Fuel cells have the potential to play an important role in sustainable energy systems, provided that catalysts with higher activity and stability are developed. In this work, it is found that thin alloy films of single-target cosputtered platinum-yttrium exhibit up to seven times higher specific activity (13.4 ± 0.4 mA cm-2) for the oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) than poly-crystalline platinum, and up to one order of magnitude higher mass activity (3.5 ± 0.3 A mg-1) than platinum nanoparticles. These alloys have the highest reported ORR activity for an as-deposited material, i.e., without any additional chemical or thermal treatment. The films show an improvement in stability over the same materials in nanoparticulate form. Physical characterization shows that the thin films form a platinum overlayer supported on an underlying alloy. The high activity is likely related to compressive strain in that overlayer. As sputtering can be used to mass-produce fuel cell electrodes, the results open new possibilities for the preparation of platinum-rare earth metal alloy catalysts in commercial devices.