Olivia de Havilland was an American actress who had a prolific career in Hollywood, spanning several decades.
She was known for her talent, beauty, and grace onscreen, and won two Academy Awards for Best Actress for her performances in “To Each His Own” (1946) and “The Heiress” (1949). Here are a few reasons why Olivia de Havilland’s movies are worth watching:
Classic Hollywood Era: Olivia de Havilland was a prominent actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood, a period known for its glamour, elegance, and sophistication.
Her movies offer a glimpse into this bygone era, and showcase the talent and artistry of the filmmakers and performers of that time.
Range of Roles: Olivia de Havilland was known for her versatility as an actress, and took on a variety of roles throughout her career.
From romantic dramas like “Gone with the Wind” (1939) to swashbuckling adventures like “The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938), she proved herself to be a talented and versatile performer.
Iconic Performances: Olivia de Havilland’s performances in movies like “The Snake Pit” (1948) and “The Heiress” (1949) are widely regarded as some of the best in Hollywood history.
She brought depth, emotion, and nuance to her roles, and was able to convey complex emotions with subtlety and grace.
Best Olivia de Havilland Movies
Overall, Olivia de Havilland’s movies are a must-watch for fans of classic Hollywood cinema, as well as anyone who appreciates great performances and timeless storytelling. Her legacy as an actress and a Hollywood icon continues to inspire and entertain audiences today.
1. To Each His Own (1946)
“To Each His Own” is a 1946 romantic drama film directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Olivia de Havilland as Jody Norris, a young woman from a small town who falls in love with a World War I pilot named Captain Bart Cosgrove, played by John Lund.
When Cosgrove is killed in action, Jody discovers that she is pregnant with his child and is forced to give the baby up for adoption.
The film follows Jody over several decades as she struggles with her loss and tries to find happiness in her personal and professional life.
De Havilland delivers a powerful performance as Jody, conveying both her love for Cosgrove and her pain and regret at the choices she was forced to make.
“To Each His Own” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, earning de Havilland an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.
The film is widely regarded as a classic of the romantic drama genre, offering a moving and poignant exploration of love, loss, and the sacrifices that people make for those they care about.
2. The Snake Pit (1948)
“The Snake Pit” is a 1948 American drama film directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Olivia de Havilland in the lead role. The movie follows the story of Virginia Cunningham (de Havilland), a young woman who is committed to a mental institution after experiencing a nervous breakdown.
As Virginia struggles to come to terms with her mental illness and the harsh realities of life inside the asylum, she begins to uncover the root causes of her breakdown and the traumas that have led her to this point.
The film explores themes of mental illness, institutionalization, and the social stigma surrounding mental health in the mid-twentieth century.
“The Snake Pit” was praised by critics for its realistic portrayal of mental illness and the struggles faced by those seeking treatment for mental health issues.
The film was also groundbreaking in its treatment of mental illness, portraying patients with compassion and dignity at a time when many films and societal attitudes portrayed them as objects of fear and ridicule.
The movie helped to raise awareness about mental health issues and played a key role in the movement towards more compassionate and humane treatment of those with mental illness.
3. The Heiress (1949)
“The Heiress” is a 1949 American drama film directed by William Wyler and starring Olivia de Havilland, Montgomery Clift, and Ralph Richardson. The film is based on the 1880 novel “Washington Square” by Henry James.
The story follows Catherine Sloper (played by de Havilland), a plain and shy young woman who lives with her wealthy father, Dr. Austin Sloper (played by Richardson), in 19th-century New York City.
Catherine falls in love with a handsome but penniless young man named Morris Townsend (played by Clift), but her father disapproves of their relationship and believes that Townsend is only interested in Catherine’s inheritance.
As Catherine becomes increasingly torn between her love for Townsend and her loyalty to her father, she must navigate a complex web of emotions and relationships. The film explores themes of love, family, betrayal, and class, and features powerful performances by its lead actors.
“The Heiress” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it won four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Olivia de Havilland.
The film has since become a classic of American cinema and is considered one of the greatest films of the 1940s. It has been praised for its nuanced performances, complex characters, and masterful direction by William Wyler.
4. Hold Back the Dawn (1941)
“Hold Back the Dawn” is a romantic drama film released in 1941, directed by Mitchell Leisen and starring Charles Boyer and Olivia de Havilland.
The film tells the story of Georges Iscovescu (Boyer), a Romanian-born gigolo who is stranded in Mexico and hopes to gain entry into the United States. He meets and falls in love with a schoolteacher named Emmy Brown (de Havilland), who is in Mexico on vacation.
Georges convinces Emmy to marry him so that he can enter the United States, but their plans are complicated when a suspicious immigration officer named Hammock (Paulette Goddard) becomes determined to expose Georges’ fraudulent intentions.
As the two lovers struggle to maintain their relationship and overcome the obstacles in their way, they must confront their true feelings and decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
“Hold Back the Dawn” was well-received by critics and audiences upon its release, and was praised for its performances, direction, and themes of love and sacrifice.
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is considered a classic of the romantic drama genre.
5. My Cousin Rachel (1952)
“My Cousin Rachel” is a 1952 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier. The film was directed by Henry Koster and starred Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton in the lead roles.
The story follows Philip Ashley (played by Burton), a young man who is orphaned at a young age and raised by his older cousin Ambrose on a remote estate in Cornwall.
When Ambrose travels to Italy for his health, he meets and marries a woman named Rachel (played by de Havilland). However, when Ambrose dies suddenly, Philip becomes convinced that Rachel is responsible for his death and sets out to seek revenge.
As Philip begins to spend time with Rachel, he finds himself falling under her spell and questioning his own suspicions. The film explores themes of obsession, paranoia, and romantic entanglement, and features strong performances from both de Havilland and Burton.
“My Cousin Rachel” was well received upon its release and was praised for its suspenseful plot, lush cinematography, and strong lead performances. The film has since become a classic of the romantic thriller genre and remains a popular and acclaimed adaptation of du Maurier’s novel.
6. Gone with the Wind (1939)
Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American historical epic film directed by Victor Fleming and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell.
The film stars Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, a headstrong Southern belle who navigates the hardships of the American Civil War and its aftermath. The film also stars Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, a dashing rogue who becomes Scarlett’s love interest.
The film explores themes of love, war, and societal change, and has been praised for its epic scale and lavish production values.
It was a major commercial success, grossing over $390 million in inflation-adjusted dollars, and won ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Leigh.
However, the film has also been criticized for its romanticized portrayal of the Antebellum South and its depiction of Black characters, who are mostly portrayed as subservient or uneducated.
Despite these criticisms, Gone with the Wind remains a classic of American cinema and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
7. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” is a 1938 swashbuckling adventure film directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, and starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
The movie follows the legendary outlaw Robin Hood (Errol Flynn) as he leads a group of rebels against the tyrannical Prince John (Claude Rains) and his henchman Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Basil Rathbone).
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” is known for its stunning Technicolor cinematography, thrilling action sequences, and iconic performances.
Errol Flynn’s portrayal of Robin Hood has become the definitive interpretation of the character, and his onscreen chemistry with Olivia de Havilland is electric.
The movie is also notable for its impressive production design and attention to detail, which helped to create a vivid and immersive medieval world.
The elaborate costumes and sets, combined with the rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, create a sense of adventure and excitement that is still palpable today.
Overall, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” is a classic Hollywood movie that has stood the test of time. It’s a thrilling adventure that captures the spirit of adventure and heroism, and features some of the most iconic performances and images in cinematic history.
If you’re a fan of swashbuckling adventure movies or classic Hollywood cinema, “The Adventures of Robin Hood” is a must-watch.
8. Captain Blood (1935)
“Captain Blood” is a 1935 swashbuckling adventure film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn in his breakthrough role as the eponymous Captain Peter Blood.
Based on the novel of the same name by Rafael Sabatini, the film follows the story of an English physician who is wrongfully convicted of treason and sent to the Caribbean to be sold as a slave.
After escaping his captors and joining a band of pirates, Blood becomes a legendary figure in the Caribbean, leading his crew to victory against the Spanish armada and ultimately winning the heart of the beautiful Arabella Bishop, played by Olivia de Havilland.
“Captain Blood” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, cementing Errol Flynn’s status as a leading man and establishing the swashbuckling adventure genre as a popular form of entertainment.
The film is noted for its high-energy action sequences, colorful characters, and Flynn’s charismatic performance as the dashing hero. Olivia de Havilland also delivers a strong performance as Arabella, holding her own against Flynn in their scenes together.
Today, “Captain Blood” is regarded as a classic of the adventure genre, and its legacy can be seen in countless subsequent films and television shows that feature pirates, sword fighting, and high-seas adventure.
9. Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964)
“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” is a 1964 American psychological thriller film directed by Robert Aldrich and starring Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, and Joseph Cotten.
The movie tells the story of Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis), a wealthy woman living in a decaying mansion in Louisiana who is haunted by the memory of a murder that took place in the house many years before.
When the state threatens to demolish the house, Charlotte’s cousin (Olivia de Havilland) arrives to try to persuade her to leave. However, Charlotte’s mental state begins to deteriorate as she becomes increasingly convinced that she is being targeted by vengeful spirits.
“Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte” was praised for its suspenseful plot, atmospheric setting, and strong performances from its lead actors.
The film is also notable for its themes of psychological trauma and repressed memory, which were groundbreaking for their time.
The movie has since become a cult classic and has been cited as a major influence on the horror genre, particularly in its use of psychological suspense and its portrayal of female protagonists.
10. Lady in a Cage (1964)
“Lady in a Cage” is a 1964 American thriller film directed by Walter Grauman and starring Olivia de Havilland, James Caan, and Ann Sothern.
The film follows a wealthy and reclusive widow named Mrs. Hilyard (played by de Havilland), who becomes trapped in her home elevator during a power outage.
As Mrs. Hilyard struggles to escape, a group of young delinquents break into her home and begin to terrorize her. Among them is a psychopathic killer named Randall (played by Caan), who takes pleasure in tormenting the helpless Mrs. Hilyard.
The film explores themes of class, power, and violence, and features intense and suspenseful sequences as Mrs. Hilyard tries to survive the ordeal.
The performances by de Havilland and Caan have been particularly praised, with Caan’s portrayal of the sadistic Randall earning him early critical acclaim.
“Lady in a Cage” was a commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a cult classic. The film’s unique premise and its unsettling portrayal of violence and terror have made it a memorable entry in the thriller genre.
11. In This Our Life (1942)
“In This Our Life” is a drama film released in 1942, directed by John Huston and starring Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland.
The film tells the story of two sisters, Stanley (Davis) and Roy (de Havilland), and their complicated relationships with their family, friends, and romantic partners.
Stanley is a selfish and manipulative woman who is determined to get what she wants, even if it means hurting others. She steals Roy’s fiancé, Peter (Dennis Morgan), and causes a scandal in their small southern town.
As the sisters struggle to come to terms with their past and face the consequences of their actions, they must confront their inner demons and find a way to move forward.
“In This Our Life” was well-received by critics and audiences upon its release, and was praised for its performances, direction, and exploration of complex themes such as racism, family dysfunction, and moral responsibility.
The film won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for its portrayal of a black maid named Parry by Hattie McDaniel, making her the first African-American to win an Academy Award.
12. The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
“The Charge of the Light Brigade” is a 1936 film directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, and David Niven.
The film is based on the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which recounts the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War.
The story follows Major Geoffrey Vickers (played by Flynn), a British officer who falls in love with Elsa Campbell (played by de Havilland), the daughter of his commanding officer.
When the Russian Empire declares war on the Ottoman Empire, Vickers and his men are sent to fight in the Crimean War. However, due to a miscommunication, they are ordered to charge into the heart of the Russian artillery and suffer heavy losses.
The film was praised for its exciting battle scenes and impressive cinematography, as well as for the chemistry between Flynn and de Havilland, who were frequent co-stars.
However, it was also criticized for its historical inaccuracies and for portraying the British soldiers as noble heroes rather than victims of poor leadership.
Despite these criticisms, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” remains a classic of the war film genre and is remembered for its memorable performances and thrilling action sequences.
13. Libel (1959)
Libel is a 1959 British drama film directed by Anthony Asquith and starring Dirk Bogarde, Olivia de Havilland, and Paul Massie.
The film follows the story of Sir Mark Loddon (Bogarde), a wealthy British aristocrat who returns to England after spending years as a prisoner of war in Germany.
Upon his return, he is accused of being an impostor and not the real Sir Mark Loddon, who was believed to have died in the war. He is then forced to defend his identity and reputation in a court of law.
The film explores themes of identity, memory, and the aftermath of war, and was praised for its suspenseful storytelling and strong performances, particularly by Bogarde and de Havilland. It was also notable for its use of flashbacks to tell the story of Sir Mark’s imprisonment in Germany.
Despite positive reviews, Libel was a box office disappointment, and was overshadowed by other films released in the same year, such as Ben-Hur and North by Northwest. However, the film has since gained a cult following among fans of classic British cinema.
14. The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
“The Strawberry Blonde” is a 1941 romantic comedy directed by Raoul Walsh and starring James Cagney, Olivia de Havilland, and Rita Hayworth.
The movie is set in turn-of-the-century New York City and follows the story of Biff Grimes (James Cagney), a young man who falls in love with his childhood sweetheart, Virginia Brush (Olivia de Havilland).
“The Strawberry Blonde” is known for its charm, wit, and nostalgic tone, as well as the standout performances of its cast.
James Cagney brings his trademark energy and charisma to the role of Biff Grimes, while Olivia de Havilland is charming and endearing as Virginia Brush. Rita Hayworth, in one of her earliest roles, is also a standout as a vivacious and flirtatious young woman named Amy Lind.
The movie explores themes of love, friendship, and the passage of time, and is notable for its attention to detail and period authenticity. The sets and costumes evoke the look and feel of turn-of-the-century New York City, and the movie’s use of music and dance adds to its overall charm.
Overall, “The Strawberry Blonde” is a delightful and entertaining romantic comedy that showcases the talents of its cast and the artistry of its filmmakers. If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood cinema or romantic comedies, “The Strawberry Blonde” is a must-watch.
15. The Dark Mirror (1946)
“The Dark Mirror” is a 1946 film noir directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Olivia de Havilland in a dual role as twin sisters who are suspected of murder.
The film follows a police psychiatrist named Dr. Scott Elliott, played by Lew Ayres, who is brought in to help solve the case and distinguish between the two sisters, one of whom is innocent and the other potentially guilty.
The film is notable for its use of innovative visual effects to create the illusion of two identical sisters appearing on screen at the same time. The story itself is a gripping and suspenseful thriller, with twists and turns that keep the audience guessing until the very end.
Olivia de Havilland delivers a remarkable performance as both sisters, showcasing her range as an actress and effectively portraying two very different characters.
The film was a critical and commercial success upon its release, earning de Havilland widespread praise and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
“The Dark Mirror” remains a classic of the film noir genre, known for its atmospheric cinematography, intricate plotting, and de Havilland’s captivating performance. The film’s exploration of the duality of human nature and the nature vs. nurture debate continues to resonate with audiences today.
16. Not as a Stranger (1955)
“Not as a Stranger” is a 1955 American drama film directed by Stanley Kramer and starring Robert Mitchum and Olivia de Havilland.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by Morton Thompson and follows the story of a young medical student named Lucas Marsh (Robert Mitchum), who is determined to become a successful doctor but finds himself facing numerous obstacles and challenges along the way.
As Lucas navigates the complex world of medicine, he becomes involved with several women, including a nurse played by Olivia de Havilland, who ultimately helps him to confront his own personal demons and find redemption.
“Not as a Stranger” was praised for its realistic portrayal of the medical profession and its complex characters.
The film also dealt with important themes such as the ethics of the medical profession, the cost of ambition, and the struggle to balance personal and professional responsibilities. The movie was a critical and commercial success and helped to solidify Robert Mitchum’s status as a leading actor in Hollywood.
17. Devotion (1946)
“Devotion” is a 1946 American biographical film directed by Curtis Bernhardt and starring Ida Lupino, Paul Henreid, and Olivia de Havilland. The film tells the story of the Bronte sisters – Charlotte, Emily, and Anne – and their lives as struggling writers in 19th-century England.
Olivia de Havilland plays Charlotte Bronte, the eldest sister who is determined to become a successful author despite the limitations placed on women at the time.
Ida Lupino plays Emily Bronte, the shy and reclusive sister who writes the classic novel “Wuthering Heights.” Paul Henreid plays the Brontes’ publisher, who becomes romantically involved with Charlotte.
The film explores the challenges faced by the Bronte sisters as they try to pursue their literary careers in a society that does not value women’s writing.
It also delves into the complicated relationships between the sisters and their love interests. The film features strong performances by its lead actors, particularly de Havilland as Charlotte.
“Devotion” was a critical and commercial disappointment upon its release, but it has since gained a following among fans of classic Hollywood and literature.
The film’s portrayal of the Bronte sisters has been praised for its sensitivity and accuracy, and it remains a notable entry in the biographical film genre.
18. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play of the same name, released in 1935 and directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle.
The film stars an ensemble cast including James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, and Dick Powell, among others.
The film follows the intertwined stories of several couples who venture into a magical forest on the night of the summer solstice.
They become entangled in a series of misunderstandings and romantic complications when they are placed under the spell of mischievous fairies, led by the mischievous Puck (Rooney).
The film combines elements of comedy, romance, and fantasy, and features Shakespeare’s lyrical language and colorful characters.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was praised by critics and audiences for its innovative use of special effects and its faithful adaptation of Shakespeare’s play.
The film won two Academy Awards, for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing, and has since become a classic of Shakespearean cinema.
The film’s colorful and imaginative visual style, as well as its lively and playful tone, make it a delightful viewing experience for fans of Shakespeare, classic Hollywood films, and fantasy storytelling.
19. The Irish in Us (1935)
“The Irish in Us” is a 1935 film directed by Lloyd Bacon and starring James Cagney, Pat O’Brien, and Frank McHugh. The film follows the story of three Irish-American brothers living in New York City and their struggles to make a living and maintain their family bond.
The oldest brother, Pat O’Hara (played by O’Brien), is a police officer who is engaged to his partner’s sister, Lucille (played by Mary Gordon).
His younger brothers, Danny (played by Cagney) and Mike (played by McHugh), are both boxers who dream of becoming champions. However, their hopes are dashed when Danny is injured in the ring and forced to retire.
When a gangster named Chuck Reardon (played by Allen Jenkins) tries to muscle in on their neighborhood, the O’Hara brothers join forces to take him down. Along the way, they navigate their complicated relationships with each other and with the women in their lives.
“The Irish in Us” was well received upon its release and is remembered for its fast-paced action, witty humor, and strong performances from the ensemble cast.
Cagney, O’Brien, and McHugh were frequent collaborators and their chemistry on screen was praised by critics and audiences alike.
The film remains a beloved classic of the early Hollywood era and a testament to the enduring popularity of the Irish-American immigrant experience in American culture.
20. Alibi Ike (1935)
Alibi Ike is a 1935 American comedy film directed by Ray Enright and starring Joe E. Brown, Olivia de Havilland, and Ruth Donnelly.
The film follows the story of a baseball player named Frank X. Farrell (Brown), who is known for always making excuses and blaming his mistakes on others.
Despite this flaw, Farrell becomes a star player for the Chicago Cubs, but his tendency to fabricate alibis eventually catches up with him.
The film is based on a short story by Ring Lardner and explores themes of honesty, integrity, and the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. It is also notable for its humorous portrayal of baseball culture in the 1930s.
Alibi Ike was a critical and commercial success, and helped establish Joe E. Brown as a leading comedic actor of the era. It has since become a cult classic among fans of classic Hollywood comedies.
3 Reasons To Watch Olivia de Havilland Movies
Certainly, here are three reasons why Olivia de Havilland’s movies are worth watching:
A Pioneer for Women in Hollywood: Olivia de Havilland was a trailblazer for women in Hollywood. She was one of the first actresses to challenge the studio system and fight for better working conditions and creative control.
Her legal battle with Warner Bros. helped to establish the practice of contract renegotiation, which gave actors more freedom and control over their careers. Her pioneering spirit and determination paved the way for future generations of women in Hollywood.
Timeless Performances: Olivia de Havilland was a talented actress who brought depth, nuance, and emotion to her performances.
Her range was impressive, and she tackled a variety of roles throughout her career, from romantic leads to dramatic character studies.
Her performances in films like “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “The Heiress” (1949), and “The Snake Pit” (1948) are widely regarded as some of the best in Hollywood history and showcase her skill and artistry as an actress.
Classic Hollywood Cinema: Olivia de Havilland’s movies offer a glimpse into the Golden Age of Hollywood, a time when cinema was at its peak and Hollywood was the center of the entertainment industry.
Her movies showcase the glamour, style, and sophistication of this era, and offer a window into the cultural and social values of the time. Watching her movies is a chance to experience the magic and nostalgia of classic Hollywood cinema.
Overall, Olivia de Havilland’s movies are a must-watch for fans of classic Hollywood cinema, as well as anyone who appreciates great performances and timeless storytelling. Her legacy as an actress and a Hollywood icon continues to inspire and entertain audiences today.
Best Olivia de Havilland Movies – Wrap Up
Olivia de Havilland was a legendary actress whose career spanned several decades and included numerous classic films. Here are some of her best movies:
“Gone with the Wind” (1939) – De Havilland won her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Melanie Hamilton in this epic historical romance.
“The Heiress” (1949) – De Havilland won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as a wealthy but shy young woman who falls in love with a fortune hunter.
“The Snake Pit” (1948) – De Havilland earned critical acclaim for her portrayal of a woman who is institutionalized for mental illness in this powerful drama.
“To Each His Own” (1946) – De Havilland won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a woman who gives up her child for adoption during World War I.
“The Adventures of Robin Hood” (1938) – De Havilland starred opposite Errol Flynn in this classic swashbuckling adventure film.
“The Dark Mirror” (1946) – De Havilland played dual roles as identical twin sisters in this gripping film noir.
“Captain Blood” (1935) – De Havilland co-starred with Errol Flynn in this swashbuckling adventure film, marking the beginning of a successful on-screen partnership.
These films showcase de Havilland’s range as an actress and her ability to portray complex, nuanced characters. Her performances have stood the test of time, cementing her status as one of Hollywood’s greatest stars.