Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (2024)

  • Susan Wloszczyna, Misty Holland, Chris Beachum
  • Film

Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (1)


He was born Archibald Alec Leach in South West England on January 18, 1904. As a teen, he became attracted to show biz at an early age, becoming friends with a troupe of acrobats and doing odd jobs while hanging out backstage at theaters. At 16, he would travel by ship to the United States, where he would eventually change his name to Cary Grant after signing his first movie contract in 1931. He became one of the most admired and beloved leading men that Hollywood would ever produce.

Grant’s suave looks and elegant voice served him well when he started acting in films, but his artistry and nuance on screen matured considerably over the years. He would work with the master Alfred Hitchco*ck several times, including “North by Northwest,” “Notorious” and “To Catch a Thief.” Grant was also quite deft with comedy roles, including “His Girl Friday,” “The Awful Truth,” “Arsenic and Old Lace” and “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.”

He would retire at age 62, after his daughter, Jennifer, with fourth wife Dyan Cannon was born. Grant never won an Academy Award, although he would be nominated twice for Best Actor in dramas, 1941’s “Penny Serenade” and 1944’s “None But the Lonely.” The academy made up for the oversight by presenting him with a special Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in 1970. Tour our photo gallery above of Grant’s 15 greatest films, ranked from worst to best.

  • 15. “None But the Lonely Heart” (1944)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (2)

    Director and writer: Clifford Odets. Starring: Ethel Barrymore, Barry Fitzgerald, Jane Wyatt.

    The source of Grant’s second Oscar nomination finds him employing a co*ckney accent as Ernie Mott, a restless wanderer who is musically inclined. Disillusioned by the death of his father in World War I, he returns home to his ailing mother (Barrymore) and pursues a gangster’s ex-wife while helping to run the family’s second-hand shop. He eventually turns to crime himself. Barrymore, known as the “First Lady of American Theater,” would win her only Oscar for her supporting role as Ma Mott while Grant, in charmer mode, is grounded by the real-life societal issues in London’s pre-World War 2 East End.

  • 14. “Operation Petticoat” (1959)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (3)

    Director: Blake Edwards. Writers: Paul King, Joseph B. Stone, Stanley J. Shapiro, Maurice Richlin. Starring: Tony Curtis, Dina Merrill, Dick Sargent, Gavin MacLeod.

    In this crowd-pleaser, a Japanese air raid sinks the submarine, the USS “Sea Tiger,” in World War II and Lieutenant Commander Sherman (Grant) and his crew is determined to repair the vessel. While his men are sent to other boats, he is joined by Nick Holden (Curtis), an admiral’s aide with no sub experience. However, he is an ace scrounger for materials. The barely functioning sub goes off to sea to pick up five stranded female Army nurses and Holden instantly has eyes for a second lieutenant (Merrill).He acquires red and white primer paint and soon the sub is an unusual shade of pink, making it a target of an American destroyer. There is a bit too much ‘50s-style snickering about the nurses and the men being in tight quarters and somehow a brassiere saves the day. But Curtis is on top of his game and Grant’s reactions to his con-man shenanigans are priceless. The original screenplay was nominated for an Oscar.

  • 13. “Penny Serenade” (1941)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (4)

    Director: George Stevens. Writer: Morrie Ryskind. Starring: Irene Dunne, Beulah Bondi, Edgar Buchanan.

    A touching if slightly maudlin story about a rocky marriage, down to its use of the song, “You Were Meant for Me.” Roger (Grant), a cynical reporter, and Julie, a music store clerk (Dunne), hastily decide to wed when he is assigned to a post in Japan and she won’t be able to join him yet. They share the night in his train compartment and, three months later, she joins him and reveals that she is pregnant. An earthquake strikes and Julie loses the baby while learning she no longer can have children. After moving back to the States , they look into adoption and agree to take a five-week-old girl home for a year’s probation. They officially adopt their daughter, but tragedy strikes again. Grant’s scene when he breaks down when a judge denies the adoption gets me every time and probably led to his Oscar nomination.

  • 12. “An Affair to Remember” (1957)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (5)

    Director: Leo Carey. Writer: Delmer Daves, Donald Ogden Stewart, McCarey. Starring: Deborah Kerr, Cathleen Nesbitt, Richard Denning.

    This remake of Carey’s 1939’s “Love Affair” got a blast of relevance again after inspiring Nora Ephron’s 1993 rom-com “Sleepless in Seattle.” Nickie (Grant), a playboy artist, meets Terry (Kerr) on an ocean liner while both are with other partners. She agrees to meet his grandmother (Nesbitt) while the ship is anchored near her home. When they get back to New York City, they make a pact to see one another again atop the Empire State Building in six months. But fate intervenes as Terry is struck by a car on her way to meet Nickie and no longer can walk. He eventually figures out why she has been avoiding him and they embrace. Corny, yes, but Grant and Kerr lend some sophistication to this not entirely believable set-up. But given that Warren Beatty decided to star in another remake with the script’s original title in 1994, the premise has withstood the test of time. The ‘50s version got Oscar nominations for cinematography, costumes, song and score.

  • 11. “Gunga Din” (1939)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (6)

    Director: George Stevens. Writers: Joel Sayre, Fred Guiol. Starring: Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Sam Jaffe, Joan Fontaine.

    Based on a Rudyard Kipling poem and short story, Grant has a rousing good time palling around with McLaglen and Fairbanks until one of the trio wants to retire and marry in one of his rare action adventures. Three British comrades in arms in 19th-century India and a noble native water-carrier named Gunga Din (Jaffe, a Jewish actor in brown face whose sincere passion for wanting to be a soldier mostly rises above the stereotyping ) join together to battle the rise of a deadly religious cult and save the day. One of the best scenes is when Grant , stuck behind a barred window, asks Gunga Din for a tool so he can escape and he offers a fork. Upset, he tells Din, “Now go on, get something big.” He returns with Annie the elephant and explains it is “the large tool you asked for.” Obviously, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have watched this on rewind. Oscar-nominated for its black and white cinematography.

  • 10. “That Touch of Mink” (1962)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (7)

    Director: Delbert Mann. Writers: Stanley Shapiro, Nate Monaster. Starring: Doris Day, Gig Young, Audrey Meadows.

    Grant bumped Rock Hudson out of his usual spot alongside the ever-virginal Day as an out-of-work single woman struggling to live in New York City. She and Grant meet cute when his rich tycoon’s Rolls Royce causes her to be splattered with mud on the way to a job interview. Once again, it is the usual battle of the sexes. He attempts to bed her with such bait as wining, dining, trips to exotic getaways and pricey gifts. She, however, wants him to settle down and wed her. This mating game is elevated by the two pros in the leads that know their way around such a rom-com caper, even though are too old for their roles. Young is fun as Grant’s lush of a financial advisor and Audrey Meadows pulls off a fine Thelma Ritter-Eve Arden performance as the frank best friend. Oscar-nominated for original screenplay, art direction and sound.

  • 9. “To Catch a Thief” (1955)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (8)

    Director: Alfred Hitchco*ck. Writer: John Michael Hayes. Starring: Grace Kelly, John Williams, Jessie Royce Landis.

    Grant is a retired cat burglar named John Robie, whose specialty used to be snatching precious jewels, discovers someone is impersonating him. His only way out is to catch the imposter in the act. An insurance man (Williams) gives him a list of owners of valuable jewelry residing on the French Riviera. He zeroes in on a rich American widow (Landis) and her attractive daughter, Frances (Kelly), are No. 1 among the names. Grant and Kelly play kitten and mouse in a shadowy scene with a large picture window that frames a spectacular display of fireworks that grow ever more frenzied as their attraction to one another heats up. Yes, it’s a cliché but if you are going to do it, go big or go home. Kelly, meanwhile, lights the metaphorical match while seated oh so seductively in a gorgeous white sleeveless satin gown that fits like a glove with a massive diamond necklace around her neck as bait. Robie calls her bluff, saying that they both know the jewels are imitation. Frances purrs, “I’m not.” An Oscar winner for cinematography and nominee for art direction and costume design.

  • 8. “Arsenic and Old Lace” (1944)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (9)

    Director: Frank Capra. Writers: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein. Starring: Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair.

    “Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.” So says Grant’s Mortimer Brewster to his new bride (Lane), in case she wants to escape now in this fast-paced if old-fashioned farce. Based on a long-running Broadway play, this precursor to “The Munsters” and “Addams Family” makes goulash out of the ghoulish with one nutty but benign brother who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt; two sweet but eccentric maiden aunts, Abby and Martha (Hull and Adair), who serve arsenic-laced elderberry wine to put lonely old bachelors out of their misery while Teddy buries them in the basem*nt; and a psychopathic killer of a second brother, Jonathan (Raymond Massey), who brings along the body of his latest victim to Brooklyn along with his alcoholic plastic surgeon, Dr. Einstein (Peter Lorre), who has made him look like Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. Grant goes a little overboard – OK, a lot overboard – with his reactions to the mounting craziness But, what the heck, it’s Cary Grant.

  • 7. “The Awful Truth” (1937)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (10)

    Director: Leo McCarey. Writer: Vina Delmar. Starring: Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy.

    Screwball comedy done to the height of perfection. McCarey won Best Director for this sophisticated romp about marital suspicions and the lengths a bickering childless couple will go through to share custody of a dog named Mr. Smith (especially when played by Asta from “The Thin Man” series) while making their spouse jealous. Grant is at his comedic prime as a husband who lies about going to Florida just so he can play poker with his friends. After filing for divorce, Dunne takes up with an oil-rich but dull Oklahoma mama’s boy (Bellamy, perfectly ensconced in his usual other guy role) while Grant hangs with a society heiress. Dunne being deadpan at the piano while a singing Bellamy massacres “Home on the Range” is a delight and Grant’s reactions to all manner of crazy business is without peer. Also Oscar-nominated for picture, lead actress, supporting actor, screenplay and editing.

  • 6. “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” (1948)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (11)

    Director: H.C. Potter. Writers: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama. Starring: Myrna Loy, Melvin Douglas, Louise Beavers.

    Anyone who has experienced a house renovation would probably consider this domestic comedy to be more of a tragedy. But, happily, Grant and Loy make for a sprightly pair as an ad-exec husband and his dry-witted wife who reside in a cramped New York City apartment with two daughters. She wants to knock down a wall, but he prefers to move into a 200-year-old fixer-upper of a farmhouse in the country that he buys for a jacked-up price. That earns a tsk-tsk from his lawyer pal and business manager (Douglas), who chides him for buying with his heart. There is a bit of “Green Acres” in the set-up, with rustics ready to take advantage of the urban folk and a jealousy twist at that leaves a sour taste. But I do take delight in how Beavers saves the day by coming up with the perfect slogan for WHAM Ham, and no one can describe paint colors as well as Loy (“I want it to be a soft green, not as blue-green as a robin’s egg, but not as yellow-green as daffodil buds”).

  • 5. ”Charade” (1963)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (12)

    Director: Stanley Donen. Writer: Peter Stone. Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy.

    It has been called “the best Hitchco*ck movie that Hitchco*ck never made,” although someone had the good sense to hire Grant, a veteran of films by the Master of Suspense, who ably juggles a role that requires skill with comedy, romance and taut action scenes in this Parisian-set thriller. Hepburn is her usual charming self , especially in a scene in an open elevator after they first meet and she pokes at the cleft in his chin and asks, “How do you shave in there?” His choice retort comes when they finally get to their floor and says, “Here you are.” She says, “Where?” He replies, “On the street where you live’” – an allusion to her role in “My Fair Lady.” Hepburn learns that her husband has been murdered and Grant is mysteriously connected to his demise as three men stalk her to get the money that her dead spouse supposedly stole. Oscar-nominated for Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s hypnotic title song.

  • 4. “Notorious” (1946)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (13)

    Director: Alfred Hitchco*ck. Writer: Ben Hecht. Starring: Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Konstantin.

    There is a mature elegance to this visually thrilling espionage romance that revolves around a love triangle. Grant’s government agent T. R. Devlin recruits Alicia Huberman, the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy (Bergman), who consoles herself by sleeping with men and drinking. He uses her to infiltrate a Nazi spy ring and re-connect with its leader, Alex Sebastian (Rains), expecting her to seduce someone who once loved her. She, however, has fallen for her manipulator, Devlin, who rejects her. After marrying Sebastian, she still helps the agent and puts herself in danger. This a rare role where Grant is allowed to teeter toward being the anti-hero, last name included, without losing his magnetism. There are two notorious scenes that are considered among Hitchco*ck’s triumphs. The first one that begins high above before the camera swoops down on Bergman and the key she clutches in hand. The second is a kiss meant to hide the fact that they are snooping where they shouldn’t. The Production Code banned any smooches lasting longer than three seconds. Hitch got around that by having Bergman and Grant break away every three second and nuzzle or murmur endearments with the kiss ultimately ending at the two-a-half-minute mark. Oscar-nominated for supporting actor and original screenplay.

  • 3. “The Philadelphia Story” (1940)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (14)

    Director: George Cukor. Writer: Donald Ogden Stewart, Waldo Salt. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey.

    Hepburn’s spoiled Tracy Lord, who comes from a Philadelphia Main Line socialite family, was previously wed to Grant’s C.K. Dexter Haven, a yacht designer who drank too much and didn’t meet her high standards. Now, she is about to marry a nouveau riche outsider, George Kittredge. A magazine assigns reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor (Stewart) as well as Liz, a photographer (Hussey), to cover the nuptials and he relies on Dexter to get him access to the event. Suddenly, Tracy is torn between George, Dexter and Mike. George spies Mike carrying a tipsy Tracy into the house after a midnight swim and breaks off their engagement. Mike offers to marry Tracy, but she comes to her senses and realizes Dexter is the one. One precious moment in the film that was ad-libbed was Stewart’s hiccups during his drunk scene, which Grant one-upped when he turned to him and said “Excuse me” and then almost laughs. Won two Oscars, best actor for Stewart and adapted screenplay, plus four other nominations.

  • 2. “His Girl Friday” (1940)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (15)

    Director: Howard Hawks. Writer: Charles Lederer. Starring: Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart.

    One terrific screwball comedy set in the fast-paced world of newspapers was an early example of how a gender-switch casting can do wonders. The reworking of “The Front Page” took the role of Hildy Johnson that was filled by Pat O’Brien and reworked into a role play by Rosalind Russell, an ace reporter and ex-wife of editor Walter Burns (Grant) who is about to wed Bruce, a dull insurance man (Ralph Bellamy). Walter baits Hildy to come back to cover the execution of a shy bookkeeper who is convicted of killing an African-American cop. She strikes a bargain, insisting that Walter buy a policy from her intended in order to get the $1,000 commission. He does all he can to keep Hildy from leaving, but a big scoop involving the murderer falls in her lap. The best part of this ode to journalism is the rapid-fire snap, crackle and pop of the dialogue as newsroom types talk right over one another. There is even a meta joke that came from a Grant ad lib when he describes Bruce by saying, “He looks like that fellow in the movies, you know … Ralph Bellamy!”

  • 1. “North by Northwest” (1959)

    Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (16)

    Director: Alfred Hitchco*ck. Writer: Ernest Lehman. Starring Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Eva Marie Saint, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau.

    One of Hitchco*ck’s most gripping thrillers, one that barely stops to take a breath. At a New York City hotel bar, a case of mistaken identity causes ad exec Roger Thornhill (Grant) to be mistaken for “George Kaplan” and soon he is kidnapped. He is taken to a Long Island estate and supposedly meets its owner, Lester Townsend, before being interrogated by a spy (Mason), even though he insists he isn’t the man they want. They try to kill him by faking a drunken driving accident. He ends up at the U.N. where the real Townshend is killed with a knife and Thornhill flees the crime scene to find George Kaplan. Thornhill’s journey continues, including meeting a woman, Eve Kendall (Saint), on a train who helps him in his pursuit, a chase atop Mount Rushmore, a menacing crop-duster plane that swoops over cornfields and a shady statue. Nominated for three Oscars, editing, art and set direction, color and original screenplay.

Cary Grant movies: 15 greatest films ranked from worst to best (2024)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dan Stracke

Last Updated:

Views: 6038

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dan Stracke

Birthday: 1992-08-25

Address: 2253 Brown Springs, East Alla, OH 38634-0309

Phone: +398735162064

Job: Investor Government Associate

Hobby: Shopping, LARPing, Scrapbooking, Surfing, Slacklining, Dance, Glassblowing

Introduction: My name is Dan Stracke, I am a homely, gleaming, glamorous, inquisitive, homely, gorgeous, light person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.