Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Critics Consensus

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington -- and returns with an uplifting ode to idealism that distills the strengths of its director and leading man.

96%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 45

94%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 45,849

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Movie Info

When the idealistic young Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) winds up appointed to the United States Senate, he gains the mentorship of Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). However, Paine isn't as noble as his reputation would indicate, and he becomes involved in a scheme to discredit Smith, who wants to build a boys' campsite where a more lucrative project could go. Determined to stand up against Paine and his corrupt peers, Smith takes his case to the Senate floor.

Cast & Crew

James Stewart
Jefferson Smith
Jean Arthur
Clarissa Saunders
Claude Rains
Sen. Joseph Harrison Paine
Guy Kibbee
Gov. Hubert "Happy" Hopper
Thomas Mitchell
Diz Moore
Eugene Pallette
Chick McGann
H.B. Warner
Sen. Agnew
Harry Carey
President of the Senate
Dimitri Tiomkin
Original Music
Joseph Walker
Cinematographer
Al Clark
Film Editor
Gene Havlick
Film Editor
Lionel Banks
Art Direction
Robert Kalloch
Costume Designer
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News & Interviews for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Critic Reviews for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (43) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

  • Sep 01, 2016
    Few films succeed in being relevant a decade or two after its release, but Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is still relevant 77 years later, especially in a voting year with questionable candidates. Before Frank Capra ventured into his war propaganda films in the early-to-mid 40's, he made some of the most important and acclaimed films of all time. In back to back years he directed the 1938 sleeper hit, You Can't Take it With You, and the classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra carried some of the same cast members over to the ladder, as Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, and Edward Arnold are among the many who acted in both films. Continuing with the tradition of Capra's other works, Mr. Smith deals with a common man taking on big ideas and ideals, only to be shut down by those more powerful and privileged. This was the film that really showed the world what Stewart could do. Even though I have seen tons of his films, this one stands out as some of his finest acting and most demanding roles of his filmography. He was always great at playing an everyman and someone you can undeniably root for, and Jeff Smith is a defining role for him. Smith represents the audience in going along for this political ride and I loved the way Stewart gave the character a certain amount of innocence and vulnerability while also displaying a graceful and powerful presence as well. Having wonderful chemistry in You Can't Take it With You, it's no surprise that Stewart and Arthur's work together here is just as good, if not better. Arthur plays Clarissa Saunders, who manages to keep Smith afloat even though he's constantly swept away by Washington and all of the extra perks for being in the Senate. It's also not a forced romance, like a lot of 30's films, it takes a while for it to be developed as its handled with care. Arthur may very well be the best romantic partner Stewart ever had. 1939 was a fantastic year for film, with Wizard of Oz and Gone With the Wind also being released. But perhaps no film from that year is still as relevant as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Capra covers the film with patriotism with beautiful shots of Washington D.C. and a patriotic song here or there, but its his step into a pessimistic style of filmmaking that's most intriguing here. The last 30 minutes with Stewart giving an Oscar worthy performance and Capra seamlessly twisting the story into unpredictable territories is truly something special. +Stewart becoming the Stewart we all love +Arthur is marvelous +Capra's balanced directing 10/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2016
    Idealistic fantasy meets cynical reality. An endearing film which some actually true-to-life (though, perhaps, a tad simplistic to be sure) points to make about the dark, bleak underbelly of corruption in politics, and how greed and cynicism can infect and corrupt even the most idealistic hearts, until they no longer recognize their earlier glory. One idealistic man refuses to be corrupted, tries to shake the bee's nest, and faces the staggering powers that be. A classic. Definitely in the 4-4.5 range. Giving it the 4.5.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 20, 2015
    One of the best movies you will ever see, hands down. This is a classic.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 09, 2014
    Capra and Jimmy Stewart team up again to give us the original ordinary man vs. the political machine film that has been copies oodles and oodles of times since. Mimicry is a form of flattery and this film is good and could be plopped into today's theatres and be entirely relevant.
    John B Super Reviewer

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