10 Best George Cukor Movies, Ranked


George Cukor was an acclaimed American filmmaker active between 1930 and 1981. He specialized in romantic comedies and literary adaptations, directing classics like Little Women, A Star is Born, The Philadelphia Story, and My Fair Lady. He was especially known for having women-centered stories at a time when they were not common on the big screen.

Outlasting the Hollywood Golden Age, Cukor is also impressive for turning out successful work in wildly divergent eras; the Hollywood of 1964 was very different from the one he first entered as a director in 1930. Regardless of the time, Cukor succeeded in producing engaging, entertaining movies. He had a strong vision and the determination to realize it. As he once said: “A director with a conscience will fight tooth and nail to get the picture as he wants it.” His finest movies have aged remarkably well and are still watched by tons of fans around the world.

10 ‘Camille’ (1936)

Starring: Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan

“It’s a great mistake for any woman to have a heart bigger than her purse.” Adapted from a novel by Three Musketeers writer Alexandre Dumas, this tragic romantic drama centers on the titular courtesan (Greta Garbo) in 19th-century Paris and her affairs with the young nobleman Armand Duval (Robert Taylor) and the stern Baron de Varville (Henry Daniell). Despite their difference in social status, Camille and Armand fall deeply in love, but their happiness is threatened by societal conventions and the disapproval of Armand’s family.

Garbo was one of the defining stars of the early Golden Age, and Camille is generally considered to be her best performance. She poignantly captures the character’s vulnerability and entrapment in the social structures of her time, rightly earning a Best Actress Oscar nod for her efforts. Much credit must also go to Cukor, who shoots Garbo well, making her look like a veritable screen goddess.

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9 ‘Dinner at Eight’ (1933)

Starring: Marie Dressler, John Barrymore, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow

“You couldn’t get into politics. You couldn’t even get in the men’s room at the Astor!” Dinner at Eight weaves together the interconnected stories of a group of wealthy Manhattan socialites preparing for a lavish dinner party. As the guests RSVP and the menu is planned, their personal dramas and secrets begin to unravel. Millicent Jordan (Billie Burke), the gracious hostess, grapples with her husband Oliver’s (Lionel Barrymore) failing health and financial troubles, while their daughter, Paula (Madge Evans), faces a romantic dilemma.

Dinner at Eight is an ensemble comedy of the highest order. The stellar cast delivers the witty dialogue with relish, trading a litany of barbs and put-downs and enhancing the film’s themes, particularly its critique of out-of-touch snobs and their hypocrisy. Plus, Cukor brings together some of the biggest stars of the day (with some even bigger personalities) and manages them all with a deft touch. It takes a ton of directorial confidence to pull off such a feat, yet Cukor makes it seem effortless.

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8 ‘Little Women’ (1933)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Frances Dee, Jean Parker

“If wearing hair up means becoming a lady, I’ll wear it down until I’m 100 years old.” There have been six feature adaptations of Louisa May Alcott‘s novelLittle Women, a testament to its timeless content. Cukor made the first sound version, influencing later takes on the material. Set against the backdrop of Civil War-era New England, it follows the March sisters (played by Katharine Hepburn, Frances Dee, Jean Parker, and Joan Bennett) as they navigate the challenges of growing up and finding their places in the world.

Remaining faithful to the original novel, Cukor’s Little Women showcases sparkling dialogue and poignant moments brought to life by an exceptional ensemble. Hepburn, in particular, is fantastic despite this being one of her earliest roles. “Katharine Hepburn is more than a personality. She is a human dynamo,” Cukor said of her. The movie won that year’s Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar and earned Cukor a Best Director nomination.

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7 ‘Born Yesterday’ (1950)

Starring: Judy Holliday, Broderick Crawford, William Holden, Howard St. John

“It’s interesting how many interesting things a person could learn if they read.” This comedy-drama revolves around the brash Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday), the girlfriend of the corrupt junkyard tycoon Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford). Harry believes that Billie’s lack of sophistication reflects poorly on him, so he hires journalist Paul Verrall (William Holden) to educate her and improve her image. As Billie begins to discover her intelligence and potential, she starts to challenge Harry’s control over her and becomes increasingly drawn to Paul.

The script nimbly dances around the censorship of the time, hinting more than showing. Although Born Yesterday‘s plot drags at times, the dialogue and performances more than compensate. Holliday infamously won the Best Actress Oscar for her work here, beating out legends like Gloria Swanson and Bette Davis. Born Yesterday really takes off in the third act, as Billie’s transformation leads to riveting confrontations, most notably a mesmerizing argument between her and Brock.

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6 ‘A Star Is Born’ (1954)

Starring: Judy Garland, James Mason, Jack Carson, Charles Bickford

Image via Warner Bros. Pictures

“I somehow feel most alive when I’m singing.” Once again, Cukor takes on a story that had been told before on screen and would be told again and again. Judy Garland stars as Esther Blodgett, an aspiring singer who catches the eye of the established but troubled actor Norman Maine (James Mason). As Esther’s career begins to soar, Norman’s spirals into decline due to his alcoholism and personal demons. Despite their passionate love, their relationship is tested by the harsh realities of Hollywood and the pressures of fame.

Here, Cukor takes shots at the dark side of show business, especially the cold machinery of the studio system. Ever the crowd-pleaser, though, he balances this out with an engaging story and frequent musical numbers. Garland’s songs often punctuate key plot points, sometimes enhancing the storytelling but occasionally simply showcasing her considerable vocal talents. It’s a recipe that works, and A Star is Born feels immersive and lively despite the three-hour runtime.

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5 ‘Holiday’ (1938)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayres

“Someone stop me. Oh, someone, please just try and stop me!” Johnny Case (Cary Grant) is engaged to Julia (Doris Nolan), a young woman from a wealthy, conservative family with whom he has little in common. Determined to live life on his terms, Johnny finds himself drawn to Julia’s unconventional sister, Linda (Katharine Hepburn), who shares his desire for a more meaningful existence.

Holiday makes for a study in contrasting worldviews: Julia and the rest of the family value security and material possessions, while Johnny and Linda care more for emotion and connection. This was a relevant thematic tension for the era, with America still dealing with the aftereffects of the Great Depression. But rather than satirizing the wealthy as in Dinner at Eight, Cukor is more gentle toward the upper crust in Holiday, genuinely exploring the drawbacks of wealth and the pressures of high society. The film remains well-regarded, currently holding a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 30 reviews.

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4 ‘The Women’ (1939)

Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Mary Boland

Joan Crawford, Norma Sheared, and Rosalind Russell in a promo image for The Women 1939
Image via MGM

“There’s a name for you ladies, but it isn’t used in high society—outside of a kennel.” Set in New York’s high society, The Women focuses on Mary Haines (Norma Shearer), a wealthy socialite whose seemingly perfect life is shattered when she discovers her husband’s infidelity with a shop-girl named Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford). As Mary deals with the fallout of her husband’s affair, she seeks solace with her witty and loyal group of female friends, including the wise-cracking Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell) and the supportive Countess De Lave (Mary Boland).

Notably, not a single male character appears on-screen, hence the title. The men linger just out of frame; the women are the stars. This approach was striking for 1939, even if Cukor doesn’t necessarily explore this premise to the max. For example, some commentators lament the fact that the characters still frequently discuss men. Nevertheless, The Women remains a seminal entry in female cinema while remaining smart and enjoyable, with a lot of solid physical comedy and an endearing dynamic between the main friends.

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3 ‘My Fair Lady’ (1964)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Stanley Holloway, Wilfrid Hyde-White

Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle smiling in My Fair Lady.
Image via Paramount

“Oh, you are a devil.” Adapted from George Bernard Shaw‘s play Pygmalion, My Fair Lady features Audrey Hepburn as Eliza Doolittle, a Cockney flower girl with dreams of a better life. Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), a linguistics expert, takes on the challenge of transforming Eliza into a proper lady, teaching her to speak and behave like a member of high society. The two develop a complex relationship, while aristocrat Freddy Eynsford-Hill’s (Jeremy Brett) feelings for Eliza further complicate matters.

My Fair Lady was a box office smash and was quickly canonized as one of the all-time greatest movie musicals. Although some modern reviewers may have cooled on it, My Fair Lady remains legendary. The best songs, like “Without You” and “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?” are lively and infectious, while Hepburn delivers a winsome performance. The film is almost three hours long but every minute is crammed full of joy. Not for nothing, it won the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Score.

My Fair Lady

Release Date
October 21, 1964

Audrey Hepburn , Rex Harrison , Stanley Holloway , Wilfrid Hyde-White , Gladys Cooper , Jeremy Brett

170 minutes

Alan Jay Lerner , George Bernard Shaw

2 ‘Gaslight’ (1944)

Starring: Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, May Whitty

Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer having a fight while Bergman stands against a wall in Gaslight.
Image via Loew’s, Inc.

“Have you gone mad, my husband? Or is it I who am mad?” This psychological thriller was the origin of the term “gaslighting,” meaning to use manipulation to make someone doubt their memory or sanity. Set in Victorian London, it follows newlyweds Paula Alquist (Ingrid Bergman) and Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) as they move into the house where Paula’s aunt was murdered years earlier. As strange occurrences unfold, Gregory’s behavior becomes increasingly controlling and sinister, systematically undermining Paula’s confidence and convincing her that she is losing her mind.

Gaslight‘s chilling atmosphere relies on psychological tension rather than overt horror or violence. While it may have been overshadowed by later films with more overt emotional terror, Gaslight‘s portrayal of domestic manipulation still feels disturbingly real and relevant. Here, Cukor draws from Alfred Hitchcock‘s noirs, like Rebecca, Suspicion, and Shadow of a Doubt, but filters them through his unique perspective. An actor’s director, Cukor always brought out the best in his stars, and Bergman delivers arguably her finest turn in this eerie Gothic thriller.

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1 ‘The Philadelphia Story’ (1940)

Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart, Ruth Hussey

 Tracy lighting Mike's cigarrette in The Philadelphia Story
Image via MGM

“The time to make up your mind about people is never.” This classic screwball comedy tells the story of the glamorous Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn), a socialite preparing for her second marriage. However, her plans are thrown into disarray when her ex-husband, C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant), re-enters her life along with a tabloid journalist, Macaulay “Mike” Connor (James Stewart). A complicated love story soon unfolds.

The Philadelphia Story is essentially a vehicle for its stars, with the plot serving as less of a traditional story and more of a way to showcase their personalities. It works; Hepburn, Grant, and Stewart have never been more watchable than they are here. The film was considered a comeback for Katharine Hepburn, in particular, following several flops. It was a commercial success and received six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. The Philadelphia Story is Cukor’s finest work, seamlessly blending rapid-fire comedy with emotion and even sadness. The result is both entertaining and moving, an irresistible and endlessly rewatchable comedy that ranks among the finest of its era.

The Philadelphia Story

Release Date
January 17, 1941

Cary Grant , Katharine Hepburn , James Stewart , Ruth Hussey , John Howard , Roland Young , John Halliday , Mary Nash

112 Minutes

Donald Ogden Stewart , Philip Barry , Waldo Salt

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