15 Marylin Monroe Movies And Performances to Watch
Although Marilyn Monroe died at age 36, her legacy in the movie industry is tremendous. Undoubtedly the most famous blonde actress of the 20th century, Marilyn Monroe starred in 29 movies, which, along with a huge interest in her private life, brought her fame and turned her into one of the world's biggest icons. During her career, Marilyn Monroe was most successful in comedies and musicals, where her sexual appeal was often played up for comic effect. However, she also did very well in the few thrillers and film noirs she was in, which were more serious.
We’ll review some of her performances and help you decide which of the Marylin Monroe movies should be on your binge list. Also, we'll look at how her career was developing and the impact her personal life had on her acting career.
- Marilyn Monroe acted in 29 movies, including Some Like It Hot, Prince and the Showgirl, and Home Town Story.
- Although she never received an Oscar for any of her performances, she won a Golden Globe.
- Monroe studied method acting in Actor's studio in New York, where she stayed at Lexington Hotel, the finest New York hotel at the time.
- She acted with Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, John Huston, Tony Curtis, Laurence Olivier, Betty Grable, Montgomery Clift and many others.
1. the Asphalt Jungle
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, Marylin Monroe embraced the stereotype of a dumb blonde and turned it to her advantage. One of those roles was in The Asphalt Jungle (1950), a movie about a jewel robbery. In it, Marilyn Monroe plays a mistress to a corrupted lawyer. Although her role was not as big as in other movies, it's one of the most significant ones, as she acted with Sterling Hayden and Louis Calhern. In 2008, the movie was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.
2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Marylin Monroe gave her iconic performance in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), in which she played Lorelei Lee, a showgirl who faces a number of adventures with Dorothy (Jane Russell), her colleague and friend. Her number 'Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend' is considered one of the best moments in Monroe's career. Lorelei Lee and her gorgeous pink dress turned Marilyn Monroe into a pop culture symbol and has confirmed her sex symbol status.
3. Don't Bother to Knock
Don't Bother to Knock was one of the Marilyn Monroe movies where she shined in a more dramatic role. Monroe plays a disturbed babysitter who is not able to care for a child. Starring with Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe received mild criticism for her role in this psychological thriller, although modern movie critics have praised Don't Bother to Knock several times.
4. the Fireball
Mickey Rooney and Pat O'Brien are the leading stars of this movie, but it was Marilyn Monroe's role that ensured The Fireball stays relevant until today. Unlike Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and similar roles where she plays a dumb blonde, you can hear Marilyn Monroe talking in her natural voice in this movie. However, it's fair to say that this movie is worth watching for hilarious reasons, such as Mickey Rooney playing a teenager at 30, instead of its quality.
5. Monkey Business
An art piece by Cary Grant and director Howard Hawks, Monkey Business is yet another great comedy to which Marilyn Monroe added her well-known talent for acting, humor, and body language. This American actress showed incredible chemistry with Grant on screen and other unforgettable moments, such as Ginger Rogers threatening her to pull her dumb blonde hair out of the roots. This is a perfect comedy movie by Cary Grant to relax with our favorite blonde bombshell!
6. All About Eve
All About Eve was filmed when Marilyn Monroe was still in her early career days. She starred with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter and managed to impress film critics who were just getting to know the talent of this major star. Another reason to watch this movie is that it received 14 nominations at the 23rd Academy Awards, making it the only film in history to receive four female acting nominations.
7. How to Marry a Millionaire
While it might not be the greatest comedy with Marilyn Monroe, How To Marry A Millionaire is undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable to watch. Besides impressive CinemaScope photography, the film has a light and breezy tone and three outstanding lead performances from Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, and Lauren Bacall. As a woman with astigmatism who refuses to wear glasses, Marilyn Monroe will make you laugh with some funny physical comedy while banging into objects during the movie.
8. Clash By Night
Clash By Night is a drama with a lot of film noir elements. It stars Marilyn Monroe, the famous classic Hollywood actor Barbara Stanwyck, and is directed by Fritz Lang. For the first time, Marilyn Monroe's name appeared before the title in a big movie. As a woman working in a fish processing factory, Marilyn Monroe was still far from the sparkle that would define her career. However, when the now-famous naked pictures of Monroe came out, the set was surrounded by paparazzi, leaving us with yet another anecdote about this blonde bombshell.
9. the Seven Year Itch
The plot of The Seven Year Itch (1955) involves a married man (Robert Strauss) who becomes interested in his beautiful blonde neighbor, played by Marilyn Monroe. If you haven't watched any of her movies yet, chances are you are well familiar with the scene of Monroe in a white dress standing on the subway grate in The Seven Year Itch. Although her role was seductive, sexy, and flirtatious, Marilyn Monroe added depth and vulnerability, which also brought quite a success for Billy Wilder, the movie producer.
10. Some Like It Hot
In 20th Century Fox movie Some Like It Hot, we dare to say that Marilyn Monroe outshone other iconic comedians like Tony Curtis, the father of Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. This is definitely the movie in which she showed off her best comedic abilities. Monroe delivers smart jokes by playing her character, Sugar Kane Kowalczyk, making this movie a classic worth watching even 60 years later. Her chemistry with Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot is just another plus!
11. Dangerous Years
In Dangerous Years, Marilyn Monroe played a waitress named Evie at the restaurant Gopher Hole, her first officially recognized appearance. The movie follows the trial of a gang leader charged with the murder of a teacher. Marilyn Monroe appears in the first half of this movie, but she makes an unforgettable appearance in it. If you're curious about how Marilyn Monroe looked as a teenager, you should check out Monroe's first film.
12. Bus Stop
Bus Stop is a romantic comedy with dramatic elements in which Marilyn Monroe shows her impressive acting. Her role is a saloon singer who becomes the object of a desire for a cowboy, played by Don Murray. Bus Stop is a 20th Century Fox movie that required Monroe to learn the Ozark accent and was filmed together with Marilyn Monroe Productions, a company she created to have more impact over the decisions being made on the film set, such as this one with Don Murray.
13. the Prince And the Showgirl
It's the last on our list, but it should be one of the first movies with Marilyn Monroe on your list. In The Prince and the Showgirl, Marilyn Monroe plays an attractive girl in American show business who becomes involved in an affair with a Prince Regent of a foreign country. The movie is a British comedy by Laurence Olivier, who also co-starred with Marilyn Monroe in that movie, but he also directed and produced it.
Along with Joseph Cotten, Marilyn Monroe plays in Niagara, a thriller by Henry Hathaway. Niagara was one of 20th Century Fox most profitable box-office movies in 1953. The plot is set in Niagara Falls, where two newlyweds go for a honeymoon and meet Rose (Marilyn Monroe), who is in a violent relationship. To help her get out of it, the couple decide to get rid of Rose's partner, George (Joseph Cotten), and become closer to her. As most people associate Niagara Falls with honeymoon, the contrast of this location being a murder location is something you shouldn't miss!
15. There's No Business Like Show Business
This musical comedy-drama was directed by Irving Berlin and starred Marilyn Monroe, Donald O'Connor, Johnnie Ray, Ethel Merman, and Mitzi Gaynor. Not only do we think that this movie is worth your time, but Donald O'Connor also said it's the best movie he ever did. This was the first movie in which she demanded a raise as her name became bigger in Hollywood. There's No Business Like Show Business was nominated for 2 Academy Awards.
Curiosities About Monroe's Movies
As much as her private life, Marilyn Monroe had a very dynamic career filled with unexpected events and numerous stars of the era. Her career lasted less than 15 years, but her talent, humor, and looks made her an eternal icon beyond the 20th Century Fox empire. Even 60 years after Monroe's death, movies and books about the life of this femme fatale are still published.
These are just some of the most interesting facts about Marilyn and her career:
- Marilyn was a top-billed actress in the '50s, and her movies grossed $200 million by 1962.
- Peggy Martin was the first Monroe's performance in the movie Ladies of the Chorus by Phil Karlson.
- She was the first choice for Breakfast at Tiffany, and the writer Truman Capote based much of the main character on her.
- For some time, Monroe was convinced that Clark Gable was her father because he matched her mother's description, but it was actually Charles Stanley Gifford.
- The American Film Institute ranked Marilyn Monroe as the sixth-greatest female screen legend from the Golden Age of Hollywood, along with Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, and Ginger Rogers.
- She embodied the dumb blonde stereotype in movies such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), Niagara Falls (1953), and How to Marry a Millionaire (1953).
- Marilyn Monroe decided to study method acting under Lee Strasberg in Actors Studio, and he was also her acting coach for a while.
- Monroe won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for her role in Some Like It Hot.
- Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, her stage name was a combination of her fascination with the Broadway star Marilyn Miller and her mother's surname.
- The last movie before Monroe's body was found dead in her home was John Huston's The Misfits.
- River of No Return was the only western movie Marilyn Monroe did, alongside Robert Mitchum, and was the first movie to use a blood squib.
Marilyn Monroe Productions
Marilyn Monroe announced the launch of her production firm on January 7, 1955. At the residence of her attorney, Frank Delaney, friends and reporters came to hear the public statement announcing the formation of Marilyn Monroe Productions. Milton Greene served as vice president, and she was the corporation's president. She also held 51% of the company's shares, while Greene held 49%.
It was an important moment for Marilyn and Hollywood. With Marilyn Monroe Production, she wanted to stop the sexist demands of her public persona, which also impacted her acting career. This gave her almost unmatched power, letting a famous person like her run her business instead of relying on a movie company.
Marilyn Monroe And Playwright Arthur Miller
Besides being a respected actor in American theater of the 20th century, Arthur Miller was also an activist who brought numerous social and political topics to the public's notice. Arthur Miller was Marilyn Monroe's third husband, and it was the longest marriage of all three. The blonde icon was in love with this intelligent, multi-award-winning playwright, but they were friends before they started their relationship.
For Monroe, being able to attend events and get to know people Miller spent time with had a huge impact on her career, which was in the developing phase at the time. Immediately after they got married, Marilyn had to go to England to film Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier, where she finds Miller's notes about her. As Monroe idolized Miller, learning this devastated her. However, Miller ultimately proved to be insufficient for the delicate actress, much like Joe DiMaggio, her second marriage.
Timeline of Marilyn Monroe's Career
Monroe remains, without question, one of the most iconic figures of modern culture even after all these years. Born Norma Jean on June 1st, 1926, the actress found her place in pop culture history by portraying humorous "blonde bombshell" characters in cinema. She went on to become one of the most well-liked sex icons of the 1950s and the early 1960s. She served as a statement for sexual expression in film.
Also, Monroe established herself as a top-billed performer for ten years. Following her death, media outlets and critics have suggested that Monroe be regarded as one of the greatest performers never to have been nominated for an Academy Award. In a way, it's possible that Monroe's legacy won't be repeated.
In Dangerous Years (1946), Monroe made her screen debut as waitress Evie, a modest role that serves as the introduction to the storm that would become her career in cinema. In 1950, Monroe played small parts in The Asphalt Jungle and All About Eve, two performances that defied the stereotype of being pretty and dumb.
Later, the actress landed her breakthrough part in Henry Hathaway's 1953 picture Niagara, which emphasized Marilyn Monroe's looks more than her acting prowess. She then starred with Jane Russell in her most well-known film, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, initially released in 1953. The Seven Year Itch by Billy Wilder came out in 1955, not too long after. Her last motion picture, The Misfits, directed by John Huston and scripted by Monroe's then husband A. Miller, was released in 1961.
Because she is a bit of a mystery in cinema history, she draws the interest of film historians and fans. In other words, she was the most alluring sex symbol on screen, with a captivating beauty and charm that we might never see again. Nevertheless, Monroe's mental health and maltreatment had a concerning effect on her career and personal life. She experienced abuse and neglect as a youngster, which led to these psychological problems.
Although she starred with some of the most important female names in the film industry in the '50s and '60s, such as Jane Russell, Betty Grable, Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, and Ginger Rogers, it is Marilyn who remained an icon that is still intriguing for people around the world. Many of her performances have been referenced in other movies, music videos, and books. In the US, there is also a society of women celebrating her by dressing up as her and ensuring her legacy still lives by organizing events across the country.
Marilyn Monroe is one of the few names that are equally popular as today's celebrities as she was in her era. Besides being an icon, Monroe had incredible acting performances in the 20th Century Fox movies and was praised by her colleagues and the industry. She could act, dance, and move, but she was also able to transmit complex emotions through her acting, making her movies incredibly interesting to this day.
So, when you're out of ideas about what to watch next, consider one of the movies with Marilyn Monroe and be impressed by her talent and beauty, which is still unmatched.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Marilyn Monroe Movies Are There?
In less than 15 years of her acting career, Marilyn Monroe filmed 29 movies. Most well-known are Some Like It Hot, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Bus Stop, Prince and the Showgirl, and The Seven Year Itch. Monroe was serious about her acting career, so she worked hard on improving her skills. Besides Lee Strasberg as Monroe's acting coach, she also hired Natasha Lytess and Paula Strasberg.
Why Was Marilyn Monroe So Famous?
Marilyn Monroe was famous not only because of her successful movie career but also because of her unmatched beauty. She is known as a femme fatale and blonde bombshell due to her blonde hair, beautiful face, beauty mark, and red lipstick. Her private life was also on the spot, especially her marriages to Joe DiMaggio, playwright Arthur Miller, and James Doughtery.
What Was the First Film With Marilyn Monroe?
The first movie that Marilyn Monroe filmed was Ladies of the Chorus in 1948, in which she played Peggy, a daughter of Mae, a singer in burlesque chorus girls. Her mother gets an opportunity to sing a special number, but she gives it to Peggy, who receives praise for her vocal abilities. The movie didn't achieve success and is now even more popular than before because of Marilyn's first role.
Did Marilyn Monroe Win an Oscar?
Unfortunately, Marilyn Monroe never received an Oscar for any of her brilliant acting performances. She did receive a Golden Globe for her role of Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in Some Like It Hot, and was offered many roles due to her incredible talent. During her life, she was also known as one of the most wanted actresses. Her most praised performance was in The Seven Year Itch (1955).