Joan Fontaine was an American actress who appeared in over 45 films throughout her career. Born in Tokyo in 1917, Fontaine began her acting career in the late 1930s and quickly became a rising star in Hollywood.
She was known for her versatility and range as an actress, and her performances in a number of classic films have cemented her place as a legend of Hollywood’s golden age.
Some of Joan Fontaine’s best-known films include “Rebecca” (1940), “Suspicion” (1941), “The Constant Nymph” (1943), and “Letter from an Unknown Woman” (1948).
Fontaine won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Suspicion” and was also nominated for Academy Awards for her roles in “Rebecca” and “The Constant Nymph.”
In addition to her work in film, Fontaine also had a successful career in theater and television. She was known for her elegance and grace both on and off screen, and her contributions to the entertainment industry continue to be celebrated today.
Best Joan Fontaine Movies
If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood cinema, be sure to check out some of Joan Fontaine’s best movies to experience the magic of this iconic actress for yourself.
1. Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)
“Letter from an Unknown Woman” is a 1948 romantic drama film directed by Max Ophüls and starring Joan Fontaine and Louis Jourdan.
The film is based on the novella of the same name by Stefan Zweig and tells the story of a young woman named Lisa Berndle (Fontaine) who falls deeply in love with a dashing pianist named Stefan Brand (Jourdan) after a chance encounter.
The film follows the lives of Lisa and Stefan over the course of several years, as Lisa’s unrequited love for Stefan remains steadfast and unwavering.
The story is told through a series of letters that Lisa writes to Stefan, revealing her deepest feelings and desires, even as her love for him goes unrecognized and unreturned.
“Letter from an Unknown Woman” is a haunting and bittersweet tale of love and loss, brought to life by Ophüls’ masterful direction and the powerful performances of Fontaine and Jourdan.
The film explores themes of unrequited love, sacrifice, and the fleeting nature of youth and beauty, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest romantic films ever made.
Overall, “Letter from an Unknown Woman” is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood cinema and anyone looking for a deeply moving and poignant love story. The film is a testament to the enduring power of love and the sacrifices we make for those we hold most dear.
2. Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands is a 1948 film noir directed by Norman Foster and starring Burt Lancaster and Joan Fontaine.
Lancaster stars as Bill Saunders, a former soldier suffering from PTSD who accidentally kills a man in a bar fight. On the run from the police, he meets and becomes involved with a kind-hearted social worker, played by Fontaine.
As Saunders and the social worker develop a relationship, he tries to start a new life and put his past behind him, but he is haunted by his actions and must confront his demons to find redemption.
The film was praised for Lancaster’s performance as Saunders, which was a departure from his earlier roles as a swashbuckling hero. It was also noted for its gritty, realistic depiction of post-war London and its use of chiaroscuro lighting and shadow to create a dark, foreboding atmosphere.
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands has since become a cult classic among film noir enthusiasts and is considered one of Lancaster’s finest performances.
3. Rebecca (1940)
“Rebecca” is a 1940 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier.
The movie stars Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine and tells the story of a young woman who marries a wealthy widower, only to find herself living in the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca.
The film is known for its atmospheric cinematography, haunting score, and excellent performances, particularly by Fontaine, who gives a compelling and nuanced portrayal of the film’s protagonist.
The movie also features an iconic villainous turn by Judith Anderson as the menacing housekeeper Mrs. Danvers.
“Rebecca” was a critical and commercial success, earning Hitchcock his first Academy Award for Best Picture.
The film remains a classic of the thriller genre and is regarded as one of Hitchcock’s finest works. It is definitely worth watching for fans of classic Hollywood and suspenseful storytelling.
4. Ivy (1947)
“Ivy” is a 1947 film noir directed by Sam Wood and starring Joan Fontaine, Patric Knowles, and Herbert Marshall. The film is based on the novel “Unsung Heroes” by Marie Adelaide Belloc Lowndes.
The plot follows a young woman named Ivy Lexton (Fontaine) who is determined to climb the social ladder at any cost. She marries a wealthy businessman, Jervis Lexton (Marshall), but finds herself drawn to a handsome artist named Roger Gretorex (Knowles).
When Jervis begins to suspect that Ivy may be having an affair, he hires a private detective to investigate, setting off a chain of events that leads to tragedy.
“Ivy” is notable for Fontaine’s performance as the manipulative and scheming Ivy, which earned her critical acclaim and a Best Actress nomination at the Academy Awards.
The film was praised for its suspenseful plot, atmospheric cinematography, and the nuanced performances of its ensemble cast.
While not as well-known as some of the other film noir classics of the era, “Ivy” remains a compelling and well-crafted thriller, notable for its exploration of the dark side of human nature and the corrosive effects of greed and ambition.
5. Suspicion (1941)
“Suspicion” is a 1941 psychological thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine.
The movie tells the story of a wealthy woman named Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine) who falls in love with a charming but mysterious man named Johnnie Aysgarth (Cary Grant).
As Lina and Johnnie’s relationship deepens, Lina begins to suspect that Johnnie is not all that he seems. She becomes increasingly convinced that he is a liar, a thief, and even a murderer.
The tension builds as Lina tries to uncover the truth about Johnnie and determine whether he is a danger to her.
“Suspicion” is known for its masterful use of suspense and Hitchcock’s trademark directorial style. The movie was praised for its complex characters, intricate plot, and stunning performances from Grant and Fontaine.
It was nominated for three Academy Awards, with Fontaine winning the Oscar for Best Actress.
Overall, “Suspicion” is a classic example of Hitchcock’s skill at crafting suspenseful and engaging psychological thrillers. It is a must-see for fans of the genre and for anyone who appreciates classic Hollywood cinema.
6. Jane Eyre (1943)
“Jane Eyre” is a 1943 American drama film directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Joan Fontaine and Orson Welles.
The film is an adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel of the same name, which tells the story of a young governess named Jane Eyre and her complicated relationship with her employer, Mr. Rochester.
Fontaine gives a powerful and nuanced performance as Jane, portraying her as a strong and independent woman who refuses to be defined by the social conventions of her time.
Welles is equally impressive as Rochester, bringing a brooding intensity to the role that captures both his charm and his dark secrets.
The film was praised for its faithful adaptation of Bronte’s novel, as well as for the strong chemistry between Fontaine and Welles. It was also notable for its atmospheric cinematography, which helped to create a sense of gothic mystery and romance.
Overall, “Jane Eyre” remains a beloved classic of American cinema, and a testament to the enduring power of Charlotte Bronte’s timeless story of love, loss, and redemption.
7. September Affair (1950)
“September Affair” is a romantic drama film released in 1950, directed by William Dieterle and starring Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten.
The film follows the story of a wealthy woman named Emily Blair (Fontaine) and a middle-aged composer named Robert Taylor (Cotten), who find themselves stranded in Italy after their flight is cancelled.
They decide to spend the next few days together, exploring the beautiful country and falling in love. However, as they get to know each other better, they realize that their lives are very different, and they must decide whether to continue their romance or part ways.
“September Affair” is a classic Hollywood romance that features stunning locations and beautiful cinematography. The chemistry between Fontaine and Cotten is palpable, and the film’s themes of love, sacrifice, and living in the moment still resonate with audiences today.
If you’re a fan of classic romantic dramas or want to see Joan Fontaine at her best, “September Affair” is definitely worth a watch.
8. The Bigamist (1953)
“The Bigamist” is a 1953 film noir directed by Ida Lupino, who also stars in the film alongside Joan Fontaine and Edmund Gwenn.
The film tells the story of a traveling salesman named Harry Graham (Gwenn) who leads a double life as a bigamist, with two wives in different cities. The story unfolds as Graham’s secret is gradually revealed through a series of flashbacks and confessions.
Lupino plays a sympathetic social worker who becomes involved in Graham’s case, while Fontaine plays his loyal and unsuspecting wife.
The film explores themes of deception, loneliness, and the consequences of our actions, with a focus on the human toll of Graham’s double life.
“The Bigamist” is notable for its sensitive portrayal of a taboo subject and for Lupino’s trailblazing role as a female director in Hollywood.
The film is a thought-provoking and emotionally powerful drama that raises important questions about the nature of love, commitment, and the lengths we will go to in order to escape our own pain and loneliness.
Overall, “The Bigamist” is a must-see for fans of classic film noir and anyone looking for a compelling and complex drama. The film is a testament to Lupino’s talent as a director and to the enduring relevance of stories that explore the complexities of the human experience.
9. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is a 1956 film noir directed by Fritz Lang and starring Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine, and Sidney Blackmer.
The film tells the story of a writer, Tom Garrett (Andrews), who decides to fake evidence of a murder to expose the flaws in the justice system.
He plans to plant clues that lead to his own arrest and then, after he’s been convicted, reveal the truth and prove that an innocent person can be found guilty based on circumstantial evidence.
However, things don’t go as planned, and Garrett soon finds himself caught up in a dangerous game of deception and betrayal. He must fight to clear his name and prove his innocence, even as the evidence against him continues to mount.
The film received mixed reviews upon its release, with some critics praising Lang’s direction and the performances of the lead actors, while others criticized the plot for being too contrived and convoluted.
Nevertheless, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt has since gained a cult following among fans of film noir, and its examination of the flaws in the justice system remains relevant today.
10. Born to Be Bad (1950)
“Born to Be Bad” is a 1950 film noir directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Joan Fontaine, Robert Ryan, and Zachary Scott.
The movie tells the story of Christabel Caine (Fontaine), a beautiful and ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to achieve her goals, including manipulating and betraying those around her.
The film is notable for its complex and morally ambiguous characters, as well as its themes of power, class, and gender dynamics.
Joan Fontaine delivers a captivating performance as Christabel, whose ruthlessness and cunning make her a fascinating and unforgettable character. Robert Ryan and Zachary Scott also deliver strong performances as the men who fall under her spell.
Despite mixed reviews upon its release, “Born to Be Bad” has since become a cult classic and is regarded as one of Nicholas Ray’s underrated works.
The movie is a must-see for fans of film noir and complex character studies, as well as for those interested in exploring the darker side of human nature.
11. This Above All (1942)
“This Above All” is a 1942 drama film directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Tyrone Power and Joan Fontaine. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Eric Knight and is set in England during World War II.
The story follows a young soldier named Clive Briggs (Power) who is wounded in battle and sent to a military hospital in England to recover.
There he meets a nurse named Prudence Cathaway (Fontaine) and the two form a bond. However, Clive is haunted by the memory of a friend who died in battle and struggles to find meaning in his life.
As the war rages on, Clive and Prudence find themselves questioning their beliefs and values, and are forced to confront the harsh realities of war and the sacrifices that must be made.
“This Above All” was praised for its strong performances, particularly those of Power and Fontaine, as well as its powerful message of hope and humanity in the face of war.
The film was also notable for its exploration of the themes of class, loyalty, and honor, and for its depiction of the British homefront during World War II.
While perhaps not as well-known as some other films of the era, “This Above All” remains a thought-provoking and poignant portrayal of the human cost of war.
3 Reasons To Watch Joan Fontaine Movies
Her range as an actress: Joan Fontaine was a versatile actress who could excel in a variety of genres, from dramatic thrillers like “Rebecca” and “Suspicion” to romantic comedies like “The Affairs of Susan” and “Frenchman’s Creek.”
Her performances were often marked by a subtlety and nuance that allowed her to convey a range of emotions with great depth and complexity.
Her collaborations with renowned filmmakers: Joan Fontaine worked with some of the most acclaimed directors of her time, including Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and George Cukor.
Her collaborations with Hitchcock, in particular, produced some of her most iconic roles, including the lead in “Rebecca” and the protagonist of “Suspicion.” These collaborations resulted in some of the most memorable and enduring films of the era.
Her impact on Hollywood history: Joan Fontaine was one of the most prominent actresses of the Golden Age of Hollywood and played a significant role in shaping the era’s cinematic landscape.
She was one of the few actresses of her time to challenge the studio system and advocate for greater creative control and better working conditions for actors. Her legacy as a trailblazer and role model for future generations of actresses continues to be felt today.
Overall, Joan Fontaine’s talent, versatility, and impact on Hollywood make her a compelling figure to watch onscreen.
Her performances in classic films like “Rebecca” and “Suspicion” continue to captivate audiences today, and her legacy as a pioneering actress and advocate for change makes her a fascinating figure to study and appreciate.
Best Joan Fontaine Movies – Wrap Up
Joan Fontaine was a talented actress whose career spanned several decades, and who appeared in many memorable films. Here are some of her best movies:
“Rebecca” (1940) – Fontaine won an Academy Award nomination for her performance in this gothic thriller, directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
“Jane Eyre” (1943) – Fontaine gave a powerful and nuanced performance as the titular character in this adaptation of Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel.
“Suspicion” (1941) – Fontaine won an Academy Award for her role in this psychological thriller, also directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
“The Constant Nymph” (1943) – Fontaine gave a memorable performance in this romantic drama, which also starred Charles Boyer.
“Letter from an Unknown Woman” (1948) – Fontaine delivered a strong performance in this romantic drama, which was directed by Max Ophuls.
“Ivanhoe” (1952) – Fontaine played the role of Lady Rowena in this historical adventure film, which also starred Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor.
Overall, Joan Fontaine’s performances in these films, as well as in many others, have secured her place as one of Hollywood’s most enduring and talented actresses.