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Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) (Stairway to Heaven)

Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) (Stairway to Heaven) (1946)


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Critic Reviews: 1
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 0



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Movie Info

A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.

Jun 24, 2008

Universal Pictures

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (19) | Rotten (1) | DVD (5)

What today's audiences will find amazing is the sheer energy of its invention.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Beautifully directed, designed (especially the massive, working escalator that links Heaven and Earth), photographed and acted, it is a must-see for both classic and contemporary film buffs.

May 3, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Dearest
Movie Dearest

Although it's undeniably a great-looking film, I just found A Matter of Life and Death to be too harebrained to take seriously as a piece of important cinema.

November 8, 2010 Full Review Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Though the writer-directors and the actors may be the first names you notice, the cameraman also helped A Matter of Life and Death become one of the most moving movies ever made.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

The duo put so much care and love into the film that in the end we know they're right: Love really is the greatest of all virtues.

February 22, 2009 Full Review Source:

In spite of its thematic bleakness, A Matter of Life and Death succeeds in being a sparkling fantasy picture ....

February 9, 2009 Full Review Source: DVD Review
DVD Review

(The filmmakers') creativity is both fantastic and organic, their imagery spellbinding and gorgeous, and their scripting clever and witty.

January 5, 2009
Parallax View

Pretty bizarre fantasy set in WWII era starring David Niven.

March 2, 2008

A very pleasing fantasy film from the team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

September 18, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

One of the most enchanting movies you'll ever have the pleasure to see.

February 28, 2005 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Probably Powell and Pressburger's best film.

December 4, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Audience Reviews for Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) (Stairway to Heaven)

A lament for the dead and an exquisite fairy tale for the living. I would have loved to have been a Brit in the time when this movie was released. Rarely do you see such national pride on display with such heart and such technical majesty that you forgive the moments that could be seen as pro-west propaganda.
December 1, 2011
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

Yet another magnificent, beautiful film from the Archers. I'm starting to run out of ways to properly convey the genius of Powell/Pressburger's ouerve. A Matter of Life and Death just continues to prove that their canon is truly one of cinema's greatest treasures. Their visual imagination knows no bounds -- every frame is filled with fantastically bold compositions. The "reverse Wizard of Oz" decision to switch between the bold colors of "the real world" to the stark black and white of "the other world" is ingenious, showing us visually just how much more vibrant life can be. The final court scene is also fantastic, as the judge and jury descend the stairway to heaven to hold court over Peter (David Niven)'s operation.

As customary with any Archers film, the performances are spot on (Roger Livesey being a standout), and the romantic energy of the film is endearing. A Matter of Life and Death is all about the power of love and just how important life is -- a pedestrian theme by any measure, but displayed and argued with incredible conviction. Jack Cardiff's cinematography is reason enough to watch the film alone (he puts on a clinic). The way he lights Kim Hunter's face makes her all the more beautiful, and who else can make a simple things such as a game of table tennis look exciting? And the sound design is also impeccable; the way the sound mutes at vital points was a decision way ahead of its time.

This is a true classic that can restore anyone's faith in cinema. Under appreciated on its initial release and by today's audiences, which is nothing short of a tragedy.
November 12, 2011
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

To me A Matter of Life and Death is just that- simply the best film ever made.

From beginning to end it oozes class. It is stimulating, thought provoking, a mirror to the post war world and the relations between peoples.

The cinematography is simply stunning and the effect of mixing monochrome and Technicolour to accent the different worlds works seamlessly. The characters and plot development are near perfect and the attention to detail promotes a thoroughly believable fantasy.

No matter how many times I watch the film - and I have watched it a lot - it never fails to touch me. It makes me smile, it makes me laugh, it makes me think, it makes me cry. It is as fresh today as it was in 1946.

If I were allowed just one film to keep and watch again A Matter of Life and Death would be that film.
February 10, 2011

Super Reviewer

A really jolly good film that makes me feel proud to be British! David Niven heads a great cast in this odd but fantastic classic that has been fondly borrowed from and blatantly ripped off ever since!
October 1, 2009

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • A Matter of Life and Death (1947) (DE)
  • A Matter of Life and Death (UK)
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