Top 10 Best Lionel Barrymore Movies

Lionel Barrymore is often touted as one of the greatest actors to ever live. I can’t help but agree. Below, I’ve tried to rank the top 10 best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time! Considering he has a lot of movies to his name, this was definitely hard.

As Barrymore starred in quite a lot of films, I tried to only include movies where he had a lead or big supporting role! If you’re looking for a place to start with Barrymore’s filmography, use this list as a guide!

The Top 10 Best Lionel Barrymore Movies, Ranked

Honorable Mention: A Free Soul (1931)

  • Genre: Crime / Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore, Clark Gable
  • Directed by: Clarence Brown

A Free Soul is a 1931 film that tells the story of a young woman named Jan (Norma), who is torn between her love for a criminal named Ace Wilfong (Gable) and her relationship with her father, Stephen Ashe (Barrymore), a successful defense lawyer. After Ace is accused of murder, Stephen must defend him in court!

A Free Soul gets an honorable mention on this list, as Barrymore won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in this crime drama!

10. Sadie Thompson (1928)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Blanche Friderici, Charles Lane, Florence Midgley, Gloria Swanson
  • Directed by: Raoul Walsh

Sadie Thompson is a 1928 film about a young woman named Sadie Thompson (Swanson) who arrives on the island of Pago Pago and is immediately met with disapproval from the island’s community.

Barrymore played the role of Alfred Davidson, a missionary who tries to save Sadie. Davidson is initially devoutly religious and believes that Sadie is a corrupting influence on the island’s residents. Barrymore’s performance in the film was well-received, and he was praised for his portrayal of a complex and conflicted character. Definitely one of the best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time!

9. The Valley of Decision (1945)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Greer Garson, Gregory Peck, Donald Crisp, Lionel Barrymore
  • Directed by: Tay Garnett

The Valley of Decision is also one of the very best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time! This drama follows the story of a wealthy Pittsburgh steel magnate’s son (Peck) who falls in love with his family’s maid (Garson) and the struggles they face due to their different social classes. The film explores themes of love and class conflict.

Barrymore plays Garson’s father, a man who has been physically injured because of the steel magnate — and who severely disagrees with her new romance as a result!

8. On Borrowed Time (1939)

  • Genre: Fantasy / Drama
  • Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi, Una Merkel
  • Directed by: Harold S. Bucquet

Any list of the best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time isn’t complete without this gem. On Borrowed Time is about a man (Barrymore) who lives with his grandson. When Death comes to take him, he tricks Death into climbing a tree and traps him there, allowing him to live on borrowed time. However, this creates a host of problems!

7. Camille (1936)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan
  • Directed by: George Cukor

Of course, we must mention Barrymore’s excellent supporting role in 1936’s Camille, which is SUCH a great movie! Camille follows Marguerite Gauthier (played by Greta Garbo), who is a poor woman who becomes the sought-after courtesan of the wealthy Baron de Varville.

When Armand (Taylor), a young man, falls in love with Marguerite, she begins to question her current lifestyle and considers leaving the Baron for him, despite his father’s (Barrymore) objections to their relationship.

6. Grand Hotel (1932)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery
  • Directed by: Edmund Goulding

I LOVE Grand Hotel. So, it should be no surprise that I consider it to be one of the best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time!

Grand Hotel follows a group of disparate people who all stay at the same luxury hotel in Berlin and their interconnected stories. Each of the characters is struggling with their own personal problems, and over the course of their stay at the hotel, their lives become intertwined as they support each other and help each other overcome their challenges.

A wonderful film that we can’t get enough of!

Related — Old Movies Worth Watching: Grand Hotel (1932)

5. Dinner at Eight (1933)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Lionel Barrymore
  • Directed by: George Cukor

Similar to Grand Hotel, Dinner at Eight also has a STACKED cast. For that reason alone, people should watch this great Old Hollywood classic!

This comedic drama centers around a group of wealthy New Yorkers who are struggling with personal and financial problems as they prepare for a dinner party. Definitely one of the best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time!

4. Captains Courageous (1937)

  • Genre: Adventure / Drama
  • Starring: Spencer Tracy, Freddie Bartholomew, Lionel Barrymore, Melvyn Douglas
  • Directed by: Victor Fleming

Captains Courageous tells the story of a spoiled rich boy named Harvey Cheyne who falls off a liner and is rescued by a fisherman, Manuel (Tracy), who teaches him discipline and hard work. Barrymore plays the captain of the fishing schooner!

3. Key Largo (1948)

  • Genre: Action / Crime / Drama
  • Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore
  • Directed by: John Huston

Now, we’re getting to the iconic films. Key Largo is one of the best Lionel Barrymore movies, without a doubt!

This crime drama follows a former soldier (Bogart) who must protect a hotel owner (Bacall), her father (Barrymore), and her guests from a ruthless gangster (Robinson) during a hurricane. An excellent film that never gets old!

Related — Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall Movie Collaborations, Ranked

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

We absolutely adore the Frank Capra movie You Can’t Take It With You, which is also one of the best Lionel Barrymore movies of all time!

In this film, a young woman (Arthur) from a family of eccentric free spirits falls in love with a man (Stewart) from a straitlaced, wealthy family, causing their two families to clash over their differing lifestyles. Barrymore plays the grandfather of Arthur and the patriarch of her family of free spirits!

Related — The Top 10 Best Jean Arthur Movies of All Time

1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

  • Genre: Fantasy / Drama
  • Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell
  • Directed by: Frank Capra

It’s a Wonderful Life is the best Lionel Barrymore movie of all time. It’s such a classic! How can we not just adore this film?

It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic holiday film about a man named George Bailey (Stewart) who is contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve. An angel named Clarence intervenes and shows George what life would be like in his town if he had never been born.

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

Comment below what your favorite Lionel Barrymore movie of all time is! Do you agree with this list? Would you make some changes? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and opinions! I’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 *