Best Kirk Douglas Movies

Kirk Douglas is widely regarded as one of the greatest actors to have ever graced the silver screen. His exemplary performances still captivate audiences of all ages today, even decades after many of his iconic films were made.

It’s no surprise, then, that Douglas has a stellar filmography filled with unforgettable movies. To help make it easier for movie fans to explore this impressive selection of films, here are the top 10 best Kirk Douglas movies of all time! Every single film here features the great Kirk at his very best and remains highly recommended by both critics and viewers alike. Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to becoming a Kirk Douglas connoisseur or looking for some reliable cinematic recommendations, these masterpieces should not be missed.

The Top 10 Best Kirk Douglas Movies, Ranked

Honorable Mention: Champion (1949)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Arthur Kennedy, Marilyn Maxwell, Paul Stewart
  • Directed by: Mark Robson

Before we get into the Top 10 list, let’s talk about a few Honorable Mentions. Douglas is absolutely amazing in 1949’s Champion, and he even earned his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor — which is why the film is listed here.

Champion is an intriguing boxing drama that follows Midge Kelly (Douglas), a ruthless fighter who climbs his way to the top, leaving a trail of broken dreams and hearts behind him.

Honorable Mention: Lust for Life (1956)

  • Genre: Biography / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, James Donald, Pamela Brown
  • Directed by: Vincente Minnelli

Lust for Life just barely missed out on making the Top 10. This biopic truly is phenomenal — and Douglas’ amazing performance earned him his last Oscar nomination for Best Actor! So, we felt we had to include it as an Honorable Mention here on this list!

In Lust for Life, painter Vincent van Gogh’s tumultuous life comes alive on the screen as we delve into his passionate pursuit of art, his troubled relationships, and his tragic descent into madness.

10. Detective Story (1951)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Crime / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix, Cathy O’Donnell
  • Directed by: William Wyler

Now, onto our Top 10 list. Starting off, we’ve got Detective Story, an absolutely amazing film noir that deserves much more acclaim than we feel it currently gets. Both Douglas and Parker are riveting to watch here as a husband and wife with their fair share of problems!

Detective Story, a tense and gritty film noir, follows a dedicated detective’s (Douglas) relentless pursuit of justice against an abortionist who has killed at least one person. However, upon his pursuit for justice, the detective begins to unravel his wife’s (Parker) own secret past!

Related — The Top 10 Best Eleanor Parker Movies of All Time

9. Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

  • Genre: Western / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau, Michael Kane
  • Directed by: David Miller

Lonely Are the Brave is definitely one of the best Kirk Douglas movies! In this Western, a cowboy (Douglas) is determined to live life on his own terms, even though he clashes with the modern world. He embarks on a daring escape from prison and finds himself pursued by relentless lawmen!

8. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

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

There are lots of reasons why it’s easy to love The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. First of all, the entire cast is stacked with insane talent. But it also happens to be a very riveting film noir that has stood the test of time!

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers follows a childhood friendship turned love triangle that entangles three individuals (Douglas, Stanwyck, and Heflin) once they’re adults. The one thing that continues to connect them all? A murder from their past, of course!

Related — Lizabeth Scott: Essential 1940s Movies

7. A Letter to Three Wives (1949)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas
  • Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Though Douglas only has a supporting role in this film, it’s still considered one of the best Kirk Douglas movies of all time! A Letter to Three Wives follows three women who receive a mysterious letter claiming that their mutual friend has run off with one of their husbands.

This leads the women on a whirlwind of emotional and comedic adventures as they try to uncover the truth — and whose husband has left them!

6. The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell
  • Directed by: Vincente Minnelli

The Bad and the Beautiful is an absolutely amazing film that never gets old, thanks in part to its alluring and cynical story, as well as its stacked cast!

In The Bad and the Beautiful, the glamour and ruthlessness of Hollywood come alive as a cunning producer (Douglas) manipulates three talented individuals as he climbs to the top.

Douglas’ amazing work here earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor!

Related — The Top 10 Best Lana Turner Movies of All Time

5. Seven Days in May (1964)

  • Genre: Thriller / Drama
  • Starring: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March, Ava Gardner
  • Directed by: John Frankenheimer

Seven Days in May is definitely one of the best Kirk Douglas movies of all time! First of all, look at that cast! Second, any time a film stars the likes of both Lancaster and Douglas, you know you’re in for one of the greatest movies of all time.

Seven Days in May follows an American military officer (Douglas) who learns that an ambitious general (Lancaster) is plotting a military coup against the U.S. President (March)!

Related — The Top 10 Best Fredric March Movies of All Time

4. Ace in the Hole (1951)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur, Porter Hall
  • Directed by: Billy Wilder

Ace in the Hole is a stunning film. To this day, this film remains relevant — and a scathing indictment of American culture and sensationalist journalism. Ace in the Hole follows a cynical reporter (Douglas) who seizes a chance to exploit a trapped man’s plight — milking the entire situation to better his own career.

Ace in the Hole truly is a must-watch. It’s also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #396), for those interested!

3. Out of the Past (1947)

  • Genre: Film Noir / Crime / Drama
  • Starring: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming
  • Directed by: Jacques Tourneur

Out of the Past follows a former private eye (Mitchum) who finds himself drawn into a deadly web of deceit and femme fatales when his dark past resurfaces. Douglas plays a gangster who brings Mitchum’s character back into an incredibly shady and dangerous world!

Out of the Past is an incredibly captivating film noir — and it’s often touted as one of the best film noirs of all time. So, it should be no surprise that it’s also one of the very best Kirk Douglas movies!

2. Spartacus (1960)

  • Genre: Biography / Adventure / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton
  • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Of course, we must talk about 1960’s Spartacus, an epic of a film. Spartacus follows a slave (Douglas) turned gladiator who leads a revolt against the mighty Roman Empire — and forms a slave revolt. To this day, this movie remains amazing to watch!

Spartacus is a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #105) and continues to be considered one of the best films of all time!

1. Paths of Glory (1957)

  • Genre: War / Drama
  • Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou, George Macready
  • Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Paths of Glory is the best Kirk Douglas movie of all time. This film — which is a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #538) — is also often considered one of the best movies of all time, as well as one of the finest anti-war films ever made.

Douglas leads an all-star cast in Kubrick’s powerful war drama as a determined colonel defending three soldiers accused of cowardice in World War I trenches. The film explores the human cost of war and the corrupt system that perpetuates it.

What’s Your Favorite Kirk Douglas Movie?

Now, let’s hear from you. What’s your favorite Douglas film? Do you agree with this ranking? Are there any films you feel we left out and should’ve included? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and opinions! We’d love to hear what you think!

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *