Judy Garland Movies That Are Worth Watching Again

Judy Garland The Pirate

As one of the most talented performers of the twentieth century, Judy Garland is best known for her role as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Let's look back at her best performances. Starting with her most iconic, each film is ranked and listed in order. 

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

Meet Me in St Louis 2 - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 7.5

Judy Garland was reluctant to appear in Meet Me in St. Louis after just breaking into playing adult roles. Vincente Minnelli, her future husband, convinced her of the story. It was a good thing because it was where the two fell in love, and it was a standout role for Garland. 

The story revolves around the Smith family, who is excited about the impending World's Fair coming to St. Louis that year (1904). Garland plays Esther, the second eldest daughter, as she struggles to get the boy next door to notice her. After a party at the Smith house, she finally succeeds, only to be disappointed when her father announces that the entire family is moving to New York. 

The film's highlights include the musical numbers, especially “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Garland had a lasting impact on this song. The original lyrics were much darker, and she refused to sing them to Margaret O'Brien, who played her younger sister. She influenced the Christmas song that we remember and enjoy today.

The Clock (1945)

The Clock - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 7.4

In a rare non-singing role for Judy Garland, she stars as Alice in The Clock. Alice has a chance encounter with a soldier named Joe on a two-day leave. The two fall in love quickly after spending time together while she shows him the city. They agree to meet that night under the clock at the Astor Hotel but lose track of each other the next day before finding their way back to each other again. They decide to get married before he has to return to camp.

Vincente Minelli also directed this film, and it was a departure from the musicals he was known for most of the time. Garland did not have another non-singing role until 1961.

A Star Is Born (1954)

A Star is Born - Warner Bros.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

IMDb: 7.5

Although there have been multiple versions of A Star is Born, the one starring Judy Garland holds magic and heartbreak in the plot and the parallels to her life. Garland stars as Vicki, a young singer looking for her big break. She runs into Norman, an established movie star, but his career is on the downturn. They soon fall in love as Norman helps Vicki become a star.

As we watch Norman's career and personal life deteriorate through failure and alcohol, we can't help but think of Garland's struggle. The film was to be Garland's triumphant comeback, but she lost the Academy Award for Best Actress to Grace Kelly. A Star is Born had many scenes cut, much to Garland's dismay, but many versions that you find have audio with still pictures of the scenes added back in.

Summer Stock (1951) 

Summer Stock - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 7.1

Summer Stock was the third and final pairing of Judy Garland with Gene Kelly. Garland was having a hard time in her career, but Kelly's loyalty to her convinced him to star in this picture with her. Garland plays Jane, a farmer who is down on her luck after two of her farmhands unexpectedly quit. Soon, her sister returns home, but not to help her, to bring a troop of actors who she told could put on a show in their barn. 

While Jane is annoyed at first, she realizes that she can use them to do the chores around the farm in exchange for letting them put a show on in her barn. She falls for the lure of the theater. She also falls for the director of the show, Joe, who is also involved with her sister. Although there are accounts that Garland wasn't at her best, she still puts in a great performance, and the chemistry between her and Kelly is still there.

Easter Parade (1948)

Easter Parade 2 - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

IMDb: 7.3

When Don's dancing partner and girlfriend, Nadine, walks out on him, he has a few drinks the night before Easter and decides that he can teach any girl to dance just as well. He spots a chorus girl named Hannah (Judy Garland) and hires her on the spot, telling her to meet him the next day to begin rehearsals. 

He paces about the next day and hopes she doesn't show up because he was not at his best. When she arrives, he soon learns about her lack of formal training and tendency to mix up her left and right, which causes trouble when learning dance routines. Hannah falls in love with him but believes he is still in love with Nadine. In the meantime, Don's friend Johnny (Peter Lawford) falls for Hannah while Nadine sets her sights on Johnny.

Fred Astaire and Garland are enjoyable to watch together, and the additions of Lawford and Ann Miller make for a stellar musical combination. Miller's dancing is at her best, and Garland shines. We also see the first instance of her tramp routine that she does here with Astaire in “A Couple of Swells.”

The Harvey Girls (1946)

The Harvey Girls 2 - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 7.0

The Harvey Girls boasts some stellar female stars of the time, including not just Judy Garland but also Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse, and Virginia O'Brien. Garland plays Susan, a woman who responds to an ad for a mail-order bride. On the way to meet her husband-to-be, she meets a group of women on the train. These women are heading there to open a Harvey House restaurant.

Once her engagement falls apart, Susan joins them. She fights against the popular saloon and showgirls, who feel threatened by the new restaurant. Susan soon finds herself enamored with the saloon owner, even though he is much of her problem. The film also features a reunion of Garland and Ray Bolger, who plays the new blacksmith in town.

For Me and My Gal (1943)

For Me and My Gal - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 7.0

As Judy Garland's first adult breakout role, it was also significant for its leading man, Gene Kelly. This film was his movie debut, which Garland encouraged after seeing him perform in Pal Joey. She would support him here and throughout his career, which is why he returned the favor by agreeing to Summer Stock

Garland plays Jo, who finds a new vaudeville partner and lover in Harry. It takes them a while to gain some success, and just when things are looking promising, Harry gets drafted into the army during World War I. In a desperate attempt to dodge the draft, he slams his hand in a suitcase. Even though he is now ineligible, Jo finds his behavior so deplorable that she breaks up the act. Harry does what he can to aid the war effort and win Jo back.

A Child Is Waiting (1963)

A Child is Waiting
Photo Credit: Stanley Kramer Productions.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

IMDb: 7.2

In one of her few dramatic roles, Garland plays a music teacher who works with children at a mental hospital named Jean Hansen. She often butts heads with the director, played by Burt Lancaster, about her teaching methods. Her success comes from the bonds she forms with her students. One of them in particular is an autistic boy whose parents abandoned him after their divorce. 

While Garland's musical performances are without equal, this film is another must-see for her fans. It presents another side and demonstrates how well she could do in a dramatic role.

I Could Go On Singing (1963)

I could go on singing - Judy Garland
Photo Credit: United Artists.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 6.9

Judy Garland's final film was I Could Go On Singing, and it is a testament to her talent. She plays a character not unlike herself. An American singer named Jenny, who travels to London for an important show, parallelled Garland's own success playing at the London Palladium. 

While there, Jenny arranges to meet an old boyfriend named David, who is also the father of her estranged son. This film is an interesting look at many plotlines that parallel Garland's life.

Girl Crazy (1944)

Crazy Girl
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

IMDb: 6.8

In the last of eight films Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney starred opposite each other, Girl Crazy is also the best. Garland plays a much stronger character here than in their other films together. She is spunky, self-assured, and witty, unlike the shy, lovesick girls she played in the other films with Rooney.

When Danny (Rooney) is sent to a boys-only college out west by his father after gaining a reputation as a playboy, he runs into Ginger (Garland). She quickly pegs him as a city boy who wouldn't be able to help her fix her car if he tried, while he likes her from the start. 

Ginger is the only girl at the college as she is the Dean's granddaughter. She spends much of the time insulting Danny but soon realizes there may be more to him as he tries to help her keep the college running.

In the Good Old Summertime (1949)

In the Good Old Summertime
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: 62%

IMDb: 7.1

As a musical remake of The Shop Around the Corner, In the Good Old Summertime is an entertaining version of the story of pen pals who fall in love. The story begins with a literal run-in between Veronica (Judy Garland) and Andrew (Van Johnson). When the two meet, he inadvertently destroys her outfit on her way to look for a job. 

Veronica later comes into the music shop where he works to ask for a job. Even though he initially refuses, the owner does give her a job, and the two begin a bickering working relationship. Although they don't get along in person, they don't know they are writing to each other in an anonymous pen pal situation and falling in love. The film is charming, and Garland's songs are on point as always. Especially great is the “I Don't Care” number with her and a barbershop quartet.

The Pirate (1948)

The Pirate - MGM
Photo Credit: Loew's, Inc.

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%

IMDb: 6.9

Although The Pirate was problematic for Judy Garland, she delivered a convincing performance as always. This film was the second of three that Garland and Gene Kelly starred in together. 

The beginning introduces us to Manuela, a girl who longs for adventure, mainly in the form of a pirate named Macoco, but is betrothed to the boring town mayor. She convinces her aunt to go with her to meet the ship that her wedding dress will be brought in on, so she can see the Caribbean Sea just once. While there, she meets an actor named Serafin (Kelly) and reveals to him under hypnosis that she is enamored with Macoco. She also tells him where she lives, so he comes into town on her wedding day. Realizing that she is to marry the real Macoco, Serafin pretends to be the pirate instead. 

Strike up the Band (1940)

Strike Up the Band - MGM
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

IMDb: 6.8

In another fun partnership between Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, we have Strike Up the Band. It is one of their iconic “let's put on a show” films. Rooney plays a teenage drummer who hopes to connect with a famous band leader by winning the school band contest. He joins forces with his friend Mary (Garland) and his other friends to raise money to travel to Chicago to compete. 

To pay for this trip, the group decides to put on their own show in the meantime. The film features some great musical numbers under the direction of Busby Berkeley and the addition of songs by Roger Edens. “Do the La Conga” is the highlight of the film.

Presenting Lily Mars (1943)

Presenting Lily Mars
Photo Credit: MGM.

Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

IMDb: 6.7

In another film that seemed to mirror a part of her life, Judy Garland plays Lily, a small-town girl intent on making it big as a stage actress. She follows a Broadway producer to New York and talks her way into his show.

After getting to know her, he decides to give her a chance, and when the play's lead leaves, she takes over the role and achieves her dream of making it on Broadway. Garland carries this film on her own.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Judy Garland - Wizard of Oz
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%

IMDb: 8.1

The aforementioned The Wizard of Oz was Judy Garland's breakout role in a production riddled with tragedy and hardship. It is hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Dorothy, who is transported to Oz by a tornado. She unwittingly kills a wicked witch who possesses magical ruby slippers. A good witch named Glinda helps her but steals these shoes. She then tasks Dorothy with their protection as another witch chases her.

Despite the problems and changes with the cast, the ensemble works so well together. Garland is especially impressive with her wide-eyed innocence and singing pipes. The actors' individual talents in song, dance, and comedy shine through, making this film a favorite among kids and their parents (and grandparents). 

Author: Kristen Winiarski


Kristen Winiarski has worked as a professional writer for 15 years, studying classic TV shows and films to further her expertise and understanding about how they have evolved. This passion led her to start her own classic movie blog before branching out into the professional entertainment writing world.