Best Loretta Young Movies

There are a lot of really good Loretta Young movies. I mean, the lady’s been in 109 productions, according to IMDB (this includes her uncredited roles early on!). That’s A LOT of movies. And as all Loretta Young fans know, so many of her films are the absolute best.

Narrowing down everything Loretta Young has done into the top 10 films of all time was impossible. Even writing this, we’re not sure we’ve gotten in right. It’s obviously all based on opinion and whatnot… but opinions change on a daily, so who’s to say this list won’t?

I’ve tried our best here to narrow down Loretta Young’s top 10 best movies, and we hope you enjoy reading this list as much as I loved creating it!

The Top 10 Best Loretta Young Movies

Below, we’ve ranked these films and included a few notable mentions that we felt we HAD to include for multiple reasons. We’ve also included some YouTube clips, and while we’ve tried to find trailers for each film to give you an overall understanding of what the film is about, there were some movies that didn’t have trailers. So, we’ve included clips from them when we couldn’t find the trailers. We’ve also only included films in which Loretta Young has a lead role, rather than a bit part.

Anyway, happy reading!

Notable Mention: Platinum Blonde (1931)

Platinum Blonde was a vehicle for Jean Harlow, who was up and coming in 1931. However, Young still manages to shine, even in a film with Miss Harlow! Playing the opposite to the glamourous socialite that Harlow portrays here, Young plays a female reporter who is the other romantic love interest to Robert Williams’ journalist.

Platinum Blonde follows a reporter (Williams) who falls in love with a rich socialite (Harlow) while covering a story and ends up marrying her. However, he’s not prepared for her lifestyle to become his, and he ends up seeking comfort in his pal Gallagher (Young). Frank Capra (!!!!) directed it.

When Platinum Blonde was released, it was well-received by audiences and critics alike. However, it didn’t do well at the box office and was rather a disappointment. The film still stands up today, though, and a lot of that is because of the chemistry and engaging comedy between Young, Harlow, and Williams. It’s a fun film that’s definitely worth a watch, especially if you’re looking to watch more Loretta Young movies.

Notable Mention: Call of the Wild (1935)

Directed by William A. Wellman, Call of the Wild stars Loretta Young, Clark Gable, and Jack Oakie. Based on the novel of the same name by Jack London, the movie tells the story of a man who begins his journey to go get some treasure for himself during the Klondike Gold Rush, a sled and a trusty wolf-dog by his side. However, when he runs into a jilted married woman, everything begins to change.

Chances are, you probably know a bit about Loretta Young and Clark Gable’s personal history. They ended up having an affair during the filming of this movie which ended with Young having Gable’s child out of wedlock. Young went away after filming this movie and later returned to Hollywood with an “adopted” child that she found while on her vacation. Not until the 1990s did Young admit that the child was Gable’s.

While this obviously isn’t needed to watch the movie, the chemistry between Young and Gable is CLEAR. And that really makes the movie. It’s not one of her best 10 for multiple reasons, but we had to include it as a notable mention, simply because it’s fun to watch her and Clark Gable together. What can we say?

10. Midnight Mary (1933)

Whenever you’ve got Anita Loos writing the story, you’re gonna have a good movie. While she didn’t write the screenplay for Midnight Mary, she did come up with the original story — and it’s a lot of fun. Directed by William A. Wellman (who also directed Loretta Young in Call of the Wild), Midnight Mary stars Young, Franchot Tone, Ricardo Cortez, and Una Merkel. While the movie was initially written for Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, Young and Ricardo Cortez really made it their own. And that’s why it’s one of the best Loretta Young movies.

The movie follows an orphan as she struggles to overcome poverty and create a life of her own. However, she quickly spirals and can never quite get out of her life of crime. But when she meets a young lawyer from a prestigious family, things begin to look up for her — especially when he tries to help her turn around her life.

Honestly, Midnight Mary is probably one of the best pre-code films made during the early 1930s. While we always love a Harlow and Gable movie, we’re VERY glad they passed up this one and gave Loretta Young and Ricardo Cortez a real chance to shine. And boy, do they shine here.

9. Rachel and the Stranger (1948)

Directed by Norman Foster (who would go on to direct The Loretta Young Show!), Rachel and the Stranger stars Loretta Young, William Holden, and Robert Mitchum. Rachel and the Stranger takes the old marriage of convenience romance trope and gives it life. The movie tells the story of a widowed farmer who wants to give his son a mother and a stable upbringing. So, after an indentured servant is sold to him, he decides to marry her, even though there’s clearly no romance on his side.

Of course, the romance soon does come out when the farmer’s friend comes to visit the family — and when the new friend immediately takes an interest in the farmer’s new wife. Honestly, this movie would probably be boring if it wasn’t for the main stars. Young, Holden, and Mitchum really bring it here, and that makes the movie highly enjoyable, even now. Therefore, it also makes it into the list of the best Loretta Young movies of all time.

8. Employees’ Entrance (1933)

Employees’ Entrance is a wonderful pre-code drama directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Loretta Young, Warren William, Wallace Ford, and Alice White. It’s dramatic, it’s romantic, it’s moving; it’s everything you’ve ever wanted in a pre-code film. The movie follows a young woman who is trying to get a job… and ends up getting one at a department store after spending the night with the store’s tyrannical manager. Pre-codes are the best, people!

Ashamed of how she came about this job, the new salesgirl is caught in an even more stressful situation when she begins to fall for another employee. Employees’ Entrance is riveting. It feels like you never can tear your eyes away. And for that, it’s one of the best Loretta Young movies. She absolutely SHINES here.

7. Man’s Castle (1933)

Directed by Frank Borzage, Man’s Castle stars Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, Marjorie Rambeau, and Glenda Farrell. Young has great chemistry with many of her costars. However, she’s brilliant here with Spencer Tracy, and that chemistry makes this one of the best Loretta Young movies.

Man’s Castle follows two poor people who fall in love while living in a depression-era squatters camp. Well, one of them falls in love. Trina (Young) loves Bill (Tracy), though Bill treats her as if she’s nothing. He’s ready to move on with a showgirl he meets, but will he be able to leave a now-pregnant Trina, the woman who’s carrying his baby?

As you might have been able to tell, Loretta Young is the best in her pre-code films. She’s just riveting, as most pre-codes are. Man’s Castle is no different and she’s wonderful to watch here opposite Tracy.

6. Come to the Stable (1949)

Directed by Henry Koster (who also directed Young in The Bishop’s Wife), Come to the Stable stars Loretta Young, Celeste Holm, Hugh Marlowe, and Elsa Lanchester. The film was nominated for a whopping seven Academy Awards in 1950 including a Best Actress in a Leading Role nomination for Young. Unfortunately, she lost this year to Olivia de Havilland in The Heiress.

The movie follows two French nuns who arrive in a New England town with plans to build a new children’s hospital. To help them achieve this goal, they meet many different, fun characters in town, making for one delightfully feel-good film. This is probably one of Loretta Young’s most popular films, and it was definitely beloved when it was released (all you have to do is look at those seven Oscar nominations). But it’s not just a popular film. It’s also a good film. And Young, as always, is wonderful to watch here.

5. Heroes for Sale (1933)

Another pre-code film, Heroes for Sale was directed by William A. Wellman (a constant Young collaborator) and stars Loretta Young, Richard Barthelmess, and Aline MacMahon. The movie follows Tom Holmes (Barthelmess) and his epic story, from the Great War to the Great Depression. After surviving the First World War, Tom Holmes returns home but develops a drug addiction to deal with his pain, causing him to fall from grace. Determined to continue to turn his life around, Tom Holmes, again and again, tries to make things right and start over. But will anyone give him the chance, or stick by his side?

We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: Loretta Young is the best in her pre-code roles. She’s mesmerizing in these films, and the movies themselves tend to be more realistic and dramatic, thanks to having more freedom than they had later on after the Hays code passed. Heroes for Sale is a little hard to find (though it’s a part of many boxed pre-code DVD sets!) but well worth the effort.

4. Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928)

Lon Chaney AND Loretta Young? Count us in! Directed by Herbert Brenon, Laugh, Clown, Laugh stars Lon Chaney, Loretta Young, and Bernard Siegel. A sad, heartbreaking silent movie that only Lon Chaney would be able to make, Young is fantastic here — even though she was only 14 while shooting! Which is actually insane when you think about it.

Though only 14, Young had her first role in a film when she was three. However, Laugh, Clown, Laugh was her first lead role in a movie. Regardless of all this, it’s clear Young felt comfortable in front of the camera, and she’s wonderful to watch here.

3. The Farmer’s Daughter (1947)

Young had quite a stellar career from the late 1920s, throughout ALL of the 1930s, and even into the 1940s and 1950s. While we’ve said multiple times in this list that we adore her pre-code films, her absolute best films come from 1946 and 1947. The Farmer’s Daughter, from 1947, is one of the top three movies Loretta Young ever made.

Directed by H.C. Potter, The Farmer’s Daughter stars Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten, Ethel Barrymore, and Charles Bickford. This movie was nominated for two Academy Awards and gave Loretta Young her first and only Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 1948!

The movie tells the story of a farmer’s daughter who is intent to leave the country behind and go to school to become a nurse. However, almost immediately after beginning her new school-oriented life, she runs out of funds and needs to find a way to pay her way through school. She ends up finding a job with a congressman (Cotten) who is looking for a domestic… and the two end up falling in love. It’s real cute.

2. The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

Probably the most well-known Loretta Young movie (with the exception of her best film ever), The Bishop’s Wife is a Christmas classic starring Young, Cary Grant, and David Niven. And IT IS GOOD. People don’t watch it every year for nothing!

The Bishop’s Wife follows an angel who comes to Earth to help a bishop and his wife as they try to raise money for a new church. While that tagline may not sound like much, the movie is so funny and interesting. A lot of this has to do with an always charming Cary Grant, who really makes this movie. However, Loretta Young (who plays the wife) is no slouch either and ups her charm here as she acts opposite Grant and David Niven. And therefore, it’s one of the best Loretta Young movies of all time.

1. The Stranger (1946)

The best Loretta Young movie is, in our opinion, The Stranger. Directed by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Orson Welles also stars in this movie with Young, and Edward G. Robinson (who is a quiet icon in everything he does). It was only nominated for one Academy Award (for Best Writing-Original Story), which is a real shame. It’s continued to grow into something that many absolutely adore, which is kind of the deal with an Orson Welles movie, it seems.

Anyways, The Stranger follows an investigator from the War Crimes Commission who is trying to find an infamous Nazi, a man so evil that he’s known for being a mastermind of the Holocaust. The movie is incredibly suspenseful and one wild, great ride. And we can thank Orson Welles for that.

But we should also thank the MARVELOUS performances that Welles, Robinson, and Young give. Young in particular is stellar, showing that she can still do real drama versus some of the light comedies she became known for in the 1940s. While people may differ on what their absolute favorite Loretta Young movie is, it’s no doubt that The Stranger is at least somewhere high on the list. And for us, it’s our number one.

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Comment below what YOUR favorite Loretta Young movies are! Are there any films of hers that you would include in this list that aren’t here? Hit the comments below with your thoughts!

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