- Judy Garland’s early success came from her collaborations with Mickey Rooney, showcasing their onscreen chemistry and youthful vibrancy.
- Garland’s role in The Harvey Girls allowed her to assert herself as a strong romantic lead and showcase the depth she was capable of in later work.
- Garland’s performance in A Star Is Born was intensely moving, drawing parallels between her own struggles with fame and the tragic arc of her character.
Judy Garland is one of the most iconic and beloved Golden Age Hollywood stars, known for her work in both musicals and more serious dramas. In her films she showcased a fantastic range throughout her career, spanning from her childhood up until her death. Though Hollywood’s treatment of Garland was tragic and has since come to light, it does not diminish the wonderful work that she did, and the talent that she possessed.
Born in 1922, Garland came on the scene at the perfect time for singers and performers looking to break into the film industry. Hollywood was gaining power and popularity, and movie stars were becoming household names. Much of her early success came through collaborations with Mickey Rooney, as their onscreen chemistry and youthful vibrancy made audiences fall in love with them. However, it was after starring in The Wizard of Oz that Garland was cemented as a star for the ages.
10 Best Judy Garland Movies (According To IMDb)
Judy Garland starred in a number of classic films throughout her career, from The Wizard of Oz to Meet Me in St. Louis. How do her films rank on IMDb?
10 The Harvey Girls (1946)
Directed by George Sidney
In The Harvey Girls, Garland appears as both a talented singer and actress in the film adaptation of the book of the same name. The film uses the Old West as a backdrop for a romantic comedy with plenty of heart. In her role as Susan, Garland asserts herself as a strong romantic lead and gives a nuanced performance of a woman trying to make it on her own. The Harvey Girls was an important film for Garland, who struggled with being seen as the leading lady that she was. As the mature protagonist of the film, Garland begins to show the depth she is capable of in later work.
9 Girl Crazy (1943)
Directed by Norman Taurog
Garland and Rooney make a hilarious and compelling couple in Girl Crazy, a film based on the stage musical by George Gershwin. It follows Danny (Rooney) as a mischievous playboy who falls for Ginger (Garland) even though she wants nothing to do with him. They meet at a small college out West, and after realizing how deep his feelings are for Ginger, Danny helps her put on a show to save the school.
In Girl Crazy, both Rooney and Garland get to show off their considerable singing and dancing abilities which are elevated by the numbers written by Gershwin. Although it was the last collaboration between the stars, it was a fitting end, as Garland displays patience and maturity in her role, indicating the next steps in her career. Of all the films between the two stars, Girl Crazy remains the one with the most longevity.
8 Presenting Lily Mars (1943)
Directed by Norman Taurog
As Garland aged out of her comedic roles alongside Rooney, and started being seen as a woman by the public, she was cast in more adult roles. Presenting Lily Mars is one of the first times that Garland is portrayed in a similar light to the romantic female leads of more serious Hollywood films. She plays a young woman who dreams of Broadway, gets caught up with a big-time producer, and just so happens to fall in love with him. It’s easy to imagine that a talent like Garland would find success on the Broadway stage and that the men around her would be falling in love.
7 Summer Stock (1950)
Directed by Charles Walters
A collaboration between two of the best Hollywood musical performers, Garland and Gene Kelly, was always going to be a recipe for success. Summer Stock, put the two stars together and created an enjoyable fish-out-of-water comedy where Garland comes out of her shell and realizes her potential as a performer. When Kelly and his theater troupe invade Garland’s farm to put on the titular summer stock production, the pair quickly fall in love and bring out the best in each other, the best musical numbers at least. In the film Garland shows, yet again, how well she can hold her own next to the Hollywood greats.
6 Easter Parade (1948)
Directed by Charles Walters
Fred Astaire plays a well-matched and flattering accompaniment to Garland in Easter Parade, a film that showcases the power of Garland’s girl-next-door image. Although Garland tried to shake that innocent persona, she encapsulates it beautifully in Easter Parade and makes a case that she too is just as talented and intriguing as other actresses who were considered more glamorous. With a score composed by Irving Berlin, the two musical talents provide fun song and dance numbers that elevate the script.
5 Judgment At Nuremberg (1961)
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Judgment at Nuremberg is part of Garland’s later work and sees her take on a dauntingly serious role in a more minor character than she usually plays. For her performance as Irene Hoffman, a woman facing the harsh realities of the real-life Nuremberg Trials, Garland won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Her work as Irene is subtle, tragic, and beautifully showcases the injustices faced by so many people at this time. In her own life, Garland was used to having her personal life on display, so it makes sense that she would connect so well to her character.
4 Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)
Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Garland met director, Vincente Minnelli on set, and though their marriage didn’t last, Meet Me In St. Louis was still the start of a significant love affair in the star’s life. Garland plays Esther, a young girl living with her family in St. Louis who grows up and wins the affection of John (Tom Drake) the boy she has long had a crush on. One of Garland’s most memorable performances, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” is included in the film, and remains a beloved classic played during holiday times. In her role, Garland delivers her classic innocence, and anchors the ensemble musical as the clear star of the picture.
3 I Could Go On Singing (1963)
Directed by Ronald Neame
In the last film of her career, I Could Go On Singing, Garland grapples directly with the cost of fame and the devastating impact it had on her life. By this point, Garland was not afraid to be honest about her battle with addiction, and the terrible treatment she faced at the hands of Hollywood studios from a very young age. As Jenny, the protagonist of the film, Garland plays what is essentially a fictionalized version of herself, and concludes her film career with beautiful and tragic musical performances to match the gravity of her acting.
2 The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Directed by Victor Flemming
The Wizard of Oz
- Release Date
- August 25, 1939
- Victor Fleming
- Margaret Hamilton , Jack Haley , Judy Garland , Bert Lahr , Ray Bolger
- 102 minutes
- Florence Ryerson , Noel Langley , Edgar Allan Woolf
- $2.8 million
- Warner Bros. Pictures
- Warner Bros. Pictures
Perhaps Garland’s most famous role, and one of her earliest, The Wizard of Oz, has become an American classic. The film incorporated early and innovative use of technicolor, and Garland flourished in her role as Dorothy, the protagonist of the fantastical adventure. She delivers some of the most wonderful quotes in The Wizard of Oz and provides an innocence and vulnerability that makes it impossible not to empathize with her. The world was introduced to Garland, her beautiful voice, and the quiet way she could steal a scene with just a look.
1 A Star Is Born (1954)
Though there have been many adaptations of A Star Is Born, Garland’s is one of the most moving. Garland’s tragic death mirrors the arc of Norman Maine (James Mason) her co-star. His character is an actor whose star is fading and turns to substance abuse in the wake of this. As Garland struggled with similar issues throughout her life and also skyrocketed to fame in the same way that her own character, Esther, did, her performance is intensely moving. Garland experienced great loss and hardship and found the pressures of fame difficult to deal with. By letting her personal life fuel her performance, Garland made A Star Is Born unforgettable.