The 5 Best Films Starring Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe deserved more than Hollywood’s studio pin-ups. She was a superb actress who defied gender norms on film.

In this musical comedy, Hawks and Marilyn teamed together again. It’s easily one of the greatest films she’s ever made. The image of her in a white dress standing on a subway grate has become legendary.

1. The Misfits (Broadway)

The final full-length film completed by Monroe and costar Montgomery Clift, The Misfits might be remembered more for the infamous subway grate scene than its narrative. But this m4ufree film also showcases the actress in a more dramatic role than what was usually assigned to her.

Despite being typecast as a gold digger, bathing beauty, or sexy showgirl, Monroe transcended these gender stereotypes and made every film she appeared in memorable. But the most impressive performances came in dramas like this 1952 melodrama.

Though not as popular as Some Like It Hot, it still stands as one of the best films in which Marilyn Monroe starred. This raucous cross-dressing comedy is a perfect showcase of her guileless sex appeal and deft comic timing. It’s available to stream on Star Plus. You won’t be disappointed.

2. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Broadway)

Although Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is probably not as strong a film as some of Monroe’s other work, it’s still one of her best. Director Howard Hawks adapted the Broadway musical for this picture, which stars Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe as showgirls who take a transatlantic cruise and meet a variety of enamored men. This is sexpot exploitation at its funniest, and Monroe and Russell make for a pair of glamorous dames that’s hard to resist.

The dumb blonde routine might wear thin, but Marilyn’s sultry charm and sense of humor keep this movie entertaining. Her scenes with Russell, such as their banter over the ship’s piano, are especially funny. This film is a perfect way for teens and tweens to see why Monroe was such a popular star in her time. She went on to make more serious films like Bus Stop and The Misfits before her tragic death in 1962.

3. The Misfits (Broadway)

With its subway grate dress scene, this 1955 film introduced the world to Marilyn Monroe’s guileless sex appeal and deceptively deft comedic timing. It also marked the first time that she had top billing for a movie.

Hawks and Monroe teamed up again for this film that has the same general premise as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Monroe’s hat-check girl character is after rich men and she has a lot of charm.

This film gave Monroe a chance to stretch in dramatic roles. She had a real on-screen presence and showed a range of emotions, which made it a hit. Sadly, this was her last film before her untimely death. The production had a lot of issues, which caused Arthur Miller (Monroe’s husband) to step in and adjust the script. Initially, Gregory Peck was supposed to star with Monroe but he pulled out after reading the screenplay.

4. The Seven Year Itch (Broadway)

This is the movie that gave us Marilyn’s iconic dress moment, but it also features a great plot about a family man being seduced by his upstairs neighbor. Monroe’s performance is so arresting that when she is not on screen, you want her to return.

The film that made Marilyn a star and introduced the world to her gold digging dumb blonde persona. It’s an uneven film, but a funny one, and it tapped into the post WWII America fixation on sex.

In this film, Hawks and Monroe pair up again for a romantic comedy that is not the best they did together. Still, it’s a good film and worth watching to see the chemistry between the stars. Jack Lemmon is excellent as well. The only thing that could have made this better would have been a little more action.

5. The Misfits (Broadway)

Despite being a critical and commercial failure at the time of release, this western has since gained cult status. The movie pairs two sex icons, Monroe and Robert Mitchum, who have great on-screen chemistry. She also showcases her talent in the film’s musical numbers.

Norma Jean was much more than the studio pin-up that Hollywood pegged her as, and this 1955 drama is proof. The movie is dark, complex, and beautifully performed.

This Howard Hawks screwball comedy is not as good as His Girl Friday, but it’s still a fun watch. It was one of the first roles in which Monroe exhibited more dramatic skill. The movie also features one of the most memorable scenes in her career — the scene where her white dress flies up over a subway grate. The role was a dry run for her later dramatic turn in Don’t Bother to Knock.

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