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We love rock stars because of their egos, but what stands out about the film work of Meat Loaf is how free of ego it was. On stage, he was always singularly himself. But what made him so exciting over the years, as an actor, was the way that he would allow himself to transform and dissolve into a role, all in support of the story. Over the course of his career, he not only took on a number of complicated characters, but also made smaller appearances and cameos in projects that were only ever enhanced by his presence.
The roles selected below represent some of his more iconic screen moments, but whether playing a fumbling lowlife in The Mighty or a vampire boss in BloodRayne, the same commitment that made him a theatrical rock god made him an unforgettable screen performer. (Even when appearing in forgettable projects, such as the Syfy original series Ghost Wars, in which he was a member of the main cast.) So, while you’re cranking Bat Out of Hell today, also remember how he proved he loved that rock and roll on screen.
— Liz Shannon Miller
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
“Oh, Eddie!” Columbia (Little Nell) wails with joy as Meat Loaf literally roars into The Rocky Horror Picture Show on his motorcycle, rocking his song “Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul” so hard that he becomes the most popular guy at Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s (Tim Curry) party. Of course, that cannot stand as far as Frank-N-Furter’s concerned, so Eddie’s gotta go.
The character of Eddie had been mentioned well in advance of his eventual introduction, and Meat Loaf made sure he delivered on the height. Not that any particular part of Rocky Horror is lacking in energy, but his brief time on screen is an adrenaline shot to the heart. — L.S.M.
Wayne’s World (1992)
Meat Loaf’s role in the 1992 rock comedy is limited to a short appearance as a bouncer, but in the clip above you can see all the little touches he brings to it, whether it be the straightforward yet earnest delivery of some basic exposition and the way he puts just enough relish on the band name “The Shitty Beatles” to really make the joke sing. There’s also the silent interplay between him and Garth as he keeps going in for the fist bump that Garth is too awkward to offer back; as far as cameos go, it might not be as memorable as Alice Cooper’s, but it’s still a fun moment in a movie packed with them. — L.S.M.
Spice World (1997)
Spice World may never get the recognition it deserves as a post-modern comic farce on par with A Hard Day’s Night, but it will always be remembered for its memorable cameos, including Meat Loaf in an extended role as the bus driver making sure Posh, Baby, Sporty, Scary, and Ginger got to their gigs on time. While he’s playing a character named “Dennis,” the film does make sure to pay tribute to one of his iconic hits — when asked to fix the toilet on the bus, he refuses, saying “Hey man, I love these girls, and I’d do anything for them. But I won’t do that.” — L.S.M.
Fight Club (1999)
“His name is Robert Paulson.” An ex-bodybuilder who developed testicular cancer and large breasts due to his former steroid habit, Meat Loaf’s soft-spoken character develops a connection with The Narrator of Fight Club when they meet in a support group. After he joins Project Mayhem and is killed by police while on a mission, however, Bob’s death becomes a rallying cry for the group — to the consternation of The Narrator, who just wants him to be remembered as the sensitive, caring man that he first met. It’s a key turning point for the movie, ultimately leading to the reveal that blew so many people’s minds during their first watch-through. — Eddie Fu
Asked by MTV in 2006 what his favorite movie role was, Meat Loaf was quick to answer with 2001 adaptation of Arthur Miller’s Focus. It’s an interesting choice considering how controversial the story is: A man gets glasses in 1945 and ends up facing racial discrimination because he now looks too Jewish. Still, the role of the bigoted neighbor who rallies the local anti-Semites did give Meat something to dig into that wasn’t his typical rock-and-roll adjacent typecasting. Starring alongside William H Macy and Laura Dern probably didn’t hurt his appreciation for the movie, either. — Ben Kaye
Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006)
Jack Black had said for years that if they ever made a Tenacious D movie, Meat Loaf would play his dad. That finally happened in 2006’s Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny. Casting Meat as a religious zealot who rails against rock and roll was perfection, as having the guy behind a trio of Bat out of Hell albums sing about how “Rock and roll’s the devil’s work/ he wants you to rebel” is pretty inspired. The fact that Black was at one point set to play Meat Loaf in the VH1 biopic To Hell and Back also makes this casting something of a full circle moment. — B.K.