Hardly will you make a list of actors whose works are worth following and not count in Andy Griffith movies. The man happens to be one of the performers who have shaped the landscape of the entertainment industry with their work. For many years, he was one of the most popular and beloved faces on the big and silver screen. He received numerous honors including two Tony Award nominations over the course of his career and his acting range never failed to impress and dazzle viewers every time.
The actor was able to go from playing the good-mannered southern gentleman to a native troublemaker and a bevy of other characters with complete ease and natural affectation. Below are the top 10 Andy Griffith movies that can be considered the highlights of his career and everything you need to know about each one.
Top 10 Andy Griffith Movies
10. Murder in Coweta County (1983)
This movie is based on a real-life murder that occurred in Coweta County, Georgia in April 1948. It tells the story of a rich and powerful landowner named John Wallace (played by Andy Griffith) who killed his former employee, Turner in retaliation for stealing his cows. He then tried to hide by crime by burning the dead man’s body in a pit and distributing the bones and ashes in a stream to destroy evidence of his misdeeds. Wallace forced two black field hands who worked for him to help him in destroying Turner’s body. After thorough investigation, the field workers were called in to testify and Wallace was charged with murder.
Andy Griffith was completely convincing as a wealthy man who thought he was above the law until justice surprised him with a death penalty. His trademark charm and wry humor radiate off the screen with ease.
9. Onionhead (1958)
Throughout the 50s, Andy Griffith was recognized as the most talented comedic actor of his time and Onionhead is one of the movies where he shone brilliantly. It is a comedy-drama set in World War II and starring other phenomenal performers such as Felicia Farr, Claude Atkins, and Walter Matthau.
Griffith plays a young college student who decides to abandon his studies in favor of joining the United States Coast Guard. He is assigned the job of a cook aboard the U.S.S Periwinkle, where he ends up becoming romantically entangled with the girlfriend of his commanding officer. Although it has a few dark themes woven through it, Onionhead is a hilarious drama that will leave you laughing uproariously.
8. The Second Time Around (1961)
Lucretia Rogers, played by Debbie Reynolds, is a strong woman who is resolved to keep her head high regardless of the struggles that life throws her way. After her the death of her husband upset the balance in her world, she moved with her children to Arizona in the hope of finding greener pasture for the sake of her kids. She finds the town to be a lot different from New City where she lived before, but she soon grows into the place and becomes the sheriff.
Griffith is introduced as a ranch owner who is fighting for Lucretia’s love and hand in marriage, he is determined not to let any other suitors win over her heart. The movie combines the Western genre with elements of romance and drama that make it deeply satisfying to watch.
7. Play The Game (2009)
There are a few things that are constant in life – rain, death, taxes, and Griffith’s infinite charm. You can count on him to be the most likable character in a movie even when he’s not playing the good guy. In Play the Game, the seasoned actor is a widowed old man who is trying to get back into the dating scene with the help of a young and handsome heartbreaker who happens to be his grandson.
It’s fun and exciting to watch Griffith as he puts the moves on women using the tricks he has been taught. While the movie itself leaves much to be desired, his acting stands in the gap and holds the viewer’s attention up till the end. Play the Game is also lowest ranked Andy Griffith movie using the ultimate movie score scale.
6. Angel In My Pocket (1969)
In Angel in My Pocket, Andy Griffith portrays a small-town minister who finds himself in the middle of a feud between two rival families who are hellbent on destroying each other. It’s a gripping tale of family and faith made even more palatable with the heavy infusions of humor that seeps through nearly every scene. The emotional strength of the story makes Angel in My Pocket one of the top 10 Andy Griffith movies ever made. It is brimming with the struggles of daily life and politics which are easy to relate to.
5. Waitress (2007)
Waitress is one of the last movies that Griffith appeared in before his career wrapped up for good and it remains one of his most beloved roles today. He plays a sweet old gentleman with a love for strawberry chocolate pies which he regularly indulges in at one of his favorite local diners. Even though his character is only a minor one, he is still one of the most memorable faces in the movie. He charms his way from the beginning of the movie all the way to the very end, reminding audiences of the breadth of his talent.
As far as romantic comedies go, Waitress is wonderfully superb and Keri Russell’s performance as the titular character is sassy, bittersweet, and impossible to forget.
4. Spy Hard (1996)
This perplexing movie is an action thriller parody that stars Griffith as the ultimate villain named General Ranchor. In true parody fashion, his character goes all out with the silliness. He has a bionic arm and he is dressed as Napoleon. Despite the ridiculous premise of Spy Hard, it has earned its place on the list of top 10 Andy Griffith movies. If nothing else, the movie reminds the viewers of the actor’s versatility. He was willing to take on any role and give it his best.
One of the best things about this movie is trying to figure out which other films the scenes are taking a jab at. Movies like Pulp Fiction, Butch Cassidy, Sister Act, Jurassic Park, Speed, and Home Alone are ridiculed mercilessly.
3. Hearts of the West (1975)
Griffith stars opposite Jeff Bridges in this heartwarming cowboy tale. The latter is a young writer who dreams of becoming the greatest novelist of his generation and heads to Hollywood to pursue his dreams. Unfortunately, he soon finds out that the school of correspondence that supposedly graduated him does not really exist. Refusing to give up hope he finds a job as an actor where he meets Griffith, who connived to steal the writer’s manuscript. Afterward, he tries to sell it as his own creative work. Hearts of the West is a delightful, easygoing movie that packs punches in all the right places.
Don’t be surprised if you find yourself switching allegiances from one character to the other. What is already a damningly good script is further elevated by the rib-cracking performances delivered by the cast.
2. No Time for Sergeants (1958)
Adapted from the brilliant novel of the same name by Ira Levin, No Time for Sergeants is boisterous and full of life despite the shadow of death that looms over the film thanks to the World War II backdrop. The movie follows Griffith who plays a young man recently drafted into the Air Force and soon becomes the guy that everyone picks on. He goes through many dangerous scrapes with a friend he eventually makes, including a ghastly plane crash in which they are presumed dead. However, they managed to escape with their lives intact and made their way back to base on the very same day a funeral is being held in their honor.
In many ways, No Time for Sergeants was the movie that shaped Andy Griffith’s career trajectory. It laid the foundation for many of the iconic roles he would go on to play in the future including his persona on The Andy Griffith Show.
1. A Face In The Crowd (1957)
This Andy Griffith movie is considered the greatest in the over three dozen films that the actor managed over the course of his career. It was the role that confirmed that Griffith was indeed destined for greatness. His performance as a drifter who loved to womanize in A Face in the Crowd won him critical acclaim and commercial success. Through chance, talent, and generous displays of charm, his character manages to achieve fame and success but with that power comes great loneliness. He feels more and more isolated from the world, the more popular he becomes.
It’s almost hard to believe that this role was Griffith’s first appearance on film with the maturity and dexterity with which he carries it through. Just like his character, Lonesome Rhodes, became an overnight success, A Face in the Crowd launched Griffith to the top of the acting food chain, which is why it remains undefeated as the best Andy Griffith movie ever made.