All of the 'A Star Is Born' movies ranked from worst to best

Warner Bros.Judy Garland gave the best performance of her career in 1954’s ‘A Star is Born.’

I loved Bradley Cooper’s “A Star is Born” and honestly can’t stop talking about it.

I am also obsessed with all things entertainment (maybe this is why I am an entertainment reporter?) and love to watch things that make me cry, which makes the movie’s tragic tale of fame, love, and addiction feel like it was made for people like me.

The main story of “A Star is Born” is the same in each iteration: A famous, alcoholic man’s career goes into decline right as the career of the woman he loves blossoms. It is Hollywood’s “Romeo and Juliet,” except Juliet doesn’t die. The only thing that changes is the industry: the first films are about actors, and the most recent versions are about musicians.

After seeing Cooper’s 2018 version of the movie, I watched all three previous “A Star is Born” movies and decided which ones are the best and why people keep retelling this story every few decades.

On this pop culture journey I learned that Gary Busey is in one of them and that in the 1930s, adults who were famous movie stars drank huge glasses of milk with dinner.

Here are all of the “A Star is Born” movies, ranked from worst to best (and where you can stream them):

Note: Although it tells a similar story, we did not include 1932’s “What Price Hollywood?”

4. “A Star is Born” (1976), starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson (and Gary Busey)

Warner Bros.

Not even the legendary Barbra Streisand saves this movie. It’s terrible, and feels like it was made just to hype people (in Hollywood) up. It has no real purpose beyond obsessing over itself, and doesn’t say anything new about the entertainment industry or Hollywood or culture, despite its focus on musicians instead of actors.

The only thing indicating it exists in its own decade are the costumes and hairstyles. Streisand and Kris Kristofferson do what they can with the lazy script, but this attempt at a modern interpretation of Hollywood’s favourite tragedy took way too many creative liberties that take away from necessary character development. You can skip it, or just watch Streisand’s final song.

This version of “A Star is Born” is available to rent on Amazon.

3. “A Star is Born” (1937), starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March

Warner Bros.

1937’s “A Star is Born” is the one that started all of this, and is the only one without any songs. Its trailer, which you can watch on YouTube, labels it “Hollywood’s first true story.” It is not based on a true story.

The movie, carried by its endearing lead, Janet Gaynor – who was in a way being born as a star herself in this transition from silent film – is just fine. What is most fascinating eight decades later is its staggering separation from life and the entertainment industry in 2018. In one scene, a woman at a studio tells Gaynor’s character, Esther, an aspiring actress, that her chances of making it in the industry are “one in one hundred thousand.” Today, that’s a pretty good shot. Also, famous adult human beings in this movie drink full glasses of milk with their dinner.

The awful, and very dim lighting throughout is a victim of its time: in the 1930s, lighting wasn’t necessarily considered an art form that could be played with yet. All that really mattered was whether or not you could see anything, so it’s almost unfair to compare it to Cooper’s, which uses lighting and thoughtful camera placement to highlight important things about the characters.

But the first version of this story still has one major thing in common with Cooper’s 2018 version: the scepticism surrounding fame and Hollywood which, ironically, might be ingrained into the industry and our culture because of this story that Hollywood can’t stop telling.

This version of “A Star is Born” is available to watch with no additional charges on Amazon Prime.

2. “A Star is Born” (1954), starring Judy Garland and James Mason

Warner Bros.

This movie is three hours long. It literally has an intermission. It’s good, but perhaps a little too obsessed with itself. Like the 1937 and 1976 “A Star is Born” films, it lacks a strong sense of character in its male lead, Norman Maine. But Judy Garland brings her otherwise undeveloped character to life in the greatest performance of her career, and one of the greatest performances in film history.

Garland’s presence keeps you watching, even when you know exactly what will happen; even as she belts her way through boring songs that still take you on her character’s tumultuous journey. But ultimately, the screenplay clings a little too desperately to the original, which defeats the purpose of a remake, which is a bit of a disappointment. Hollywood certainly changed significantly in the 17 years in between these movies were made, but this one doesn’t feel much different, besides its transformation into a musical and the addition of palm trees at the Academy Awards ceremony.

This version of “A Star is Born” is available to rent on Amazon.

1. “A Star is Born” (2018), starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

Warner Bros.

Although Bradley Cooper had the advantage of the advancements in technology, filmmaking, and storytelling to work with, his “A Star is Born” is the best by a long shot because it’s the most honest and sincere.

It’s a truly a modern retelling of the story, and unlike all the others, feels like it could have happened. The performances are exquisite, the songs brilliant and significant to moving the story forward, and most importantly, this version focuses more on its characters than the spectacle, which is the most glaring issue with all the other iterations.

This version is also the most representative of its era: Cooper’s character Jackson Maine meets Ally (Lady Gaga) at a drag bar. And alcoholism is treated as a disease: in one of the most moving scenes in the film, Ally tells Jackson that it’s not his fault he has it. The scene is telling compared to a scene in the 1976 version where Barbra Streisand screams “I’ll kill you!” at her husband, and then promptly has sex with him.

By focusing on Jackson Maine’s past, including his parentage and his brother (played by Sam Elliot who is deserving of a best supporting actor nomination at the Oscars), this movie feels grounded in a way the previous versions haven’t.

“A Star is Born” comes to theatres October 5.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.