Musicians are a talented and creative bunch, with many also shining when they take on both the big and small screen. Artists across decades and genres make the leap into acting, often balancing careers in both areas. We took a look at musicians who made the transition to the silver screen and compiled a list of 13 who have had strong roles. See which of your favorite musicians, or actors, made the list.
Cher is not only a Grammy-winning musician but an Oscar-winning actress who took home Best Actress in a Leading Role for her role opposite Nicolas Cage in the 1987 romantic comedy “Moonstruck.” She was also nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her turn in the 1983 film “Silkwood.” The talented actress also starred in several hit films in the 1980s including “Mask,” “The Witches of Eastwick,” and “Suspect.”
In 2018, Mary J. Blige became the first person to clinch an Oscar nomination in both the acting and music categories for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song), as well as the first African American woman nominated for multiple Oscars in the same year. Both nominations were for “Mudbound,” where Blige plays the wife of an impoverished farmer, and for which she wrote and performed the theme song “Mighty River.” Blige has also acted in several television shows including, “Empire,” “Black-ish,” and “The Umbrella Academy.”
The Material Girl made her first feature film appearance in an obscure 1979 independent movie called “A Certain Sacrifice,” which would be commercially released in 1985 after she’d already achieved success with her singing career. Her first role in a major film would be nothing more than a cameo in 1985’s “Vision Quest,” which featured Madonna singing the song “Crazy for You” from the film’s soundtrack in a bar as the two main characters danced. While Madonna would act in several films throughout the ’80s and ’90s, including “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “A League of Their Own,” she would often receive harsh reviews from critics. Still, her performance in the 1996 film “Evita” would score her a Golden Globe win for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical.
It was shortly after his departure from the rap group N.W.A. that Ice Cube made his acting debut in John Singleton’s 1991 coming-of-age film “Boyz n the Hood,” for which he won critical praise and Chicago Film Critics Association Awards for both Most Promising Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Ice Cube shows his range as an actor by taking roles in both comedic films, like those in the “Barbershop” franchise, and dramatic films like “Three Kings,” where he starred opposite Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney.
David Bowie’s first movie role came in the 1967 short film “The Image,” where he portrayed a boy who terrorized an artist when he stepped out of a painting. One of the musician's most memorable roles was in the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy film “Labyrinth,” which featured Bowie playing Jareth the Goblin King. He picked eclectic roles to showcase his acting talent, like Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ” and FBI agent Phillip Jeffries in David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.”
Beyoncé earned critical acclaim for her role in the 2006 musical film “Dreamgirls,” as well as several award nominations and wins including the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Song for “Listen.” In 2020, the musician and actress also wrote and starred in “Black Is King,” a visual album companion to “The Lion King: The Gift,” which streamed on Disney+ in July 2020.
A bit part in the HBO crime drama “The Sopranos” as Girl at Swimming Pool #2 marked Lady Gaga’s acting debut in 2001. She also made cameos on “The Simpsons” and “Men In Black 3,” but her breakthrough role came in 2015 in the anthology series “American Horror Story: Hotel.” Her biggest role to date is starring opposite Bradley Cooper in the remake of “A Star is Born,” for which she received an Oscar nod for Best Actress in a Leading Role and a win for Best Original Song with “Shallow.”
Snoop Dog has appeared in everything from feature films and TV series to video games and music videos. The rapper has racked up several film and television credits including the Oscar-winning film “Training Day” and the Showtime series “The L Word.” In 2005, Snoop Snoop started his production company, Snoopadelic Films. He was nominated for a Primetime Emmy in 2017 for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program along with Martha Stewart for “Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party.”
Mandy Moore’s series “This Is Us,” which received both critical and fan acclaim, and became a hit for NBC, is set to air its sixth and final season. Moore got her start in acting with memorable roles in “The Princess Diaries,” where she played mean girl Lana, and in “A Walk to Remember” as a terminally ill teen. The star has also worked as a voice actor with turns in the 2010 film “Tangled” as Rapunzel and in “Brother Bear 2” as Nita.
Born James Todd Smith, LL Cool J can be seen on “NCIS: Los Angeles.” His acting career began with cameo appearances in the 1985 film “Krush Groove,” based on the early days of Def Jam Records, and in 1986’s “Wildcats,” for which he also wrote the song “Football Rap.” He also received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2017.
Country singer Dolly Parton’s first acting role came about when Jane Fonda asked her to play one of the main characters in the 1980 film “9 to 5.” Parton also wrote the film’s theme song, which received Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and two Grammy wins. Parton said she takes acting roles that closely align with her own personality, like the role of sassy Southern hairstylist Truvy Jones in “Steel Magnolias” and as Dolly Gnome in the animated film “Gnomeo and Juliet.”
Though she got her start on the TV talent competition “American Idol,” versatile talent Jennifer Hudson went on to win both a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her star-making turn in “Dreamgirls.” After enduring great personal tragedy with the loss of her mother, brother, and nephew, who were killed by her brother-in-law, Hudson found a way back to both the small screen with “Hairspray Live!” and the stage with the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple.”
Justin Timberlake’s first foray into fame came on Disney’s “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club” alongside Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. He would transition to acting, as well as a career as a solo artist, after a successful turn with the boy band ’N Sync. In 2005, he had his feature film debut with “Edison,” though it would be the 2006 film “Alpha Dog” that would get him noticed, and Timberlake would go on to notable roles in several hit films including “The Social Network” and “Friends With Benefits.”