Top 10: Best Cary Grant Performances

The definition of a suave and debonair leading man, Cary Grant was one of the top male stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He made women swoon and men envious and was just like fine wine: he got better with age. With a film career that spanned over seventy films and thirty years, his filmography includes everything from slapstick comedies to dark, suspenseful thrillers.

A man of the world in persona and style, Grant starred alongside some of the top leading ladies of the day including Mae West, Katherine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple Black, Doris Day, Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Irene Dunn to name a few. He even turned down the role of James Bond, a role said to be modeled after him, in “Dr. No” (1962). Here’s a list of the Oscar-nominated (and 1970 Honorary recipient) Cary Grant’s ten best performances.

10George Kirby in “Topper” (1937)

Grant plays one half of a fun-loving, prankster ghost couple opposite Constance Bennett. He has wit and charm to spare in one of his early films as his star power was on the ascent. Although their characters would probably get a lot of flack today for some of their antics, Bennett and Grant add great comedic touch to this film.

9Mortimer Brewster in “Arsenic & Old Lace” (1944)

Grant was at his comedic best with an over-the-top performance in this dark comedy. With great comedic timing and over the top facial expressions, Grant really seemed natural in the role of a young man who comes to learn that his maiden aunts are homicidal maniacs and insanity runs in the family. Questioning his own sanity, Grant was the perfect mix of madcap comedy and drama. His delivery of the witty dialogue and his adeptness at the slapstick, physical humor make this one of his great performances.

8David in “Bringing Up Baby” (1938)

In this classic screwball comedy, Grant plays a befuddled paleontologist who is pursued by a ditzy heiress played by Katherine Hepburn and her pet leopard. Grant plays a more straight-laced character who is a little unworldly, which is a big contrast to the roles that Grant plays later in his career. There are so many wonderful scenes in which Grant’s performance shines in this wacky romantic comedy.

7Archibald Cutter in “Gunga Din” (1939)

Grant plays a British soldier in 19th century India in this adventure dramedy and second-biggest money maker in 1939. Grant has great chemistry with his two other soldier buddies (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Victor McLaglen) and gives a great performance in one of his few action-heavy films. But he pulls off the physicality with ease and couples it with his comedic prowess. 

6Peter Joshua in “Charade” (1963)

Grant was nominated for a Golden Globe for “Best Actor – Comedy or Musical” for his portrayal in this suspenseful romantic comedy. Grant was his classy, elegant best in this film and the chemistry between him and Audrey Hepburn was undeniable. The film has a Hitchcock-type feel to it and Grant does “Hitchcock” so well. 

5Phillip Adams in “Indiscreet” (1958)

Grant was at his sexy-best in this film about an actress who begins a flirtation with a “married” banker. Grant and Ingrid Bergman make for a gorgeous, magnetic couple who’s witty banter is delightful to watch. Grant even pulls out some physical comedy in this one as well, with ease. What the film lacks in substance, Grant and Bergman more than makeup for in their brilliant performances.

4Ernie Mott in “None But the Lonely Heart” (1944)

In one of his more dramatic roles, Grant plays a wayward son who comes home and tries to reform himself after he finds out his mother has a terminal illness. Playing a layered and more gritty character, Grant’s performance was nominated for a “Best Actor” Oscar. Grant wanted a role that was a departure from his normal comedic and romantic fare and he brilliantly shines through in this one.

3Walter Burns in “His Girl Friday” (1940)

Grant plays a sly newspaper editor with ulterior motives opposite his reporter ex-wife delightfully played by Rosalind Russell. This screwball comedy is a fun watch with Grant’s delivery of the fast-talking, punchy dialogue being second to none. He and Russell go toe-to-toe and it is thrilling to watch. The pacing and acting are top-notch in his classic masterpiece.

2Nickie Ferrante in “An Affair to Remember” (1957)

When you think of the debonair, ladies man Cary Grant, this is the role that comes to mind. Playing a carefree playboy who falls for a teacher over a few days on a cruise, Grant is so sauve and what every hopeless romantic dreams of. He gives a reserved, understated performance that also has hints of vulnerability to it. And the chemistry between him and Deborah Kerr is palpable. 

1Roger Thornhill in “North by Northwest” (1959)

It’s hard for a man to not give a great performance in a Hitchcock film and Grant does not disappoint in this one. Playing and ad executive on the run after a case of mistaken identity, Grant mixes subtle wit, intelligence, and physicality in this classic role. Grant portrays his characters arch superbly and the dialogue delivery, body language, and subtle gestures come together perfectly. Grant definitely leaves his mark on this role and the film overall.

Which Cary Grant performance is your favorite? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!