Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) (1947)

Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death) (1947)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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.
PG (for thematic elements)
Drama , Science Fiction & Fantasy , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Universal Pictures


David Niven
as Peter Carter
Kim Hunter
as June
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
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Stairway to Heaven (A Matter of Life and Death)

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

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (1)

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | March 25, 2009
Top Critic

Review of A Matter of Life and Death, the film's original title, part of "The Films of Michael Powell" two-disc set on DVD.

January 9, 2009
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

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


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 Volk
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.

Jonathan Hutchings
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.

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer

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