The film was the 5th most popular movie at the US box office in 1941. According to MGM records, it earned $2,374,000 in the US and Canada, and $885,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $1,272,000.
Writing for the New York Times in 1940, Bosley Crowther wrote that the film "has just about everything that a blue-chip comedy should have—a witty, romantic script derived by Donald Ogden Stewart out of Philip Barry's successful play; the flavor of high-society elegance, in which the patrons invariably luxuriate; and a splendid cast of performers headed by Hepburn, Stewart, and Grant. If it doesn't play out this year and well along into next, they should turn the Music Hall into a shooting gallery ... Metro and Director George Cukor have graciously made it apparent, in the words of a character, that one of 'the prettiest sights in this pretty world is the privileged classes enjoying their privileges'. And so, in this instance, will you, too." 75 years later, Peter Bradshaw wrote "However stagily preposterous, George Cukor’s 1940 movie The Philadelphia Story, now rereleased, is also utterly beguiling, funny and romantic. ... The fun and wit rise like champagne bubbles, but there is a deceptive strength in the writing and performances." Bradshaw also notes that the film is the "most famous example of the intriguing and now defunct prewar genre of 'comedy of remarriage'".
The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 54 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10. The consensus reads: "Offering a wonderfully witty script, spotless direction from George Cukor, and typically excellent lead performances, The Philadelphia Story is an unqualified classic." The site also ranked it as the Best Romantic Comedy of all time.
The film was the last of four starring Grant and Hepburn, the others being Sylvia Scarlett (1935), Bringing Up Baby (1938), and Holiday (1938).