woman returns home on the day of her husband’s second marriage. (IMDB)

Why is My Favorite Wife among the greatest movies of Cary Grant?
✓ One of the most popular and successful movies of the 1940s with a long lasting influence on pop culture.



His Girl Friday (1940)

His Girl Friday (1940), Howard Hawks, Rosalind Russell, Greatest films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Rosalind Russell.

Story: A newspaper editor uses every trick in the book to keep his ace reporter ex-wife from remarrying. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Hawks encouraged his actors to be aggressive and spontaneous, creating several moments in which the characters break the fourth wall.

Anchored by stellar performances from Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, His Girl Friday is possibly the definitive screwball romantic comedy.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is His Girl Friday among the greatest Cary Grant movies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and it’s featured on the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Laughs list.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ Noted for its surprises, comedy, and rapid, overlapping dialogue.


The Philadelphia Story (1940)

The Philadelphia Story (1940), George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Greatest Cary Grant films
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor, co-starring Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart.

Story: When a rich woman’s ex-husband and a tabloid-type reporter turn up just before her planned remarriage, she begins to learn the truth about herself. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Cary Grant demanded top billing and $137,000 salary, a huge amount at the time. As it turned out, however, he donated his entire earnings to the British War Relief Fund.

Offering a wonderfully witty script, spotless direction from George Cukor, and typically excellent lead performances, The Philadelphia Story is an unqualified classic.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Philadelphia Story among the most popular movies of Cary Grant?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Romantic Comedy”.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
✓ It is considered one of the best examples of a comedy of remarriage.


Suspicion (1941)

Suspicion (1941), Alfred Hitchcock, Joan Fontaine, Most popular films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic psychological thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and co-starring Joan Fontaine.

Story: A shy young heiress marries a charming gentleman, and soon begins to suspect he is planning to murder her. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Cary Grant did not warm up to Joan Fontaine, finding her to be temperamental and unprofessional.

Not even notorious studio meddling can diminish the craft and tantalizing suspense of Suspicion, a sly showcase for Joan Fontaine’s nervy prowess and Alfred Hitchcock’s flair for disquiet.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Suspicion among the best Cary Grant movies?
✓ Nominated for three Oscars (including Best Picture).
✓ One of the most successful and most popular movies of the 1940s.



Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), Frank Capra, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Most popular Cary Grant films
Where to Watch?   More info

Black comedy crime film directed by Frank Capra, co-starring Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre.

Story: A drama critic learns on his wedding day that his beloved maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs, and that insanity runs in his family. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The cast and crew noted that Cary Grant was frequently irritable during the making of this film. He complained constantly about the set, the props, and the wardrobe of the cast members.
✪ Grant considered his acting in this film to be horribly over the top and often called it his least favorite of all his movies.

Why is Arsenic and Old Lace among the most famous movies of Cary Grant?
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.
✓ The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from audiences and critics, who praised its spirit, humor and Capra’s direction.


Notorious (1946)

Notorious (1946), Alfred Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Most famous films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic spy film noir directed by Alfred Hitchcock, co-starring Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains.

Story: A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them? (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The legendary kissing scene on the balcony was largely improvised. Sir Alfred Hitchcock told Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman to just speak as lovers would.

Sublime direction from Hitchcock, and terrific central performances from Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant make this a bona-fide classic worthy of a re-visit.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Notorious among the most famous Cary Grant movies?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947), Irving Reis, Myrna Loy, Shirley Temple, Most famous Cary Grant films
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball romantic comedy-drama film directed by Irving Reis, co-starring Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple.

Story: A high school girl falls for a playboy artist, with screwball results. (IMDB)

Why is The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer among the best movies of Cary Grant?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1940s, with a long lasting impact on pop culture.
✓ Well received by both audiences and critics, with high praise for the principal performers, the direction and screenplay.



The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

The Bishop’s Wife (1947), Henry Koster, Loretta Young, David Niven, Best films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic fantasy comedy film directed by Henry Koster, co-starring Loretta Young and David Niven.

Story: An angel in human form enters the life of a bishop in order to help him build a new cathedral and repair his fractured marriage. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Over Cary Grant’s protests, a skating double with Grant’s features was used in the long shots of the complex skating routine.

The Bishop’s Wife succeeds thanks to the strength of winning performances from a stellar cast, which includes Cary Grant and Loretta Young.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is The Bishop’s Wife among the best Cary Grant films?
✓ Part of the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Cheers.
✓ In Britain the film was selected for that year’s Royal Command Film Performance screening.


Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), H. C. Potter, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Best Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Comedy romance film directed by H. C. Potter, co-starring Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas.

Story: A man and his wife decide they can afford to have a house in the country built to their specifications. It’s a lot more trouble than they think. (IMDB)

Why is Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House among the top movies of Cary Grant?
✓ The film was a box office hit upon its release and became one of the most popular movies of the 1940s.
✓ Included among the American Film Institute’s list of the Top 100 Funniest American Movies.


Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952), Howard Hawks, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Greatest movies of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy Sci-Fi film directed by Howard Hawks, co-starring Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe.

Story: A chemist finds his personal and professional life turned upside down when one of his chimpanzees finds the fountain of youth. (IMDB)

Why is Monkey Business among the most popular movies of Cary Grant?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a screwball comedy classic.



To Catch a Thief (1955)

To Catch a Thief (1955), Alfred Hitchcock, Grace Kelly, Most famous movies of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, co-starring Grace Kelly.

Story: A retired jewel thief sets out to prove his innocence after being suspected of returning to his former occupation. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Cary Grant had announced his retirement from acting in 1953, stating that, since the rise of Method actors like Marlon Brando, most people were no longer interested in seeing him. He was lured out of his retirement to make this movie, and thereafter continued acting for a further eleven years.

It may occasionally be guilty of coasting on pure charm, but To Catch a Thief has it in spades — as well as a pair of perfectly matched stars in Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is To Catch a Thief among the best movies of Cary Grant?
✓ The American Film Institute included the film in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Passions.
✓ Nominated for three Academy Awards and won for Best Cinematography.
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s and a timeless classic.


An Affair to Remember (1957)

An Affair to Remember (1957), Leo McCarey, Deborah Kerr, Top films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Drama romance film directed by Leo McCarey and co-starring Deborah Kerr.

Story: A couple falls in love and agrees to meet in six months at the Empire State Building – but will it happen? (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ During filming, Cary Grant was visiting a hypnotist to help him quit his 60-a-day cigarette habit. He succeeded, although he continued to smoke an occasional cigarette for several more years.
✪ Deborah Kerr and Cary Grant improvised many of their scenes throughout filming, and a number of lines that made it to the final cut of the film came from the actors’ improvisation.

There’s not too much to it besides Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, but that’s still enough to make this An Affair to Remember.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is An Affair to Remember among the greatest films of Cary Grant?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Considered among the most romantic films of all time according to the American Film Institute.


North by Northwest (1959)

North by Northwest (1959), Alfred Hitchcock, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Most popular films of Cary Grant
Where to Watch?   More info

Spy thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, co-starring Eva Marie Saint and James Mason.

Story: A New York City advertising executive goes on the run after being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ While on location at Mt. Rushmore, Cary Grant charged fans fifteen cents for an autograph.
✪ At the conclusion of production, Cary Grant bought the 1959 Mercedes-Benz 220S Convertible he drove in this film.

Gripping, suspenseful, and visually iconic, this late-period Hitchcock classic laid the groundwork for countless action thrillers to follow.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is North by Northwest among the most famous films of Cary Grant?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ Listed among the canonical Hitchcock films of the 1950s and is often listed among the greatest films of all time.
✓ Selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.



Operation Petticoat (1959)

Operation Petticoat (1959), Blake Edwards, Tony Curtis, Most famous Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy war film directed by Blake Edwards and co-starring Tony Curtis.

Story: During World War II, a commander finds himself stuck with a decrepit (and pink) submarine, a con man executive officer, and a group of army nurses. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Cary Grant was eager for the opportunity to work with Tony Curtis. He enjoyed the young actor’s onscreen charisma and likely saw in Curtis something of his younger self. After the film, they remained close friends.

Why is Operation Petticoat among the best films of Cary Grant?
✓ It was a huge box office hit, becoming the third highest-grossing film of the year, the highest-grossing comedy of all-time up to that point, as well as the most financially successful film of Cary Grant’s career.


Charade (1963)

Charade (1963), Stanley Donen, Audrey Hepburn, Top Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy mystery film directed by Stanley Donen and co-starring Audrey Hepburn.

Story: Romance and suspense ensue in Paris as a woman is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Whom can she trust? (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ After finishing this film, Cary Grant was quoted as saying, “All I want for Christmas is to make another movie with Audrey Hepburn.”

A globetrotting caper that prizes its idiosyncratic pieces over the general puzzle, Charade is a delightful romp with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn’s sparkling chemistry at the center of some perfectly orchestrated mayhem.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Charade among the greatest Cary Grant movies?
✓ It is notable for its screenplay, especially the repartee between Grant and Hepburn, and for Henry Mancini’s score and theme song.
✓ One of the most successful and most popular comedies of the 1960s.


Father Goose (1964)

Father Goose (1964), Leslie Caron, Trevor Howard, Most popular Cary Grant movies
Where to Watch?   More info

American Technicolor romantic comedy film co-starring Leslie Caron and Trevor Howard.

Story: During World War II, a man persuaded to live on an isolated island and spot aircraft finds himself responsible for a teacher and several students, all female. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ One of Cary Grant’s favorite projects. He always maintained his role in this film was most like his real personality.



The end of Cary Grant’s story

Cary Grant had become increasingly disillusioned with cinema in the 1960s, rarely finding a script of which he approved.

I could have gone on acting and playing a grandfather or a bum, but I discovered more important things in life.

Cary Grant

Grant retired from the screen in 1966 at the age of 62 when his fourth wife gave birth to their daughter and he became a father for the first time. He decided to focus on bringing her up and to provide a sense of permanence and stability in her life.

In 1970, he was presented with an Honorary Oscar by his friend Frank Sinatra at the 42nd Academy Awards.

He was in good health until almost the end of his life.

In 1986, he suffered a major stroke prior to performing in his one-man show An Evening with Cary Grant. Passed away later that night, almost two months away from what would have been his 83rd birthday.

According to his will, his body was cremated and as he didn’t want the “nonsense of a funeral”, there was none. His ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the story of Cary Grant, you may want to read his biography by Scott Eyman entitled Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise.


…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 21 Greatest Films of Cary Grant

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

21 Best Movies of Cary Grant
Legacy of Hollywood's Leading Man
The Awful Truth 1937
The Awful Truth (1937)
Bringing Up Baby 1938
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Holiday 1938
Holiday (1938)
Gunga Din 1939
Gunga Din (1939)
Only Angels Have Wings 1939
Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

My Favorite Wife 1940
My Favorite Wife (1940)
His Girl Friday 1940
His Girl Friday (1940)
The Philadelphia Story 1940
The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Suspicion 1941
Suspicion (1941)
Arsenic and Old Lace 1944
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Notorious 1946
Notorious (1946)
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer 1947
The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife 1947
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House 1948
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)
Monkey Business 1952
Monkey Business (1952)
To Catch a Thief 1955
To Catch a Thief (1955)
An Affair to Remember 1957
An Affair to Remember (1957)
North by Northwest 1959
North by Northwest (1959)
Operation Petticoat 1959
Operation Petticoat (1959)
Charade 1963
Charade (1963)
Father Goose 1964
Father Goose (1964)
*Click any title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

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