Ranking Marilyn’s 29 Films – From Worst to Best

Marilyn in Bus Stop (1956)

Writing for the Looper website, Kira Deshler has ranked Marilyn’s 29 movies from worst to best (not including the unfinished Something’s Got to Give.) This is a difficult task, as Marilyn played a leading role in less than half of these films; and there is also the question of whether they should be rated for Marilyn’s performances, or their overall quality.

For example, All About Eve takes third place (just below Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), although Marilyn’s role in it was quite small. On the other hand, Bus Stop is ranked 27th (just above Hometown Story and Love Happy) despite Marilyn having given one of her finest performances in it.

“While the film is ostensibly billed as a romantic comedy, it’s neither funny nor romantic, and it’s nauseating to see how Monroe is treated in the film,” Deshler writes. “Perhaps most disappointing is the fact that her performance is so good, adding a sense of depth and even tragedy to her beleaguered character. In more capable hands, the film could have been a fascinating commentary on the objectification of women — Monroe included …”

In recent years Bus Stop has often been criticised for its perceived sexism, but it’s important to note that Cherie, the harassed showgirl played by Marilyn, only accepts cowboy Bo’s proposal after he agrees to treat her with respect. Whatever your opinion of Bus Stop, it certainly deserves a higher ranking – especially when several of the titles placed above it barely featured Marilyn at all.

Nonetheless, Deshler adds valuable insights elsewhere, praising Marilyn’s “wonderfully sensitive” acting in The Prince and the Showgirl; her underrated chemistry with female co-stars, like Barbara Stanwyck in Clash By Night; and her “tragic humanity” as Nell in Don’t Bother to Knock.