Marilyn Monroe is inarguably one of the most iconic screen idols of all time. The buxom world-class beauty and multi-talented actress, comedienne, singer, and dancer rose to prominence in the late 1940s and early ’50s to become Hollywood’s ultimate titillating sex symbol. Unfortunately, Monroe passed away at the age of 36 in 1962 as a result of a sleeping pill overdose.
But Monroe was far more than just a pretty face and tragic Hollywood figure. She appeared in some of the most well-received movies of the 1950s, winning two Golden Globes in the process.
10How To Marry A Millionaire (1953) 84%
As part of a harem of gorgeous gold-diggers, Monroe joined the likes of Lauren Bacall and Betty Grable in the breezy and somewhat sleazy rom-com How to Marry a Millionaire. The film went on to win an Oscar for Best Costume Design!
Plot-wise, the story concerns a trio of single ladies who set out to marry opulent bachelors for their money. The girls arrange an exclusive apartment to lure rich men but find it difficult to woo the right ones. Upon letting their guard down, the girls fool around and fall in love instead. The film adheres to the old adage: Can’t Buy Me Love!
9Niagra (1953) 84%
Monroe scorches the screen in Niagra, a romantic film-noir that shows a far more callous and calculating side of the pin-up beauty than previously let on.
While on a honeymoon with her new hubby George (Joseph Cotton) in Niagra Falls, Rose Loomis (Monroe) hatches a plot to have her lover Ted Patrick (Richard Allen) murder him. When George goes missing, a neighboring woman named Polly (Jean Peters) at the Niagra Falls motel spots him making out with another woman. Who’s playing who?
8The Seven Year Itch (1955) 87%
The Seven Year Itch refers to the time it takes for a married couple to begin growing weary of matrimonial commitment. In Billy Wilder’s classic rom-com, Monroe is relegated to a role known simply as The Girl!
The film follows New Yorker Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell in a Golden Globe-winning performance), a husband and father who attempts to live the life of a bachelor one lonely summer holiday. Normally faithful to his wife, Richard struggles with fidelity upon meeting his sexy new neighbor (Monroe) upstairs.
7Monkey Business (1952) 88%
In Howard Hawkes’ sci-fi screwball comedy Monkey Business, Monroe shares the screen with Hollywood royalty Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers. The latter scored a Golden Globe nomination for her work in the film.
The story centers on a scientist hired to find a fountain of youth pill for a chemical corporation. After inadvertently dosing himself, Dr. Fulton (Grant) is granted anti-aging qualities akin to the health of a teenager. As a result, Fulton peruses town with his sexy secretary, Lois (Monroe). All goes swimmingly until Fulton’s wife Edwina (Rogers) imbibes a giant dose of the medicine herself!
6Some Like It Hot (1959) 95%
Monroe’s magnetically sultry performance as Sugar Kane Kowalczyk in Some Like It Hot is undoubtedly her finest hour on-screen. Consequently, she won the first of two Golden Globes in 1960 for her iconic turn!
The hilarious Billy Wilder comedy follows two Chicago musicians on the lam after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. To remain undercover, Joe (Tony Curtis) and Jerry (Jack Lemmon) pose as women and join an all-female musical group on a train. Posing as Daphne and Josephine, the two men can’t quite resist the disarming charms of sexy crooner, Sugar Kane. All-time classic!
5The Misfits (1961) 97%
Before her life was tragically cut short in 1962, Monroe got to work with the late great John Huston one more time in the final feature film of her career. Even more poignant, The Misfits was written by her then-estranged husband, Arthur Miller.
In the hardscrabble western, Clark Cable plays an effete cowboy coming to grips with his gallivanting ways with women. Upon meeting recent divorcee Rosalyn Taber (Monroe), Gay Langland (Gable) reluctantly forgoes his romantic dalliances in order to remain faithful.
4The Asphalt Jungle (1950) 97%
There’s poetic circularity in knowing that Monroe’s first breakout role was directed by the same man (John Huston) who directed her final film performance as well. The coincidence is almost eerie!
Huston’s dynamic, genre-changing heist film The Asphalt Jungle presaged and influenced everything from Kubrick’s The Killing to Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, and every film in between. The story about a daring jewel heist that unravels in the aftermath of the crime scored four Oscar nominations.
3Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) 98%
Howard Hawkes’ delightful musical rom-com Gentlemen Prefer Blondes feature incendiary dance numbers and radiant chemistry between Monroe and costar Jane Russell. In fact, Monroe’s Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend number was directly parodied in Madonna’s Material Girl!
When two lounge-singing showgirls Dorothy (Russell) and Lorelei (Monroe) head to Paris on a lavish cruise ship, the two in-demand women become the object of every man’s desires.
2All About Eve (1950) 99%
Besting its 98/100 Metascore, the six-time Oscar-winning All About Eve is simply one of the finest films ever assembled. The Best Picture winner of 1951 currently ranks #137 on IMDB’s Top 250 as well!
The highly entertaining film traces the manipulative exploits of a seemingly innocent but conniving ingenue named Eve (Anne Baxter). After arranging to be her assistant, Eve inveigles her way into the life of a washed-up Broadway actress named Margo (Bette Davis). Soon, Eve threatens to replace Margo as the new Broadway star.
1Don’t Bother To Knock (1952) 100%
Believe it or not, no Marilyn Monroe movie ranks higher than the 1952 film-noir Don’t Bother to Knock, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, the film charts a commercial pilot in low spirits after being dumped by his girlfriend. To get over her, Jed Towers (Richard Widmark) meets a sexy siren named Nell Forbes (Monroe) babysitting in a nearby hotel room. Upon meeting and instantly falling for Nell, Jed slowly realizes the femme fatale is far more perilous than she seems. Interestingly, Nell’s last name is Munroe in the source novel but was changed to Forbes when Marilyn was cast.