While I have always preferred Cary Grant as an actor, Jimmy Stewart had a down home quality in all of his movies. Grant was the typical good looking matinee idol while Stewart was your neighbor next door. Also, while Jimmy's most favorite movie is "It's A Wonderful Life" - the movie is not one of my favorites. Here are the movies that make did make the cut into the top five...
5. ZIEGFELD GIRL (1941)
While the musical "Ziegfeld Girl" is not a major Jimmy Stewart film but a collaboration of many acting talents, Stewart's role is one of my favorites in the film. Thankfully he does not sing in this movie (He did in 1936's "Born To Dance"), but he played the boy next door. In the film he is the sweetheart of Lana Turner. As their lives change and they grow apart, you can see the changes in Stewart's character. It is a really great musical to watch his acting ability in.
4. SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957)
If anyone could play Charles Lindbergh in a movie then Jimmy Stewart could. The screenplay was adapted by Charles Lederer, Wendell Mayes, and Billy Wilder from Lindbergh's 1953 autobiographical account of his historic flight, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1954. Along with reminiscences of his early days in aviation, the film depicts Lindbergh's historic 33-hour transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis monoplane from his take off at Roosevelt Field to his landing at Le Bourget Field in Paris on May 21, 1927. Most of the movie is only Stewart in an airplane cockpit, and surprisingly the film works.
3. REAR WINDOW (1954)
Here is another movie with only one or two settings. This Alfred Hitchcock thriller stars Stewart as a man recovering from a broken leg. He is bored being stuck in his apartment, so he uses a telescope to spy on the neighbors. While spying, he witnesses a neighbor (Raymond Burr) murder his wife. The film is not only considered one of Hitchcock's best movies but one of Jimmy Stewart's as well. For most of the movie Stewart sits through the whole film. Despite that, again Stewart portrays the role in such a way that you lose yourself in his role.
2. HARVEY (1950)
"Harvey" is by far one of the most charming comedies of the 1950s. It is a 1950 film based on Mary Chase's play of the same name, directed by Henry Koster, and starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull. The story is about a man whose best friend is a pooka named Harvey—in the form of a six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch tall invisible rabbit. Most actors would not be able to play a man who sees a rabbit - they would come off as crazy. Again, with Stewart in this role he is charming and enjoyable. Stewart was nominated for an Oscar for his great portrayal, but unfortunately he did not win. What is interesting is Stewart also made a television version of the film in 1972 with Helen Hayes.
1. VERTIGO (1958)
While my wife prefers "Rear Window", I think "Vertigo" is Jimmy Stewart's best and darkest film role. It is the story of a retired police detective suffering from acrophobia who is hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior.
The film received mixed reviews upon initial release, but has garnered acclaim since and is now frequently ranked among the greatest films ever made, and often cited as a classic Alfred Hitchcock film and one of the defining works of his career. Personally, I feel that the end of this movie has one of the best twist endings of any Hitchcock film. Jimmy Stewart is great as a man who goes from living a normal life, to having his life turned upside and descend into near madness. In my humble opinion, this was Jimmy Stewart's crowning achievement and another example of the ability that Stewart had in every film role...