‘Some Like It Hot’ a BFI All-Time Great

Some Like It Hot (1959) takes 38th place in Sight and Sound magazine’s poll of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time – moving up four places since the last poll in 2012. Billy Wilder’s comic masterpiece shares this ranking with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1955) and French auteur Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking 1960 debut, À Bout de Souffle (Breathless.) Critic Alan Jones cites “Marilyn Monroe at the peak of her incandescence” among his reasons for nominating Some Like It Hot.

Hosted by the British Film Institute (BFI), this once-a-decade poll of international critics is the most influential in the industry. Back in 2012, another Hitchcock classic – Vertigo (1957) – deposed Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1940) after half a century at the top, and this year’s poll rattles the status quo again with a victory for women in film.

Some Like It Hot also takes 62nd place in the director’s poll, tied with nine other films including Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950.) Among the directors who nominated Some Like It Hot as one of their top ten films of all time are Mike Leigh, and Andrew Haigh, who comments, “Nobody’s perfect! Only this film is as close to perfect as it gets”; while Claudia Weill adds, “the scene where [Jack Lemmon] tells Joe that he and Osgood are engaged is a classic. What about those maracas?! Talk about the value of a prop – it’s
impossible to imagine the scene without them. Pure Wilder brilliance.”

Two of Marilyn’s early films were also nominated in the directors poll, though they didn’t make the top 100. John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle (1950) is favoured by Nan Goldin and Mike Hodges, while Michael Mann gives it honourable mention alongside another Noir classic, Out of the Past, as “a masterpiece of fatalism and alienation in the wake of World War II.” And finally, Terence Davies chose Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s All About Eve (1950) “because Bette Davis is in it!”

UPDATE: The BFI has just released a fuller version of this survey, revealing the 250 Greatest Films of All Time. In 211th place is All About Eve, tied with twelve other movies: including the Marx Brothers comedy, Duck Soup (1933); Nicholas Ray’s In a Lonely Place (1950); and Army of Shadows (1969), starring Simone Signoret.

“Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s witty portrait of a Broadway diva (Bette Davis) fending off age, rivals, and anxieties about the loyalty of a fan-turned-assistant (Anne Baxter) is packed with bitchy banter. A superb cast (including Thelma Ritter and a cameo from Marilyn Monroe) does Mankiewicz’s pithy dialogue proud, none more so than Davis, and Sanders as a supremely supercilious drama critic.”