Top 10 Best Jean Arthur Movies

One of the most popular Old Hollywood actresses, Jean Arthur starred in so many great movies from the 1920s until the 1950s. While she’s probably most well known for the films she completed in the 1930s and 1940s, Arthur is unique in that her last film ever made also happens to be one of her best!

Arthur starred in many different genres of film, though she excelled in comedy — which you’ll see in this list of the best Jean Arthur movies of all time. From her Frank Capra-directed classics to some underrated gems, here are the top 10 best Jean Arthur movies!

The Top 10 Best Jean Arthur Movies of All Time, Ranked

10. A Foreign Affair (1948)

  • Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund
  • Directed by: Billy Wilder

A Foreign Affair is notable for many reasons. One, it’s a great film. Two, it’s a movie Arthur made towards the end of her career. This film follows a prim congresswoman (Arthur) from Iowa who arrives in postwar Berlin on a quest to find a cabaret singer (Dietrich) who is rumored to have been involved with a Nazi general. The congresswoman ends up getting caught up in a romantic triangle upon her arrival.

Related — The Most Popular Marlene Dietrich Movies

9. Easy Living (1937)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold, Ray Milland
  • Directed by: Mitchell Leisen

Easy Living is a LOT of fun. One of the best movies Jean Arthur made in the 1930s, this hysterical rom-com follows a working girl (Arthur) whose life changes after a fur coat drops on her head. When she attempts to return it to the wealthy banker who bought it, she ends up in a lot of chaos as a lot of people believe her to be his mistress.

8. The Talk of the Town (1942)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman
  • Directed by: George Stevens

Cary Grant and Jean Arthur are wonderful together. Add Ronald Colman into the mix, which is exactly what happens in The Talk of the Town, and you’ve got a fun movie! This film follows a convicted criminal (Grant) who escapes from prison and ends up gaining refuge (and going in disguise) at his old friend’s (Arthur) home. A professor (Colman) who also has eyes for Arthur’s character rounds out this fun love triangle!

7. The Devil and Miss Jones (1941)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Jean Arthur, Robert Cummings, Charles Coburn
  • Directed by: Sam Wood

The Devil and Miss Jones is yet another wonderful romantic comedy where Jean Arthur shines. Needless to say, it’s one of her best! This movie follows a department store owner (Coburn) who goes undercover as a worker at his department store, upset about the fact that his employees are trying to start a union. However, through Miss Jones (Arthur) he learns that his workers actually have very real problems and reasons as to why they want to form a union.

6. The More the Merrier (1943)

  • Genre: Romance / War / Comedy
  • Starring: Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn
  • Directed by: George Stevens

The More the Merrier is definitely one of the best Jean Arthur movies ever made! This romantic comedy makes light of the housing shortage during World War II, bringing three characters together for one thrilling movie. This film follows a woman (Arthur) who rents parts of her apartment out to two other men (McCrea and Coburn). When the older roommate (Coburn) sees the romantic way the two younger roommates interact with each other, he decides to play matchmaker… even though Arthur’s character is already engaged to another.

The film really is so fun to watch. Arthur is absolutely delightful here — which isn’t a surprise. She shines in these types of comedies! Her performance here earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, the only time she would be nominated for an Oscar. She lost out to Jennifer Jones (The Song of Bernadette).

5. Shane (1953)

  • Genre: Western / Drama
  • Starring: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin
  • Directed by: George Stevens

Shane is an essential Jean Arthur film — and also one of the best movies she ever made. It’s the only color film she ever made. It also happens to be the last feature film she was ever in. With all of this said, this film is incredibly interesting and a must-watch for any Arthur fan.

Shane follows a gunslinger (Ladd) who arrives in a small town and gets work on a farmer’s (Heflin) land. As he begins to become romantically interested in the farmer’s wife (Arthur), as well as grow close to the farmer’s son, he realizes that he must work hard to protect the family from a ruthless cattle baron.

4. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

  • Genre: Adventure / Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

Only Angels Have Wings was a bit of a change for Arthur, as it’s an adventure/drama movie, rather than a comedy. Regardless, she’s wonderful in it — and it’s one of her absolute best movies ever made. The movie is a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #806), too!

Only Angels Have Wings follows a performer (Arthur) who gets stuck in a South American town while traveling, befriending a pilot (Grant) and his team of flyers who take risky flights to deliver mail throughout the towns. Rita Hayworth also stars in her first major role in this movie!

Related — Cary Grant: Top 10 Best 1940s Movies

3. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft
  • Directed by: Frank Capra

Now we’re getting to the really good Jean Arthur movies. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, the first movie Arthur ever made with director Frank Capra, is excellent. This stunning movie follows a small-town poet (Cooper) who goes to the city and must deal with untrustworthy friends when he inherits a fortune. Arthur plays a reporter who earns his trust… but can he truly trust her?

2. You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold
  • Directed by: Frank Capra

You Can’t Take It With You is definitely one of the best Jean Arthur movies ever. It is so, so good. It’s the second movie Arthur ever made with director Frank Capra, as well as the first movie she ever made with James Stewart.

You Can’t Take It With You follows a woman (Arthur) who falls in love with a conservative banker’s son (Stewart) and takes him home to meet her family… all of whom might be a bit too eccentric and freethinking for the young man. A wonderful, wonderful film!

1. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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  • Genre: Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
  • Directed by: Frank Capra

The best Jean Arthur movie of all time? Mr. Smith Goes to Washington! This movie is also one of the best movies ever made, hands down. It’s just incredible. And Arthur? Amazing here!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington follows an idealistic new senator (Stewart) who arrives in Washington D.C. and becomes the mentee of a seemingly innocent (yet really corrupt) senator (Rains). Upset and wanting to truly do what is right, this new senator fights against all the corruption he faces. It’s a stunning film.

What’s Your Go-To Jean Arthur Movie?

Comment below your favorite Jean Arthur movie! Do you love Mr. Smith Goes to Washington the most, or do you prefer another? Any Arthur movies not on this list that you think should’ve been? Hit the comments below with your thoughts and opinions — we’d love to hear them!

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