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Sunset Boulevard

Down-on-his-luck screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) seeks refuge at the home of former silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson, in a career-defining role). Norma’s once-opulent but decaying estate, just off Sunset Boulevard and overseen by her watchful servant Max von Mayerling (Erich von Stroheim), provides the backdrop for a tumultuous relationship pulled from Greek tragedy. Gillis seeks a stable situation, which Norma can provide, showering him with gifts and affection. But Norma becomes harmfully infatuated with not only Gillis, but with her dreams of a career resurrection. The merciless system of Hollywood, with its cast-offs and also-rans, provides Wilder with more than enough material to form a scathing critique wrapped in the allure of an unexpected love affair. “I love Hollywood and the whole thing of the Golden Age and Sunset Boulevard captured that so well. I just love that world. I love it when William Holden and Nancy Olsen go for a walk on the studio back lot at night. That’s probably never quite happened in exactly that way, but it should have. It should be going on right this minute! Working late at night in those writers’ rooms. It should be going on right now! It’s just too beautiful—every part of it.”—David Lynch.

Genres: Drama, Noir, Film Noir

Other Films by Billy Wilder

Double Indemnity

Wilder’s prototypical film noir, featuring the archetypal femme fatale in Barbara Stanwyck’s chilling Phyllis Dietrichson, is one of the most famous Hollywood productions of the 1940s and one of the most atmospheric films of the classical era. Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), a loathsome insurance salesman, knocks on the Dietrichsons’ door one summer day, only to

Ace in the Hole

Out-of-work newspaper reporter Chuck Tatum (a perfectly smarmy, snarling Kirk Douglas in one of his best roles) moves west to New Mexico from New York following a string of firings for a variety of offenses, most notably libel and drunkenness. Now in the normal routine of covering small-town “interest” stories at an Albuquerque rag, he