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954 Ratings

Only Angels Have Wings

Directed by Howard Hawks
United States, 1939
Romance, Adventure, War


Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who meets a handsome yet aloof daredevil pilot, played by Cary Grant, staring down death while delivering airmail in treacherous mountain terrain.

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Only Angels Have Wings Directed by Howard Hawks

Awards & Festivals

Academy Awards

1940 | 2 nominations including: Best Cinematography, Black-and-White

National Film Preservation Board

2017 | Winner: National Film Registry

Only Angels Have Wings is one of the standouts of [Hawks’] impressive career, but also one of his most sobering films. With a frank attitude towards death and a romantic yet melancholy view of life on the edge, it’s an existentially tough work of blunt philosophy.
April 18, 2016
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The bench depth of this ensemble is essential to the film’s success as romantic fantasy, and to its vitality as popular art. It has become a critical commonplace to say that Hawks operated in top gear when perfecting the personae of luminaries like Grant, Bogart, and John Wayne. But in Only Angels Have Wings, Grant serves as the core of a group character… The film’s action hinges on two deaths in the company. Its tension comes from seeing whether a couple of newcomers can fill the void.
April 12, 2016
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Viewed through an auteurist lens, 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings may be Hawks’ most quintessential feature, yet no other film of his looks like it, not even his handful of aviation movies. Gone are the unobtrusive frames of simple, focused blocking in natural interior and landscape settings, replaced instead by crowded, cluttered images that situate everything in a confined space where everything outside the line of sight may as well be mapped with nothing but "here there be dragons.
April 12, 2016
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