Audrey Hepburn in Two for the Road

How to Have an Audrey Hepburn Film Festival

First step: Put on your pearls and grab a glass of champagne!

Hot August nights are pretty much the ideal time to deep dive into the career of your favourite film stars or filmmakers. In the past, we’ve shown you how to throw your very own Colin Farrell Film Fest, and now we’re switching gears to bring you a guide to the great Ms. Hepburn. Audrey, not Katharine. Not that the fabulous Kate doesn’t deserve her own celebration but that’s a curated list for another day.

As part of their annual Summer Under the Stars schedule, TCM is devoting August 6 to the films of the EGOT-winning icon, including iconic picks like Roman Holiday, Charade and Two for the Road. The actress and humanitarian would’ve turned 93 this year and—even 30 years after her passing—she remains one of the most recognizable faces on earth. And not just because IKEA decided her pretty-much perfect visage makes the perfect wall accent. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is probably the film most associated with Hepburn but there’s so much more to her than Truman Capote’s naïve and free-spirited Holly.

Ranked by the American Film Institute as the third-greatest female screen legend, she appeared in just 27 films over her four-decade career and starred in only 20. Though we wish there had been more—after all there’s no such thing as too much Audrey—it does make pulling together the perfect screening schedule that much easier.

So take it from someone who has lost track of how many times she’s seen every single one of these films, this is the ideal way to make your way through the legendary Audrey Hepburn’s filmography.

A Star is Born

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday

You can’t begin with anything other than this timeless and bittersweet romantic comedy; her first starring role and her American film debut. As Princess Ann, a young royal looking to throw off the shackles of responsibility, Audrey is give the perfect vehicle to showcase her talents. She’s luminous throughout and, at various times joyful, funny, and truly heartbreaking. You can’t blame Gregory Peck’s Joe Bradley for falling for her because it would be impossible not to. The role nabbed Hepburn the Oscar for Best Actress, as well as the Golden Globe and BAFTA—marking the first woman to win all three for the same role.


The May to December Issue


Funny Face

Love in the Afternoon 

Funny Face

For much of Hepburn’s career, she found herself paired with considerably older leading men. Not an unusual circumstance for young female stars of any generation, but in Hepburn’s case it is almost always addressed or called out as part of the plot in an attempt to make it more palatable or, frankly, less creepy. In some cases, it has the unintended consequence of making Hepburn’s characters seem more modern and more autonomous than those that came before her, at least where their love lives are concerned. That’s surely helped out by the fact that it’s hard to hate on Humphrey Bogart, Fred Astaire, and Gary Cooper.

That said, it could be argued that Parisian style is her actual co-star in each of these three films (all apologies to Messrs Bogart, Astaire, and Cooper). In fact Sabrina marks the beginning of her famous, life-long collaboration with fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy, which led to some of the most well-known costumes in film history alongside her wardrobe for Funny Face and Love in the Afternoon. Even if she’d never made another film, these three alone would account for the fact she was inducted into the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame.


A Promising Young Woman

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

My Fair Lady

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Speaking of style… Odds are that if you’re a fan of classic film, you’ve already seen both of these Oscar winners, which is why we didn’t lead off with them. Each holds up remarkably well (notwithstanding Mickey Rooney, whose racist Asian caricature couldn’t possibly have even passed muster even on set) and both have enough style and energy to stand up to repeated viewings. And we should know.

Hepburn’s Holly is really nothing like Truman Capote’s original Ms. Golightly but frankly, we don’t give a hoot. To paraphrase Love, Actually: to us, she is perfect. She imbues the legendary character with a fragility and weariness that endears her to everyone she meets, including struggling writer Paul Varjak (George Peppard). Henry Mancini provides the music, including “Moon River”, a song so perfect for Audrey that it has become synonymous with her image. And sure, the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s is framed as a love story between Holly and Paul but let’s be honest, we’re really all here for Holly and Cat.

Audrey sings again in My Fair Lady, but you’d be hard-pressed to find the few lines of her original vocals left in the film. It hardly matters, because the actress shines as Eliza Doolittle (all apologies, Julie Andrews). From the poor, flower-selling “guttersnipe” to the “smashing” but slightly vulgar lady who captures Freddy Eynsford-Hill’s heart, she nails every scene in this Best Picture winner and Rex Harrison is positively perfect as the fastidious Professor Henry Higgins. We dare you to watch one frame without singing along.


20th (and 12th) Century Women

Two for the Road

Wait Until Dark

Robin and Marian

They All Laughed

Two for the Road

Hepburn spent the first half of her career playing young ingénues and it wasn’t until the late ’60s that she finally got to explore more mature roles and relationships. The greatest of these is Stanley Donen’s Two for the Road. A non-linear look at one couple’s realistically rocky twelve-year relationship, the witty and poignant 1967 film allows Hepburn to portray a realistically flawed, sexual, adult woman. Her chemistry with co-star Albert Finney is natural and easy (unsurprisingly, the two fell for each other off screen as well) and they deliver every line of Frederic Raphael’s modern Oscar-nominated screenplay with relish. Then there’s that Mancini score and those picture-perfect French locales, as if the film needed anything else to recommend it. As Roger Ebert lauded in his 4-star review, Two for the Road is “an honest story about recognizable human beings”, neither perfect but somehow perfect for each other. And it’s one of this Film Fest’s must-see picks.

1967 brought Audrey not one, but two stellar roles—the first being Road‘s Joanna Wallace, the second being Wait Until Dark‘s Susy Hendrix. Though both are impressive, the latter is the one that nabbed her another Oscar nod. Impressing critics and fans alike, Wait Until Dark concerns a recently-blinded woman (Hepburn) who finds herself terrorized by three ruthless criminals as they search for a drug-stuffed doll that has ended up, unbeknownst to her, in her apartment. A genuine nail-biter, director Terrence Young ratchets up the tension to a truly impressive degree, with Hepburn deftly conveying Susy’s anxiety over her recent loss of sight and her mounting dread when she realises her seeming helplessness in the face of danger. When the film was originally exhibited in theatres, cinema lights were lowered and gradually turned off until moviegoers found themselves in complete darkness. Feel free to recreate in your own home, if you dare.

Robin and Marian and They All Laughed are two very different films about what happens after the happily ever after. With their time in Sherwood Forest a distant memory, Richard Lester’s bittersweet romance finds time may not have healed all of this fairy tale couple’s emotional wounds. But with age comes wisdom and with time, a little tenderness. Though Robin and Marian isn’t without its flaws, its two talented stars add both depth and meaning to a literal legend, never an easy feat. Then there’s They All Laughed, which is very much a romantic comedy of its time. And that time in the early ’80s. Though it didn’t hit big with audiences then, the Peter Bogdanovich-directed romance has received much retroactive praise from directors like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino. It’s also the film that marked Hepburn’s last lead role. That alone makes it essential viewing for any retrospective of her career.


Midnight in Paris


How to Steal a Million

Paris When it Sizzles


Then there are these perfectly Parisian slick romantic comedies. Though each of her leading men here are legends in their own right, Hepburn seems to bring out the very best in each, but especially in Cary Grant. Charade is Stanley Donen’s hugely entertaining homage to Hitchcock, but here the mystery plays second fiddle to the infectious humour and repartee between its two great stars. Despite their significant age difference—which was great enough that Grant asked that the script be changed so that Hepburn was the pursuing partner, not him, lest he look like a creepy old lech (good instincts, Mr. Grant)—Grant has never been as relaxed and natural, and every second they are together on screen is genuinely fantastic.

Peter O’Toole and William Holden benefit similarly, in How to Steal a Million and Paris When It Sizzles respectively. It’s quite possible that Hepburn would have fabulous chemistry with a rock, but it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Though neither comedy quite reaches the heights of Charade, both films play to her comedic strengths and have just enough hijinks to keep things interesting.


Uncut Gems

War and Peace

The Children’s Hour

The Nun’s Story

War and Peace

Heavier than many of her most popular roles, this trio of films allowed Hepburn to show Hollywood she was far more than just a pretty face. And though both The Children’s Hour and War and Peace allow her to explore new, multi-faceted characters, it’s Fred Zinneman’s The Nun’s Story that provides us with one of her most enduring and impressive performances. Often cited as Hepburn’s personal favourite film, the drama faithfully adapts the story of Marie Louise Habets, an outspoken Belgian nun whose faith is tested by her time in the Belgian Congo and the on-set of World War II. Given Hepburn’s own experiences with Nazi occupation, it’s not hard to see how this film and this role might’ve hit closer to home than most.

The Children’s Hour is William Wyler’s second adaptation of Lillian Hellman’s landmark play; his first landed in 1936. Though both Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine deliver emotionally resonant performances as two young teachers accused of being involved in a lesbian relationship, the film doesn’t quite stick its landing despite giving it the good, old college try. It was groundbreaking at the time for its references to homosexuality but in retrospect, feels too much like a shallow exploration when it should aim deeper. King Vidor’s adaptation of War and Peace doesn’t fair much better on first glance, truncating much of Tolstoy’s epic and casting a 50-year-old Henry Fonda as 20-year-old Pierre (no, really), but again Hepburn rises above. Critics almost universally praised her take on heroine Natasha and despite it’s predictably lengthy runtime of 208 minutes, there is enough here to recommend it overall. But you might want to schedule an actual intermission for snacks and a nap.


Sorry (Not Sorry) We Missed You

Green Mansions

The Unforgiven


The Unforgiven

These three are solely for true completists. Green Mansions is a fever-dream of lush jungle visuals that marks one of the few box office flops of Hepburn’s career. Directed by her then-husband Mel Ferrer and co-starring Anthony Perkins, it’s worth seeing if only to catch Hepburn’s take on a “bird woman”. The Unforgiven (not to be confused with the Unforgiven, the award-winning 1992 western) is the perfect example of a story ruined by studio and production company notes. John Huston set out to shine a spotlight on America’s relationship with racism, but the watered-down final film doesn’t make much of an impact. It doesn’t help that Hepburn is miscast as an Indigenous American. And to be honest, the less said about the less-than-thrilling Bloodline, the better. So don’t say we didn’t warn you.

The Farewell



It’s hard to think of a more fitting final screen role for the luminous Hepburn than as Hap the Angel in Steven Spielberg’s Always. In a small but pivotal part, the actress appears in one scene to guide and give new purpose to Richard Dreyfuss’s recently deceased firefighter. A remake of one of Spielberg’s favourite film classics, 1943’s A Guy Named Joe, this gem of a romantic fantasy (remember those?) remains a largely forgotten entry in the director’s impressive catalog but it benefits from a stellar cast and a lightness of touch from the often less-than-subtle filmmaker. Largely retired by 1989, Hepburn took the role to both promote her work with UNICEF but also so she could donate most of her salary to the organization. She appears on screen for little more than 5 minutes but her presence lingers, as does the wisdom she imparts: “Anything you do for yourself is a waste of spirit.”

If you’re looking for the perfect way to wrap up your Hepburn film fest, you can’t do any better than this.

So there you have it. Watch them all or stick to the first few groupings. Marathon as many as you can squeeze into one day or spread them our strategically for peak enjoyment. Or just tune into all 11 features in TCM’s Summer Under the Stars tribute.

However you decide to hold your own Audrey Hepburn Film Festival, it’s guaranteed to be a good use of your time.