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Stairway to Heaven (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death (original title)
PG | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | March 1947 (USA)
A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.
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1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Complete credited cast:
Robert Coote ...
An English Pilot
Bonar Colleano ...
An American Pilot (as Bonor Colleano)
Joan Maude ...
Chief Recorder
Marius Goring ...
Robert Atkins ...
The Vicar
Bob Roberts ...
Dr. Gaertler
Edwin Max ...
Dr. Mc.Ewen
Betty Potter ...
Mrs Tucker
Abraham Sofaer ...
The Judge


Returning to England from a bombing run in May 1945, flyer Peter Carter's plane is damaged and his parachute ripped to shreds. He has his crew bail out safely, but figures it is curtains for himself. He gets on the radio, and talks to June, a young American woman working for the USAAF, and they are quite moved by each other's voices. Then he jumps, preferring this to burning up with his plane. He wakes up in the surf. It was his time to die, but there was a mixup in heaven. They couldn't find him in all that fog. By the time his "Conductor" catches up with him 20 hours later, Peter and June have met and fallen in love. This changes everything, and since it happened through no fault of his own, Peter figures that heaven owes him a second chance. Heaven agrees to a trial to decide his fate. Written by John Oswalt <jao@jao.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


THE NEAREST THING TO HEAVEN! (print ad - all caps) See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

March 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Matter of Life and Death  »

Box Office


£320,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)


(Dye - Monochrome)| (Colour) (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


JK Rowling has cited the film as her favorite movie of all time. See more »


June's voice is heard before Peter's and she is then seen before Peter is, but the closing credits "in order of appearance" begin with Peter ('David Niven'). See more »


[first lines]
Narrator: This is the universe. Big, isn't it?
See more »

Crazy Credits

Foreword (Scrolled up the screen at the start of the film): This is a story of two Worlds the one we know and another which exists only in the mind of a young airman whose life & imagination have been violently shaped by war [Pauses, then scrolls up to reveal] Any resemblance to any other world known or unknown is purely coincidental. See more »


Referenced in X-Men (2000) See more »


(1842) (uncredited)
from "A Midsummer Night's Dream, Op.61"
Written by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played on a record at the Shakespeare rehearsal
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Quite simply the best film ever made
23 November 2000 | by (Cheshire, England) – See all my reviews

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.

125 of 150 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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