Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)


Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)

Critics Consensus

Stairway to Heaven is a ravishing, creative, and exciting fantasy.



Total Count: 31


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,879
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Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) Photos

Movie Info

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


David Niven
as Peter Carter
Marius Goring
as Conductor 71
Roger Livesey
as Dr. Frank Reeves
Raymond Massey
as Abraham Farlan
Richard Attenborough
as English Pilot
Robert Atkins
as The Vicar
Bonar Colleano
as American Pilot
Joan Maude
as Chief Recorder
Edwin Max
as Dr. McEwen
Robert Coote
as Bob Trubshawe
Betty Potter
as Mrs. Tucker
Bob Roberts
as Dr. Gaertler
Wally Patch
as ARP Warden
Tom Duggan
as American Policeman
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Critic Reviews for Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (7)

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

  • Nov 30, 2011
    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.
    Reid V Super Reviewer
  • Nov 12, 2011
    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.
    Jonathan H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 10, 2011
    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.
    Cassandra M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 19, 2010
    Jolly good stiff upper lip British black and white, as David Niven argues with a heavenly court about his right to return to earth. HIs logic - an angel messed up and grabbed him too early and then he went and fell in love immediatly on the "borrowed" time he shouldn't have got. Apparently David Niven knew he was going to marry his second wife the second he first met her, so love at first sight can happen. Not sure about the celestial buraucracy though.
    Lesley N Super Reviewer

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