Musicians in Movies

When you’re famous, you have the whole world watching you every minute of everyday. The media, fans, and promoters do everything in their power to get a piece of you. For a lot of people, fame also brings the assumption that if you’re well known for one thing, then you can pretty much do it all. Comedians, television personalities, and even athletes have tried to take the big step crossing over into the acting world. For any celebrity, acting is part of the job, always putting on a brave face for the public. Musicians have this responsibility too and many filmmakers and producers have tried courting musicians in order to boost their films. Some are not so successful but a lot of singers, rappers, and instrumentalists have surprisingly made the smooth transition. Let’s take a look:

David Bowie

AMPAS Gold Standard Series


Celebrated British singer/writer, David Bowie, started his prolific music career in the late 60’s subsequently releasing classics such as “Hunky Dory”, “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars”, and “Heroes” throughout the next decade but the U.K. superstar would soon become known for his work the studio. Bowie started acting in films as early as the 1970’s and although he gained his breakthrough role acting with the ‘76 science fiction film, “The Man Who Fell To Earth”, it was his role in the Jim Henson fantasy film, “Labyrinth” that established him as more than just a singer. Decked out in an elaborate outfit, Bowie played the Goblin King, Jareth who transports a very young Jennifer Connelly to another world to solve an impossible maze so she could rescue her little brother. While not setting the box office on fire in 1986, the movie has amassed a huge cult following over the years. Labyrinth is also significant for being the last theatrical release directed by Jim Henson before his untimely death in 1993.




The zany Icelandic superstar, Bjork, made her mark in the music world in her home country as the lead singer of the Sugarcubes in the late 80’s. After their dissolution, she eventually crossed over in the states as a solo artist in the early 90’s and reached international fame. She had her, to date, only acting role in the 2000 Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Melancholia) film, “Dancer in the Dark”. In the film, she plays Selma, a blind European immigrant who, along with her son, struggle with their new life in America. Reactions to the film were mixed but despite that, it received numerous accolades including an Academy Awards nomination where Bjork infamously attended wearing a very peculiar, swan-attached dress.


Courtney Love


The controversial widow of Kurt Cobain and lead singer of Hole has gained a measure of infamy over the years due to substance abuse problems and outspokenness. She tried to outweigh that image by finding success through music. Alongside her Hole-bandmates, Love achieved fame with the albums, “Pretty on the Inside” in 1991 and “Live Through This” in 1994 becoming a staple in 90’s alternative rock. While the band was on hiatus, Love ventured into acting and scored a major role in 1996 biopic, “The People vs Larry Flynt” starring Woody Harrelson and Edward Norton. Love gained critical acclaim for her role as Anthea Leasure, the fourth wife of adult publishing legend, Larry Flynt. Some even predicted an Oscar nod for Love but it ultimately never happened.




A lot of people probably don’t remember this but Madonna and filmmaker Warren Beatty were in a relationship in late 80’s/early 90’s (then again, who DIDN’T Madonna date?). This relationship eventually led to her being cast as the female lead in Beatty’s 1990’s comic book adaptation of Dick Tracy. Madonna played the role of Breathless Mahoney, the seductive nightclub singer who catches the eye of the yellow-suited protagonist. The role came after she gained worldwide fame with her (sometimes controversial) songs, “Material Girl”, “Like A Virgin”, and “Like A Prayer “ and from being a vivacious performer who’s not afraid to push the envelope.


Anthony Kiedis and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers





The fun loving, funky, California rockers became mainstays in the music industry after impressing audiences with their high-adrenaline stage shows and records such as 1988’s “Mother’s Milk” and their breakthrough record, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” in 1991. The band’s easygoing personalities, especially of lead singer Anthony Kiedis and iconic bass player, Flea, helped them gain fame outside the band. Flea had a few acting roles in the 80’s and early 90’s in films such as “Less Than Zero”, “Back to the Future Part 2”, and “My Own Private Idaho” and Anthony himself got a featured role in the Keanu Reeves/Patrick Swayze action vehicle, “Point Break” in 1991 as a member of a surfer gang, playing perfectly to his stage persona. They appeared with one another in the 1994 Charlie Sheen film “The Chase” which also starred fellow musician, Henry Rollins.


Gavin Rossdale

Mr. Stefani fronted England’s Bush in the early 90’s. The group scored a hit album in 1994 with “Sixteen Stone” which contained the megahits, “Machine Head” and “Glycerine”. As Rossdale’s star was increasing (due to his marriage with another famous musician, Gwen Stefani), his fame was starting to outshine the band itself and they ultimately broke up in 2002 (before reforming in 2010) following the release of their 4th album, “Golden State”. After experimenting with other musical projects (Institute, anyone?), he tried his hand at acting and appeared in the supernatural Keanu Reeves flick, “Constantine” in 2005 as Balthazar. The above crazy fight scene with Mr. Reeves himself put a big smile on my face, especially when Reeves won.


Iggy Pop


I’m sure most of us have seen the comic adaptation of “The Crow” starring the late Brandon Lee but what most of you probably didn’t know was that the character was inspired by Stooges’ frontman, Iggy Pop. Yes, according to the story’s author, James O’Barr, the punk legend inspired the dark, walking undead of Eric Draven. After the commercial success of the first film, a sequel was unquestionably on the table. Iggy and his band, the Stooges, recorded between the late 60’s and early 70’s, and were able to influence, not just future bands in punk rock, but subsequent heavy metal bands as well. Pop then went on to embark on a solo career before reforming the Stooges in the 2000’s. None of the actors from the first film appeared in the sequel, instead we got a brand new cast which included Pop himself as Curve, the lead henchman of the antagonist. The film was pretty terrible and bombed at the box office but damned if Pop wasn’t the only redeeming quality in it.


Ice Cube


As N.W.A. was dying out in the early 90’s, member Ice Cube set out to prove that he had more to offer the world than just spitting rhymes. He proved just that with an excellent performance in the 1991 John Singleton-directed coming of age film, “Boyz n the Hood”. Prior to that, the California rapper helped pave the way for the west coast rap scene throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s while in N.W.A (who also gave us Eazy-E and Dr. Dre). Their breakthrough album, 1988’s “Straight Outta Compton” is considered an instrumental record in the emergence of gangsta rap with vulgar songs about doing drugs, getting women, and speaking out against law enforcement “Fuck The Police”). The group paved the way for many major players in hip-hop including 2Pac and Biggie Smalls. In “Boyz-N-The-Hood, Cube plays Doughboy, a street smart teen growing up in the dangerous neighborhood of South Central, Los Angeles (something he knows a lot about). The film deservedly received tons of praise and even garnered several Academy Award nominations for its realistic portrayal of life on the streets.


Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

Leave a Reply