At the time of release, the film was a critical and commercial success, making $25 million at the box office and receiving a range of positive reviews. The New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther enjoyed the film, calling it, "A gleeful, tender, and even sentimental film." Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert and ReelViews film critic James Berardinelli both praised the film, giving it four stars out of four; Ebert added it to his Great Movies list. The film has a 93% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 54 reviews; the site's consensus states that "Director Billy Wilder's customary cynicism is leavened here by tender humor, romance, and genuine pathos." As of March 2015, the film holds a 4.00/5 weighted mean rating on rating aggregator site RateItAll.
However, there was also a wave of criticism. Due to its themes of infidelity and adultery, the film was controversial for its time. It initially received negative reviews for its content. Film critic Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review called it "a dirty fairy tale". According to Fred MacMurray, after the film's release he was accosted by women in the street who berated him for making a "dirty filthy movie" and once one of them hit him with her purse.
The film earned a profit of over $1 million during its theatrical run.
33rd Academy Awards (Oscars) – 1960
The Apartment received 10 Academy Award nominations and won 5 Academy Awards.
|Best Picture||Won||Billy Wilder|
|Best Director||Won||Billy Wilder|
|Best Writing (Original Screenplay)||Won||I. A. L. Diamond Billy Wilder|
|Best Actor||Nominated||Jack Lemmon|
|Best Actress||Nominated||Shirley MacLaine|
|Best Supporting Actor||Nominated||Jack Kruschen|
|Best Cinematography (Black-and-White)||Nominated||Joseph LaShelle|
|Best Film Editing||Won||Daniel Mandell|
|Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White||Won||Alexander Trauner Edward G. Boyle|
|Best Sound||Nominated||Gordon E. Sawyer|
Although Jack Lemmon did not win, Kevin Spacey dedicated his Oscar for American Beauty (1999) to Lemmon's performance. According to the behind-the-scenes feature on the American Beauty DVD, the film's director, Sam Mendes, had watched The Apartment (among other classic American films) as inspiration in preparation for shooting his film.
Within a few years after The Apartment's release, the routine use of black-and-white film in Hollywood had ended. As of 2014, only two black-and-white movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture after The Apartment did: Schindler's List (1993) and The Artist (2011).
Other awards and honors
The Apartment also won the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source and Lemmon and MacLaine both won a BAFTA and a Golden Globe each for their performances. In 1994, The Apartment was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2002, a poll of film directors conducted by Sight and Sound magazine listed the film as the 14th greatest film of all time (tied with La Dolce Vita). In 2006, Premiere voted this film as one of "The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time".
American Film Institute included the film in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (#93), AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs (#20), AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions (#62), and AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) (#80).