10 Best Bette Davis Films Of All Time Ranked

Bette Davis: A Legendary Icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age

Ask anyone to name the greatest actress in the history of Hollywood, and one name will invariably come up: Bette Davis. A true legend of the silver screen, Davis left an indelible mark on the film industry, earning two Oscars and becoming the first performer to receive an impressive 10 Oscar nominations.

A Stellar Career Spanning Over Five Decades

Bette Davis’ illustrious career spanned over fifty years, during which she starred in numerous films that have become timeless classics. While she gained fame for her portrayal of villains in the infamous “Bette Davis bitches” from the 1940s, she showcased her versatility by excelling in various genres, from romantic dramas to period pieces. Davis’ filmography is a treasure trove of certified classics that continue to captivate audiences to this day.

Unveiling Bette Davis’ Top 10 Films

Here, we explore some of the most memorable films that define Bette Davis’ extraordinary legacy.

10. ‘Death on The Nile’ (1978)

In this 1978 adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic, “Death on the Nile,” Davis portrays the wealthy and kleptomaniac socialite Marie Van Schuyler. The film revolves around the famed detective Hercule Poirot, played by Peter Ustinov, as he investigates a mysterious death aboard a luxurious cruise down the Nile. With an ensemble cast that includes Maggie Smith and Angela Lansbury, the movie’s strength lies in its all-star performances, particularly Davis’ acerbic and tough portrayal, which creates an entertaining dynamic with Maggie Smith’s character.

9. ‘The Petrified Forest’ (1936)

In Archie Mayo’s 1936 crime drama, “The Petrified Forest,” Davis shares the screen with Leslie Howard and a relatively unknown Humphrey Bogart. The film centers on a struggling writer and a young waitress held hostage by a violent gangster. Davis delivers a compelling performance as the delicate ingénue opposite Howard’s engaging leading man. Despite Bogart’s scene-stealing performance, Davis shines, making this film a standout in her early career.

8. ‘Dangerous’ (1935)

“Dangerous,” released in 1935, earned Davis her first Oscar for her portrayal of the self-destructive and chaotic Joyce Heath. The movie follows Joyce’s attempts to stage a comeback with the help of wealthy architect Don Bellows, but her alcohol addiction poses significant challenges. This role marked the beginning of Davis’ successful career as Warner Bros.’ leading actress, showcasing her ability to deliver a powerful and unsentimental performance.

7. ‘Of Human Bondage’ (1934)

In the searing drama “Of Human Bondage” (1934), Davis stars alongside Leslie Howard as the manipulative and ruthless waitress Mildred Howard. The film revolves around a medical student, played by Howard, who falls for Mildred, leading to a destructive cycle of love and manipulation. Davis’ portrayal of the callous and self-destructive Mildred instantly catapulted her to stardom and led to significant recognition, despite the initial lack of an Oscar nomination.

6. ‘Jezebel’ (1938)

“Jezebel,” a romantic drama directed by William Wyler, brought Davis her second and final Oscar win. Released in 1938, the film follows the headstrong Julie Marsden, whose selfish actions cost her the love of the man she adores. Davis shines once again as she portrays the strong-headed Julie, demonstrating her fierce and cunning side, ultimately solidifying her position as one of Warner Bros.’ brightest stars.

5. ‘Dark Victory’ (1939)

While Davis is renowned for her antagonistic roles, she also portrayed tragic heroines, as seen in the 1939 melodrama “Dark Victory.” In the film, Davis plays hedonistic socialite Judith Traherne, who discovers she has a brain tumor, leading her to seek love and transformation. The movie presents Davis’ earnest and sympathetic performance, especially during the touching love story with George Brent’s character.

4. ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?’ (1962)

In this psychological horror thriller, Davis shares the screen with her infamous rival, Joan Crawford. Directed by Robert Aldrich, “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” revolves around an aging former child star tormenting her wheelchair-bound sister in a dilapidated Hollywood mansion. Davis’ exceptional performance earned her a 10th and final Oscar nomination and left an enduring legacy, propelling the film into cinematic history.

3. ‘The Little Foxes’ (1941)

Reuniting with director William Wyler, Davis delivers a masterful performance as the vicious Regina Hubbard Giddens in the 1941 drama “The Little Foxes.” Based on the 1939 play, the film revolves around the scheming Regina and her ambitious brothers, who seek to exploit her husband’s wealth. Davis’ portrayal of Regina is so compelling that the character earned a place on the AFI’s list of the all-time best movie villains.

2. ‘Now, Voyager’ (1942)

“Now, Voyager,” released in 1942, showcases Davis opposite Paul Henreid. The film tells the story of Charlotte Vale, a young woman dominated by her cruel mother, who undergoes a transformative journey of self-discovery and finds love aboard a luxurious cruise. Davis’ exceptional performance as Charlotte, alongside a heartwarming romance with Henreid’s Jerry, solidifies this film as one of the best classic romances from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

1. ‘All About Eve’ (1950)

“All About Eve,” directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, remains a cinematic masterpiece that explores the nature of acting and the complexities of show business. Davis stars as Margo Channing, an aging actress whose life takes a tumultuous turn when she becomes the target of the manipulative and ambitious Eve Harrington. Davis’ performance as the acidic and witty Margo is considered the pinnacle of her career, cementing her status as the best actress of classic Hollywood.

Bette Davis: A Timeless Icon

Bette Davis’ talent and versatility as an actress made her an unparalleled icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Throughout her remarkable career, she fearlessly portrayed a diverse array of characters, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide. Her contributions to cinema remain unparalleled, and her indomitable spirit on and off the screen serves as an everlasting testament to her brilliance as an actress and a true Hollywood legend.

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