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11+1 Best Movies of Marilyn Monroe: Legacy of the Blonde Bombshell

Best films of Marilyn Monroe

Welcome to the Memorial Film Collection of Marilyn Monroe

Watching the best movies of Marilyn Monroe is more than just having a really good time. It’s also about paying tribute to the original “Blonde Bombshell” of Hollywood.

She may have passed away, but thanks to an enthralling, good old invention called Film, she will never be really gone. Whenever you feel like traveling back in time to witness Marilyn’s unique acting style, see the beauty mark on her cheek or hear her breathy voice, all you have to do, is sit back, relax, and enjoy one (or more) of her greatest films.

But which Marilyn Monroe movies should you watch?
Well, if that’s your question for the day, you came to the right place. We’re just about to present the Top 11+1 Films of Marilyn Monroe.

The Best Movies of Marilyn Monroe is an episode of FrameTrek’s Hall of Legends: A mega-journey dedicated to identify the greatest artists of World Cinema, and their most significant works.


Meet Marilyn Monroe, Hollywood’s original “Blonde Bombshell”

Best movies of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is one of the world’s most indelible screen icons of all time. She was an emblem of the era’s sexual revolution and her short but iconic career is remembered for her winsome embodiment of Hollywood’s perhaps most enduring sex symbol.

Sex is a part of nature. I go along with nature.

Marilyn Monroe

But let’s go back to the beginnings.

Monroe spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage. She was working in a factory during World War II when she met a photographer and began a successful pin-up modeling career, which led to short-lived film contracts.

After a series of minor film roles her breakthrough was inevitable. Her popularity exploded when the world saw her playing comedic “blonde bombshell” characters.

Monroe became one of the most marketable Hollywood stars. Her movies overtly relied on her sex appeal, and established her star image as a “dumb blonde”.

Marilyn faced a scandal when it was revealed that she had posed for nude photographs prior to becoming a star. Her nude images were used as the centerfold and on the cover of the first issue of Playboy. However, this did not damage her career and instead resulted in increased interest in her films. Actually, she became the top billed actress of her time.

I’m not interested in money, I just want to be wonderful.

Marilyn Monroe

Her bubbly onscreen persona masked a troubled offscreen life marked by depression, drug addition, mood disorders and rocky marriages that were highly publicized.

Monroe’s eccentricities and neuroses on sets became notorious, but studios put up with her long after any other actress would have been blackballed because what they got back on the screen was magical.

Roger Ebert

So yeah, there’s plenty to talk about, when it comes to Marilyn Monroe, but we are here to concentrate on her Top 11+1 Films, so let’s cut to the chase, shall we?

After all, an actress is as good as her greatest performances. Thus, the finest way to familiarize yourself with Marilyn Monroe, is through watching her best films.

Ready? Buckle up then, cause you’re about to travel back in time all the way to Fabulous Fifties!


Presenting the 11+1 Best Films of Marilyn Monroe

Chronologically

The ‘+1’ is a Bonus Movie. Wait for it!


Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), Roy Ward Baker, Richard Widmark, Top movies of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Psychological film noir thriller directed by Roy Ward Baker and co-starring Richard Widmark.

Story: After being dumped by his girlfriend, an airline pilot pursues a babysitter in his hotel and gradually realizes she’s dangerous. (IMDB)

Why is Don’t Bother to Knock among the most famous films of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ This was Monroe’s attempt to prove to critics that she could act in a dramatic role after starting her career in a string of comedies.
✓ The film’s reputation has improved since its release, with many modern critics considering Monroe’s performance as initially underrated and actually being among her best ones.


Monkey Business (1952)

Monkey Business (1952), Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Top films of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Screwball comedy film directed by Howard Hawks, co-starring Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers.

Story: A chemist finds his personal and professional life turned upside down when one of his chimpanzees finds the fountain of youth. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Among the movie star photos Marilyn taped to her bedroom wall when she was a foster child were several of Cary Grant. She was thrilled to be co-starring with him in this film, a break-through role in her then fast-rising movie career.

Why is Monkey Business among the most famous Marilyn Monroe movies?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, now considered a screwball comedy classic.


Niagara (1953)

Niagara (1953), Henry Hathaway, Joseph Cotten, Top Marilyn Monroe movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Film-noir thriller directed by Henry Hathaway and co-starring Joseph Cotten.

Story: As two couples are visiting Niagara Falls, tensions between one wife and her husband reach the level of murder. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Monroe was given top billing in this film, which elevated her to star status.
✪ During filming of the shower scene, director Henry Hathaway had to keep yelling at her to keep away from the shower curtain and away from the lights as she insisted on being naked (as she was under the bed sheets at the beginning of the film). To pass the censors of the time, the scene was darkened in post-production.

Why is Niagara among the most famous Marilyn Monroe films?
✓ One of the most successful and popular films of the 1950s, today considered a true classic.


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Howard Hawks, Jane Russell, Top Marilyn Monroe films
Where to Watch?   More info

Musical comedy romance film directed by Howard Hawks and co-starring Jane Russell.

Story: Showgirls Lorelei Lee and Dorothy Shaw travel to Paris, pursued by a private detective hired by the suspicious father of Lorelei’s fiancé, as well as a rich, enamored old man and many other doting admirers. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Gossip columnists tried to create a feud between Jane Russell and Marilyn, but the pair got along famously. Russel called Monroe “Blondie” and was often the only person on the set who could coax Marilyn out of her trailer to begin the day’s filming.

Anchored by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s sparkling magnetism, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a delightfully entertaining 1950s musical.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes among the best films of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
✓ It was a critical and commercial success, with critics and audiences praising the performances of both Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, whose characters have entered pop culture.
✓ Monroe’s rendition of the song “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and her pink dress are considered iconic, and the performance has inspired homages by Madonna, Beyoncé, Nicole Kidman and other notable stars.


How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), Jean Negulesco, Betty Grable, Lauren Bacall, Greatest movies of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by Jean Negulesco, co-starring Betty Grable and Lauren Bacall.

Story: Three women set out to find eligible millionaires to marry, but find true love in the process. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Although Grable received top billing in the screen credits, Monroe’s name was listed first in all advertising, including the trailer.
✪ According to Lauren Bacall, Marilyn was a challenge to work with. It wasn’t because she was unpleasant, but rather her insecurity and total dependence on her personal acting coach Natasha Lytess for approval.

Why is How to Marry a Millionaire among the best Marilyn Monroe films?
✓ One of the most popular movies of the 1950s, a huge box office success, now considered a true classic.
✓ A technological pioneer: It was one of the first films to have its score recorded in stereo.


River of No Return (1954)

River of No Return (1954), Otto Preminger, Robert Mitchum, Greatest films of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Western adventure drama film directed by Otto Preminger and co-starring Robert Mitchum.

Story: The titular river unites a farmer recently released from prison, his young son, and an ambitious saloon singer. In order to survive, each must be purged of anger, and each must learn to understand and care for the others. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ While most of the cast and crew went to lunch, Marilyn preferred to go underneath the set, between all the pillars and dust, to find Bandit the raccoon. She would put him in her lap, pet him, and talk to his owner about animals and horses.
✪ Monroe’s voice was her own and she worked hard to get her guitar fingering accurate, but still, a guitarist can tell that she isn’t playing.

A simple, frequently charming, and beautifully photographed film blessed with fine performances and great teamwork from Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe. An enjoyable, engaging little Western that never fails to entertain.

TV Guide

Why is River of No Return among the best Marilyn Monroe movies?
✓ Although it received mixed reviews, it was a box office hit upon its release and remains a popular classic western.


The Seven Year Itch (1955)

The Seven Year Itch (1955), Billy Wilder, Tom Ewell, Greatest Marilyn Monroe movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by Billy Wilder and co-starring Tom Ewell.

Story: When his family goes away for the summer, a hitherto faithful husband with an overactive imagination is tempted by a beautiful neighbor. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Marilyn’s lifelong bouts with depression and self-destruction took their toll during filming; she frequently muffed scenes and forgot her lines, leading to sometimes as many as 40 takes of a scene before a satisfactory result was produced.
✪ Her constant tardiness and behavioral problems made the budget swell significantly, but the film still managed to make a nice profit.
✪ This film marks the beginning of Monroe’s super-stardom phase. For the next 4 years she cemented her status as a screen icon, up through 1959

Why is The Seven Year Itch among the top movies of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ Included in the American Film Institute’s list of 100 Years…100 Laughs.
✓ It contains one of the most notable images of the 20th century: Monroe standing on a subway grate as her white dress is blown upwards by a passing train.
✓ A box office success and one of the most popular movies of the 1950s.


Bus Stop (1956)

Bus Stop (1956), Joshua Logan, Don Murray, Greatest Marilyn Monroe films
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy-drama film directed by Joshua Logan and co-starring Don Murray.

Story: A naive but stubborn cowboy falls in love with a saloon singer and tries to take her away against her will to get married and live on his ranch in Montana.. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ Don Murray suffered painful facial cuts when Marilyn overdid a scene in which she had to slap him with the sequined tail of her costume.
✪ Despite her dedication and determination, Monroe remained hampered by her insecurities once the camera started rolling. Some of this she was able to channel creatively into the character’s own confusion and uncertainty; at other times she had great difficulty in simply getting through a scene and remembering the lines.

Why is Bus Stop among the greatest movies of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ Became a box office success and received mainly favorable reviews, with Monroe’s performance being highly praised.


The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)

The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), Laurence Olivier, Most popular movies of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed by and co-starring Laurence Olivier.

Story: An American showgirl becomes entangled in political intrigue when the Prince Regent of a foreign country attempts to seduce her. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ This was the first movie from Monroe’s own production company.
✪ Three or four different copies of Marilyn’s white dress were made to accommodate her fluctuating size. At the time, she was suffering from various illnesses which caused severe amounts of water retention. She also suffered a miscarriage during filming.
✪ Monroe and Sir Laurence Olivier had trouble filming together. He would often get angry at her forgetting lines or being late to the set. Monroe was furious one day while filming, when Laurence told her to “just be sexy.”

Why is The Prince and the Showgirl among the most famous movies of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ Well, it was only a moderate success and actually it’s only a mediocre movie. The real reason for being featured here is it’s close ties with the Bonus Movie of this collection (My Week with Marilyn), which tells the offscreen story of this film.


…and as promised: The BONUS Movie!

My Week with Marilyn (2011)

My Week with Marilyn (2011), Simon Curtis, Michelle Williams, Most popular films of Marilyn Monroe
Where to Watch?   More info

Biography drama film directed by Simon Curtis and starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe.

Story: Colin Clark, an employee of Sir Laurence Olivier, documents the tense interaction between Olivier and Marilyn Monroe during the production of The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ The filming took place on the original locations in and around London and Curtis also used the same studio in which Monroe had shot The Prince and the Showgirl back in the 1950s.

Michelle Williams shines in My Week with Marilyn, capturing the magnetism and vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

The film received generally positive reviews and Williams won a Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance in this movie and she was also nominated for the Academy Awards for the same. Monroe herself on the other hand was never Oscar nominated.


Some Like It Hot (1959)

Some Like It Hot (1959), Billy Wilder, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Most popular Marilyn Monroe movies
Where to Watch?   More info

Romantic comedy film directed, produced and co-written by Billy Wilder, co-starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

Story: When two male musicians witness a mob hit, they flee the state in an all-female band disguised as women, but further complications set in. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ When Orry-Kelly was measuring all three stars for dresses, he half-jokingly told Marilyn, “Tony Curtis has a nicer butt than you,” at which point Monroe pulled open her blouse and said, “Yeah, but he doesn’t have tits like these!”
✪ Tony Curtis hated that his own performance deteriorated over the course of the 30 or more takes often needed to get a good scene out of Marilyn.
✪ Monroe was pregnant during the filming, and as a result looked considerably heavier. She had several miscarriages in her life.

Some Like It Hot: A spry, quick-witted farce that never drags.

Rotten Tomatoes Critics Consensus

Why is Some Like It Hot among the most popular movies of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ Included among the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list.
✓ Voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs.
✓ Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.


The Misfits (1961)

The Misfits (1961), John Huston, Clark Gable, Montgomery Clift, Most popular Marilyn Monroe films
Where to Watch?   More info

Western drama romance film directed by John Huston, co-starring Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift.

Story: A divorcée falls for an over-the-hill cowboy who is struggling to maintain his romantically independent lifestyle. (IMDB)

Between Frames:
✪ It was the last completed film for both Monroe and Gable, her childhood screen idol. As a young girl, who never knew her father, she had slept with Gable’s picture under her pillow and fantasized that he was her father.
✪ A doctor was on call 24 hours a day for both Marilyn and Montgomery Clift during the filming because both were experiencing health problems with alcohol and medical stimulants.
✪ Production was shut down for two weeks while Monroe went to hospital to detox.

Why is The Misfits among the best movies of Marilyn Monroe?
✓ It was a commercial failure at the time of its initial release, but received critical acclaim for its script and performances. Its reputation has shifted over the following years, and many critics now consider the film to be a masterpiece and one of the best films of the 1960s.


The end of Marilyn Monroe’s story

Most famous movies of Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe died in 1962 at age 36.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die, young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know yourself…

Marilyn Monroe

She was discovered dead at her home. She had a phone in one of her hands, her body was completely nude and face down, on her bed. The cause of death was drug overdose and it was ruled a probable suicide.

Suicide is a person’s privilege. I don’t believe it’s a sin or a crime, it’s your right if you do. Though it doesn’t get you anywhere.

Marilyn Monroe

Long after her death, Monroe remains a major icon of pop culture. Her life and death are still the subjects of much controversy and speculation.

As an icon of American popular culture, Monroe’s few rivals in popularity include Elvis Presley and Mickey Mouse… no other star has ever inspired such a wide range of emotions—from lust to pity, from envy to remorse.

The Guide to United States Popular Culture

If you’d like to dig deeper into the story of Marilyn Monroe, you may want to read her autobiography: My Story.


…end of the reel…

So there you have it: The 11+1 Greatest Films of Marilyn Monroe

If you want to take a look at the movies listed above, without all that info between the titles, here’s a quick recap:

Best Movies of Marilyn Monroe
Legacy of Hollywood's original "Blonde Bombshell"
Don’t Bother to Knock 1952
Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)
Monkey Business 1952
Monkey Business (1952)
Niagara 1953
Niagara (1953)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1953
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
How to Marry a Millionaire 1953
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
River of No Return 1954
River of No Return (1954)
The Seven Year Itch 1955
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
Bus Stop 1956
Bus Stop (1956)
The Prince and the Showgirl 1957
The Prince and the Showgirl (1957)
My Week with Marilyn 2011
My Week with Marilyn (2011)
Some Like It Hot 1959
Some Like It Hot (1959)
The Misfits 1961
The Misfits (1961)
*Click any title for more info or for Streaming / Disc Buying options

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