In many ways, James Mason is one of the most prolific actors to come out of Old Hollywood. As a result, narrowing down the best James Mason movies of all time to just 10 films is incredibly hard. But we have tried!
Mason’s career spanned decades, as you’ll see in this list below of the top 10 best James Mason movies of all time. This list is based on our opinion, though we think you’ll likely agree with at least some of our reasonings!
If you’re looking to jump into Mason’s filmography, we recommend you start with this list and use it as a sort of guide. However, as Mason starred in a lot of films throughout his career, this list is by no means the only good movies he starred in. Far from it.
Mason has an array of amazing films he starred in throughout the decades. But to get started with Mason’s filmography, this list is as good a place as any!
The Top 10 Best James Mason Movies, Ranked
Honorable Mention: Georgy Girl (1966)
Genre: Romance / Comedy / Drama
Starring: James Mason, Alan Bates, Lynn Redgrave, Charlotte Rampling
Directed by: Silvio Narizzano
This list of the best James Mason movies of all time would not be complete without mentioning Georgy Girl. While this romantic comedy didn’t crack the top 10 of this list, we’ve decided to give it an honorable mention.
Mason’s fantastic role here in this 1966 movie earned him his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor — hence, why we felt inclined to add this film to this list. Unfortunately, Mason didn’t end up winning the award, as Walter Matthau (The Fortune Cookie) took home the award.
Georgy Girl follows a young, innocent woman (Redgrave) who finds herself in a pickle when she’s confronted with romantic encounters in 1960s London. One of those suitors is played by Mason, a man who also happens to be her father’s employer!
Georgy Girl really is a great film. Mason has been in a lot of movies over his decades-long career. He has over 100 credits to his name on IMDB. So, there are many movies that unfortunately didn’t make this list.
Therefore, don’t be dismayed by Georgy Girl’s Honorable Mention spot on this list. It is still an EXCELLENT film that should be watched if you enjoy Mason’s films!
10. 5 Fingers (1952)
Genre: Thriller / Drama
Starring: James Mason, Danielle Darrieux, Michael Rennie, Walter Hampden
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
5 Fingers is definitely one of the best James Mason movies of all time. In this thriller, Mason plays a British valet in Turkey during World War II who becomes a spy for Nazi Germany and subsequently relays information to them throughout the film. It’s a tense movie that all Mason fans should watch.
Related — James Mason: 14 Essential 1950s Movies
9. Julius Caesar (1953)
Genre: History / Drama
Starring: Louis Calhern, Marlon Brando, James Mason, John Gielgud
Directed by: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Julius Caesar may be best remembered as a Marlon Brando-led vehicle. But Mason’s supporting role here simply can’t be ignored, which is why this film has landed on this list.
Julius Caesar follows Shakespeare’s iconic play about Roman ruler Julius Caesar’s assassination and the chaos that follows. Mason plays Brutus, Caesar’s friend who is persuaded to go along with the other Roman senators who want power for themselves.
This historical drama is a wonderful movie from the 1950s and definitely one of the best James Mason movies of all time!
8. Bigger Than Life (1956)
Starring: James Mason, Barbara Rush, Walter Matthau, Robert F. Simon
Directed by: Nicholas Ray
Mason in a film directed by the great Nicholas Ray? It’s gotta be good. And Bigger Than Life is! Many often tout Mason’s performance in this drama as one of his best, and we can’t help but agree. This movie is absolutely amazing. Don’t just take our word for it. Jean-Luc Godard called it one of the greatest movies ever made!
In Bigger Than Life, Mason plays a family man who is diagnosed with a deadly disease. He agrees to take an experimental drug to help save his life. However, when he begins to abuse the drug, he becomes engulfed with violent mood swings that upturn his life.
Bigger Than Life is definitely worth a watch, as it’s one of the very best James Mason movies ever made. This drama is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #507), for those interested!
7. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Genre: Adventure / Drama
Starring: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre
Directed by: Richard Fleischer
Of course, we had to include 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, one of the more iconic Mason movies. This adventure drama follows a professor (Lukas), his assistant (Lorre), and a harpooner (Douglas) who are thrown overboard in the Pacific Ocean amid rumors of a giant sea monster that is attacking ships. Mason plays Captain Nemo, the anti-hero of the movie.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is one of the very best James Mason movies — and often considered one of his most memorable movies today!
Related — 11 Popular James Mason Movies Today
6. Cross of Iron (1977)
Genre: War / Drama
Starring: James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason, David Warner
Directed by: Sam Peckinpah
Cross of Iron is the best movie James Mason starred in during the 1970s, in our opinion. In the 1970s and 1980s, as he got older, Mason never stopped working in fine films — and this film is proof of that.
Set during World War II, Cross of Iron follows two German military leaders who clash thanks to class conflict and jealousy. Mason has a supporting role here, but he’s still great.
5. Odd Man Out (1947)
Genre: Film Noir / Crime / Drama
Starring: James Mason, Robert Newton, Cyril Cusack, F.J. McCormick
Directed by: Carol Reed
Odd Man Out is also one of the best James Mason movies of all time! Slightly underrated when compared to some of the other films on this list, Odd Man Out in many ways changed the trajectory of Mason’s career.
Thanks to his excellent performance here, Mason began his ascent over in Hollywood. Though he did have many challenges once he got to LA!
In Odd Man Out, Mason plays an IRA leader who gets shot while trying to rob a bank. Throughout almost the entire movie, we follow a struggling and dying Mason as he tries to evade capture and reunite with his friends.
Mason barely speaks in this film. Regardless, this is one of the best performances of his career. Even Mason himself thought so, as he later remarked that his performance here is his favorite!
Odd Man Out is also a part of the Criterion Collection (spine #754)!
Related — Film Review: ‘Odd Man Out’ (1947)
4. A Star Is Born (1954)
Genre: Musical / Romance / Drama
Starring: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford
Directed by: George Cukor
What is a list of the best James Mason movies without A Star Is Born? This excellent musical continues to be a fan favorite, thanks to Mason and Judy Garland’s excellent performances!
In A Star Is Born, Mason plays Norman Maine, a once great actor now on the decline. He meets Esther (Garland) and helps her become a star, falling in love with her and marrying her in the process. However, as her star rises, his falls — and he turns back to alcohol as a means to cope.
A Star Is Born is one of the greatest films to come out of the 1950s, without a doubt. Mason’s amazing performance here earned him his first Oscar nomination, though he did end up losing out to Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront).
Related — The Top 10 Best Judy Garland Movies of All Time
3. Lolita (1962)
Genre: Crime / Romance / Drama
Starring: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Gary Cockrell
Directed by: Stanley Kubrick
There is much one can say about Lolita. Whether you love it or hate it, this controversial film is undeniably one of the best James Mason movies of all time.
Lolita follows an aging professor (Mason) as he grows infatuated with a teenager (Lyon), marrying her mother (Winters) in the process of getting closer to her. A riveting film with an outstanding cast!
Related – You Need to Watch James Mason and Jane Fonda on ‘Password’ in 1962
2. The Verdict (1982)
Starring: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden, James Mason
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
Mason has a supporting role in 1982’s The Verdict — but it’s still one of the best James Mason movies of all time. The Verdict is an amazing movie and, in our opinion, the last great film Mason starred in toward the end of his life. He passed in 1984, just two years after this film was released.
In The Verdict, Paul Newman an alcoholic lawyer who tries to redeem himself by taking on a malpractice lawsuit. Mason plays the attorney opposite him marvelously. In fact, Mason’s extraordinary performance here earned him his third and last Oscar nomination!
1. North by Northwest (1959)
Genre: Action / Adventure / Mystery
Starring: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Jessie Royce Landis
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
North by Northwest is the best James Mason movie of all time. Cary Grant leads this mystery, with Mason in a supporting role. However, we believe (and we know many others agree with us) that Mason really does steal the film from Grant in just about every scene he’s in!
North by Northwest follows an advertising man (Grant) who is mistaken for a government spy and subsequently chased across the United States by a spy (Mason). The entire movie is absolutely riveting to watch — hence, why it’s number one on this list!
Related — The Top 10 Best Cary Grant Movies of All Time
Comment below your own personal favorite James Mason movie! Do you agree with this list? Are there other movies not included here that you would have included yourself? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts and opinions! I’d love to hear what you think!
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