We Ranked the 10 Most Intriguing Portrayals of Marilyn Monroe and Can Hardly Agree on the Winner
Marilyn Monroe is probably one of the most iconic actresses of the 1950s, and audiences continue to be charmed by her. While fans were captivated by her beauty and impressed by her work, her personal struggles have also become a common topic when looking back at her life.
Over the past decades, numerous on-screen portrayals of the tragic Hollywood star have been released. From cameos and small homages to TV series, biopics, and serious dramas, we witnessed a variety of depictions of the famous blonde seductress. Today, we’re looking back at some of the most notable performances that are all unique and memorable for different reasons.
10. Blake Lively in Gossip Girl
Even if it was just a cameo and the Gossip Girl star didn’t have the chance to deep dive into Monroe’s character, we still found her performance sweet and enjoyable. Blake Lively delivered a fond tribute to the star as she channeled Monroe with poise, grace, and elegance. Unlike actresses who’ve played Monroe in more serious, dramatic roles, Lively seemed to have more freedom to come up with her own interpretation of the Hollywood legend. And viewers loved it, as it turned out to be one of the show’s most memorable moments.
9. Gillian Anderson in American Gods
Thanks to Gillian Anderson’s mastery, her portrayal of Monroe in American Gods managed to be humorous and respectful at the same time. Although the British actress doesn’t physically resemble Monroe much, her acting is still rather convincing. She managed to capture the essence of Monroe’s allure and the image of her that the majority of us see.
“I didn’t know all that much about Marilyn as much as we all know what’s in the greater consciousness,” Anderson explained, adding that she was surprised at how easy it was to immerse herself in the role.
8. Uma Thurman in Smash
In the TV series, Smash, Uma Thurman, Megan Hilty, and Catherine McPhee are all Broadway stars competing for Monroe’s role in a fictional play. Throughout the show, all 3 of them get their chance to play Monroe, but in the end, Thurman’s character lands the role. Thurman later admitted that playing the legendary Monroe was not an easy feat at all. “Marilyn’s a magical, mythical creature, so you just have to think magical, mythical thoughts when you play her,” she explained.
7. Poppy Montgomery in Blonde
Poppy Montgomery’s portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in the 2001 TV miniseries, Blonde, accurately depicted the tragic icon, especially the younger Norma Jean. Montgomery exuded the star’s wit, charm, and vulnerability. And her acting skills were so evident that we quickly looked past her lack of physical resemblance.
6. Ashley Judd in Norma Jean & Marilyn
The 2 actresses joined forces to portray Monroe in the 1966 movie, Norma Jean and Marilyn. With Ashely Judd playing the not-yet-famous Norma Jean and Mira Sorvino depicting the legendary actress after she rose to fame, they were equally convincing in their performances.
Additionally, Judd’s uncanny resemblance to the young rising star made it all more believable. Judd played the ambitious, daring Norma Jean with a lot of passion and matched the mannerisms of the young Monroe very well. For their roles, Judd and Sorvino were both nominated for Golden Globes and Primetime Emmy Awards.
5. Kelli Garner in The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe
This 2015 TV series offers a closer look into Monroe’s troubled childhood and complex relationship with her mother, played by Susan Sarandon. The Secret Life of Marilyn Monroe lets us take a peek at Monroe’s darker side, while Kelli Garner’s performance elevates the movie. Her interpretation of the tragic icon is full of respect and vulnerability, which helps her morph into the character naturally without resorting to imitation. Garner believes that “every young actress has a little Marilyn in her.”
4. Catherine Hicks in Marilyn: The Untold Story
This 1980 TV movie starring Catherine Hicks shows the start of Monroe’s career and her difficult childhood. Hicks’ approach to the role was earnest, as her mannerisms, quotes, and even her voice accurately matched Marilyn’s. Hicks had already played Monroe in a few productions as a college student, and she felt that the iconic actress had remained a part of her. “When I think about her, I’m never thinking that it’s the adoration of a great movie star, but that she’s my older sister,” the actress explained.
3. Mira Sorvino in Norma Jean & Marilyn
The moment Sorvino’s Marilyn takes over the role of Ashley Judd’s Norma Jean in the movie’s second part, it becomes clear that this is not just another ordinary biopic about the Hollywood icon. She manages to embody Monroe in her unique interpretation. Although the portrayal may not be factually accurate, it’s undoubtedly one of the most interesting. While being empathetic and warm, Sorvino recreates some of Marilyn’s greatest on-screen moments with incredible accuracy, which is especially noticeable in her depiction of Monroe’s voice.
2. Ana de Armas in Blonde
Ana de Armas earned a lot of praise for this performance and a recent Oscar nomination for Best Actress. In the most recent take on Monroe, Blonde, Armas disappears into the role of the star. And even if Blonde isn’t as much a biopic as it is a collage of Monroe’s life, Armas brings her back to life with stunning accuracy. Monroe’s voice, contemplative expressions, and giggles — everything was spot on.
Some moments in the movie had us feeling like we were watching the honest Monroe — that’s how well Armas channeled the actress’s fragile appeal.
1. Michelle Williams in My Week with Marilyn
In My Week with Marilyn, Michelle Williams played Monroe to the hilt. She effortlessly captured both her joyful spirit and her sorrow. Although the actress is far from being Monroe’s look-alike, she manages to completely embody the legendary star, making audiences feel like they’re actually watching Monroe the entire time. In addition to studying the character for months, Williams revealed that she “walked around with a belt tied around her knees” to get Monroe’s distinctive walk.
Williams’ performance is boosted by an impeccable, crème de la crème cast of British talent, such as Kenneth Branagh, Judi Dench, Eddie Redmayne, and Emma Watson. Both Williams and Branagh were nominated for Oscars for their roles.
Do you agree with our picks? Which depiction of Marilyn Monroe did you think was the most memorable?