20 Times Musicians Stunned Us With Their Acting Chops

Joseph Thornton

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Music and acting have always shared a close relationship, with many musicians venturing into the world of film and television. Here, I shall take you through 20 unforgettable moments when we discovered that a musician had the talent and charisma to shine on the big screen.

Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock (1957)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

After making his film debut in 1956 with Love Me Tender, Elvis Presley went on to give a defining performance as Vince Everett in Jailhouse Rock. The film produced Presley’s iconic dance sequence, which many regard as his greatest moment on screen.

Whitney Houston – The Bodyguard (1992)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Whitney Houston had a stellar performance as Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. Though it was her film debut, Houston had just the vocals and natural on-screen presence to bring to life her character as a superstar singer. Houston also contributed to the movie’s soundtrack, most notably with the iconic “I Will Always Love You.”

David Bowie – Labyrinth (1986)

Photo Credit: Columbia/Tri-Star.

David Bowie’s enigmatic and mesmerizing performance as Jareth, the Goblin King, in the cult classic Labyrinth left a lasting impression on audiences. Bowie’s charisma and musical talent seamlessly blended with his acting abilities, creating a captivating and memorable character.

Queen Latifah – Chicago (2002)

Photo Credit: Miramax Films.

Given how well Queen Latifah has transitioned into acting, you’d be forgiven if you forget that she was first a rapper. Latifah’s role as Mama Morton in Chicago really showcased her exceptional acting range and charisma, earning her international acclaim and an Oscar nod.

Barbra Streisand – Funny Girl (1968)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

How many times do you see a musician winning an Oscar for Best Actress with their acting debut? Well, that’s lightwork for Barbra Streisand. Her electrifying stage presence and powerful vocals shone brightly in the biological musical Funny Girl, solidifying Streisand’s legacy as a multifaceted artist.

Ice Cube – Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

In his acting debut, Ice Cube’s portrayal of Doughboy in Boyz n the Hood showcased his natural talent and authenticity as an actor. The rapper has continued to prove his versatility with major roles in the Barbershop franchise, 21 Jump Street (2012), and Friday (1995).

Cher – Moonstruck (1987)

Photo Credit: MGM.

In Moonstruck, Cher’s captivating performance as Loretta Castorini earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. While Moonstruck remains her highest-grossing movie, Cher has also starred in some other successful films like Tea With Mussolini (1999) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).

Justin Timberlake – The Social Network (2010)

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Timberlake is not a new face in Hollywood. The pop star has taken up roles in movies like Friends With Benefits (2011) and Bad Teacher (2011). I, however, believe Timbalake’s standout acting performance to date was his portrayal of Sean Parker in The Social Network.

Dolly Parton – 9 to 5 (1980)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The iconic Dolly Parton was already one of the most successful country musicians in 1980 when she starred as Doralee Rhodes in the comedy film 9 to 5. Her performance would go on to trigger an incredible acting run that included roles in Rhinestone (1984), Joyful Noise (2012), and Straight Talk (1992).

Jennifer Hudson – Dreamgirls (2006)

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

Jennifer Hudson was absolutely breathtaking in her debut role as Effie White in Dreamgirls, which won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Not only did the singer impress with her acting, but she also left audiences in awe of her vocal prowess with a soul-stirring rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”

Mark Wahlberg – The Departed (2016)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The Departed had quite the cast. From Leonardo DiCaprio to Matt Damon, the film wasn’t short of acting talent. But it was former rapper, Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark), that bagged the film’s only acting nomination at the Oscars. Wahlberg has had such a successful acting career, that it’s difficult to imagine he was once the lead singer of the hip hop group Funky Bunch.

Eminem – 8 Mile (2002)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Though he has had some minor roles in movies like The Interview (2014) and The Wash (2001), 8 Mile is undoubtedly the rapper’s most defining moment as an actor. Drawing from his own life experiences, the actor delivered a raw and authentic portrayal of a young struggling artist.

Lady Gaga – A Star Is Born (2018)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In her breakthrough role as Ally in A Star Is Born, Lady Gaga proved her prowess as a gifted actress, and she has an Oscar nod to show for it. With her raw and authentic performance as well as her powerful vocals, Gaga showed that she could thrive in Hollywood.

Frank Sinatra – From Here to Eternity (1953)

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

In the 1953 film From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra proved he was more than a music icon with an unforgettable performance as Angelo Maggio. His portrayal of the troubled soldier earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Diana Ross – Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Diana Ross delivered a powerful and moving performance as legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues, capturing the iconic singer’s raw emotion and vulnerability.  This role won Ross an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, and deservedly so.

Mariah Carey – Precious (2009)

Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

It was easy for me the forget that Ms. Weiss in Precious was actually Mariah Carey. The singer not only underwent a dramatic transformation to fit the character’s unglamorous appearance and drab demeanor, but she also showed just how much her acting has improved since the days of the infamous Glitter (2001).

Beyonce – Dreamgirls (2006)

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

As if her resume wasn’t already impressive, Beyonce had to add ‘actress’ the the 2006 film Dreamgirls. The singer stunned with her performance as Deena Jones, a young girl who becomes a star through the help of Curtis Talor Jr., a big record executive.

Liza Minnelli – Cabaret (1972)

Photo Credit: Allied Artists/ABC Pictures.

Liza Minnelli’s mesmerizing portrayal of Sally Bowles in Cabaret earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. Combining her acting skills with her impeccable singing and dancing abilities, Minnelli delivered a captivating performance that brought her to international prominence.

Kris Kristofferson – A Star Is Born (1976)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In the 1976 remake of the iconic romantic drama A Star is Born, country singer Kris Kristofferson showed excellent acting range. Starring alongside Barbra Streisand, the singer portrayed John Norman Howard in the movie and ultimately bagged the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

Awkwafina – The Farewell (2019)

Photo Credit: A24.

Awkwafina’s performance as Billi in The Farewell proved her versatility as an actress, earning her critical acclaim and a Golden Globe Award. Her portrayal of a conflicted granddaughter navigating cultural differences while concealing a family secret displayed depth and emotional range.