Katharine Hepburn was one of the most talented and iconic actresses of the 20th century, with a career spanning over 60 years. Known for her intelligence, wit, and independent spirit, she won four Academy Awards and was nominated for a record 12 Oscars.

Throughout her career, Hepburn starred in a wide range of films, from romantic comedies to dramas to historical epics. Her performances were always nuanced and complex, and she brought a depth and authenticity to every character she played.

In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the best Katharine Hepburn movies and explore what makes them so special.

Best Katharine Hepburn Movies

From her early work in the 1930s to her later performances in the 1980s, we’ll delve into the stories, themes, and performances that make these films timeless classics.

1. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

“Bringing Up Baby” is a classic screwball comedy film released in 1938, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant.

The movie follows the story of a scatterbrained heiress named Susan Vance (played by Katharine Hepburn) who becomes infatuated with a mild-mannered paleontologist named David Huxley (played by Cary Grant).

The film is known for its fast-paced dialogue, physical comedy, and absurd situations. As Susan drags David into one mishap after another, including stealing a pet leopard named Baby from a wealthy socialite, the two begin to develop feelings for each other.

“Bringing Up Baby” was not a commercial success upon its initial release, but it has since become a beloved classic and is considered one of the greatest comedies of all time.

The film’s witty banter, slapstick humor, and Hepburn and Grant’s chemistry continue to entertain audiences to this day.

Bringing Up Baby (1938)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles (Actors)
  • Howard Hawks (Director) - Dudley Nichols (Writer) - Howard Hawks (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

2. The Philadelphia Story (1940)

“The Philadelphia Story” is a 1940 American romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor and starring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart. The film is based on the 1939 Broadway play of the same name by Philip Barry.

The film follows wealthy socialite Tracy Lord (Hepburn), who is about to marry for the second time. Her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) shows up just before the wedding, accompanied by a pair of journalists (played by Stewart and Ruth Hussey) who are hoping to cover the event.

As the wedding approaches, Tracy must navigate her complicated relationships with her ex-husband, her fiancé, and the two journalists, while also confronting her own fears and insecurities.

“The Philadelphia Story” was a critical and commercial success, earning six Academy Award nominations and winning two, including Best Actor for James Stewart. The film is widely regarded as a classic of the romantic comedy genre, and it helped to cement the reputations of its three leads as some of Hollywood’s most talented and charismatic actors.

The film’s witty dialogue, sparkling performances, and sophisticated themes of love, class, and self-discovery have made it a beloved favorite of moviegoers for generations.

The Philadelphia Story
  • Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, James Stewart (Actors)
  • George Cukor (Director) - Donald Ogden Stewart (Writer)
  • Audience Rating: Unrated (Not Rated)


3. Woman of the Year (1942)

“Woman of the Year” is a 1942 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by George Stevens and starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

The film tells the story of Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn), a successful and accomplished journalist, who meets and falls in love with Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy), a sports columnist.

Their romance blossoms, but they clash over their different views on gender roles and what it means to be a “modern woman.”

“Woman of the Year” explores themes of gender, love, and identity, and is noted for its witty screenplay, Hepburn and Tracy’s on-screen chemistry, and its depiction of the changing roles of women in society.

The film was a commercial and critical success, earning four Academy Award nominations and launching the iconic Hepburn-Tracy partnership that would lead to many more successful films.

“Woman of the Year” is considered a classic Hollywood film and is widely regarded as one of the greatest romantic comedies ever made. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 1999 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Woman of the Year
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn (Actors)
  • George Stevens (Director) - Ring Lardner Jr. (Writer) - Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

4. Adam’s Rib (1949)

“Adam’s Rib” is a classic comedy-drama film released in 1949, directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

The movie is about a married couple, Adam and Amanda Bonner, who are both lawyers and find themselves on opposite sides of a high-profile case. The case involves a woman who shoots her husband and claims it was self-defense after he cheated on her.

Hepburn and Tracy are both excellent in their roles, with their on-screen chemistry and witty banter adding to the film’s charm. “Adam’s Rib” is a clever and entertaining movie that explores issues of gender equality and the challenges of balancing career and family.

The film was a critical and commercial success, and it remains a beloved classic of the romantic comedy genre.

Adam's Rib (1949)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday (Actors)
  • George Cukor (Director) - Ruth Gordon (Writer) - Lawrence Weingarten (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

5. Holiday (1938)

Holiday is a 1938 romantic comedy film directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and Doris Nolan.

The film tells the story of a free-spirited young woman named Linda Seton, who falls in love with Johnny Case, a man who has just returned from a successful business trip. However, Johnny is shocked to discover that Linda’s wealthy family has very different plans for him.

Here are some reasons why Holiday is worth watching:

The chemistry between Hepburn and Grant: Hepburn and Grant had a legendary on-screen partnership, and Holiday is no exception. Their chemistry is palpable and their scenes together are filled with wit, charm, and tenderness.

The themes: The film explores themes such as class, money, and personal freedom, which are still relevant today.

The supporting cast: In addition to Hepburn and Grant, the film features a talented ensemble cast, including Lew Ayres and Edward Everett Horton, who add depth and humor to the story.

The dialogue: The film’s witty and clever dialogue is a hallmark of the screwball comedy genre, and Holiday is no exception.

The direction: George Cukor was one of the most talented directors of his time, and his direction of Holiday is masterful, capturing the wit, charm, and romance of the story.

The setting: The film is set in the high society world of New York City in the 1930s, providing a rich and colorful backdrop for the story.

The music: The film’s score, composed by Sidney Cutner and Leigh Harline, is delightful and adds to the film’s overall charm.

The costumes: The film’s costumes, designed by Robert Kalloch, are elegant and stylish, capturing the glamour and sophistication of the era.

The message: The film’s message about the importance of following your dreams and living life on your own terms is uplifting and inspiring.

Overall, Holiday is a delightful and charming film that showcases the talents of its talented cast and crew. Its themes, humor, and romance make it a timeless classic that is still beloved by audiences today.

Holiday (1938)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan (Actors)
  • George Cukor (Director) - Donald Ogden Stewart (Writer) - Everett Riskin (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

6. The Lion in Winter (1968)

“The Lion in Winter” is a historical drama film released in 1968, directed by Anthony Harvey and starring Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn, and Anthony Hopkins.

The movie is set in the year 1183 and portrays the complicated relationship between King Henry II of England (played by Peter O’Toole) and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (played by Katharine Hepburn) as they gather with their three sons and King Philip II of France for Christmas at Henry’s castle.

As the family members plot and scheme against each other in a battle for the throne, tensions rise and old wounds are reopened. The film explores themes of power, love, and family, as the characters grapple with their own ambitions and desires.

“The Lion in Winter” was critically acclaimed upon its release and won several awards, including three Academy Awards for Best Actress (Katharine Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Music.

The film’s performances, particularly those of O’Toole and Hepburn, are widely regarded as some of the best in cinematic history, and the movie continues to be a beloved classic today.

The Lion in Winter (1968)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Peter O'Toole, Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins (Actors)
  • Anthony Harvey (Director) - James Goldman (Writer) - Martin Poll (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

7. On Golden Pond (1981)

“On Golden Pond” is a 1981 American drama film directed by Mark Rydell and starring Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and Jane Fonda.

The film tells the story of a retired professor named Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda) and his wife Ethel (Katharine Hepburn), who spend their summers at their lakeside cottage in New England.

When their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) comes to visit with her fiancé and his son, Norman and Chelsea must confront their strained relationship and try to reconcile their past.

The film was critically acclaimed and was a box office success, grossing over $119 million worldwide.

It received ten Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three Oscars, including Best Actor for Henry Fonda, Best Actress for Katharine Hepburn, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Ernest Thompson, who adapted his own play for the screen.

“On Golden Pond” is noted for its poignant portrayal of family dynamics, aging, and mortality. The film is a touching exploration of the relationship between a father and daughter, and the struggles they face in reconciling their past and accepting each other for who they are.

The performances by Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn are widely regarded as some of the finest of their careers, and the film’s themes continue to resonate with audiences today.

On Golden Pond
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda (Actors)
  • Mark Rydell (Director) - Ernest Thompson (Writer) - Bruce Gilbert (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

8. Summertime (1955)

“Summertime” is a 1955 American-British romantic drama film directed by David Lean and starring Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, and Isa Miranda.

The film tells the story of Jane Hudson (Katharine Hepburn), a single woman from Ohio who travels to Venice, Italy for the summer.

While there, she meets and falls in love with Renato de Rossi (Rossano Brazzi), a handsome Venetian antique dealer. Their romance blossoms, but Jane is torn between her feelings for Renato and her desire to return to her comfortable, but unfulfilling, life in Ohio.

“Summertime” explores themes of love, regret, and self-discovery, and is noted for its stunning location photography of Venice, its lush score by composer Alessandro Cicognini, and Hepburn’s sensitive and nuanced performance.

The film was a critical and commercial success and earned Hepburn her fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

“Summertime” is considered a classic romantic drama and is often cited as one of David Lean’s most underrated films. It has been praised for its sensitive portrayal of a woman’s journey of self-discovery and its poignant depiction of the bittersweet nature of love.

  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Katherine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Darren McGafin (Actors)
  • David Lean (Director) - H. E. Bates (Writer) - Ilya Lopert (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

9. Pat and Mike (1952)

“Pat and Mike” is a romantic comedy released in 1952, directed by George Cukor and starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.

The movie is about Pat Pemberton (Hepburn), a talented athlete who hires a shady promoter (Aldo Ray) to help her succeed in the male-dominated world of professional sports. Along the way, she falls in love with her sports trainer, Mike Conovan (Tracy).

Hepburn and Tracy’s on-screen chemistry is once again a highlight of the film, and their comedic timing is impeccable.

Hepburn’s performance as the athletic and independent Pat is particularly impressive, as she performs many of her own stunts and showcases her physical prowess.

“Pat and Mike” was a box office success and is widely regarded as one of the best Hepburn-Tracy collaborations. The film is a delightful mix of sports drama, romantic comedy, and social commentary, and it remains a classic of the genre.

Pat and Mike
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Aldo Ray (Actors)
  • George Cukor (Director) - Ruth Gordon (Writer) - Lawrence Weingarten (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

10. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962)

Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a 1962 drama film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Eugene O’Neill. The film was directed by Sidney Lumet and starred Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, and Dean Stockwell.

The story takes place over the course of one day in the life of the Tyrone family, as they grapple with addiction, illness, and the secrets of their past.

Here are some reasons why Long Day’s Journey Into Night is worth watching:

The performances: The film features incredible performances from its talented cast, particularly Katharine Hepburn, who received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Mary Tyrone. Her portrayal of a drug-addicted matriarch struggling with her past and present is haunting and unforgettable.

The direction: Sidney Lumet’s direction of the film is masterful, bringing the intimacy and intensity of the play to the screen. His use of close-ups and long takes creates a sense of claustrophobia and emotional intensity.

The writing: Eugene O’Neill’s play is a masterpiece of American drama, and the film adaptation captures the complexity and depth of the story. The dialogue is powerful and poetic, revealing the characters’ innermost thoughts and feelings.

The themes: Long Day’s Journey Into Night explores themes such as addiction, illness, family dynamics, and the destructive power of secrets. These themes are still relevant today and make the film a timeless classic.

The cinematography: The film’s cinematography, by Boris Kaufman, is stunning, capturing the beauty and isolation of the Tyrone family’s seaside home.

The music: The film’s haunting score, composed by André Previn, adds to the film’s emotional power and intensity.

The authenticity: Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a deeply personal and autobiographical work for O’Neill, and the film captures the authenticity and raw emotion of his story.

Overall, Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a powerful and moving film that showcases the talents of its cast and crew. Its exploration of addiction, illness, and family dynamics is still relevant today, making it a timeless classic of American drama.

Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962)
  • Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson (Actors)
  • Sidney Lumet (Director)
  • Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)

3 Reasons To Watch Katharine Hepburn Movies

Iconic Performances: Katharine Hepburn is widely regarded as one of the greatest actresses in Hollywood history.

Her distinctive voice, sharp wit, and commanding presence made her a standout performer in films like “The Philadelphia Story,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and “On Golden Pond.” Watching her on screen is a masterclass in acting, and her performances continue to inspire and influence actors to this day.

Trailblazing Career: Hepburn was a trailblazer in many ways. She was one of the first actresses to wear pants on screen, challenging traditional gender roles and expectations.

She also took control of her own career, refusing to conform to Hollywood’s expectations and instead choosing roles that challenged her and allowed her to showcase her talents. Hepburn’s legacy as a feminist icon and pioneer for women in Hollywood continues to be celebrated today.

Timeless Films: Hepburn starred in many classic films that have stood the test of time. From romantic comedies like “Bringing Up Baby” to serious dramas like “The Lion in Winter,” Hepburn’s filmography is filled with timeless stories and unforgettable characters.

Watching her films is a way to connect with the past and experience the magic of classic Hollywood cinema.

Best Katharine Hepburn Movies – Wrap Up

Katharine Hepburn was one of the greatest actresses in the history of American cinema. She appeared in over 70 films during her career, spanning from the 1930s to the 1990s. Her performances were marked by intelligence, wit, and an unmistakable sense of strength and independence.

Some of the best Katharine Hepburn movies include:

“The Philadelphia Story” (1940) – a romantic comedy in which Hepburn plays a socialite who must choose between three suitors.

“Bringing Up Baby” (1938) – a screwball comedy in which Hepburn plays a free-spirited heiress who causes chaos for a mild-mannered paleontologist.

“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (1967) – a drama that explores issues of race and social progress, in which Hepburn plays a liberal matriarch who must confront her own prejudices.

“On Golden Pond” (1981) – a drama in which Hepburn plays a devoted wife who must come to terms with her husband’s aging and mortality.

“The African Queen” (1951) – an adventure film in which Hepburn plays a missionary who falls in love with a riverboat captain during World War I.

Other notable Hepburn films include “The Lion in Winter” (1968), “Adam’s Rib” (1949), “Summertime” (1955), and “The Rainmaker” (1956).

Katharine Hepburn’s legacy in Hollywood and her impact on the film industry is immeasurable. Her talent, charm, and intelligence continue to captivate audiences today, and her movies remain timeless classics.