The Essential Cary Grant Filmography Ranked

Cary Grant is one of film's most well-known, beloved, and accomplished actors. Although many think of one type of persona and film for the actor, Cary Grant's career was far from one note. With 77 acting credits to his name, Grant could play comedic, serious, mysterious, dramatic, romantic, and everything in between.

His filmography featured suspenseful films, romantic and screwball comedies, thrilling mysteries, and poignant dramas. Ranking his films may seem impossible, and indeed all of his movies are worth a watch for Grant alone. Narrowing it down to 20 leaves out some wonderful films, including To Catch a Thief, In Name Only, The Awful Truth, Monkey Business, That Touch of Mink, Only Angels Have Wings, and more. But the top 20 Cary Grant films are worthwhile, notable, and thoroughly entertaining.

20. Operation Petticoat (1959)

Operation Petticoat
Image Credit: Republic Pictures and Universal International

Cary Grant does what he does best in this comedy/drama set against WWII as a Navy Commander who gets more than he bargains for with his latest mission. Commander Matt Sherman (Grant) agrees to command a newly damaged submarine, which seems simple enough. But soon, complications arise.

His executive officer is a playboy and a con man, needing a dose of reality and humility. They come across a group of stranded nurses and must bring them on board, creating havoc and many clashes in close quarters. And a shortage in paint results in the submarine's new paint job turning the vessel pink, which is far from ideal in trying to remain concealed.

The film is humorous, often romantic, and even thoughtful. But above all, it showcases how those in WWII went through the wringer in a way that remains lighthearted.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Movieland TV, and to rent on VOD)

19. Penny Serenade (1941)

penny serenade
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

One of his more somber films, this poignant drama also elicits fine performances from Grant and his co-star Irene Dunne. The story follows a couple who have endured many trials and tribulations throughout their marriage. They deeply love each other, but life is often cruel, and they suffer hardship amongst the joys. Their greatest dream is to have a child, and that journey provides their most profound struggle yet.

This film is emotional and moving, with moments that will bring the viewer many tears. But fair warning, those who have dealt with the hardships involving infertility or adoption may find it triggering. However, it is a worthwhile film in Grant's filmography and is one of his most affecting and deeply touching performances in his career.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Amazon Prime Video and Retro Reels)

18. An Affair to Remember (1957)

an affair to remember 1
Image Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

The most romantic film of Grant's career, this melodrama co-stars Deborah Kerr. It is a beautiful, slow-paced but moving story about love, fate, and second chances. When Nickie and Terry meet on their cruise home to New York, they fall very much in love, despite their reluctance to get involved. This is because both are involved with other people.

But clearly, their hearts are destined for each other. To prove that their feelings are more than a passing fancy, they agree to meet in six months on the top of the Empire State Building to see if their feelings remain. But as in all romances, this journey is never easy.

An Affair to Remember is a film of authenticity, earnestness, and unabashed romance. Grant is excellent in this role, tailor-made for his suave and debonair style. Together with Kerr, they created one of the most timeless romances of all time.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Movieland TV and Rediscover Television, and to rent on VOD)

17. Room For One More (1952)

room for one more
Image Credit: Warner Bros Entertainment

Of all the films that Cary Grant made that involved children and families, Room For One More is the most affecting and heartwarming. Co-starring Grant's real-life wife at the time, Betsy Drake, the story follows a loving and good-natured couple who live a quiet and happy life with their three children and the many animals they take in who need a good home.

But their generosity and goodwill are not limited to animals. They become foster parents for two children to whom life has not been kind: a young girl who almost ended it all and is very unhappy and a physically challenged boy who often gets into trouble.

The theme of this film is one of family and compassion, which makes it one of the sweetest in Grant's repertoire, without being unbelievable or saccharine. Grant and his wife Drake also prove to have lovely chemistry on screen. And most especially, their moments with the children are poignant and relatable to many.

(Available on DVD, to stream on HBO Max, and to rent on VOD)

16. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

the bachelor and the bobby
Image Credit: RKO Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment

One of Grant's sweetest romantic comedies tells the story of a very impressionable high school girl (Shirley Temple) who falls in love with Grant's character after he gives a speech at her school. Wanting to let her down easy and not shatter her heart, a great deal of hilarity ensues, especially when he meets and finds himself attracted to Temple's no-nonsense older sister, played by Myrna Loy.

This film feels like one of a different bygone era, but that is part of its charm. Grant is incredibly humorous in the role and makes every scene smile-inducing. The biggest takeaway is that it shows us to trust our instincts and follow our hearts.

(Available on DVD, to stream on HBO Max and Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

15. Gunga Din (1939)

gunga din
Image Credit: RKO Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment

From what is considered cinema's greatest year in history, this film follows a young man in 19th century India who dreams of joining the British Army but is prohibited from doing so because he is Indian. Instead, he is a water-bearer for the soldiers and does the next best thing. He proves himself helpful by providing vital information about an imminent threat. When Grant's character is captured, the race is on to rescue him.

Even if you have never seen the film, many have probably heard the famous line, “You're a better man than I, Gunga Din.” The film is entertaining and exciting, though one must note some things are problematic by today's standards. But the cast and sense of loyalty and adventure are wonderful.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

14. Destination Tokyo (1943)

destination tokyo
Image Credit: Warner Brothers

Thoughtful, authentic, and dramatic, this wartime film follows a group of sailors on a dangerous submarine mission to Tokyo during World War II. Grant plays the vessel's captain and leads his fellow sailors with a compassionate but firm hand. Besides Grant, these men and their various personalities are the standouts in the film, and how their varied personalities clash and ultimately bond on this perilous journey in cramped quarters.

This film portrayed this type of mission so authentically that it was shown as a Naval training film in the remaining years of WWII and beyond. Moreover, real-life footage of planes taking off from an aircraft carrier added another level of commitment to its accuracy. Above all, Destination Tokyo gives us a glimpse into what the people of the era faced, who did so with integrity and courage.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

13. The Talk of the Town (1942)

talk of the town
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures

Many of Grant's films combine comedy with drama, with an added layer of depth to the film's themes on society. That may be a coincidence or a case of the studio knowing that Grant could convey these things beautifully. Co-starring Jean Arthur and Ronald Coleman, The Talk of the Town presents a thoughtful examination of compassion, critical and instinctual thinking, corruption, and the dangers of ignorant mob mentality.

In the film, Grant plays a man wrongfully accused and convicted of arson and murder who escapes prison and flees to the home of his childhood friend. She is fearful at first but soon is determined to help prove him innocent. But since this is no longer her everyday home, and a professor has rented it, the situation is complicated and apt for hijinks, misunderstandings, and dire circumstances. Well-written and performed, this film is slow-paced but equally effective and entertaining.

(Available on DVD and to rent on VOD)

12. My Favorite Wife (1940)

my favorite wife
Image Credit: RKO Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment

Exuding natural ease, My Favorite Wife is one of the sweetest romantic comedies ever. While on his honeymoon, Nick's life is turned upside down when his wife (Irene Dunn), who he thought had died seven years previously, turns up at the same hotel as the newlyweds. This miraculous occurrence astonishes and moves Nick for obvious reasons.

But of course, hilarious mishaps, misunderstandings, and entanglements occur as he must figure out what to do with the other woman he just married and how to tell his two young children, who barely remember their mother.

It's not difficult to decipher where the story will lead, as in most romantic comedies. Part screwball comedy and part heartfelt drama, My Favorite Wife is elevated by Grant's sharp and quick comedic timing, both physically and verbally. The equally charming Dunn matches his affable performance. The film is a true gem.

(Available on DVD and to rent on VOD)

11. Notorious (1946)

notorious
Image Credit: RKO Pictures

One of Alfred Hitchcock's most underrated films brings together Grant, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains for a suspenseful and romantic drama that proves to be one of Grant's most incredible performances. The story follows the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. The American government approaches her to prove her loyalty and distance herself from her father.

Played by Bergman, Alicia Huberman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi scientists in Brazil, including a man named Alexander Sebastian (Rains), whom she knows from years past and is known to harbor strong feelings for her. Grant plays her handler, and the two share deep feelings for each other, though Grant always keeps his distance and decidedly plays a more standoffish and harsher character than his typical roles.

Like many Hitchcock films, Notorious is masterful at building dramatic and romantic tension with Hitchcock's use of unusual angles and zooms and the nuanced performances from Grant, Bergman, and Rains. Notorious is an intense and provocative film.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels and Tubi, and to rent on VOD)

10. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

bringing up baby
Image Credit: RKO Pictures

From director Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby is the quintessential screwball comedy. It is a zany, fast-paced, and delightful film that follows mild-mannered paleontologist David (Grant), who meets sweet-natured but slightly ditzy heiress Susan (Katharine Hepburn), who throws his life for a loop. Susan talks incessantly, has a pet leopard and gets David into trouble at every turn. But through their misadventures, David soon learns he cannot resist her charms, eccentric as they are.

Bringing Up Baby is one of Grant's funniest performances as his character David is constantly exasperated and annoyed but remains utterly charming with naturally light chemistry with Hepburn. He is at the top of his slapstick humor game in moments that have become iconic. The film is as hilarious as they come and one that will surely put a smile on anyone's face.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

9. Suspicion (1941)

suspicion
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures

Another underrated Hitchcock film, Suspicion, is unique in that its first and second halves vary greatly tonally yet still feel cohesive. The film begins with a sweet, whirlwind romance between an unassuming heiress (Joan Fontaine) and the dashing and charming man (Grant) she meets by chance on a train. These moments are light and romantic and differ drastically from everything that follows.

The second half of the film becomes an atmospheric suspense film as newlywed bliss turns to money troubles and suspicions that her husband is plotting to murder her. The truth is complicated, and the movie keeps us guessing until the end. And Grant's ability to make the viewer unsure of his intentions is astonishing. This is due in no small part to his serious and unnerving performance that is mixed with moments of tenderness.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

8. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

mr. blandings
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures and Warner Bros.

This understated comedy stars Grant as Jim Blandings, a simple man who, along with his wife Muriel, and their two growing daughters, decides to move from their small city apartment to a large home in the suburbs. And while Blandings may be an uncomplicated family man, this move proves to be precisely the opposite. Problems arise at every turn, making for nearly absurd results.

Mr. Blandings is funny in a naturalistic way, and anyone who ever bought and renovated an older home can relate to this story. Grant proves to have fantastic romantic chemistry with Myrna Loy as the two feel like a real married couple with a subtle shorthand and little quibbles that couples have. He also showcases superb comedic timing with their friend, played by Melvyn Douglas. Building a dream house was never funnier.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

7. His Girl Friday (1940)

his girl friday
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

What is considered by many to be the finest screwball comedy, His Girl Friday, is, in reality, an intelligent comedy and drama that tackles serious issues in ways that are quintessential of its era of filmmaking. The story starts in a light and relatively innocuous way.

A former reporter (Rosalind Russell) who plans to remarry visits her ex-husband and former boss, the head of one of the city's best newspapers, to tell him the news. He still carries a torch for her and believes she still has that fiery reporter spirit in her. So he partakes in somewhat harmless schemes to keep her from leaving town with her fiancé.

His feelings prove true when she becomes entangled with a story about a man who is due to be executed for killing a police officer but maintains his innocence.

What His Girl Friday does is explore themes of corruption amongst those in authority as well as the media. Russell and Grant are chasing down a story, but more importantly, they are chasing down the truth. The film promotes compassion for others and condemnation of those who sensationalize the news or lie entirely in the name of power or money.

Grant and Russell are incredible, individually and together. And the script features some of the most fast-paced, intricate, and humorous dialogue in film history.

(Available on DVD and to stream on Retro Reels and Amazon Prime Video)

6. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

arsenic and old lace 1
Image Credit: Warner Brothers

This off-beat, dark comedy comes from director Frank Capra and is not only one of his best but one of Grant's as well. The film is zany and borderline satire but hilarious despite its dark undertones. The story follows a nice, average man who visits his family on the eve of his wedding and realizes they are all off their rockers.

His two elderly aunts poison lonely men who visit them, believing they are showing them mercy. They hide their latest kill in the window seat. His cousin believes himself to be President Theodore Roosevelt, and his brother, who had recently escaped prison, is a maniacal killer. Although it sounds like a horror film, the film is far from it.

In one of Grant's most madcap performances and films, he employs slapstick humor, quick dialogue, and exaggerated reactions that manage to ground the film from its wild plot still. Grant is the audience, observing all the escapades with fear, astonishment, and quick thinking. Though it's no doubt, Grant's darkest comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace, is also the funniest.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, and to rent on VOD)

5. Charade (1963)

charade1
Image Credit: Universal Pictures and Stanley Donen Productions

This movie is often called the best Hitchcock film, not directed by Alfred Hitchcock. In truth, this film from director Stanley Donen stars Grant, along with Audrey Hepburn, in a film that blends suspense, drama, romance, and even touches of comedy. The story follows recently widowed Regina Lambert (Hepburn), who discovers her husband was involved with some shady individuals and circumstances.

Three men begin pursuing her, believing she knows the location of a fortune they all stole when they were in the war. Thankfully, she meets Peter Joshua (Grant), who helps in her pursuit of the truth and escapes from these vicious men who relentlessly pursue her.

Charade more than lives up to its reputation. And its name is apropos, with the plot unfolding in unexpected ways where things are never what they seem. Grant and Hepburn are delightful together with amusing chemistry that feels natural despite their disparate ages.

It's interesting to note that Grant only agreed to take the role if Hepburn's character did the romantic pursuit since he is much older. And we are all the luckier for this pairing. Charade is one of the greatest classic thrillers with a script and performances that are dramatic, tense, sweet, and often surprising.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Retro Reels, Tubi, Freevee, Movieland TV, and Amazon Prime Video)

4. Father Goose (1964)

father goose 1
Image Credit: Universal Pictures and Granox Productions

Cary Grant decidedly plays against his usual debonair type to play a grungy and grumpy man who reluctantly agrees to be a lookout for planes on a Pacific island during WWII. Much to Walter Eckland's chagrin, his job as a lookout grows more complicated when he must rescue a French teacher and a group of young girls from a nearby island.

Walter and Miss Catherine Freneau (Leslie Caron) are polar opposites and soon label each other “goody two-shoes” and “the filthy beast” as they attempt to cohabitate on the island and protect the girls in the process. But sparks of a different nature soon inevitably fly.

This was Grant's second to last feature film, in which he portrayed a character much different than his typical fare. But it's one Grant himself said resembled his own personality the most. And the film itself is utterly delightful as it perfectly blends comedy and drama in affecting ways.

The characters are rich and believable, with hilarious romantic chemistry between Grant and Caron. There are also adorable moments with the children and genuinely dramatic moments involving their precarious situation on the island. Father Goose is one of the finest films of Grant's career.

(Available on DVD, to stream on Kanopy and Movieland TV, and to rent on VOD)

3. The Bishop's Wife (1947)

the bishops wife
Image Credit: RKO Radio Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Productions

This holiday-themed film is a poignant and heartwarming drama about faith in not just the spiritual sense but also faith in your fellow person. The story revolves around a kind but harried Bishop (David Niven) who prays for guidance as he deals with an overbearing benefactor.

His prayers are answered in the form of the angel Dudley (Grant). He is dashing and disarming, charming everyone he meets, including the Bishop's lovely wife, Julia (Loretta Young), who has been neglected. The Bishop's Wife is not only a beautiful story but also one of Grant's finest performances.

Initially, Grant was cast as the Bishop and Niven as Dudley. But after a few weeks of filming, director Henry Koster felt the actors should switch parts. And that instinct was correct. Niven is outstanding as the Bishop. And Grant is perfectly cast as the angel who could charm the stars from the sky but also has an aura of wisdom.

As he enchants everyone and annoys the Bishop, we are treated to a thoughtful and moving story about what truly matters in life. The Bishop's Wife is a lesser-known and underrated holiday film that is touching, sweet-natured, mature, and thoughtful.

(Available on DVD, and to stream on Kanopy, Roku, Tubi, Pluto, and Amazon Prime Video)

2. The Philadelphia Story (1940)

the philadelphia story
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Brothers

Intelligent, witty, and sophisticated, The Philadelphia Story is a master class in writing that is funny and profound with acting that is suburb. Moreover, the direction is stylish and lets the work speak for itself, guiding the performers and allowing them to shine.

The story follows the upcoming wedding of stubborn and spirited Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), the magazine reporters sent to cover it (James Stewart and Ruth Hussey), and Tracy's ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant), who still harbors strong feelings for her. Lavish parties, romantic entanglements, and striking wisdom about accepting a person's frailty and vulnerabilities help make this film one of the greatest ever made.

Grant, Hepburn, and Stewart are at their very best as the characters bring out fire, passion, and sobering truths about not only themselves but also life. Loving someone is not about adoration but walking side by side as equals.

Such profundity is given a delightful companion in the performances of the talented cast. Just like Dexter's sailboat named after Tracy, The Philadelphia Story is definitely yare. In others words: wonderfully quick in its wittiness.

(Available on DVD, to stream on HBO Max, and to rent on VOD)

1. North by Northwest (1959)

north by northwest
Image Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Warner Brothers Entertainment

One of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest and most iconic films is also the finest in Cary Grant's impressive and illustrious career. The film is an exciting and unnerving story of mistaken identity, espionage, conspiracy, and romance. Grant plays Roger O Thornhill, an average advertising executive.

He is mistaken for another man and thrust into a dangerous world where he must contend with abductions, attempted murder, and false allegations. Along the way, he meets the alluring Eve Kendall (Eva Maria Saint), and sparks quickly fly between them.

North by Northwest is an iconic film for many reasons, including its most famous scenes with a crop-dusting plane and a dramatic escape atop Mount Rushmore. But the film is more than just these two scenes. As a whole, it's thrilling and taut with that particular Hitchcock sense of style, humor, and tension.

It leaves you on the edge of your seat while remaining well-paced and surprising. Grant delivers a paramount performance and is one of his most “Cary Grant-ian.” The characters may often feel lost with every twist and turn. But any fan of Grant knows precisely where to find his most worthwhile film.

(Available on DVD, to stream on HBO Max and Movieland TV, and to rent on VOD)

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.


Marianne Paluso is a freelance artist and writer inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture. She especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video.