Vivien Leigh was a British actress known for her beauty, talent, and iconic performances on both stage and screen. She is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind,” a role for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
However, Leigh had a long and distinguished career beyond this iconic role, appearing in numerous films and stage productions.
Some of her other notable films include “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Waterloo Bridge,” “Anna Karenina,” and “Ship of Fools.” Leigh was also a celebrated stage actress, winning Tony Awards for her performances in “Tovarich” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Throughout her career, Vivien Leigh was praised for her beauty, grace, and magnetic presence on stage and screen.
Best Vivien Leigh Movies
She was widely regarded as one of the most talented and versatile actresses of her generation, and her performances continue to inspire and captivate audiences to this day.
1. Ship of Fools (1965)
“Ship of Fools” is a 1965 American drama film directed by Stanley Kramer and starring an ensemble cast, including Vivien Leigh, Simone Signoret, Oskar Werner, and Lee Marvin. The film is based on the 1945 novel of the same name by Katherine Anne Porter.
Set in 1933, the film takes place aboard a German ocean liner traveling from Mexico to Germany. The passengers come from a variety of backgrounds and nationalities, and each has their own story to tell.
The film explores themes of prejudice, class, and morality, and features a number of interconnected subplots.
The cast of “Ship of Fools” delivers powerful performances, with particular praise going to Signoret for her portrayal of a troubled and passionate artist.
The film’s cinematography and art direction also received acclaim for their vivid and detailed portrayal of life aboard the ship.
“Ship of Fools” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.
The film has since become a classic of American cinema and is considered one of Stanley Kramer’s finest works. It is also notable for featuring one of Vivien Leigh’s final film performances.
2. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)
“The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” is a drama film released in 1961, directed by José Quintero and starring Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty.
The film tells the story of Karen Stone (Leigh), a wealthy and aging American actress who travels to Rome with her husband. After her husband dies suddenly, Karen finds herself alone and adrift in a foreign city.
Karen begins to frequent the local café society and becomes involved with a young Italian gigolo named Paolo di Leo (Beatty), who becomes her lover and companion.
As their relationship develops, Karen must confront the harsh realities of aging, loneliness, and the transient nature of beauty and fame.
“The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” was well-received by critics and audiences upon its release, and was praised for its performances, direction, and themes of love, loss, and mortality.
The film marked one of Vivien Leigh’s final film roles, and was noted for her poignant and nuanced portrayal of an aging woman struggling to come to terms with her changing circumstances.
The film remains a classic of 1960s cinema, and is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood dramas and poignant character studies.
3. The Deep Blue Sea (1955)
“The Deep Blue Sea” is a 1955 British drama film directed by Anatole Litvak and starring Vivien Leigh, Kenneth More, and Eric Portman.
The film is based on the play of the same name by Terence Rattigan and tells the story of a woman who has an affair with a younger man and struggles to come to terms with the consequences.
Leigh stars as Hester Collyer, a middle-aged woman who has left her respectable husband to live with Freddie Page (played by More), a former RAF pilot who is struggling to find his place in post-war Britain.
As the relationship between Hester and Freddie grows more intense, Hester begins to realize that she may have made a mistake and that her love for Freddie may not be enough to sustain her.
“The Deep Blue Sea” was praised for its intense performances, particularly Leigh’s portrayal of Hester, which was widely regarded as one of her finest roles. The film was also noted for its stylish cinematography and its sensitive treatment of the themes of love, desire, and regret.
Despite the critical acclaim, “The Deep Blue Sea” was not a commercial success upon its release and was largely forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 21st century.
It has since become a beloved classic of British cinema and a testament to the enduring power of Rattigan’s writing and Leigh’s talent as an actress.
4. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
A Streetcar Named Desire is a 1951 American drama film directed by Elia Kazan and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams.
The film stars Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh, and Kim Hunter, and follows the story of Blanche DuBois (Leigh), a fragile and neurotic Southern belle who moves in with her sister Stella (Hunter) and Stella’s rough, working-class husband Stanley (Brando) in New Orleans.
The film explores themes of sexuality, class, and mental illness, and is notable for its raw and powerful performances, particularly by Brando and Leigh. It was also praised for its innovative use of cinematic techniques, such as its use of voice-over narration and expressive camera angles.
A Streetcar Named Desire was a critical and commercial success, and won four Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Leigh and Best Supporting Actress for Hunter.
It has since become a classic of American cinema and is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made.
5. Anna Karenina (1948)
“Anna Karenina” is a 1948 film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel of the same name, directed by Julien Duvivier and starring Vivien Leigh in the title role.
The movie is set in late 19th century Russia and tells the tragic story of Anna Karenina, a married woman who falls in love with a dashing cavalry officer, Count Vronsky.
The film is notable for its stunning visuals, beautiful cinematography, and exquisite costume design, which all help to recreate the grandeur and elegance of late 19th century Russia.
The performances are also noteworthy, with Vivien Leigh delivering a powerful and nuanced portrayal of Anna Karenina, and Ralph Richardson bringing depth and complexity to the role of Anna’s husband, Alexei Karenin.
The movie explores themes of love, passion, and societal expectations, and presents a haunting and poignant portrayal of a woman torn between her heart and her duty.
The tragic ending is a powerful reminder of the consequences of societal norms and expectations, and the toll they can take on individuals.
Overall, “Anna Karenina” is a beautifully crafted and emotionally powerful film that captures the essence of Tolstoy’s novel. It is a must-watch for fans of classic literature, as well as anyone who appreciates great filmmaking and storytelling.
6. Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
“Caesar and Cleopatra” is a 1945 historical drama film directed by Gabriel Pascal and starring Vivien Leigh and Claude Rains.
The film is an adaptation of the play of the same name by George Bernard Shaw, which tells the story of the relationship between Julius Caesar, played by Claude Rains, and the young Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra, played by Vivien Leigh.
The film is notable for its lavish production design, including elaborate costumes and sets, and for its witty and intellectual script, which explores themes of power, love, and politics.
Vivien Leigh delivers a strong performance as Cleopatra, showcasing her beauty and charm while also displaying her intelligence and cunning. Claude Rains is also impressive as Caesar, capturing the character’s wit and arrogance while also conveying his vulnerability.
“Caesar and Cleopatra” was a critical success upon its release, with many critics praising the film’s performances and production values.
Today, the film is regarded as a classic of the historical drama genre, and its themes continue to resonate with audiences. The film is a testament to the enduring legacy of Shaw’s writing and the talents of Leigh and Rains as actors.
7. That Hamilton Woman (1941)
“That Hamilton Woman” is a 1941 British historical drama film directed by Alexander Korda and starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.
The movie tells the story of the real-life love affair between Emma Hamilton, a British socialite, and Admiral Horatio Nelson, a hero of the Royal Navy.
The film follows Emma Hamilton (Vivien Leigh) as she rises from obscurity to become a respected member of British society and catches the eye of Admiral Nelson (Laurence Olivier).
Their affair, which scandalized society at the time, is portrayed against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars and the Battle of Trafalgar.
“That Hamilton Woman” was praised for its lush cinematography, authentic historical detail, and strong performances from its lead actors.
The movie also explores themes of love, duty, and sacrifice, as both Emma and Nelson are forced to make difficult choices in the face of war and societal expectations.
The film was a commercial success and remains a classic of British cinema, as well as a testament to the enduring power of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier’s legendary on-screen chemistry.
8. Waterloo Bridge (1940)
“Waterloo Bridge” is a 1940 American drama film directed by Mervyn LeRoy and starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor. The film is based on the 1930 play of the same name by Robert E. Sherwood.
The story follows a young dancer named Myra (played by Leigh) who falls in love with a soldier named Roy (played by Taylor) during World War I.
The two meet on Waterloo Bridge in London and begin a whirlwind romance, but their happiness is short-lived when Roy is sent back to the front lines.
When Roy is presumed dead, Myra is devastated and begins to struggle with poverty and desperation. She becomes a prostitute to survive, but her life takes a turn when she runs into Roy again, who is in fact alive and has returned to London.
The film explores themes of love, loss, and sacrifice, and features strong performances by Leigh and Taylor. Leigh’s portrayal of Myra was particularly praised for its emotional depth and vulnerability.
“Waterloo Bridge” was a commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a classic of Hollywood’s Golden Age.
The film has been remade several times, including in 1956 and 1990, but the original version remains the most beloved and memorable adaptation of Sherwood’s play.
9. 21 Days Together (1940)
“21 Days Together” is a British drama film released in 1940, directed by Basil Dean and starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier.
The film tells the story of a woman named Wanda (Leigh) who falls in love with a married man named Larry (Olivier) while on a cruise ship. Despite their mutual attraction, Larry remains loyal to his wife and resists Wanda’s advances.
When the ship sinks in a storm, Wanda and Larry are stranded on a desert island together. As they struggle to survive and await rescue, they must confront their feelings for each other and decide what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
“21 Days Together” was well-received by critics and audiences upon its release, and was praised for its performances, direction, and exploration of complex themes such as love, fidelity, and survival.
The film marked one of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier’s first collaborations on screen, and their chemistry and talent are on full display in their performances. The film remains a classic of British cinema, and is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood dramas and romantic adventures.
10. Gone with the Wind (1939)
“Gone with the Wind” is a 1939 American epic historical romance film directed by Victor Fleming and starring Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, and Leslie Howard.
The film is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell and tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara, a headstrong Southern belle who falls in love with Rhett Butler, a dashing blockade runner, against the backdrop of the American Civil War and its aftermath.
The film was a massive critical and commercial success upon its release, breaking box office records and winning ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress for Leigh.
It remains one of the most beloved and iconic films in Hollywood history, known for its sweeping romance, lush cinematography, and unforgettable performances.
However, the film has also been the subject of criticism for its controversial depictions of race and slavery, particularly its romanticized portrayal of the antebellum South and its use of racist stereotypes in its depiction of African American characters.
As a result, the film has been the subject of ongoing debate and analysis, with some critics and scholars arguing that it should be viewed in the context of its historical era, while others have called for a more critical examination of its problematic elements.
Despite these debates, “Gone with the Wind” remains a cultural touchstone and a landmark of American cinema, admired for its grandeur, passion, and enduring appeal.
11. Sidewalks of London (1938)
Sidewalks of London, also known as St. Martin’s Lane, is a 1938 British drama film directed by Tim Whelan and starring Charles Laughton, Vivien Leigh, and Rex Harrison.
The film follows the story of Charles Staggers (Laughton), a street performer and impresario who discovers a talented young performer named Libby (Leigh) and takes her under his wing.
However, their relationship is complicated by the arrival of Joe (Harrison), a charismatic American performer who competes with Staggers for Libby’s affections.
The film explores themes of love, ambition, and the struggles of working-class performers in Depression-era London. It was praised for its strong performances, particularly by Laughton and Leigh, who had previously starred together in the film version of The Private Life of Henry VIII.
It was also notable for its use of on-location filming in London’s West End, and for its realistic portrayal of street performers and their struggles to make a living.
Despite positive reviews, Sidewalks of London was not a commercial success, and was overshadowed by other films released in the same year, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Pygmalion.
However, the film has since gained a cult following among fans of classic British cinema, and is notable for its historical significance as a document of life in Depression-era London.
12. A Yank at Oxford (1938)
“A Yank at Oxford” is a 1938 British film directed by Jack Conway and starring Robert Taylor, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Vivien Leigh in a supporting role.
The movie tells the story of Lee Sheridan (Robert Taylor), an American student who receives a scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.
The film is notable for its breathtaking cinematography, which captures the beauty and grandeur of Oxford University and the English countryside.
The performances are also noteworthy, with Robert Taylor delivering a charming and charismatic portrayal of the American outsider trying to fit in at Oxford, and Maureen O’Sullivan bringing warmth and humor to the role of Lee’s love interest, Molly Beaumont.
The movie explores themes of identity, class, and cultural differences, and presents a compelling and entertaining portrayal of the clash between American and British culture.
It also showcases the traditions and customs of Oxford University, and provides a fascinating insight into the world of British academia.
Overall, “A Yank at Oxford” is a delightful and entertaining movie that captures the essence of the American-British cultural divide.
It is a must-watch for fans of classic cinema, as well as anyone interested in the history and culture of Oxford University and British society in the 1930s.
13. Storm in a Teacup (1937)
“Storm in a Teacup” is a 1937 British comedy film directed by Victor Saville and starring Vivien Leigh, Rex Harrison, and Cecil Parker.
The film is based on the play “Storm in a Teacup” by James Bridie and follows the story of a small-town Scottish journalist named Frank Burdon, played by Rex Harrison, who falls in love with the daughter of a local wealthy businessman, played by Vivien Leigh.
When he writes an article criticizing her father, the town is thrown into chaos, with protests and demonstrations erupting in response.
The film is known for its witty dialogue, charming performances, and delightful humor. Vivien Leigh shines as Victoria Gow, a strong-willed and independent young woman who challenges the traditional gender roles of her time.
Rex Harrison is equally impressive as Frank Burdon, a charming and suave journalist who falls for Victoria despite their differences.
“Storm in a Teacup” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, earning praise for its intelligent script and strong performances.
Today, the film is considered a classic of British cinema and a prime example of the witty and sophisticated comedies that were popular during the era. The film remains a delightful and entertaining watch, showcasing the talents of two legendary actors at the height of their careers.
14. Dark Journey (1937)
“Dark Journey” is a 1937 British spy thriller film directed by Victor Saville and starring Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt.
The movie is set during World War I and follows the story of a Swedish woman named Madeleine Goddard (Vivien Leigh) who is recruited by the British Secret Service to work as a spy in German-occupied Europe.
As Madeleine travels across Europe, she encounters a mysterious German agent named Baron Karl von Marwitz (Conrad Veidt), who she believes is her enemy but with whom she begins to develop a complicated relationship.
“Dark Journey” was praised for its atmospheric cinematography and strong performances from its lead actors, particularly Vivien Leigh and Conrad Veidt.
The film also explores themes of espionage, loyalty, and sacrifice, as Madeleine and Karl struggle to navigate the complex and dangerous world of espionage during wartime.
Despite mixed reviews upon its release, “Dark Journey” has since become a cult classic and a testament to the enduring appeal of spy thrillers in cinema.
15. Fire Over England (1937)
“Fire Over England” is a 1937 British historical drama film directed by William K. Howard and starring Flora Robson, Raymond Massey, and Laurence Olivier.
The film is set during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and explores the tensions between England and Spain during the lead-up to the Spanish Armada.
Robson plays Queen Elizabeth I, who is faced with the threat of invasion by the Spanish Armada. Massey plays the Spanish ambassador to England, who attempts to stir up rebellion against Elizabeth and her government. Olivier plays a dashing British naval officer who becomes involved in a dangerous mission to thwart the Spanish invasion.
The film is notable for its lavish costumes and set designs, which transport viewers back to Elizabethan England.
It also features strong performances by its lead actors, particularly Robson as the formidable queen and Olivier as the heroic naval officer.
“Fire Over England” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, and it has since become a classic of British cinema.
The film was praised for its historical accuracy and its portrayal of Elizabeth as a strong and capable ruler. It remains a beloved entry in the historical drama genre, and is remembered as one of the best films of the 1930s.
16. The Village Squire (1935)
“The Village Squire” is a British comedy film released in 1935, directed by Reginald Denham and starring Anthony Bushell and Nancy O’Neil.
The film tells the story of a young man named Jack Warrender (Bushell), who inherits a large estate and the title of “squire” after his father’s death. However, Jack is unprepared for his new responsibilities and the challenges of running an estate, and he quickly finds himself in over his head.
With the help of his loyal butler, Warburton (played by Gus McNaughton), Jack sets out to prove himself worthy of his title and win the heart of his childhood sweetheart, Lady Margaret “Peggy” Brewster (O’Neil).
Along the way, he must contend with various obstacles and adversaries, including his scheming cousin and a band of poachers who threaten the local wildlife.
“The Village Squire” was well-received by audiences and critics upon its release, and was praised for its charming characters, witty dialogue, and lighthearted tone.
The film is a delightful example of classic British comedy, and offers a glimpse into a bygone era of aristocratic life and rural England. It is a must-see for fans of classic Hollywood comedies and period dramas.
17. Look Up and Laugh (1935)
“Look Up and Laugh” is a 1935 British comedy film directed by Basil Dean and starring Gracie Fields, Alfred Drayton, and Douglas Wakefield.
The film is based on a play by Fields and tells the story of a group of entertainers who travel from one small town to another, performing shows and trying to make a name for themselves.
Fields stars as Gracie Perkins, a singer and comedian who dreams of becoming a star. Along with her father (played by Drayton), her boyfriend (played by Wakefield), and a group of fellow performers, Gracie takes her act on the road, encountering a variety of colorful characters and mishaps along the way.
Despite its simple plot and low budget, “Look Up and Laugh” was a major success upon its release and is remembered as one of the most beloved British films of the 1930s.
Fields was at the height of her popularity at the time and her infectious humor and warm personality endeared her to audiences across Britain and beyond.
The film was also notable for its catchy songs and musical numbers, including Fields’ signature tune, “Sally.”
The success of “Look Up and Laugh” helped establish Fields as one of the most popular and enduring stars of the British entertainment industry and paved the way for her successful transition to Hollywood in the 1940s.
18. Gentleman’s Agreement (1935)
Gentleman’s Agreement is actually a 1947 American drama film directed by Elia Kazan and starring Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire, and John Garfield.
It is based on the novel of the same name by Laura Z. Hobson and follows the story of a journalist named Phil Green (Peck) who poses as a Jew to research an article on anti-Semitism in post-World War II America.
As he delves deeper into his investigation, he experiences firsthand the prejudice and discrimination faced by Jews in society.
The film explores themes of prejudice, bigotry, and the importance of standing up against injustice. It was praised for its powerful message and strong performances, particularly by Peck, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role.
It was also notable for its frank portrayal of anti-Semitism, which was a controversial topic in Hollywood at the time.
Gentleman’s Agreement was a critical and commercial success, and was praised for its impact on raising awareness of anti-Semitism in America. It was also groundbreaking for its time, and is considered one of the first major Hollywood films to address the issue of discrimination against Jews.
3 Reasons To Watch Vivien Leigh Movies
Iconic Performances: Vivien Leigh was a talented and versatile actress who delivered some of the most memorable performances in Hollywood history.
She is best known for her iconic role as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” (1939), a character that has become a cultural icon and is still recognized worldwide today.
Her other notable performances include Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) and Anna Karenina in “Anna Karenina” (1948). Her ability to inhabit complex characters and bring them to life on screen is truly remarkable.
Timeless Beauty: Vivien Leigh was also known for her beauty and elegance. Her classic looks and refined demeanor made her a fashion icon and a symbol of sophistication in Hollywood.
Her performances in films like “Waterloo Bridge” (1940) and “That Hamilton Woman” (1941) showcase her stunning beauty and captivating screen presence.
Cultural Impact: Vivien Leigh’s movies have had a significant cultural impact and continue to inspire and entertain audiences today.
“Gone with the Wind” remains one of the most beloved and successful movies of all time, and Vivien Leigh’s portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara is a defining moment in Hollywood history.
Her legacy as an actress and a cultural icon continues to influence and inspire actors and filmmakers around the world.
Overall, Vivien Leigh’s movies are a must-watch for fans of classic Hollywood cinema, as well as anyone who appreciates great performances, timeless beauty, and cultural impact.
Her talent and charisma continue to captivate audiences today, and her legacy as an actress and a Hollywood icon is sure to endure for generations to come.
Best Vivien Leigh Movies – Wrap Up
Vivien Leigh was a celebrated actress who starred in many classic films throughout her career. Here are some of her best movies:
“Gone with the Wind” (1939) – Leigh won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her iconic performance as Scarlett O’Hara in this epic historical romance.
“A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) – Leigh won her second Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in this powerful drama.
“Waterloo Bridge” (1940) – Leigh stars as a ballerina who falls in love with a soldier during World War I in this classic romantic drama.
“That Hamilton Woman” (1941) – Leigh stars as Lady Emma Hamilton, the mistress of Admiral Horatio Nelson, in this historical drama.
“Anna Karenina” (1948) – Leigh stars as the titular character in this adaptation of the classic novel by Leo Tolstoy.
“The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” (1961) – Leigh stars as a recently widowed actress who finds herself drawn to a young gigolo in this drama.
These films showcase Leigh’s range as an actress and her ability to portray complex, nuanced characters. Her performances in “Gone with the Wind” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” are particularly noteworthy, cementing her status as one of the greatest actresses of all time.
Her beauty, charm, and talent continue to captivate audiences today, making her a true Hollywood icon.