In the 60 years since her untimely death, Marilyn Monroe and her tragic tale of fame and loss have reached near mythic proportions. As one of the most captivating stars to ever grace the silver screen, she is both an icon and a lightning rod — a woman whose bombshell-with-a broken-heart persona is as relevant today as it was more than a half-century ago.
Lately, however, the late actress is getting even more attention than usual. That’s because of Blonde, a controversial new movie that explores the darker side of Monroe’s life in ways not yet seen in film. The adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel of the same name stars Ana de Armas as Monroe, and is now on Netflix.
Whether or not you plan to watch Blonde, the forthcoming film provides the perfect excuse to revisit Monroe’s incredible body of work. There’s a Marilyn for every mood, and we’ve gathered some of our favorite films that you can watch right now, whether you grew up with them or are seeing her on screen for the very first time.
Comedic Marilyn: Some Like It Hot (1959)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest comedies of all time, Some Like It Hot features Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane, a ukulele player who becomes part of some truly hilarious hijinks once Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis, both in drag, join her all-female band. Watching Monroe — in all her ultra-feminine movie star glory — interact with Lemmon and Curtis is pure joy, and her effervescent smile lights up the black-and-white screen. The film is available to rent from Amazon ($3.99) and other streaming services.
Musical Marilyn: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
It doesn’t get more glamorous than Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” while dolled up and surrounded by suitors. In this gloriously Technicolor comedy, Monroe and Jane Russell make a perfect blonde/brunette pair, as showgirl pals looking for love and money at sea. The musical numbers are a true feast for the eyes (and ears), and the combination of dazzling ’50s fashion and slapstick humor makes it one of Monroe’s finest showcases. You can rent the film from Amazon ($3.99) and other services.
Marilyn in the Windswept Dress: The Seven Year Itch (1955)
In The Seven Year Itch, the film that gave us the legendary image of Monroe standing over a breezy subway grate in her white halter dress, Monroe is credited as “The Girl.” The upstairs neighbor to the protagonist, Monroe is presented as object of male fantasy. However, as Vulture.com puts it, she’s also “a ray of sunshine cutting through the fog of the film. She’s bubbly, gorgeous, and captivating.” The film is available to rent from Amazon ($3.99) and other services.
Femme Fatale Marilyn: Niagara (1953)
If you want to see Monroe’s “bad girl” side, Niagara is the one to watch. In this visually vibrant but thematically dark film, she plays a femme fatale plotting to murder her husband. The movie marked one of Monroe’s first leading roles, and her star profile only grew from there — she starred in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes later the same year. Niagara is available on the Criterion Channel and various other streaming services.
Marilyn’s Final Film: The Misfits (1961)
The Misfits marked the final completed film for both Monroe and leading man/heartthrob Clark Gable. Written by Arthur Miller, Monroe’s then-husband, the Western drama’s production was difficult and its initial release was a commercial failure. Today, however, it’s considered a great, if troubled, classic that gave viewers a last look at one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. The film is available to stream on the Roku Channel and other services.
A Marilyn Biopic: My Week With Marilyn (2011)
Actress Michelle Williams plays Monroe in this film that’s set during the making of The Prince and the Showgirl, a 1957 film in which Marilyn starred with Laurence Olivier (played here by Kenneth Branagh). The period piece is based on a book by Colin Clark, a British writer and filmmaker who worked as a naive assistant on The Prince and the Showgirl. My Week With Marilyn shows some of the drama that went on behind the scenes. It’s available to stream on HBO Max.
Marilyn the Writer: Love, Marilyn (2012)
There are a lot of documentaries about Marilyn Monroe out there, and most of them veer toward sensationalizing the tragic side of her life. Not so with Love, Marilyn, a film that looks at a collection of the star’s writings — discovered 50 years after her death — using archival footage and readings by actresses like Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, and Glenn Close. You can rent the film on Amazon ($3.99) and other services.
Marilyn Monroe’s screen presence remains just as potent now as it was over half a century ago, and any of these choices would make for a fabulous movie night. Get into the spirit of things by tippling some champagne (Monroe’s favorite drink, which she was often photographed enjoying) or try whipping up a steak (she followed a protein-rich diet that included lots of steak and red meat) to serve alongside your screening.
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