All 26 Billy Wilder Movies, Ranked

Billy Wilder was one of many Golden Age of Hollywood’s biggest and most revered filmmakers, although he himself was born in Austria in 1906. After a single movie he co-directed within the Nineteen Thirties, he moved to America and commenced making motion pictures there, discovering success within the Nineteen Forties and additional acclaim all through the ’50s and ’60s. His output slowed in the course of the ’70s, his closing movie got here out in 1981, and Wilder himself ended up dwelling to the age of 95, passing away in 2002.

He left behind a outstanding filmography, and one which – not like some administrators lively throughout cinema’s earlier years – survives in totality to this present day. He has 27 directorial credit to his identify, but one of those films was a war documentary that is arduous to incorporate and rank amongst his different characteristic movies. As such, what follows is a rating of the 26 characteristic movies he directed (and sometimes wrote or co-wrote), beginning along with his lesser – although nonetheless respectable – movies and ending along with his masterpieces.

26 ‘The Emperor Waltz’ (1948)

Starring: Bing Crosby, Joan Fontaine, Roland Culver

Picture by way of Paramount Footage

The Emperor Waltz is an oddity inside the filmography of Billy Wilder, and has a shot at being deemed essentially the most obscure movie the director ever made (had been that to ever be a contest for no matter cause). It’s an old-fashioned and somewhat awkward musical, centering on a touring salesman in the course of the early 1900s making an attempt to influence an emperor to purchase a gramophone.

It’s been suggested that Billy Wilder didn’t look favorably on this movie, and the consensus from taking a look at consumer scores on websites like IMDb and Letterboxd backs this dissatisfaction up. The Emperor Waltz is not a complete catastrophe by any means, nonetheless being well-presented general and that includes some respectable star energy because of the likes of Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine within the lead roles, nevertheless it’s removed from an important Billy Wilder movie, on the finish of the day.

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25 ‘Buddy Buddy’ (1981)

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Paula Prentiss

Buddy Buddy - 1981
Picture by way of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists

Buddy Buddy was the ultimate movie Billy Wilder ever directed, and although it wasn’t a complete misfire, it does stand for instance of the filmmaker probably being on autopilot, or near it. The premise sees two mismatched folks introduced collectively as a consequence of uncommon circumstances: one a contract killer staying in a resort, and the opposite a person additionally in the identical resort who’s distraught over his marital issues.

It was one among many motion pictures starring the iconic comedy duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, the pair greatest recognized for motion pictures like The Odd Couple and Grumpy Previous Males. It was additionally the third time the pair had collaborated along with Wilder as director, and one among many instances Wilder labored with Lemmon. Those that like comedic crime motion pictures or the duo of Lemmon and Matthau could discover worth inside Buddy Buddy, nevertheless it’s in any other case in all probability skippable for many.

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24 ‘Dangerous Seed’ (1934)

Starring: Danielle Darrieux, Pierre Mingand, Raymond Galle

Bad Seed - 1934
Picture by way of Pathé Consortium Cinéma

From 1981’s Buddy Buddy, the ultimate Billy Wilder movie, to 1934’s Dangerous Seed, which was his first film, and likewise the one one he co-directed (with Alexander Esway) and the one movie of his to be shot in a language apart from English. On this occasion, it’s a French film made earlier than Wilder went to Hollywood, and follows the exploits of a younger man starved for money, and thereby turns into incentivized to affix a gang of automotive thieves.

There are plenty of great French crime movies, however Dangerous Seed isn’t fairly one among them, although admittedly, it’s not too dangerous contemplating its age. It is likely to be price a watch for many who take into account themselves slightly passionate Wilder followers, given this movie has his earliest directorial credit score. Additionally, the actual fact it solely runs for 77 minutes means it received’t waste an excessive amount of of anybody’s time.

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23 ‘Fedora’ (1978)

Starring: William Holden, Marthe Keller, Hildegard Knef

Fedora - 1978
Picture by way of United Artists

Billy Wilder’s penultimate movie was 1978’s Fedora, and it ended up being one of his more subdued and dramatic works. It shines a light-weight on the inside workings of the American movie trade, and has a plot that entails a person making an attempt to get an actress to return out of retirement after some years spent out of the highlight.

That premise may sound a bit acquainted to anybody who’s a fan of one among Wilder’s best-known motion pictures a few sure boulevard launched in 1950 (extra on that later), however Fedora doesn’t have fairly the identical chunk or depth as that movie, nor his different nice ones. There’s worth right here in seeing an growing older filmmaker utilizing one among his movies to look again on the trade he labored inside for many years, however for essentially the most half, the film actually is simply respectable.

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22 ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’ (1957)

Starring: James Stewart, Murray Hamilton, Patricia Smith

The Spirit of St. Louis - 1957-1
Picture by way of Warner Bros.

Considerably uncharacteristic of Billy Wilder, The Spirit of St. Louis confirmed what the filmmaker was capable of making within the biopic genre. Wilder directed loads of motion pictures about individuals who felt actual, or could have been impressed by actual folks, nevertheless it was rarer for him to make real historic motion pictures explicitly about individuals who really lived.

On this occasion, at the least The Spirit of St. Louis has an attention-grabbing central topic, being about Charles Lindbergh, an bold aviator who, in 1927, made a solo trans-Atlantic flight that lasted 33 hours and noticed Lindbergh touring 3600 miles. Wilder captures the person’s life and focuses on this specific achievement of his in a approach that’s comparatively compelling (James Stewart can also be reliably good within the lead position), although the movie by no means really or spectacularly soars, sadly, regardless of its high-flying narrative.

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21 ‘Kiss Me, Silly’ (1964)

Starring: Dean Martin, Kim Novak, Ray Walston

Kim Novak in Kiss Me, Stupid
Picture by way of United Artists

On paper, Kiss Me, Silly does sound prefer it ought to – or may – be one thing of a Billy Wilder traditional, nevertheless it in the end falls a bit wanting greatness (whereas nonetheless being an alright watch). It sees the filmmaker proper in his wheelhouse, given it is a mix of romance and comedy genres that handled some pretty risqué issues for its time, and far of Wilder’s late ‘50s and early ‘60s works had been outlined by these types of traits.

It is in the end a farcical story that entails lounge singers, songwriters, name ladies, and disgruntled wives, all thrown right into a comedic blender and producing some – however not fairly sufficient – laughs alongside the way in which. Wilder at the least assembled a superb forged for what ended up being a good film, with Dean Martin and Kim Novak (of Alfred Hitchcock’sVertigo fame) doing their greatest to offer Kiss Me, Silly some further vitality, and sort of succeeding.

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20 ‘The Non-public Lifetime of Sherlock Holmes’ (1970)

Starring: Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Web page

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes - 1970
Picture by way of United Artists

There’s no scarcity of Sherlock Holmes variations within the world of film and television, and never even Billy Wilder may resist placing his personal spin on the traditional detective character. The end result was the flawed but nonetheless underrated The Non-public Lifetime of Sherlock Holmes, which looks like a extra comedic and even surreal tackle the titular character than one may count on.

The humor and surprises discovered inside The Non-public Lifetime of Sherlock Holmes make it price digging out, and it’s one among many compellingly written motion pictures that Wilder co-wrote along with his frequent collaborator I. A. L. Diamond. It won’t please Sherlock Holmes purists, and it’s positively a bit messier than the movies that showcase Wilder at his greatest, nevertheless it’s nonetheless a superb little bit of enjoyable and an general easy-to-appreciate film.

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19 ‘The Entrance Web page’ (1974)

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Susan Sarandon

The Front Page - 1974
Picture by way of Common Footage

Seven years earlier than Buddy Buddy, Billy Wilder directed each Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in The Entrance Web page, which ended up being the director’s third-last film. Contemplating it got here so late in his filmmaking profession, it’s truthfully not dangerous, although getting launched throughout such a great year for cinema (1974) has in the end led to the movie being buried, to some extent, by its contemporaries.

The Entrance Web page is one other fast-paced comedy by Billy Wilder, and narratively facilities on a journalist who’s feeling exhausted from work (honestly, who can’t relate?) and desires to step away, although this places him at odds, maybe predictably, along with his boss. The Entrance Web page has a comparatively easy premise, however this works in its favor, because it’s a simple, largely pleasurable, and really a lot unpretentious comedy with two legendary funnymen within the starring roles.

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18 ‘The Seven Yr Itch’ (1955)

Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell, Evelyn Keyes

Marilyn Monroe as The Girl smiling while holding her flying skirt down in the film The Seven Year Itch.
Picture by way of twentieth Century Studios

Going by popular culture, The Seven Yr Itch could possibly be up there with Billy Wilder’s most influential and well-known motion pictures, contemplating the scene inside it that options Marilyn Monroe’s costume being blown up by a passing subway practice. Everybody’s possible seen at the least a nonetheless picture of that scene, nevertheless it’s one small a part of a film that, general, works fairly effectively, even when it’s not solely a traditional.

The Seven Yr Itch follows a pretty unlikable protagonist going through a midlife crisis, and he’s not fairly as well-written as different flawed but compelling predominant characters from Wilder’s higher motion pictures. Monroe is sweet for what she’s given, however her greatest work with Wilder can be proven in one other film later within the Nineteen Fifties (it’ll be outlined all in good time). The Seven Yr Itch is an effective Wilder movie, however not fairly an important one, and it won’t be as well-remembered if it weren’t for that subway/costume scene.

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17 ‘Love within the Afternoon’ (1957)

Starring: Gary Cooper, Audrey Hepburn, Maurice Chevalier

Love in the Afternoon - 1957
Picture by way of Allied Artists Footage Company

Billy Wilder had a giant yr in 1957, contemplating there have been three movies of his that got here out throughout these 12 months, and all belonged to completely different genres. One was the aforementioned biographical journey movie The Spirit of St. Louis, one other was the courtroom drama Witness for the Prosecution, and the third was one other romantic comedy, this one known as Love within the Afternoon.

Narratively, Love within the Afternoon revolves round a younger girl in her 20s (played by Audrey Hepburn) falling in love with an older playboy (performed by Gary Cooper), main to varied issues; some comedic, and a few performed for drama. It’s not an impressive movie, however components of it maintain up effectively sufficient for it to be one thing of a minor traditional for its time, and it’s after all arduous to withstand a film with two stars as huge as each Hepburn and Cooper within the lead roles.

Love within the Afternoon

Launch Date
Might 29, 1957

Billy Wilder

Gary Cooper , Audrey Hepburn , Maurice Chevalier , John McGiver , Van Doude , Lise Bourdin


Principal Style

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16 ‘5 Graves to Cairo’ (1943)

Starring: Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff

Five Graves to Cairo - 1943
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

It’s all the time attention-grabbing to see a World Battle II movie made while the war was still ongoing, and 5 Graves to Cairo isn’t any exception to this. It’s a comparatively simple but in the end compelling thriller set throughout wartime, following the struggles a person goes via to outlive in Egypt, and make some form of escape, after he’s left behind by the retreating British Military.

5 Graves to Cairo can also be attention-grabbing due to how early it was launched throughout Billy Wilder’s profession, being his third movie general and his second that he was the only director of. Due to this, it does lack the polish of a few of his later masterpieces, nevertheless it’s nonetheless excellent contemplating how little directing expertise Wilder had earlier than 1943, and undoubtedly, a lot of 5 Graves to Cairo finally ends up holding up fairly effectively.

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15 ‘Avanti!’ (1972)

Starring: Jack Lemmon, Juliet Mills, Clive Revill

Avanti! - 1972
Picture by way of United Artists

Whereas Avanti! isn’t fairly nice sufficient to rank among the very best movies of the 1970s, it does inevitably emerge as a spotlight from the ultimate years of Billy Wilder’s filmography. It’s as soon as once more a film starring Jack Lemmon, and moreover may be categorized as a superb previous dependable romantic comedy, right here having a narrative that entails a businessman touring to Italy as a part of arranging his deceased father’s funeral, solely to make some shocking discoveries in regards to the man whereas there.

Regardless of the plot getting kicked off due to a demise, Avanti! is fairly light-hearted stuff, all issues thought of, and proves to be a enjoyable romp that’ll possible scratch an itch for anybody on the lookout for a foolish and over-the-top farcical comedy. Lemmon may play the form of position he has right here in his sleep by this level, and as is sort of all the time the case, he proves to be the right actor to be front-and-center in a Billy Wilder manufacturing.

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14 ‘Sabrina’ (1954)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, William Holden, Humphrey Bogart

Sabrina - 1954
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

There are so many Humphrey Bogart movies out there that maybe it’s not too shocking he at one level crossed paths with Billy Wilder. The previous stars within the latter’s Sabrina, which is one other Billy Wilder movie that includes Audrey Hepburn (made three years earlier than the aforementioned Love within the Afternoon) with William Holden – an actor who collaborated with Wilder a number of instances – rounding out the primary forged.

Sabrina is extra in regards to the two males performed by Bogart and Holden (brothers within the movie) competing for the love of Hepburn’s character. That’s comprehensible, contemplating her magnificence and class, however some may discover it a bit bizarre these days that two males who look significantly older than Hepburn are each pursuing her character romantically (Bogart particularly, as he was born 30 years earlier than Hepburn). That apart, Sabrina remains to be an entertaining and good-for-its-time film, and was additionally remade a number of many years later with Harrison Ford in 1995.

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Starring: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ron Wealthy

Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in 'The Fortune Cookie'
Picture by way of United Artists

The Fortune Cookie is a film that ranks surprisingly high among Jack Lemmon’s movies, at the least in response to Rotten Tomatoes. Walter Matthau additionally exhibits up right here, maybe not too surprisingly, and this was not solely the primary time Wilder, Lemmon, and Matthau all collaborated as a trio, but in addition the primary time (of many) that Lemmon and Matthau starred in a movie collectively as a duo.

Plot-wise, The Fortune Cookie revolves round an injured man’s brother-in-law deciding to begin a civil case out of the incident, given he’s a lawyer with an inclination to ambulance chase. Issues unravel in a farcical method, and the outcomes show very entertaining, particularly in the event you’re a fan of old-school Hollywood comedies. It’s one of many looser and extra chaotic entries in Wilder’s filmography, however such qualities in the end assist make The Fortune Cookie as entertaining as it’s.

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12 ‘The Main and the Minor’ (1942)

Starring: Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Rita Johnson

The Major and the Minor - 1942
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

Billy Wilder’s first American film and the primary he was the only director of was The Main and the Minor, an interesting comedy starring Ginger Rogers (minus Fred Astaire, though). Rogers performs a younger girl who tries to go as a 12-year-old lady in order that she will get a less expensive practice fare, just for this choice to have her taken in by a army faculty teacher, and successfully despatched “again to highschool.”

It’s an outlandish thought for a film, and whereas The Main and the Minor does really feel distinctively old-school in some ways, those that are in a position to get on its degree ought to discover a respectable quantity to take pleasure in right here. The movie remains to be humorous, even all these many years later, and it’s precious to observe now to understand the place Wilder was in the beginning of his directing profession, and thereby higher perceive how he was to develop within the coming years as a filmmaker.

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11 ‘A Overseas Affair’ (1948)

Starring: Jean Arthur, Marlene Dietrich, John Lund

Marlene Dietrich and John Lund as Erika von Schlütow and Joh Pringle embracing in A Foreign Affair
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

A Overseas Affair isn’t precisely a struggle film, although it was made a number of years after World Battle II ended and is about in the course of the battle. Nonetheless, it’s more of a romance and/or comedy movie, all revolving round a fancy love triangle between a military captain and two girls: one a U.S. congresswoman, and the opposite a singer who additionally occurs to be an ex-Nazi below investigation.

Which may sound just like the set-up for one thing tragic or heavy, however Wilder makes all of it comparatively breezy, and although it’s not one among his most well-known motion pictures, it’s nonetheless a superb one and arguably feels underrated general. Benefitting immensely from the presence of Marlene Dietrich (who collaborated with Wilder as soon as once more nearly a decade later with Witness for the Prosecution), A Overseas Affair is outlandish but in addition a great deal of enjoyable, and one other winner inside Billy Wilder’s filmography.

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10 ‘Irma la Douce’ (1963)

Starring: Shirley MacLaine, Jack Lemmon, Lou Jacobi

Irma la Douce - 1963
Picture by way of United Artists

Shortly after the immensely profitable The Apartment, Billy Wilder, Jack Lemmon, and Shirley MacLaine re-teamed to make the great – but not fairly as nice – Irma la Douce three years on from that aforementioned Oscar winner. Like that movie, Irma la Douce is one other romantic comedy, right here set in Paris and centering on a police officer who falls in love with a prostitute, after which, due to his frenzied love, goes to determined lengths to cease her from seeing the sorts of shoppers she used to see.

Essentially the most admirable factor about Irma la Douce is how daring it was by the requirements of the Nineteen Sixties, serving to to push American cinema ahead and change into much less restricted. It’s additionally notable for inflicting a mix-up on Oscar evening, albeit one not fairly as drastic as the La La Land/Moonlight mix-up 50+ years later, which concerned MacLaine’s brother, Warren Beatty. Sadly, the bloated runtime of Irma la Douce (almost 2.5 hours!) stops it from being an undisputed traditional, although there’s greater than sufficient good right here to make sure it’s price a watch.

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9 ‘Stalag 17’ (1953)

Starring: Robert Strauss, William Holden, Don Taylor

Robert Strauss, William Holden and Harvey Lembeck in Stalag 17
Picture by way of Paramount Footage

Whereas Stalag 17 is, on the floor, a movie about prisoners of war, it does handle to be surprisingly humorous for a movie inside such a style. It takes place around Christmas of 1944, and follows a gaggle of American troopers all doing their greatest to outlive a nasty scenario, ready out the ultimate phases of the struggle within the hope that its conclusion will result in their freedom.

Stalag 17 does really feel a bit like a haunt film, albeit one which’s set inside a location one wouldn’t ordinarily count on a haunt film to happen in. It makes this work, although, and isn’t afraid to get a bit extra critical tonally when it must. It’s one of many better-balanced dramedies inside Billy Wilder’s filmography, and one other movie of his launched in the course of the Nineteen Fifties that demonstrates how creatively on fireplace he was throughout that decade.

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8 ‘Ace within the Gap’ (1951)

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur

Imge by way of Paramount

Ace in the Hole is a film that exhibits how motion pictures may be satirical without necessarily also being comedies. This 1951 movie starring Kirk Douglas is without doubt one of the grittier and extra downbeat inside Billy Wilder’s filmography, following a journalist getting wrapped up in a media circus surrounding an alarming story that entails a person trapped in a cave.

It would sound prefer it could possibly be darkly humorous or biting, and maybe in an alternate universe, there’s a model of Ace within the Gap that capabilities extra as a dramedy. However in our present universe/timeline, Ace within the Gap is bleak and ostensibly a drama, but a gripping one which’s aged surprisingly effectively. For so long as journalists interact in such dangerous conduct – and get incentivized to take action by higher-ups and/or readers – Ace within the Gap’s message and thematic materials will stay regrettably related.

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7 ‘One, Two, Three’ (1961)

Starring: James Cagney, Liselotte Pulver, Horst Buchholz

James Cagney and Pamela Tiffin in One, Two, Three - 1961
Picture by way of Eros Worldwide

Going from one excessive to a different, whereas Ace within the Gap is without doubt one of the most bitter and downbeat Billy Wider movies, One, Two, Three – made a decade later – is one among his funniest and breeziest. The plot right here entails a employee for the Coca-Cola firm eager to do all he can for a promotion, together with taking care of his boss’s slightly carefree daughter.

When she travels to Berlin and he follows her, issues get even wilder, and it’s at that time the place One, Two, Three enters the world of farcical comedy and by no means appears again. These after a enjoyable time will definitely get it, and it’s additionally a film that holds immense worth for showcasing the vary of its lead actor, James Cagney, as his improbable efficiency right here feels far faraway from the kinds of characters he performed within the classic gangster movies that made him a star.

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