Frank Capra is one of the most important and influential figures in American film history.

After earning a degree in economics, he became interested in filmmaking and began writing scripts.

He worked as an assistant director on several films before making his feature debut with a short called “Why We Fight.”

Capra’s first feature film was the Oscar-winning “The Grand Illusion,” which showed at the New York World’s Fair in 1934. This was followed by “It Happened One Night” (1934), which won an Academy Award for best picture.

Afterward, Capra moved to Hollywood and began working on more than 20 films during the 1930s and 1940s, including such classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939), “You Can’t Take It With You” (1938), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) and “The Miracle Worker” (1960).

Capra also directed two television series: “You Are There” (1953-59) and “Studio One” (1955-61).

Best Frank Capra Movies

It’s no secret that Frank Capra is one of the greatest directors in Hollywood history.

His films are always a joy to watch and have inspired countless filmmakers since he first came on the scene.

1. It Happened One Night (1934)

The movie It Happened One Night was directed by Frank Capra, who also wrote the story. The film stars Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. They are traveling across the country when they get stranded in New Orleans because of a storm.

They end up staying at a hotel and meeting a lot of different people while they are there. They meet the owner of the hotel, played by Walter Connolly who is really nice to them and helps them out whenever possible.

They also meet some other people in New Orleans during their stay at the hotel including a woman named Dinah whose husband is cheating on her with a local girl named Belle (played by Louise Beavers).

Dinah wants to get back at him so she gets him drunk one night and then has sex with him but he wakes up before anything happens. It makes him mad so he throws her out into the street where she gets hit by a car and killed.

In addition to all this happening with Dinah and her husband it also involves two men named Otis (played by Walter Connolly) and George Bailey (played by James Stewart) who are both interested in getting

It Happened One Night
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly (Actors)
  • Capra,Frank (Director) - Harry Cohn (Producer)
  • (Playback Language)

2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)   

 Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas movie, but it’s not a Christmas movie. It’s an existential crisis.

It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those movies that has become so popular over the years because it has such a wide appeal. It can be watched by anyone of any age, and it doesn’t preach or make any particular statement about anything, which makes it accessible to all ages at once.

The movie tells the story of George Bailey (James Stewart), who lives in an idyllic town called Bedford Falls with his friend James Stewart’s character has been living in Bedford Falls for many years and has built up a business there as well as raising his children and running the community.

One day George decides he wants to build a dam on his property to help power the town economically. In order to do this George needs money from his wealthy uncle, Henry Potter (played by Lionel Barrymore).

He goes to see Henry, but Henry refuses him outright because he believes George will never be able to pay back the money he borrows from him or even keep up with payments on things like his house or car payments. As time goes on George tries to convince Henry

It's A Wonderful Life (Black & White Version)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Frank Capra (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a 1939 film directed by Frank Capra and starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold and Edward Arnold.

It is considered one of the greatest films of all time, winning three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director and Screenplay. The film was made on a “$1,000 budget” for Columbia Pictures.

The film takes place in an imaginary town called Ogden Mills in rural Missouri during the Great Depression. The main character is Jefferson Smith (Stewart), a naive but good-hearted small-town boy who becomes an unlikely hero when he is elected to office after his predecessor dies in office.

He is elected as “Speaker of the House” with no experience or knowledge of politics or lawmaking whatsoever, but his idealism and earnestness wins over voters who want someone else as their representative instead of greedy self-serving politicians like Senator Tom O’Malley (Rains).

Smith’s first act as Speaker is to hold a mock trial for O’Malley who has been accused of graft and corruption by another politician who worked under him when he was governor before O’Malley became Senator; this was done so that people could

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Jean Arthur, James Stewart, Claude Rains (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Sidney Buchman (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. American Madness (1932)

The New Deal was not simply a matter of money. It was one of ideas, too, and the most important was probably that it was an effort to give people more freedom and more control over their lives.

The great thing about the New Deal is that it wasn’t just about money. There were other things in it, like making sure people had jobs when they needed them,

whether they liked them or not; making sure there were enough jobs for everybody; making sure rich people didn’t pay off special interests to stop progressive taxes from being passed; giving poor people food stamps instead of charity; and so on. That’s what the New Deal actually did.

It’s also true that Roosevelt didn’t put all those ideas into action right away after 1933; he didn’t even get around to all of them until 1937-1938, when he was already in his second term as president.

But Roosevelt understood that if you want to change something like unemployment or inequality, then you have to start with some basic changes in government policy—and then see how they work out

American Madness
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Pat O'Brien, Walter Huston, Kay Johnson (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Robert Riskin (Writer) - Harry Cohn I (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

5. You Can’t Take It with You (1938)       

 Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You (1938) is one of the best films ever made. It has a great cast, an amazing script and some of the best cinematography ever captured on film.

It also manages to be funny, touching and dramatic all at once. The ending is particularly poignant and moving.

The film follows George Bailey (James Stewart) as he tries to raise his family in New England during the Great Depression. He has lost everything he owned in a fire that burned down his house,

forcing him to move into his brother’s basement apartment with his sister-in-law Martha (Olivia de Havilland), who has just given birth to their second child.

George wants nothing more than to provide for his family and make sure they have everything they need, but he’s not getting much help from his family members or neighbors with their own problems.

A bank foreclosure notice arrives one morning before George can even get breakfast ready for himself or his children. His boss at the factory tells him that if he doesn’t come into work that day they will fire him, so George seeks out help from old school friends who are now millionaires thanks to investments made during the 1920s stock market crash

You Can'T Take It With You
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Spring Byington, Lionel Barrymore, James Stewart (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

6. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a 1936 American comedy-drama film directed by Frank Capra, starring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, and based on the short story of the same name by Frank Norris.

It was written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and produced by Capra’s production company, Liberty Films. It was one of the few films made in color during the early talkie period, released a year after The Wizard of Oz (1939).

 

The film is set in a small town during the Great Depression. It tells the story of Edward Garvan (played by Gary Cooper), an honest man who is not wealthy but has a decent job as a traveling salesman for a department store.

He falls in love with Ellen Prisbrey (Barbara Stanwyck), an independent woman who does not want to marry because she does not believe marriage will last during hard times like these.

   
Mr. Deeds Goes To Town
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Robert Riskin (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

7. Meet John Doe (1941)

This is a classic film noir, and it’s a great example of how the plot twists and turns in this movie are very similar to those in other classic films noirs like Touch of Evil and The Killers. It also features an outstanding performance by Robert Montgomery as John Doe.

Montgomery was a popular actor at the time and had starred in several Hollywood classics such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and You Can’t Take It With You. He is also known for his role as Mr. Ed in the classic TV series “The Mickey Mouse Club” (1955).

The story begins with a man named John Doe being held at gunpoint while sitting in his own car on a deserted road in the middle of nowhere. The police officer who is holding him at gunpoint tells him that he’ll let him go if he tells him who he’s working with,

but Doe refuses because he doesn’t know any names yet. The cop then shoots him dead, but Doe miraculously falls out of the car onto the ground instead of dying from his injuries instantly as expected by everyone watching from afar. This causes everyone to become suspicious about whether or not Doe actually survived or if

Meet John Doe
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Harnold (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Richard Connell (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8. Arsenic and Old Lace (1943)  

 Arsenic and Old Lace (1943) is a Hallmark Hall of Fame television movie starring Ronald Reagan, Margaret Hamilton and Agnes Moorehead. The film was directed by Frank Capra and was adapted from the play of the same name by Joseph Kesselring.

It was nominated for two Emmy Awards in 1944: Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (Joseph Kesselring) and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Drama Series (Frank Capra).

The film is about two sisters who take advantage of their elderly widower father’s fondness for arsenic-laced candy to murder him in order to inherit his estate. The title refers to their story being told as an “old lace” tale;

indeed, the plot has been compared to a murder mystery involving an aged relative using poison to kill off family members who are trying to inherit his estate.

The film was originally released on DVD on April 6, 2003 by Universal Studios.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Julius J. Epstein (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

9. Lost Horizon (1937)

It’s a classic movie that you’ve probably seen before, but it’s hard not to be in awe of Lost Horizon. This film is a treasure trove of imagery and imagination, and it was made with such panache that it remains one of the most successful American films of all time.

The story centers on a plane crash in the Himalayas and its survivors, who must trek through the snow-covered mountains to find a way out. During their journey, they encounter many obstacles and dangerous creatures,

including a Yeti-like creature who attacks them at one point. The movie ends with an iconic scene where our heroes are rescued from their perilous situation by friendly Tibetan women who help them escape.

A lot of movies have been inspired by this one  there have been numerous remakes and adaptations over the years  but none have managed to match its popularity or artistic merit. It’s an essential part of any film collection, so make sure you check it out if you haven’t already!

Lost Horizon
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Ronald Colman, Jane Wyatt, Edward Everett Horton (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Robert Riskin (Writer) - Frank Capra (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

10. Lady for a Day (1933)

Frank Capra’s Lady for a Day is a lighthearted look at the trials and tribulations of being a star reporter. Life is never dull when a movie star (Jean Arthur) becomes your new boss.

The story opens with Arthur on the set of her next film, just as her director (Walter Brennan) begins filming her featured scene. As she and the crew begin working on the scene

, Arthur realizes that she may have been set up by an unscrupulous producer to land in this awkward situation. She soon learns that she is not the only one who has been damaged by this producer; the entire cast and crew are suffering from his “gifts.”

Arthur soon finds herself in charge of producing the final footage for her film, which is no easy task given that she has no experience in filmmaking whatsoever.

As she tries to complete this task in time for its release date, she stumbles upon some evidence that can either help or hinder her efforts on behalf of her fellow actors and crew members.

Lady for a Day
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • May Robson, Warren William, Guy Kibbee (Actors)
  • Frank Capra (Director) - Robert Riskin (Writer) - Harry Cohn (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

Characteristics of Frank Capra Movies

 Frank Capra is one of the most influential and important directors in Hollywood history. He was born on the 20th of January 1898, in Metuchen, New Jersey. He started his career as a newsreel cameraman before moving into directing.

Frank Capra’s films have a unique sense of optimism and moral message, which they communicate through lighthearted comedy and spectacular musical numbers. Frank Capra’s films are also known for their use of idealism, nostalgia, and emotionalism, as well as for their sympathetic portrayal of ordinary people in heroic situations.

Frank Capra is famous for his philosophy that life should be enjoyed and not taken seriously. He believed that every day was special and should be celebrated as such. His films often stress the importance of family relationships, especially mother-child relationships, but also father-son relationships.

His movies are full of memorable characters who have been described as “the best actors in Hollywood.” These actors include Lionel Barrymore (In Old Chicago), James Stewart (It’s A Wonderful Life), Spencer Tracy (The Philadelphia Story)

Best Frank Capra Movies – Wrapping Up

Frank Capra is a master at creating stories with heart, humor, and depth. His films have a way of transporting you to another place and time and making you feel like you are there with his characters.

Frank Capra’s best movies are all about the everyday guy or gal who find themselves in difficult situations and having to overcome them. The stories he tells are often set in small towns or rural areas where people work hard but still face difficult choices every day.

Every Frank Capra movie has a lesson-based theme and this lesson can be found in a variety of ways throughout his films. Some films have several different lessons while others focus on just one major lesson. These lessons can be life-lessons, love lessons, family lessons, etc…

Frank Capra’s films are also filled with comedy and heartwarming moments that make you feel like you are right there with the characters on screen as they face their trials and tribulations.

 

Ready to learn about some other Film Movements or Film History?