Best Barbara Stanwyck Movies of the 1940s

Barbara Stanwyck is an undeniable icon of the silver screen, with a career spanning decades that has left us with unforgettable films and performances. The 1940s proved to be a time of creative excellence for the renowned actress, with her work in this decade being some of her very best. We’ve carefully curated a list of the 11 top Barbara Stanwyck movies from the 1940s, and as you’ll appreciate, each of these cinematic works is a timeless masterpiece.

The 11 Best Barbara Stanwyck Movies From the 1940s

11. My Reputation (1946)

  • Genre: Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Eve Arden
  • Directed by: Curtis Bernhardt

To start off, we’ve got My Reputation. While an enjoyable movie — and definitely one you should watch if you enjoy Stanwyck films — it’s not the best movie ever made. However, it is interesting, entertaining, and a good film. My Reputation is a dramatic romance following a recent widow (Stanwyck) who falls in love with a man she meets while on a ski holiday. However, when she returns home to take care of her two sons, the romance seems to end — until he shows up in town. Drama ensues when another man enters the picture and things escalate as the town she lives in begins to gossip about her falling in love with another so soon after her husband’s death. A really dramatic, quite romantic, film!

10. East Side, West Side (1949)

  • Genre: Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Van Heflin, Ava Gardner, Cyd Charisse, Nancy Reagan
  • Directed by: Mervyn LeRoy

Coming in at #10, we’ve got 1949’s East Side, West Side. The film has a stellar cast — Stanwyck, Mason, Gardner, and Heflin as the leads, with Charisse as a fun supporting character — and is a riveting romantic drama. While it does fall short in some areas, Stanwyck and the other amazing actors do help keep it alive. In East Side, West Side, the story revolves around a woman (Stanwyck) who worries when her husband’s ex-mistress (Gardner) arrives back in town. Her husband (Mason), who says he loves her dearly, just can’t seem to stop having affairs. When a writer (Heflin) enters the picture, the wife starts to realize that she deserves better. While not the best 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movie, it still is quite good and definitely enjoyable to watch!

9. The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Drama / Crime
  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith
  • Directed by: Peter Godfrey

Stanwyck stars opposite Humphrey Bogart and Alexis Smith in The Two Mrs. Carrolls — so you know it’s going to be good. This crime drama follows an artist (Bogart) who meets a lovely woman (Stanwyck) while on vacation, promptly falls in love with her, and keeps the fact that he’s married from her. After painting a portrait of his wife and slowly killing her with poison, the artist and latest love wed. But when his new wife discovers that her husband may be a murderer — and may end up killing her — things grow… rather tense. A fun thriller with two pros!

8. Remember the Night (1940)

  • Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray
  • Directed by: Mitchell Leisen

Yet another fantastic 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movie: Remember the Night. Alongside her frequent (and also excellent) scene partner Fred MacMurray, Remember the Night isn’t thought of often when people think of Christmas movies. While Christmas in Connecticut tends to overshadow this one, you really should watch Remember the Night if you want some Christmas drama!

This wonderful film follows a D.A. (MacMurray) as he, filled with the holiday spirit, decides to let a shoplifter (Stanwyck) out on bail. When he offers to drive her all the way home to Indiana as well, the two end up meeting each other’s parents — and end up falling in love with each other. However, because they’re such opposites, this love may not last at the end of the day. Truly a riveting, engaging film!

7. Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet
  • Directed by: Peter Godfrey

Christmas in Connecticut is one of the most beloved Old Hollywood Christmas movies of all time — and for good reason. This film also happens to be one of the best 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movies, too! It’s just such a fun film!

This iconic movie follows Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane, a Martha Stewart-esque character who is living a total lie. Lane wrote the “Diary of a Housewife” column, which is a huge hit — especially for wounded war hero Jefferson Jones, who read the column while recovering in a hospital. After a nurse gets in contact with Lane’s publisher, a meeting is arranged where the war hero gets to spend the holidays with Elizabeth… only she has to fabricate a complete lie of life to ensure her real life stays a secret. Romance blooms, things get chaotic, and the whole thing is just a great amount of fun!

6. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas
  • Directed by: Lewis Milestone

Coming in at #6, we’ve got quite an interesting film noir. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers touts a stellar cast and follows Martha Ivers (Stanwyck) who, when she was young, accidentally caused the death of her aunt. She lies to the cops to get away with this and then eventually marries the only witness to this death — Walter (Kirk Douglas). Walter is actually in love with Martha, and Martha believes that this secret will stay a secret.

But then her childhood friend Sam (Van Heflin) arrives back in town and Martha grows worried that her dark past will return to haunt her. Stanwyck and Helfin are always great fun together, though this entire cast is truly wonderful here. A must-watch for any Stanwyck fan, as this is one of the best 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movies!

5. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Drama / Thriller
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey
  • Directed by: Anatole Litvak

Sorry, Wrong Number first began as a very popular radio show. Because of its great success, it was quickly adapted into a film, the strong prolonged, and Stanwyck was hired in the lead role. The movie follows an heiress who, confined to a wheelchair, accidentally overhears a murder plot during a telephone glitch. She attempts to tell the police and anyone who will listen to what she overheard… but nobody will help her. As the story progresses, she begins to slowly learn the truth through multiple phone calls — and the whole thing is stunning.

4. Ball of Fire (1941)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Dana Andrews
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

Okay, I’m a BIG fan of Stanwyck and Gary Cooper movies. Big. Therefore, I adore Ball of Fire, even though it isn’t necessarily my favorite collaboration between the two. Ball of Fire is so fun and engaging — and a fun little “twist” on the Snow White fairy tale! Kind of!

Ball of Fire follows a nightclub performer (Stanwyck) called Surgarpuss O’Shea who decides to live with a group of very old professors — save Gary Cooper — who are working on an encyclopedia, in an attempt to hide from the police when her gangster boyfriend gets in trouble. All of the professors, save Professor Bertram Potts (Cooper), begin to enjoy her stay very much, though none know why she’s really there. However, even Professor Potts comes around — and a romance blooms between Sugarpuss and him! But will these two polar opposites manage to stick together, especially when her gangster boyfriend gets out? Very, very fun.

Related — Barbara Stanwyck  – Ball of Fire 1941

3. Meet John Doe (1941)

  • Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Brennan, James Gleason
  • Directed by: Frank Capra

Also from 1941, we’ve got Meet John Doe, another brilliant 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movie that also stars Gary Cooper. Meet John Doe is a Frank Capra movie, so you know it’s going to be good. This film follows Ann Mitchell (Stanwyck), a reporter who, after being fired during mass layoffs when someone new buys the paper, writes and publishes a column written by “Mr. John Doe”, a neglected man who rails against the rich people and corporations who no longer care about the little people of the world — and threatens to kill himself on Christmas Eve because of all of this.

After public outrage ensues overnight from this column, and as people begin calling the paper offering to help Mr. Doe, the newspaper calls Ann back and is forced to rehire her when they learn that she wrote the column. To keep up appearances, the newspaper then hires a former baseball player turned homeless man (Cooper) as their new John Doe. However, as the nation goes crazy for this man and truly believes in what he’s saying, both Doe and Ann begin to question who they’re being run by — and what they stand for. Truly a marvelous, marvelous movie!

2. The Lady Eve (1941)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn
  • Directed by: Preston Sturges

Yet another film from 1941. What a year for Barbara Stanwyck! The Lady Eve is truly one of the best, funniest, movies from the 1940s and is clearly one of the best 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movies ever made. This movie is pure fun and the chemistry between Stanwyck and Henry Fonda is electric.

The Lady Eve follows Jean (Stanwyck) a con artist who sets her sights on millionaire Charles (Fonda) while on a cruise liner. Romance blossoms for the duo, and Jean finds herself honestly falling in love with her mark. However, things go south when Charles begins to suspect that Jean is a gold digger and breaks things off. Now heartbroken and on a quest for revenge, Jean reintroduces herself into Charles’s life later on, this time as Lady Eve, an aristocrat. A marvelously fun movie that truly never gets old, no matter how much you watch it.

The Lady Eve is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #103), for those interested!

1. Double Indemnity (1944)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Crime / Drama
  • Starring: Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward G. Robinson
  • Directed by: Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity is by far the most popular movie Barbara Stanwyck ever made. Today, it is considered to be one of the absolute best film noirs. Stanwyck’s character also happens to be the epitome of a perfect femme fatale. There’s LOTS to love about this film, so it’s incredibly heartening to see that it is still so beloved — and so iconic — today. Double Indemnity follows an insurance salesman (MacMurray) who, upon meeting Phyllis Dietrichson (Stanwyck), gets roped into a murder scheme, all in order to gain the life insurance of Phyllis’ husband.

Double Indemnity also certified Stanwyck as one of the film’s best femme fatales ever. Here, Stanwyck plays Phyllis Dietrichson, a woman who seduces life insurance salesman Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) and convinces him to help kill her husband, a very wealthy man, and then split the insurance money with her. However, things threaten to spiral out of control when Walter’s friend and coworker Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), an insurance investigator, begins to look into the case.

Since the movie was released, it’s definitely become one of the most beloved films of all time. It’s a certified classic! Many consider it to be one of the best film noirs, and it is considered to be one of the first film noirs ever made.

What’s Your Favorite 1940s Barbara Stanwyck Movie?

Now, hit the comments with YOUR thoughts on this list. What are your absolute favorite 1940s Barbara Stanwyck movies? Any that didn’t make this list that you feel should have? Comment below your thoughts and opinions — I’d love to hear them!

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