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18 singers who made great (and not so great) actors

Hanna Flint
Yahoo Movies UK

There was a time when singing and acting went hand-in-hand for movie stars, but nowadays the distinction has become far more clear in Hollywood – though that hasn’t stopped a few singers swap the stage for screen.

Lady Gaga is already getting rave reviews for her turn in A Star Is Born, the latest musical remake of the 1937 film but there have been plenty of cases of popstars not transitioned so well when it came to their film debut.

Here are eighteen of the best (and worst) singers who tried their hand at acting.

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Lady Gaga

Gaga won a Golden Globe for her performance as The Countess in American Horror Story: Hotel and is getting rave reviews her performance in Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born. The new Barbra Streisand? Maybe

Barbra Streisand

Babs is a musical legend. She appeared in Hello Dolly! won a Best Actress Oscar for Funny Girl, was nominated again for The Way We Were and even earned several nominations the movie Yentl, which she also directed. She’s also the best selling female recording artist of all time. GOAT.


Rihanna is an icon of music and fashion but when it comes to acting, her stat shines less bright. Her performances in Psycho and Battleship weren’t great and even in Ocean’s 8, her role was bolstered by the brilliant actors around her. Maybe she’s got more to show on the silver screen but right now we’d prefer her to bring a new album out.


Cher made her name as one half of Sonny and Cher but soon proved her talents went beyond singing and dancing. She made her screen debut in an episode of The man from U.N.C.L.E. but soon secured meatier roles in Silkwood, Mask, The Witches of Eastwick and won an Oscar in 1988 for her Best Actress role in Moonstruck. She most recently appeared in Mamma Mia: Here Were Go Again! and slayed a performance of Fernando.

Harry Styles

Harry made fans across the world swoon as one-fifth on the boyband One Direction but showed his talents extended to acting too and what a first film to land. He appeared in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk as a British soldier struggling to get back home and held his own alongside the more experience cast. Not too shabby, Harry.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer proved both her singing and acting prowess as Dream Girls’ Effie White in her debut film performance and won a best supporting actress Oscar for the effort. Not bad for someone who came seventh on American Idol.

Jessica Simpson

Ah, Jessica Simpson. The singer made her acting debut as Daisy Duke in The Dukes of Hazzard and followed it up with similarly terrible films like Employee of the Month, Blonde Ambition and The Love Guru. Her last film role was ten years ago so it seems she’s got acting out of her system, much to the benefit of cinema goers.

Justin Timberlake

Justin started off on TV, in The Micky Mouse Club, but his music career took off thanks to N*SYNC and a stellar solo career that is still going. However, through stints on Saturday Night Live, Justin showed his a savvy actor too and has since landed leading roles in Friends with Benefits, Trouble with the Curve, In Time, though his most acclaimed role to date is in the Coen Brothers’ Inside Lewyn Davis.


Aaliyah might have been more than a woman but her acting was little more than average. Before her tragic death, the singer appeared in the dismal Romeo Must Die and even worse movie Queen of the Damned as the titular character.

Britney Spears

Like her former boyfriend, Justin Timberlake, Britney first appeared in The Mickey Mouse Club but she made her film debut in the teen drama Crossroads. The film also starred Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning who have enjoyed pretty great careers since but alas that didn’t happen for Brit, who failed to show much skill when it comes to acting. Nowadays the same could be said for her singing too.

Dolly Parton

The country music star made an impression in the empowering 80s comedy 9 to 5 and melted our hearts in the emotional drama Steel Magnolias nine years later. She’ll next be seen on Netflic in a TV series which promises to be as memorable as her.

Adam Levine

Adam Levine’s acting career hasn’t been quite as acclaimed as his music. The Maroon 5 frontman made a rather forgettable appearance in three episodes of American Horror Story: Asylum followed by a supporting role as basically himself in the romantic comedy Begin Again opposite Keira Knightley. The bits where he sings are good.

Mary J. Blige

The Queen of R&B has earned much success on the charts but has made more than a few appearances on screen. She’s played herself in shows like Entourage and 30 Rock but in the last ten years has played fictional roles in Rock of Ages and Black Nativity, though it’s her role as Florance Jackson in last year’s Mudbound that earned her the most acclaim and she picked up an Oscar nomination for her efforts.

Michael Jackson

Jackson might be considered the greatest perforance of all time but that title surely doesn’t include his outings as an actor. The late singer appeared in The Wiz, which was critically panned, and Moonwalker which might be a cult classic now but that’s not because of his performance.

Tom Waits

Tom’s acting career is as eclectic as his music. He’s appeared in The Outsiders, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mystery Men and Seven Psychopaths, always playing as intriguing characters as himself. He’ll next be seen in Robert Redford’s last film, The Old Man & the Gun.

Mariah Carey

There is no doubting Mariah’s singing prowess but that didn’t translate to the silver screen in Glitter, which is arguably one of the worst movies ever made. She did earn back some acting points in Lee Butler’s Precious, playing a social worker, but I think most people would suggest she quit while she’s ahead.

David Bowie

As one of the most celebrated creatives of the last hundred years it’s really no wonder Bowie was a dab-hand at acting. His iconic turn as the Goblin King in Labyrinth cemented his place in Hollywood and follow up appearances in The Last Temptation of Christ, The Prestige, as well as himself in both Zoolander and Extras, added to his cultural appeal. His stage and screen presence his missed.


Madonna’s acting career has been pretty up and down. She impressed in Desperately Seeking Susan, A League of Their Own and Evita but left little to be desired in Swept Away, Die Another Day and The Next Best Thing. Her debut as a director, with the movie W.E., was panned too but that was seven years ago so maybe she’s due a comeback.

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