Ranked number two on AFI’s list of the top twenty-five actors, Cary Grant is a legend in Hollywood. Through trademark charm and wit, he captivated audiences around the world. From the dimple on his chin to the smile lines around his eyes, he was the epitome of sex appeal and class.
Being a huge Cary Grant fan, it was hard for me to only pick ten of his best movies, which is why I’ve also made a lengthy list of honorable mentions.
My Favorite Wife
I Was a Male War Bride
That Touch of Mink
She Done Him Wrong
#10: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
While Cary Grant has reportedly called this his least favorite film (attributing it to his over-the-top acting), this one is still a classic. In this spooky story about murder and some woefully innocent elderly aunts, Mortimer Brewster (Grant) desperately tries to sort out his insane family’s murderous deeds while his wife impatiently waits for the honeymoon the two plan to go on. This film is absolutely hilarious and always a fun one to watch near Halloween, especially if you aren’t one for scary or gory films.
#9: The Awful Truth (1937)
Cary Grant is absolutely the king of screwball comedy. This brand of comedy was especially popular during this time–the Great Depression–due to its delightful escapism from the world’s problems. In this film, Jerry (Grant) and Lucy (Irene Dunne) begin divorce proceedings on dubious suspicions but then sabotage each other’s new relationships. It’s a great movie which will not only have you rolling on the ground laughing, but also display Grant’s skill at physical, slapstick comedy. Bonus: it also features Skippy (or Asta) the dog, used in classic films like The Thin Man (1934).
#8: Notorious (1946)
You can’t go wrong with Alfred Hitchcock. Coming in at number eight, Notorious is the story of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) and her recruitment by T.R. Devlin (Grant), a U.S. government agent, to spy on her own friends, who are convicted German war criminals and Nazis. Of course, on the way, the two fall in love. Though a master of comedy, Grant also did drama and suspense very well. He fully takes on the role of a man torn between love and duty. The suspense of Notorious will leave you gripping the arms of your chair and biting your nails. This movie also marks the first collaboration between Bergman and Grant, who later became lifelong friends (Grant was the only one who supported Bergman during her affair with Roberto Rossellini).
#7: The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Once again, Cary Grant was an expert in comedy. The Philadelphia Story brings together some of the best actors of the time — Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, John Howard, and Grant–for an uproarious story about Tracy Lord (Hepburn), who is must choose between her alcoholic, controlling ex-husband (Grant), nosy reporter (Stewart), and her wealthy fiance (Howard). What really makes this movie is the biting, rapid dialogue that became characteristic of Hepburn and Grant. The barbs simply fly through this movie and make it absolutely hilarious.
#6: His Girl Friday (1940)
Cary Grant as a hot reporter? Yes, please. Once again, Grant plays ex-husband, Walter Burns, to savvy reporter, Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell), who has decided to give up the exciting reporter life to settle down and marry an insurance agent. Burns spends the movie trying to lure Johnson back to the exciting reporter life and marry him again. This movie, like The Philadelphia Story, has quick dialogue filled with zingers (I recommend subtitles so you don’t miss any of the retorts). Also, it has an early fourth-wall break when Burns notes that Johnson’s fiance, Bruce Baldwin (played by Ralph Bellamy), looks “like that fellow in the movies! You know, Ralph Bellamy!”
#5: Charade (1963)
Though this is not an Alfred Hitchcock movie, it sure has the suspense of one. In the beautiful city of Paris, Peter Joshua/Carson Dyle/Adam Canfield/Brian Cruikshank (Grant) must protect Regina Lampert (Audrey Hepburn) from a group of men who want her deceased husband’s fortune–and will do anything to get it. This movie has it all: scenic Paris, murder, suspense, a dude with a hook for a hand, and two of the most glamorous actors to ever grace the silver screen. Not to mention it also has a fantastic score from Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther). The twists and turns in this movie will have you spinning.
#4: To Catch a Thief (1955)
Another amazing Alfred Hitchcock movie here. This movie features regal Grace Kelly playing Francie, a woman who suspects notorious cat burglar John Robie (Grant) of stealing her prized jewels. And, of course, the two fall in love. But, does she really know who she’s fallen in love with? Not only is this movie quite suspenseful, but it also has some of Alfred Hitchcock’s best innuendos. The firework scene and the passionate kiss in the convertible are especially memorable. Plus, this movie has beautiful scenery of the French Riviera.
#3: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
We’re getting down to the top three now, and what better to take number three than the classic screwball comedy, Bringing Up Baby? Though a flop at the time, the charming story of crazy socialite Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) and conservative paleontologist David Huxley’s (Grant) adventures with a leopard named Baby is definitely a favorite of mine and millions of other classic movie lovers. This movie once again portrays Grant’s particular skills as the comedic man who isn’t afraid to do a little slapstick. Bringing Up Baby is one of the funniest comedies to come out of this era, and it’s one to watch again and again.
#2: An Affair to Remember (1957)
Possibly one of his best-known films (due to the abundant references in the classic rom-com, Sleepless in Seattle), An Affair to Remember tells the story of Nickie Ferrante (Grant) and Terry McKay’s (Deborah Kerr) forbidden romance aboard a boat which eventually leads to a pact to meet at the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day, which doesn’t exactly go to plan. Grant’s sex appeal and charm simply ooze from him in this performance and makes every woman with eyes fall in love with him. Not only is he casually amusing, but he is also the smoothest, suavest, most romantic actor in this movie with his witty lines and devilish looks that remind everyone why he is the ultimate sex symbol.
#1: North by Northwest (1959)
To no one’s surprise, Grant’s best Alfred Hitchcock soars in at number one. North by Northwest, which follows Roger Thornhill (Grant) in a case of deadly mistaken identity and his mysterious romance with Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), is suspenseful, romantic, and scandalous. Remember how I mentioned Alfred Hitchcock’s sexual innuendos? This is practically the sexiest movie to ever come out of the 50s. Whether it’s Grant and Saint making out on a train or the blatant innuendo at the end (suffice it to say, never has a train going through a tunnel carried so much meaning), this movie is almost inappropriate for children. The romance, the chase along Mount Rushmore, murder, humor, and betrayal are all essential elements to this marvelous film that truly displays Grant’s astounding acting ability.
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