The Godfather

Cary Grant’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked According to Rotten Tomatoes

"Apparently the only performance that will satisfy you is when I play d*ad."

Cary Grant was one of the world’s first major movie stars and cultural icons who is recognized for his improvisational skills and impeccable style. Born Archibald Leach in 1904 in England, Grant was drawn to the theater at a young age and in the early 1920s and established himself in the American Vaudeville circuit. The actor soon moved to Hollywood where he started in crime films before gaining popularity in screwball comedies like His Girl Friday and Bringing Up Baby.

Grant consistently captured audiences with his eccentric charm and boyish humor and even today remains one of Hollywood’s favorite leading men. Out of the actor’s extensive career with films such as North by NorthwestIn Name Only, and The Philadelphia Story, some of Cary Grant’s best movies manage to get high scores on Rotten Tomatoes.

10‘Notorious’ (1946)

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman sitting and talking in Notorious
RKO Radio Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

After World War II, Agent T.R. Devlin is part of a group of American agents assigned to track down Nazi soldiers who escaped prosecution. Devlin recruits Alicia (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a German war criminal, as a spy and is instructed to win over Alexander Sebastian (Claude Rains) a Nazi hiding out in South America.

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Notorious is a spy thriller directed by the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock,and the second collaboration between the director and Grant. Grant and Bergman only made two films together, but their natural chemistry deserved more screen time. The movie earned Rains an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor as well as screenwriter, Ben Hecht, for Best Original Screenplay.

9‘Suspicion’ (1941)

Cary Grant kissing Joan Fontaine on the cheek in Suspicion

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Lina (Joan Fontaine) is a wealthy, eligible bride who is wooed by a charming crook, Johnnie Aysgarth. Despite her father’s stern warning and disapproval, Lina marries Johnnie but her new husband’s financial ventures and risks start to concern her. After the sudden death of Johnnie’s friend and business partner, Lina starts to think that Johnnie’s plotting to kill her for her inheritance.

Between the 1940s and 1950s, Grant had a close working relationship with Hitchcock who cast the actor in four of his movies including North By Northwestand To Catch a Thief with Grace Kelly. Their first film together, Suspicion, is based on the novel, Before the Fact by Francis Iles. According to Slash Film, Hitchcock wanted to keep the book’s original ending but RKO Pictures didn’t want Grant portraying a murderer thinking it would’ve hurt the star’s good-guy image.

8‘North by Northwest’ (1959)

Cary Grant_North by Northwest - 1959
Image via Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

In one of the most rewatchable Hitchcock films, New York City advertising executive, Roger Thornhill becomes mixed up in a case of mistaken identity and pursued across the country by agents of an unknown organization. Along the way, Thornhill meets Eve (Eva Marie Saint) a mysterious and beautiful woman who joins him on his cross-country journey. As the henchmen close in on them, Thornhill starts to realize that he’s been used as a patsy by the United States government.

North by Northwest is ranked as one of the greatest movies of all time and marked the fourth and final collaboration between Grant and Hitchcock. For several years, Hitchcock had joked with reporters about developing a story about Grant hiding from the bad guys in Abraham Lincoln’s nose on Mount Rushmore. According to Screenwriters on Screen-Writing by Joel Engel, Hitchcock shelved the idea until he met screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, who he felt was the perfect screenwriter to bring the concept to fruition.

7‘His Girl Friday’ (1940)

Cary Grant looking at Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday
Image via Columbia Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

Hard-hitting news editor, Walter Burns, finds out that his best reporter and ex-wife, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) is planning to remarry. Unconvinced that Hildy’s through with her career, he tries to persuade her to stay by offering her the opportunity to cover the upcoming execution of the convicted murderer, Earl Williams. Hildy stands by her choice but when she catches wind that Williams might be innocent, her reporting instincts suddenly kick back in.

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His Girl Fridayis a hilarious screwball comedy directed by genre-hopping filmmaker, Howard Hawks. Hawks allowed the cast the creative freedom to ad-lib and improvise in scenes which led to some of the funniest lines including Grant’s subtle knock at co-star, Ralph Bellamy.When Grant first meets Bellamy’s character, he compares him to the actor by name and refers to him as the guy in movies who never gets the girl.

6‘Mr. Lucky’ (1943)

Cary Grant in Mr. Lucky
Image via RKO Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

A movie set during World War II, a captain of a gambling ship, Joe Adams gets the idea for a profitable scam and convinces a wealthy socialite, Dorothy (Laraine Day) that he’s running a “charity” casino to collect funds for the troops. Adams isn’t phased by carrying on his despicable charade but as he and Dorothy grow close, he starts to rethink his plan.

Mr. Lucky is a romance directed by H.C. Potter who several years later, reunited with Grant for the 1948 romantic comedy, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home. The movie also features legendary actor, Gladys Cooper who is best known for her roles in NowVoyager,Rebecca, and That Hamilton Woman. Four years after filming Mr. Lucky,Cooper and Grant appeared together again in the Christmas classic, The Bishop’s Wife.

5‘Only Angels Have Wings’ (1939)

Cary Grant looking at Jean Arthur who is peaking out behind the curtains in Only Angels Have Wings
Image via Columbia Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Geoff Carter is the head pilot and owner of a small airline in South America who runs a tight schedule and refuses to miss any flights even ones that could be dangerous. Piano player, Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) starts to fall for Carter and when he’s preparing to fly in rough weather, she goes to extreme lengths to make him miss the flight.

Only Angels Have Wings marked the second collaboration between Grant and Hawks who made a total of five films together. The movie also features iconic femme fatale Rita Hayworth in her first major role as Grant’s former girlfriend, Judy. According to Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood by Todd McCarthyOnly Angels Have Wings is considered to be one of Hawks’ finest films.

4‘Holiday’ (1938)

Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant sitting across from each other in Holiday
Image via Columbia Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Edward Seton (Henry Kolker) thinks Johnny, a self-made man, is a suitable match for his daughter, Julia (Doris Nolan) to marry, but when Johnny shows more interest in traveling than business, Seton starts to have doubts. While Seton wonders if he made the right choice, Johnny starts to think that he’s a better fit for Julia’s younger sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn).

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Shortly after working together on Bringing Up Baby, Grant and Hepburn teamed up again for George Cukor‘s romance, Holiday. Grant had first worked with Hepburn on the 1935 romance, Sylvia Scarlett and the pair would go on to star in a total of four movies together. While the movie wasn’t a massive box office hit, Holiday received positive reviews from critics and is ranked as one of Cukor’s best films.

3‘Indiscreet’ (1958)

Cary Grant starring into space while Ingrid Bergman holds a rose up in front of him in Indiscreet
Image via Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Anna Kalman (Bergman) is a prominent stage star who believes that she missed any chance of finding love and accepts being single forever. She returns home to London and while attending an event, she meets a friend of her brother-in-law’s, Philip Adams. As sparks start to fly between them, Anna thinks she’s found her prince charming but unfortunately, he’s already married.

Grant teams up with Bergman again in the light-hearted romantic comedy, Indiscreet. According to The New York Times, Stanley Donen agreed to direct Indiscreet only if Grant signed on. Grant was interested, but he would only accept the part if his co-star was Bergman. In 1988, Indiscreet was remade into a television movie starring Robert Wagner, who revealed in a Chicago Tribune article that he personally loved the original.

2‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)

Dexter, Tracy, and Mike talking in The Philadelphia Story.
Image via Loew’s, Inc.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Philadelphia socialite, Tracy Lord (Hepburn) has separated from her husband, Dexter Haven, and is planning to marry a wealthy bachelor, George Kitteredge (John Howard). As the big day approaches, Tracy meets a curious reporter, Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) and after crossing paths with Dexter, Tracy must figure out her true feelings towards all three men before she walks down the aisle.

Before the movie, Hepburn had suffered several box office flops and was labeled as “box office poison.” Her friend and playwright, Philip Barry, had written the Broadway play, The Philadelphia Story specifically for Hepburn who also financially backed the production. Hepburn ended up acquiring the film rights of the show and intended to use it as a vehicle to reboot her success on the silver screen. The Philadelphia Story was a box office hit and is considered to be Audrey Hepburn’s comeback role.

1‘In Name Only’ (1939)

Cary Grant standing with Carole Lombard at the door while Kay Francis stands a distance a way from them in In Name Only
Image via RKO Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

The wealthy Alec Walker puts up with his loveless marriage to the heartless, Maida (Kay Francis) who admits that she only married him for his money. When Walker meets a widowed, young mother, Julie (Carole Lombard), the two start to fall in love. When Maida discovers their new-found romance, she doesn’t ask for a divorce, but instead, decides to use the information to negotiate her selfish terms.

Grant and Lombard were popular screwball comedy stars who surprised audiences with their profound range as dramatic actors in the movie, In Name Only. According to Screwball: The Life of Carole Lombard by Larry Swindell, Lombard had wanted to work with Grant and when she heard about the script and the actor’s involvement, she negotiated with RKO Radio Pictures for the part.

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