James Stewart has starred in some of the best movies of all time. So, narrowing down the top 10 best James Stewart movies of all time wasn’t easy. Alas, we’ve tried our very best!
Below, you’ll find the absolute best James Stewart movies ever, in our opinion. Some very good films didn’t make the cut (we’re looking at you, You Can’t Take It With You), as Stewart has starred in so many wonderful films!
But if you want the top 10, here you have it. If you’re looking to get into Stewart films and haven’t seen much of his filmography, this is a great list to use as a guide!
The Top 10 Best James Stewart Movies, Ranked
10. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut
Directed by: Ernst Lubitsch
Up first at #10 we’ve got the absolutely delightful 1940’s film The Shop Around the Corner. The Shop Around the Corner is both one of the best James Stewart movies, as well as one of the best Christmas movies of all time. We absolutely adore this film here at Retro Gazing!
This romantic comedy takes place during the winter holidays and follows workers at a general store in Budapest. Two workers, in particular, played by Stewart and Sullavan, don’t get along. The two also have pen pals that they’ve fallen in love with, even though they don’t know the real identity of their pen pals.
Can you see where this is going? The two are actually writing to each other — though they have no idea! As Christmas rolls around, the two are intent on meeting their pen pal, and it’s delightful to watch.
Related — James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan Movie Collaborations, Ranked
9. Harvey (1950)
Genre: Fantasy / Comedy / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, Wallace Ford, William H. Lynn, Victoria Horne
Directed by: Henry Koster
Harvey is also one of the best James Stewart movies — and an absolute delight at that. Stewart had such a knack for starring in wholesome, feel-good films, didn’t he? When he wasn’t starring in thrillers and mysteries, that is!
In Harvey, Stewart plays a wealthy man whose best friend is an imaginary six-foot rabbit. Chaos ensues when his sister tries to have him committed, as she thinks he’s fully lost his mind. This entire movie is so good and definitely one of Stewart’s best!
Stewart’s excellent performance here earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, he lost out to José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac).
Related — James Stewart: 20 Essential 1950s Movies
8. Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Genre: Mystery / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Arthur O’Connell
Directed by: Otto Preminger
Anatomy of a Murder is often considered one of the best movies of all time. It’s even a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #600)!
In this mystery, Stewart plays a small-town lawyer who gets a big break when he represents a military man who murdered a man when avenging his wife. Everything about this movie is remarkable and really should be watched. It simply had to be included in this list of James Stewart’s best movies of all time!
Stewart’s remarkable performance in Anatomy of a Murder earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, he lost out to Charlton Heston (Ben-Hur).
7. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
Genre: Romance / Comedy
Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey
Directed by: George Cukor
The Philadelphia Story is also definitely one of the best James Stewart movies of all time! Stewart’s role here absolutely makes the film. It’s no surprise he won the Oscar for Best Actor this year for his performance here!
The Philadelphia Story follows a socialite (Hepburn) about to get married. However, chaos ensues when her ex-husband (Grant) shows up the day before the wedding with two reporters (Stewart and Hussey). Watching the cast interact and the story unfold is just such a thrill!
Related — Katharine Hepburn: 8 Essential 1940s Movies
6. Rope (1948)
Genre: Mystery / Crime / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Granger, Dick Hogan
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Rope follows two university students (Granger and Dall) who try to get away with the perfect murder. They murder a friend, purely for philosophical reasons. Then, they throw a dinner party and invite over the murdered man’s fiancee and the professor (Stewart) who inadvertently inspired this killing.
Anytime Stewart and director Alfred Hitchcock got together, magic was made on screen. Rope is no different. As a result, this mystery is one of the best James Stewart movies of all time — as well as one of the best mysteries ever made!
Related — Farley Granger: 4 Essential 1940s Movies
5. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)
Genre: Western / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin
Directed by: John Ford
Stewart starred in many wonderful westerns throughout his career. Somewhat surprisingly, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the only western that made this list. However, it really is the best Stewart western, in our opinion!
In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, we follow a tender-footed lawyer (Stewart) who becomes friends with a gunman (Wayne) as they both go up against a bully (Marvin). Seeing these three men, plus Vera Miles, in this western is a real joy! It’s also one of the best westerns of all time!
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
Directed by: Frank Capra
We could sit here all day and talk about Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. We talked about Hitchcock and Stewart’s collaborations above. Now, let’s give a round of applause for Stewart and Capra’s collaborations because goodness are they amazing!
In Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stewart plays an idealistic young man who is chosen to go to the Senate with honest ideas. However, as he discovers Washington and learns that he really can’t trust anyone, even the senator who mentors him (Rains), he loses hope.
Stewart’s performance in this comedic drama earned him his very first Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, he lost out to Robert Donat (Goodbye, Mr. Chips).
Related — The Top 10 Best Jean Arthur Movies of All Time
3. Vertigo (1958)
Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Romance
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo is also one of the best James Stewart movies of all time. How could it not be? This movie is absolutely brilliant and also often considered one of the very best Alfred Hitchcock movies!
Vertigo follows an ex-police officer (Stewart) who suffers from vertigo. When he agrees to trail a mysterious woman (Novak) for a friend of his, he ends up falling in love with her. However, everything isn’t what it seems to be — and this woman is a mystery indeed.
Related — The Top 10 Best Kim Novak Movies of All Time
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Genre: Fantasy / Drama
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers
Directed by: Frank Capra
No list of the best James Stewart movies would be complete without mentioning It’s a Wonderful Life. In any other actor’s filmography, this film would be in the #1 place. But this is Stewart we’re talking about! He has so many films that can be considered his very best!
It’s a Wonderful Life is one of the best, heartwarming, feel-good movies to watch. Again, Stewart and Capra really hit it out of the park here. If you’re ever feeling down — or ever looking to get in the winter holiday spirit — put this classic on. We have a feeling you’ll love it.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, Stewart plays George Bailey, a man who contemplates suicide and believes everyone would be better off if he had never been born. An angel (Travers) comes down to Earth to show George what his town would’ve looked like if he hadn’t been born — and his good deeds over the decades had never happened.
Stewart’s amazing performance as George Baily earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, he lost out to Fredric March (The Best Years of Our Lives) this year.
1. Rear Window (1954)
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
The best James Stewart movie of all time is 1954’s Rear Window. Many people often consider this to be the best movie of all time, if not the best Hitchcock film. It’s hard to disagree!
In Rear Window, Stewart plays a photographer with a broken leg who begins to spy on his neighbors out his window to pass the time. However, when he believes he’s witnessed a murder, things change. He tries to uncover the murderer — before the murderer kills him!
Related — Grace Kelly: 8 Popular Movies
Comment below your own personal favorite James Stewart movie! Do you agree with this list? Or would you change things up a bit? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and ideas! I’d love to hear what you think!
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