Deborah Kerr: Essential 1940s Movies

British actress Deborah Kerr began her illustrious film career in the 1940s, gracing the silver screen with critically acclaimed performances in a number of celebrated films. Seeking new creative challenges and opportunities, she then made the leap to Hollywood in the late 1940s, where insightful direction and an impeccable cast gave rise to some of the most iconic cinematic works of the era.

Below, we’ve ranked the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies! Every single movie listed here is a great film and highly watchable. If you’re looking for a place to start with Kerr’s filmography, use this list as a handy guide!

The 7 Best 1940s Deborah Kerr Movies, Ranked

7. Major Barbara (1941)

  • Genre: Comedy
  • Starring: Wendy Hiller, Rex Harrison, Robert Morley, Robert Newton, Deborah Kerr
  • Directed by: Gabriel Pascal

Major Barbara is definitely one of the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies, even though she only has a small supporting role here. This fantastic film — which is a part of the Criterion Collection in the George Bernard Shaw on Film set — was filmed in London in 1941 during the Blitz. The cast and crew had to consistently run to bomb shelters throughout the filming of this excellent movie.

Even with this troubled shooting experience, Major Barbara became one of the best movies (critically and financially speaking) of 1941. Today, it remains a wonderful film. The satire follows a Salvation Army officer (Kerr), the daughter of a munitions manufacturer, who speaks out against hypocrisy.

6. Edward, My Son (1949)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Spencer Tracy, Deborah Kerr, Ian Hunter, James Donald
  • Directed by: George Cukor

An interesting drama from 1949, Edward, My Son stars Kerr and Spencer Tracy as a married couple. Tracy plays a possessive father who will destroy anything and everyone who gets in the way of his son’s success — even though his son may be the one to ruin his own chances of a good future.

Related —Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy Movie Collaborations, Ranked

5. The Hucksters (1947)

  • Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
  • Starring: Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Sydney Greenstreet, Adolphe Menjou, Ava Gardner
  • Directed by: Jack Conway

The Hucksters was Kerr’s debut in an American film — and it also is one of the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies. With an excellent cast around her, the film is quite watchable today. Gable plays a war veteran who is eager to reestablish his advertising career after the war and becomes involved with both Kerr and Gardner’s characters as he fights to stay honest.

Related —The Top 10 Best Clark Gable Movies of All Time

4. I See a Dark Stranger (1946)

  • Genre: War / Thriller / Drama
  • Starring: Deborah Kerr, Trevor Howard, Raymond Huntley
  • Directed by: Frank Launder

I See a Dark Stranger is a very interesting WWII thriller that stars Kerr as an Irishwoman who hates the English and supports the Nazis. However, when she meets a British officer (Howard), romance blossoms between them, and her allegiances may change. Definitely one of the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies!

3. Vacation From Marriage (1945)

  • Genre: Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Robert Donat, Deborah Kerr, Ann Todd
  • Directed by: Alexander Korda

Vacation From Marriage is truly one of the very best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies! This phenomenal romantic drama follows a married couple, played by Kerr and Donat, who dread their postwar reunion after they both have changed so much during their service in World War II. A must-watch!

2. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

  • Genre: War / Romance / Drama
  • Starring: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook
  • Directed by: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

Many consider The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp to be the best British movie ever made. And it truly is glorious. The film follows General Candy (Livesey) and his four decades of life living in England and partaking in its many wars — and then WWII begins. Kerr plays three different women that inspire him at three different points in his life.

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is definitely one of the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movies of all time! It’s also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #173)!

1. Black Narcissus (1947)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jenny Laird
  • Directed by: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

There will never be another movie like Black Narcissus again. Incredibly unique and riveting, this film is one of a kind. It’s also the best 1940s Deborah Kerr movie! This drama is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #93)!

Black Narcissus is one of my favorites, mainly because it’s one of the crazier old movies we’ve ever seen. The 1947 drama follows nuns who attempt to found a convent in the Himalayas, only to be tortured by the exotic beauty of the land — and by the handsome man (Farrar) helping them out.

What’s Your Favorite 1940s Deborah Kerr Movie?

Comment below your own personal favorite 1940s Deborah Kerr movie. Do you agree with this list? Did we miss out on any films? Hit the comments below with all your opinions and thoughts — we’d love to hear them!

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