Every Philip Marlowe Movie, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes


Few fictional characters have had as long a history in film as private investigator Philip Marlowe. Author Raymond Chandler created the character in a series of short stories and novels first published in the 1930s, and by the 1940s, Marlowe was already brought to life on the big screen. To this day, new interpretations of the iconic P.I. are released in print and theaters.

With 10 movies over 81 years, a few of which are considered American classics, the Philip Marlowe franchise has gone through several reinterpretations, each with its own fans and legacy. Some Marlowe movies may be better than others, but with a franchise this classic, they are all worth checking out if you’re a fan of hard-boiled detective stories.

8 ‘The Falcon Takes Over’ (1942), ‘Time To Kill’ (1942), and ‘Murder, My Sweet’ (1944)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Not Rated

RKO Pictures/20th Century Studios/RKO Pictures

The three earliest Philip Marlowe movies have been so outshone by what has come since that they have not been reviewed enough to have a critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Just because they’re not the most popular movies in the franchise doesn’t mean they’re not worth seeking out.

The Falcon Takes Over and Time To Kill were released in 1942: each is unique in the franchise because, even though they are adaptations of Philip Marlowe novels, Marlowe doesn’t actually appear in either film. Instead, the cases are solved by detectives who were already established: The Falcon and Michael Shayne, respectively. It’s an odd choice, especially considering that Marlowe has outlasted both of his replacements. However, Murder, My Sweet is an adaptation of the novel Farewell, My Lovely, with a live-action version of Marlowe. The film is not only the big screen debut of Philip Marlowe but is also considered one of the first examples of film noir.

7 ‘Marlowe’ (2023)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 27%

Philip Marlowe standing in a forest looking intently ahead in Marlowe-2023
Image via Open Road Films

Marlowe, the newest movie to hit the big screen, is unfortunately also the lowest-rated. The film isn’t an adaptation of an original Raymond Chandler novel, but instead an adaptation of “The Black-Eyed Blonde” by John Banville, under the pen name of Benjamin Black. Being a Marlowe adventure written with a rather modern approach, the movie attempts to recapture the atmosphere of classic Hollywood film noir without the luxury of originating from that era. The result is a messy but well-intentioned movie that relies on nostalgia and familiar by-the-book genre tropes.

The cast is the strongest quality, featuring the likes of Alan Cumming, Diane Kruger, Danny Huston, and two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange under the competent direction of the brilliant Neil Jordan. Unfortunately, the problem with the cast lies in its lead. Although his casting is the film’s biggest selling point, Liam Neeson just isn’t right for the role of Marlowe. He doesn’t play the emotional depth needed for the iconic detective and comes off as flat and one-note. It will probably be a while before fans see another adventure from the famous detective, especially after Marlowe’s unfortunate box office returns. Here’s hoping the next attempt finds a way to breathe new life into the franchise.



Release Date
February 15, 2023

109 min.

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6 ‘The Big Sleep’ (1978)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%

Philip Marlowe and Camila Sternwood looking to their side in 1978's The Big Sleep
Image via United Artists

The Big Sleep, the second Marlowe outing for the iconic Robert Mitchum, making him the only actor to play the role more than once, is a mixed bag of a movie. Transplanting one of the most iconic Marlowe stories from 1940s Los Angeles to 1970s London, the film follows Marlowe as he investigates a blackmail scheme that reveals itself to be so much more than it appears. Produced in the 1970s, this version of The Big Sleep is more explicit, pulling no punches regarding the seedy world Marlowe finds himself in. This makes for an interesting watch, but unfortunately, not the most compelling one.

The cast is loaded, featuring the likes of Mitchum, Joan Collins, Jimmy Stewart, Candy Clark, John Mills, and several more well-known names of the time. Unfortunately, the cast doesn’t deliver on the desired level. Mitchum himself disappoints, turning in a performance that doesn’t grab the audience as it should. Even though the production value is nice, and the mystery is engaging enough, this version of The Big Sleep just might make audiences doze off.

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5 ‘Lady in the Lake’ (1946)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%

Philip Marlowe confronting Adrienne Fromsett in Lady in the Lake
Image via MGM

Lady in the Lake is a movie like no other. The film was directed by Robert Montgomery, who also starred as Marlowe, and tried to capture the feel of a first-person narrative that literature often offers. Thus, the entire movie is from Philip Marlowe’s POV, something few other efforts event try since it changes how audiences engage with it. Instead of the audience sitting down to watch Marlowe solve a mystery, they become Marlowe. For some, it may make for an engaging movie; for others, it results in a gimmick that distracts from the plot.

Adapted from a Chandler novel of the same name, it follows Marlowe as he tries to transition from private detective to crime writer. Unfortunately, his new career is put on pause when he’s hired to find the missing wife of a publisher, only to uncover a deeper, more dangerous mystery. Lady in the Lake is a bold swing of a movie, which can be polarizing among viewers, but it’s perfect for anyone who has wanted to be Philip Marlowe.

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4 ‘Marlowe’ (1969)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%

Philip Marlowe sitting behind his desk and pointing a gun at another man in Marlowe-1969
Image via MGM

The first movie to be titled simply Marlowe starred James Garner in the title role. In the history of Philip Marlowe adaptations, this film is often forgotten because it doesn’t have a gimmick like Lady in the Lake or an auteur director like other adaptations; it is just a well-done, by-the-book detective movie. Sometimes, a movie doesn’t have to be anything more than that to find an audience, but that’s not the case for Marlowe.

The movie’s cast is quite good, featuring Oscar-winner Rita Moreno and screen icon Bruce Lee in an early role. It’s an adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel, The Little Sister and follows Marlowe as he looks into a missing person case that becomes a deadly trip into the underworld of Los Angeles. Although it isn’t anything all that special, Marlowe is still a good time, if only to see Garner’s inspired take on the iconic detective.

Marlowe 1969 Poster


Release Date
September 19, 1969

Paul Bogart

James Garner , Gayle Hunnicutt , Carroll O’Connor , Rita Moreno , Sharon Farrell , William Daniels


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3 ‘Farewell, My Lovely’ (1975)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

Helen Grayle and Philip Marlowe talking in Farwell, My Lovely
Image via StudioCanal

In the 1970s, the Philip Marlowe franchise was reimagined yet again, this time featuring film noir icon Robert Mitchum in the role. The first of his two outings as Marlowe was an adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely. Set in the 1940s, the story follows Marlowe as he works on two cases: a missing person and a stolen necklace. However, when both cases turn out to be more dangerous than they first appeared, Marlowe discovers that they may be part of a larger conspiracy.

Farewell, My Lovely sees Mitchum beautifully bringing Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe to life, playing him as a somewhat grizzled veteran whose experience makes him the man for the job. After his turn in the iconic film noir Out of the Past, it was exciting to see Mitchum return to the genre he is so often associated with. The rest of the cast is also exceptional, featuring Charlotte Rampling, Joe Spinnell, Harry Dean Stanton, Sylvester Stallone, and Sylvia Miles, who was nominated for an Oscar for her performance.

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2 ‘The Long Goodbye’ (1973)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Image via United Artists

Acclaimed auteur Robert Altman brought his unique style to Marlowe’s noir world with his adaptation of The Long Goodbye, now considered a classic of ’70s cinema. Altman’s interpretation of Marlowe is unlike any other, setting the story in the 1970s and imbuing the P.I. with a somewhat comedic, counterculture personality. The script was written by Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote arguably the most iconic Philip Marlowe movie, Howard Hawks The Big Sleep.

The film follows Marlowe as he stumbles into a murder case that frames a good friend of his as a killer. Frequent Altman collaborator Elliott Gould was perfect casting for this version of Marlowe, really bringing to the character a sense that he can’t help but stumble into solving a mystery. He’s not your typical Marlowe. He’s a bit of a slob and not the most suave or sophisticated, but he’s a good guy who can’t just sit back and ignore injustice, even if he really wants to.

The Long Goodbye Film Poster

The Long Goodbye

Release Date
March 8, 1973

112 minutes

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1 ‘The Big Sleep’ (1946)

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97%

Philip Marlowe and Vivian Sternwood face to face in The-Big-Sleep
Image via Warner Bros.

The Big Sleep is the most iconic incarnation of Philip Marlowe and one of the greatest American films of all time. This is due in large part to Humphrey Bogart’s legendary performance as Marlowe and his undeniable chemistry with co-star Lauren Bacall. Their second collaboration together, The Big Sleep remains arguably the best of Bogart and Bacall’s four movies together, ensuring their legendary real-life romance’s legacy. Everyone involved with the film is operating at the top of their game, from the cast to director Howard Hawks to the screenwriters: Leigh Brackett, Oscar-nominee Jules Furthman, and one of the most acclaimed American novelists of all time, William Faulkner.

The film is an adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel of the same name and sticks close to the source material. General Sternwood hires Marlow to solve his youngest daughter’s gambling debts, only to realize that the situation is much more complicated when people start showing up dead. The Big Sleep is about as classic film noir as you can get, complete with witty dialogue, a perfectly hard-boiled detective, a seductively dangerous femme fatale, and a mystery that will immediately grab your attention and not let go until the truth is revealed.

The Big Sleep 1946 Poster

The Big Sleep

Release Date
August 31, 1946

Howard Hawks


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