Gloria Swanson: 8 Essential 1920s Movies

Eight Swanson movies from the 1920s that you REALLY should watch!

Gloria Swanson became a star in the 1920s, thanks to the excellent silent films she starred in during this decade! Below, we’ve ranked the eight 1920s Gloria Swanson movies every fan should watch.

Every film on this list is a great watch and highly enjoyable. If you’re looking to watch the best of the best Swanson movies, use this list as a guide to her 1920s filmography! 

As a note, we’ve only included Swanson movies that are easily found to watch, rather than films that are rare or hard to find to watch. Obviously, movies that have been lost are also not included here! 

This list is full of movies that others can easily find to watch. Unfortunately, some of Swanson’s films that were considered great back when they were released in the 1920s have since been lost to time. Therefore, not all of her greatest films (according to 1920s critics) will be listed here! 

The 8 Best 1920s Gloria Swanson Movies, Ranked

8. Zaza (1923)

Zaza: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Romance / Drama

Starring: Gloria Swanson, H.B. Warner, Ferdinand Gottschalk, Lucille La Verne

Directed by: Allan Dwan

At #8, we’ve got 1923’s Zaza. In this romantic drama, Swanson plays Zaza, a popular actress in an open-air theater who ends up having a romantic relationship with a visiting diplomat — a man who tries to stay away from her at first. 


7. Stage Struck (1925)

Stage Struck: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Comedy

Starring: Gloria Swanson, Lawrence Gray, Gertrude Astor, Oliver Sandys

Directed by: Allan Dwan

Stage Struck is also one of the best 1920s Gloria Swanson movies! In this comedy, Swanson plays a young waitress who dreams of being a star, yet will settle for owning a diner with her boyfriend. However, when her boyfriend falls for a visiting actress, she realizes that she must also enter the stage light to win him back! 


6. The Trespasser (1929)

Best 1920s Gloria Swanson Movies: The Trespasser

Genre: Drama

Starring: Gloria Swanson, Robert Ames, Purnell Pratt, Henry B. Walthall

Directed by: Edmund Goulding

The Trespasser is a must-watch for any Swanson fan. This drama follows a stenographer who ends up having a child — after her marriage with her husband is annulled! Swanson’s performance in this drama has resulted in many then and now declaring The Trespasser to be one of her very best films! 


5. Manhandled (1924)

Manhandled: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Drama / Comedy

Starring: Gloria Swanson, Tom Moore, Lilyan Tashman, Ian Keith

Directed by: Allan Dwan

Manhandled is definitely one of the best 1920s Gloria Swanson movies. In this comedic drama, Swanson plays a shop girl who goes out partying, though she works to maintain her virtue, even though higher society men are interested in her. 


4. The Affairs of Anatol (1921)

Best Gloria Swanson 1920s Movies: The Affairs of Anatol

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Starring: Wallace Reid, Gloria Swanson, Elliott Dexter, Bebe Daniels

Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille

Next up, we’ve got 1921’s The Affairs of Anatol. In this comedic drama, a married man neglects his wife, as he believes his task is to save loose women from themselves. He’s also searching for the perfect mistress! A classic 20s tale, isn’t it? 


3. Why Change Your Wife? (1920)

Why Change Your Wife: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Starring: Thomas Meighan, Gloria Swanson, Bebe Daniels, Theodore Kosloff

Directed by: Cecil B. DeMille

Why Change Your Wife? is definitely one of the best 1920s Gloria Swanson movies! In this comedy, a man leaves his wife (Swanson) and marries a stylish new lady (Daniels). However, when he gets a look at his ex-wife and her revamped style, he begins to question whether he should’ve left her or not! 


2. Beyond the Rocks (1922)

Beyond the Rocks: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Romance / Drama

Starring: Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Edythe Chapman, Alec B. Francis

Directed by: Sam Wood

Beyond the Rocks is DEFINITELY one of the best 1920s Gloria Swanson movies. This film used to be considered lost, but a print of it was recently discovered in the past 20 years — and for that, we’re very thankful. 

Swanson stars alongside fellow silent film superstar Rudolph Valentino in this romance. Swanson plays a young woman who marries a very old millionaire to help provide for her family… but when she meets a young man (Valentino), she falls in love with him, even though she tries desperately not to. 


1. Sadie Thompson (1928)

Sadie Thompson: Gloria Swanson

Genre: Drama

Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Blanche Friderici, Charles Lane, Florence Midgley, Gloria Swanson

Directed by: Raoul Walsh

Sadie Thompson is the very best movie Gloria Swanson starred in during the 1920s. Opposite a stellar cast, Swanson really shines in this drama.

Sadie Thompson follows a prostitute (Swanson) on a South Pacific Island who falls for an American sailor (Walsh) who loves her, regardless of her past. However, a missionary (Barrymore) complicates matters when he’s convinced he can save her. 

Swanson’s amazing performance in this film earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress — her first! However, Janet Gaynor ended up winning this year for 7th Heaven, Street Angel, and Sunrise

Starring Lionel Barrymore — Old Movies Worth Watching: Grand Hotel (1932)


Comment below your own personal favorite 1920s Gloria Swanson movie! Do you agree with this list? Or would you change things up a bit? Hit the comments below with all your thoughts! I’d love to hear what you think! 

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One comment

  1. Thanks for this ! Indiscreet is also a pretty good one that is now on Tubi.

    Sadie Thompson is my favorite from this era as well!

    Now I await a Mae West ranking 🙂 Cheers.

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