The Guardian says, "There’s drama, intrigue, laughter and thrills in this rereleased 1939 movie directed by Howard Hawks." The New York Times in a review at the film's release called it "a fairly good melodrama".
Slant Magazine says, "The ending is one of Hawks's greatest and most poignant". The New Yorker calls it a "stirring tale".
Only Angels Have Wings (1939) is a quintessential adventure-aviation film with drama, dark fatalism, suspense and romance that is stocked with true-to-life sequences, fast-paced action and top stars in skillfully-executed roles. The film's themes include male camaraderie and loyalty, professionalism, courage and duty in the face of life-and-death perils and dangers, and rugged, stoic bravery
Rotten Tomatoes has a critics score of 100%. This film is listed in the book 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.