Best Romantic Comedies – The Philadelphia Story (1940)

One of the best romantic comedies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, this screwball comedy film is the gem among comedy cult classics.

The Philadelphia Story film stars a classic movie actress Katharine Hepburn, who was named the greatest of all American actresses by American Film Institute.

The romantic comedy film was a hit when it was first released in 1940, receiving 6 Oscar nominations. 70 years later, it is still one of the most refreshing romantic movies ever. It has a 100% critic rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Best Romantic Comedies - The Philadelphia Story (1940) by George Cukor

Best Romantic Comedies – Plot Teaser

Tracy Lord, a Philadelphia socialite and heiress is about to get married for the second time. But things don’t go according to plan when her ex-husband and a young reporter arrive the day before the celebrations.

Movie Ratings


Rotten Tomatoes


Love it!

100% by critics

91% by viewers


Best Romantic Comedies – Katharine Hepburn

Katharine Hepburn was the most unconventional of all main-stream American Actresses of the 20th century. She did what she wanted, said what she thought and lived her life the way she liked.

In her later life these qualities brought classic movie actress to the level of movie gods. But in her earlier film career, movie studios often viewed her as a source of frustration.

The public also was hesitant about Miss Hepburn. Audiences seemed to be attracted to her strong movie persona, but also somewhat irritated by it. After a series of movie flops, she was branded a “box-office poison”, along with Fred Astaire, Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo – not a bad company.

To save her career, Katharine Hepburn went to her roots – Broadway – and the romantic comedy role that was written for her.

The part of Tracy Lord, a rich Philadelphia socialite, in the romance comedy was based on a real-life heiress from Main Line, Philadelphia - one of the most affluent neighbourhoods in America. The WASP core of America, Main Line was home to some of the largest fortunes and the bluest bloods of the continent.

Bit of Trivia

According to Philadelphia Inquirer, MGM producers went to Philadelphia to scout a filming location for the romantic comedy film.

The Ardossan estate in Main Line served as the inspiration for the rich residence in the play. One look at the estate’s 50-room main house left producers bewildered.

The house seemed to be too luxurious even for a rich and powerful American family. Producers decided against using the manor for the romance comedy movie.

The playwright knew that world intimately. He developed the story as a vehicle for Hepburn, who herself had a privileged upbringing and could identify with the character of the rich and hard-headed Tracy Lord.

The romantic comedy play and later the movie showcased Hepburn’s talents to the fullest. Tracy Lord of The Philadelphia Story was beautiful, witty, smart, stubborn and feisty. Katharine Hepburn had all of these qualities in abundance. It was a success and the actress obtained rights to one of the best romantic comedies with the help of her close friend Howard Hughes.

Being a smart cookie that she was, Katharine Hepburn sold the movie rights to MGM at a relatively low price under several conditions:

  1. she would play the lead
  2. she would choose the movie director (George Cukor)
  3. she would approve her male co-stars (Cary Grant and James Stewart)

Not bad, considering that in those days movie stars had almost no say and were practically owned by the studios.

One of the best romantic movies elevated Katharine Hepburn to the heights of movie stardom, from which she would never descend. She famously said of Tracy Lord: “I gave her life. She gave me back my career.”

Best Romantic Comedies – Movie Recommendation

This romantic comedy film has it all – laughs, smarts and thrills. It paved the way for sophisticated classic comedy movies. You’ll probably need to watch it several times to fully grasp the brilliant dialogue and various innuendos.

You might also enjoy...

Best Romantic Comedies - City Lights (1931) by Charlie Chaplin

Classic Comedy Movies - City lights (1931)

The greatest Charlie Chaplin film, City Lights is a classic screwball comedy film and one of the best romantic comedy movies ever. It was rated #1 among top romantic movies by American Film Institute. City Lights has been praised by top critics and famous movie directors.

Best Romantic Comedies - To Catch a Thief (1955) by Alfred Hitchcock

Best Romantic Movies - To catch a thief (1955)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the master of suspense himself, the film combines elements of the best romantic comedy movies with elements of the best suspense movies. And the result – one of the top classic comedy movies... with a twist.

Best Romantic Comedies - Some Like it Hot (1959) by Billy Wilder

Best Romantic Comedies - Some like it hot (1959)

The romantic comedy film was rated number 1 on the top 100 funny movies list by American Film Institute. It is also often rated among the best movies of all time. A classic screwball comedy film, it was one of the best Marilyn Monroe movies, loved by viewers and critics.

FILMiconic: Movie Reviews > Best Comedy Movies > Best Romantic Comedies > The Philadelphia Story