Best Katharine Hepburn Movies

With a career that spanned over fifty years, Katharine Hepburn is undoubtedly one of the greatest actors of all time. Her work has been celebrated for its versatility and received numerous awards, including twelve Academy Award nominations. Therefore, it can be challenging to narrow down her filmography to just ten films. In order to do justice to her immense body of work, we have compiled a list of what we believe to be the top sixteen films starring Hepburn, from the 1930s up until the 1980s. This list is sure to provide an excellent introduction to why Hepburn is remembered as a timeless icon of the silver screen.

The Top 16 Best Katharine Hepburn Movies, Ranked

16. Morning Glory (1933)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Adolphe Menjou, Mary Duncan
  • Directed by: Lowell Sherman

We’ve got to talk about 1933’s Morning Glory. While not the very best Hepburn movie — and while it has fallen a bit out of favor today to make it one of her more underrated films — Morning Glory earned Hepburn her first Oscar nomination and win. So, we had to list it here.

If you’re a fan of Hepburn or just a fan of pre-code 1930s movies, Morning Glory will not be a waste of your time! In fact, we quite enjoy it!

In this romantic drama, Hepburn plays an ambitious young actress who wants to become a Broadway star, even if there are other actors who have been at it longer than her. The film follows her as she navigates the treacherous world of show business in New York.

15. The Rainmaker (1956)

  • Genre: Western / Romance
  • Starring: Burt Lancaster, Katharine Hepburn, Wendell Corey, Lloyd Bridges
  • Directed by: Joseph Anthony

Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn in a film together? We’re sold. The Rainmaker is a great film, even if it didn’t crack the top 10 list below. But with Hepburn’s large filmography, it makes sense that some great films could be left out!

We’ve included this western here because Hepburn earned an Oscar nomination for her excellent performance!

The Rainmaker follows a grifter and fake rainmaker (Lancaster) who arrives in a small Kansas town saying he can make it rain. As the farmer and townspeople are dealing with a terrible drought during the Great Depression, they take his word for it.

Hepburn plays a spinster who is taken by the grifter — and begins to gain confidence when he compliments her. A riveting drama!

14. Alice Adams (1935)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Fred MacMurray, Fred Stone, Evelyn Venable
  • Directed by: George Stevens

1930s Hepburn movies are fun. Alice Adams is fun. Plus, she’s opposite Fred MacMurray here, which is just an absolute delight!

Hepburn’s great performance in this 1935 romantic comedy earned her another Oscar nomination for Best Actress, which is why we’ve listed it here as an Honorable Mention.

In Alice Adams, Hepburn plays a small-town girl who dreams of finding her way into the upper echelons of society — and wants to marry a rich man to do it. When she meets a wealthy man (MacMurray), she thinks she’s set. However, new obstacles occur to make her quest for nobility a little bit more difficult than she first thought!

Related — The Top 10 Best Fred MacMurray Movies of All Time

13. Summertime (1955)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Isa Miranda, Darren McGavin
  • Directed by: David Lean

Oh, we’ve got a soft spot in our hearts for Summertime. It’s just so wonderful. Hepburn was nominated for another Oscar for Best Actress for her work here, which is why it’s an Honorable Mention on our list!

Don’t just take our word for how great this film is. This romance film is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #22)!

In Summertime, Hepburn plays a middle-aged spinster who believes she’ll never find love. She’s resigned herself to this fact and goes on a dreamy summer vacation… where she finds unexpected love for the first time in Venice.

12. Woman of the Year (1942)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen
  • Directed by: George Stevens

Hepburn and Tracy always get it right onscreen. These two, who remain one of the most iconic onscreen duos in film history, first collaborated together in 1942’s Woman of the Year. To this day, it remains an iconic romantic comedy — and is a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #867)!

In Woman of the Year, sparks fly as a strong-willed political journalist (Hepburn) and a conservative sports writer (Tracy) with conflicting views on gender roles fall in love!

Related — Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy Movie Collaborations, Ranked

11. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, Dean Stockwell
  • Directed by: Sidney Lumet

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is an absolutely stunning film. The film just barely missed making this top 10 list. However, we felt that we had to include this stunning film, especially because Hepburn earned an Oscar nomination for her performance.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night follows a sensitive and troubled writer (Stockwell) who returns home and struggles to deal with his family. His mother (Hepburn) is addicted to morphine, which only escalates the drama.

A gripping family drama unfolds as a haunted former actor confronts his tumultuous past, leading him on a transformative journey of self-discovery and redemption in Long Day’s Journey Into Night, a powerful and emotionally charged film.

10. Stage Door (1937)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick
  • Directed by: Gregory La Cava

Now, on to our top 10 list of the very best Katharine Hepburn movies! Up first, we’ve got 1937’s Stage Door, a delightful movie that truly never gets old. Stage Door follows a group of aspiring actresses who navigate the ups and downs of showbiz while living together in a boarding house. They deal with rivalries in their careers — and in their love lives!

9. Adam’s Rib (1949)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell
  • Directed by: George Cukor

Of course, Adam’s Rib is also one of the best Katharine Hepburn movies of all time. Often touted as the best Hepburn-Tracy collaboration, there’s a lot to love about this stellar romantic comedy!

The film follows husband and wife lawyers (played wonderfully by Tracy and Hepburn) who find themselves on opposing sides of a high-profile case. This case tests their personal and professional boundaries — and it’s so fun to watch!

Related — Katharine Hepburn: Essential 1940s Movies

8. Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

  • Genre: Thriller / Mystery / Drama
  • Starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Albert Dekker
  • Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Suddenly, Last Summer is a riveting drama that only becomes more thrilling to watch with age, it seems. First of all, any film that stars the talents that are Taylor, Hepburn, and Clift is a must-watch. This trio truly brought it all to this film, and it remains an amazing accomplishment today.

Hepburn’s marvelous performance here earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress!

Suddenly, Last Summer delves into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a young man on a summer vacation. The story escalates as his traumatized cousin (Taylor), who witnessed his murder, reveals a dark secret that threatens to unravel a web of deception and madness — all while her aunt (Hepburn) tries to get a doctor (Clift) to lobotomize her to keep her quiet!

Related — The Top 10 Best Montgomery Clift Movies of All Time

7. Holiday (1938)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres
  • Directed by: George Cukor

Sure, there’s something special about Hepburn and Tracy movies. But Hepburn and Grant collaborations? Well, that’s magic!

Holiday is a great example of this. While this film is often considered one of the best Katharine Hepburn movies, it’s also considered one of the best romantic comedies of all time. As a result, it should be no surprise to learn that this film is a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #1009)!

In Holiday, a free-spirited young man (Grant) falls in love with a wealthy socialite (Nolan). However, their plans for a joyful holiday are jeopardized by their conflicting values… and suddenly, he begins to connect more with her freethinking sister (Hepburn).

Related — Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn Movie Collaborations, Ranked

6. On Golden Pond (1981)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Doug McKeon
  • Directed by: Mark Rydell

On Golden Pond is the absolute best Hepburn film and performance from her later years. To see her opposite Henry and Jane Fonda remains a treat. In this drama, Hepburn and Fonda play an aging couple that attempts to navigate their strained relationship with their daughter (Jane Fonda) during a summer spent at their beloved lakeside home.

Hepburn earned her fourth and last Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her absolutely stunning work in this film!

Related — The Top 10 Best Henry Fonda Movies of All Time

5. The Lion in Winter (1968)

  • Genre: History / Drama
  • Starring: Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle
  • Directed by: Anthony Harvey

Ah, what’s not to love about the stunning historical picture The Lion in Winter? Hepburn and O’Toole are marvelous on screen together!

The Lion in Winter, which is a royal drama set in medieval times, follows a dysfunctional family led by King Henry II (O’Toole) and Queen Eleanor (Hepburn). The family engages in a witty and power-driven battle for succession!

Hepburn’s stunning performance here won her a third Oscar for Best Actress!

4. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)

  • Genre: Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton
  • Directed by: Stanley Kramer

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is definitely one of the best Katharine Hepburn movies of all time. This 1967 drama is notable for a variety of reasons. First of all, it’s one of the first movies to tackle racial injustice, especially when it comes to interracial relationships. But it was also the last film Tracy and Hepburn made together, as Tracy passed away soon after filming.

In this groundbreaking and thought-provoking film, a progressive couple’s (Tracy and Hepburn) liberal values are put to the test when their daughter (Houghton) brings home her African-American fiance (Poitier). A must-watch.

Hepburn won an Oscar for her legendary performance here — her second win.

3. The African Queen (1951)

  • Genre: Adventure / Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull
  • Directed by: John Huston

No list of the best Katharine Hepburn movies of all time would be complete without mentioning The African Queen! After all, a movie starring both Bogie and Hepburn was sure to be a winner, wasn’t it?

In this classic adventure film, a prim spinster (Hepburn) and a rugged riverboat captain (Bogart) team up to navigate the treacherous waters in Africa during World War I. Of course, danger and romance follow after their team-up!

It should be no surprise to those who’ve seen this excellent film that Hepburn earned an Oscar nomination for her performance!

Related — The Top 10 Best Humphrey Bogart Movies of All Time

2. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, Walter Catlett
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

Who doesn’t love Bringing Up Baby?! One of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, this 1938 film truly never gets old!

In this classic screwball comedy, a mild-mannered paleontologist (Grant) gets caught up in a whirlwind of chaos when a free-spirited heiress (a delightful Hepburn) and a mischievous leopard cross his path. Truly, it’s nuts. And a must-watch, of course.

For those interested, Bringing Up Baby is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #1085)!

Related — The Top 10 Best Cary Grant Movies of All Time

1. The Philadelphia Story (1940)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey
  • Directed by: George Cukor

The absolute best Katharine Hepburn movie of all time is The Philadelphia Story. This romantic comedy touts a stellar cast, a brilliant director, and one of the wittiest scripts of all time. If you haven’t yet watched it, you really should. We have a feeling it will become one of your all-time favorite films!

In The Philadelphia Story, romantic comedy ensues when a socialite (Hepburn) finds herself torn between her dashing ex-husband (Grant), a charming journalist (Stewart), and the man she’s supposed to marry (John Howard) that very week!

Hepburn’s amazing and witty performance here earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, too!

This film is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #901)!

Related — The Top 10 Best James Stewart Movies of All Time

What’s Your Favorite Katharine Hepburn Movie?

Now, let’s hear from you. What’s your favorite Hepburn movie? Do you agree with this list? Or would you change things up a bit? Any underrated Hepburn films that you feel should’ve been listed here? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and opinions! We’d love to hear what you think!

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