Cary Grant: Top Movies From the 1930s

Throughout his decades-long career, Cary Grant managed to be in some of the greatest films ever made. In the 1930s, Cary Grant started his career and made some very interesting, very wonderful movies. From The Awful Truth to Bringing Up Baby, he shined in so many pictures that he made. Yes, he wouldn’t go on to star in his most popular movie of all time — we’re looking at you, North by Northwest — until the late 1950s. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t putting out wonderful work during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Because goodness, he was.

Below, I’ve compiled the top 10 Cary Grant movies from the 1930s. You’ll notice some fan-favorite ones here, as well as some underrated gems that, unfortunately, don’t receive the love that they really should. I’ve only included films where Grant had a substantial role (leading or supporting). But trust me, every movie here is a winner if you’re a fan of Cary Grant.

Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn behind the scenes of 'Bringing Up Baby'
Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn behind the scenes of ‘Bringing Up Baby’

Cary Grant’s Top 10 Movies From the 1930s

Cary Grant 1930s Movies

10. The Eagle and the Hawk (1933)

  • Genre: Action / Drama / War
  • Starring: Fredric March, Cary Grant, Carole Lombard
  • Directed by: Stuart Walker

One of Cary Grant’s major first leading roles, The Eagle and the Hawk tells the story of RAF pilots who fight to survive during World War I. It’s an interesting early 1930s movie that begins to show Cary Grant’s stardom. While he would go on to do many romantic comedies, The Eagle and the Hawk was really the first glimpse we get into the type of action star Cary Grant could be. It’s such a pivotal film, though it has fallen off the radar a bit in recent decades. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a watch!

Cary Grant - Mae West - I'm No Angel

9. I’m No Angel (1933)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant
  • Directed by: Wesley Ruggles

A great showcase for the iconic Mae West, I’m No Angel tells the story of a carnival dancer who evades the law… and invades high society. I’m No Angel is a very interesting pre-code 1930s movie starring a very young Cary Grant. If you’re a fan of Grant, it’s well worth the watch. Interestingly enough, this movie was to be re-released in 1935 and 1949, but the production code was much stricter and more enforced in these years, so it was not approved! There were lots of problems with the censors back when this movie was initially released in 1933, but it did manage to make it to the movie theaters. In 1933, it was the second most popular movie at the box office!


8. Blonde Venus (1932)

  • Genre: Drama
  • Starring: Marlene Dietrich, Herbert Marshall, Cary Grant
  • Directed by: Josef von Sternberg

A wonderful early 1930s Marlene Dietrich movie that also happens to star a young Cary Grant, Blonde Venus tells the story of a nightclub singer who gives in to a rich playboy in order to finance her husband’s medical treatment. While the film received mixed reviews from critics when it was first released, it has since become a cult movie. It has also been added to the Criterion Collection! In 1932, Grant was still relatively new, but you can still see the beginnings of a star in his work in Blonde Venus.

Cary Grant and Carole Lombard - In Name Only

7. In Name Only (1939)

  • Genre: Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Carole Lombard, Cary Grant, Kay Francis, Charles Coburn
  • Directed by: John Cromwell

Though initially intended as a Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn vehicle, In Name Only really does shine because of Carole Lombard’s pairing with Grant. The movie follows a wealthy man who falls for a widow… but he can’t get his wife to divorce him. When it was released, In Name Only was received positively by critics and by audiences. The film grossed about $1 million at the box office and made a profit of about $150,000.

Grant was quite popular in the late 1930s and was definitely leading man material at this point. His star would only rise from here. While In Name Only is a fun watch (anything with both Grant and Carole Lombard is a win), it doesn’t really compare to other work Grant did in the 1930s. However, it’s still good enough to appear on this list!

Related — The Top 10 Best Kay Francis Movies of All Time

Cary Grant 1930s Movies: Topper

6. Topper (1937)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance / Fantasy
  • Starring: Constance Bennett, Cary Grant, Billie Burke, Hedda Hopper
  • Directed by: Norman Z. McLeod

An interesting fantasy turn for Grant, Topper tells the story of a couple who returns from the dead to help a henpecked husband. It’s great fun and Grant truly does shine here, making it one of the best Cary Grant movies from the 1930s. Topper was nominated for two Academy Awards, though Grant didn’t get a nomination for his performance. When the movie was first released in 1937, it was critically acclaimed — and audiences loved it, too! It was a box office hit! Topper also led to Grant being cast in fun screwball romantic comedies in the late 1930s, some of which are some of the greatest movies he’s ever made — and some of which are on this list at the very top!

Cary Grant: Gunga Din

5. Gunga Din (1939)

  • Genre: Adventure / War / Comedy
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Joan Fontaine
  • Directed by: George Stevens

The third most popular movie in 1939 behind the epic Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, Gunga Din was a huge success for Cary Grant in the 1930s. Gunga Din tells the story of three British soldiers who seek treasure during an uprising in India. The movie was received favorably by critics, and audiences adored it. However, because of its incredibly high budget, it didn’t net a profit, even though it grossed $2.8 million at the box office.

Cary Grant was riding high when he made this movie (career-wise), though it did signal a shift of sorts in the type of films he was creating. The late 1930s had Grant in many screwball romantic comedies — not that we’re complaining — but Gunga Din allowed Grant to do something slightly different. As a result, he is still marvelous in this role even decades after it was made!

Cary Grant 1930s movies: Only Angels Have Wings

4. Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

  • Genre: Adventure / Drama / Romance
  • Starring: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Richard Barthelmess, Rita Hayworth
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

A phenomenal film that paired Cary Grant and Jean Arthur together, Only Angels Have Wings follows a team of flyers who risk their lives to deliver mail in a South American country. When it was first released, the film was received very well by both critics and audiences. It’s only grown in adoration and popularity, and now it’s a part of the Criterion Collection! Grant is amazing here (as he is in most 1939 productions). However, whereas most of his other late 1930s movies are comedic, Grant is serious and troubled here — and it’s so very interesting to watch.

Related: The Top 10 Best Rita Hayworth Movies of All Time

The Awful Truth

3. The Awful Truth (1937)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Irene Dunne, Cary Grant, Ralph Bellamy
  • Directed by: Leo McCarey

One of the best Cary Grant movies ever made, The Awful Truth follows a divorced couple who keeps getting mixed up in each other’s love lives. His first of three movies with Irene Dunne, The Awful Truth took his comedic talent that was seen in Topper and cranked it up some. It’s a great film that seems to only get better with age. Named one of the ten best movies of the year by The Film Daily when it was released, the movie grossed about $3 million at the box office. It also helped skyrocket Cary Grant’s career — he was forever an A-list leading man after this movie. The Awful Truth is also a part of the Criterion Collection!

RELATED: The Most Popular Irene Dunne Movies

The Holiday (1938): Cary Grant - Katharine Hepburn

2. Holiday (1938)

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

The third of four movies Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn did together in the 1930s and 1940s, Holiday tells the story of an unhappy heiress who falls in love with her sister’s freethinking fiance. An amazing film that still stands strong today, Holiday was received well by critics. However, it was not considered a financial success, possibly because Katharine Hepburn was considered box office poison at this time. But the film is GOOD. It’s a shame that it didn’t get the love it deserved when it was first released in 1938, because this movie is definitely one of the best movies that Cary Grant made in the 1930s. Hands down. Holiday is now a part of the Criterion Collection, too!

1. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

  • Genre: Comedy / Romance
  • Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant
  • Directed by: Howard Hawks

Bringing Up Baby is the best Cary Grant movie from the 1930s — and it was a box office flop when it was first released in 1938. The movie follows a madcap heiress who upsets the normal (and boring) existence of a straitlaced scientist. It’s delightful fun and is considered to be one of the best screwball comedies today. However, when it was first released, it wasn’t as beloved. While critics received it mostly positively, it only did well with audiences in certain areas. It completely failed to bring in a profit in the Midwest.

However, thanks to its reruns on television in the 1950s and 1960s, Bringing Up Baby has slowly become one of the best movies from the 1930s. It’s definitely one of Cary Grant’s best works! In fact, the film is even a part of the Criterion Collection now!

RELATED: Best Films From the 1930s: ‘Bringing Up Baby’

Cary Grant’s 1930s Movies + More Nostalgic Content

Comment below what you think about the best Cary Grant movies from the 1930s. Do you agree with this list above? Or would you rearrange it somehow? Hit the comments below with your own thoughts!

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