Every Dolly Parton movie, ranked according to critics

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Max Kalnitz
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Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton turns 75 on December 19. NBC/Getty Images
  • Dolly Parton turns 75 on December 19.

  • To celebrate, we ranked every film in her career according to critics' reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • Parton's highest-ranked film, 1980's "9 to 5" was also her acting debut.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Dolly Parton is one of the most successful musicians of all time and is known for her philanthropic heart of gold, but she's also had her share of on-screen success.

Parton broke into Hollywood with her debut performance in the iconic 1980 film "9 to 5" - for which she wrote the hit song of the same name. Since then, she's appeared in numerous films and even has two features that tell the story of her own rags-to-riches journey.

In honor of her 75th birthday on December 19, we've ranked Parton's movies from worst to best, according to Rotten Tomatoes' critics' scores. In ranking her movies, we left out multiple Christmas and TV specials that did not have critics' reviews. The scores were all accurate as of January 2021.

Dolly Parton attempts to turn Sylvester Stallone into a country star in "Rhinestone."

Rhinestone film
Sylvester Stallone and Dolly Parton in the 1984 film "Rhinestone." 20th Century Fox

Rotten Tomatoes score: 15%

Synopsis: In an effort to get out of her performance contract at The Rhinestone, Jake Farris (Dolly Parton) makes a bet with her manager that she can turn any man he picks into a country star. When her manager picks New York cabbie Nick Martinelli (Sylvester Stallone), it's clear she'll have her hands full if she wants to win the bet.

Janet Maslin of The New York Times felt Parton's acting was superb, yet wrote that the film as a whole was far from outstanding.

"As Mr. Stallone wends his way through barnyards and country cabins, the material retains some comic potential. But as the inevitable romance springs up between the two stars, their lack of rapport becomes all too noticeable," she wrote.

Dolly Parton gets tackled by Sandra Bullock in the 2005 film "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous."

"Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous"
Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous." Warner Bros. Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 15%

Synopsis: In the first "Miss Congeniality" film, FBI agent Gracie Hart (Sandra Bullock) went undercover as a participant in the Miss United States beauty pageant. Now weeks after her infiltration, Hart is trying to balance her career, personal life, and her newfound fame after the beauty pageant all while solving another beauty-related mystery. Parton stars in a chase scene that ends with Hart tackling her to the ground after falsely thinking she was a contestant dressed as the singer.

The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday wrote in 2005: "Like its predecessor, 'Miss Congeniality 2' is by turns a predictable and outlandishly contrived take on the Pygmalion myth."

Dolly Parton also cameoed as herself in the 1993 film "The Beverly Hillbillies."

Beverly Hillbillies
A shot of the Clampett family driving their car through Beverly Hills. Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 22%

Synopsis: After accidentally finding oil on his property in Arkansas, Jed Clampett (Jim Varney) sells the land for $1 billion and moves his family to Beverly Hills, California. The family is like a fish out of water and must learn how to live in their new surroundings while fending off a greedy banker (Dabney Coleman) trying to take advantage of them and steal their money. Parton sings "If You Ain't Got Love" during a birthday celebration for Jed.

Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader wrote, "Four writers worked on the script, and they all should hang their heads in shame."

Read more: How Dolly Parton went from a poor childhood in rural Tennessee to become one of the most beloved performers of all time

Dolly Parton plays the mother of an overly cautious claims investigator in "Frank McKlusky, C.I."

Dolly Parton Frank McKlusky
Dolly Parton in the 2002 film "Frank McKlusky, C.I." Touchstone Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 31%

Synopsis: Haunted by the death of his daredevil father, claims investigator Frank McKlusky (Dave Sheridan) goes through life as carefully as humanly possible. He wears a helmet, lives with his over-protective mother (Dolly Parton), and doesn't take any risks. After his partner is killed, however, Frank is forced to live a more adventurous lifestyle.

The Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer wrote in 2003: "What might make 'Frank McKlusky, C.I.' worth renting is that it is so horribly bad. I laughed. I laughed quite a bit at jokes that have been done before in much better movies, starring much better casts. It's not 'Citizen Kane,' but it might just be the next 'Howard the Duck.'"

Dolly Parton stars as a choir singer alongside Queen Latifah in "Joyful Noise."

Joyful Noise
"Joyful Noise" cast Jeremy Jordan, Angela Grovey, Dexter Darden, Dolly Parton, Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, and DeQuina Moore at the film's premiere in 2012. Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 32%

Synopsis: Following the death of a church's choir director, Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) volunteers to take the job. But the director's widow, G.G. (Dolly Parton) doesn't agree with Hill's stylistic choices and feels she's entitled to the job. The two have to figure out their differences before competing in a national competition.

"'Joyful Noise' comes alive in the performance scenes but the dramatic dialogue is so insipid that even good actors sound as though they're reading from a generic cut-and-paste script," according to Metro's Ann Smith.

Read more: Dolly Parton hid a secret song at Dollywood that won't be released until 2045

Dolly Parton contributed a voice cameo for the 2011 film "The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom."

The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom
"The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom." Palomar

Rotten Tomatoes score: 40%

Synopsis: When 11-year-old Elizabeth (Julia Sarah Stone) discovers that she is not her parents' biological child, she dreams that her real mother is Dolly Parton. Set on meeting the star, she tries to ride her bike from Winnipeg to Minneapolis to see Dolly in concert but is stopped at the border, only to be saved by her mother (Macha Grenon) who bonds with her daughter as they drive into the US.

The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey described the film as "an ingratiating but overly contrived Canadian coming-of-age tale."

In "Straight Talk," Dolly Parton's character Shirlee falls into a gig as the host of a radio advice show and has to hide the fact she has zero credentials.

Dolly Parton Straight Talk
Dolly Parton in the 1992 film "Straight Talk." Buena Vista/Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 42%

Synopsis: When Shirlee Kenyon (Dolly Parton) moves to Chicago and starts working at a radio station, she unexpectedly finds herself at the helm of a call-in radio advice show. Despite the fact she has zero credentials as a therapist, callers love her and before she knows it, she's being called "Doctor Shirlee." Life in her new city seems perfect, but investigative journalist Jack Russell (James Woods) is convinced that something is awry.

In a 2015 review for Reel Film Reviews, David Nusair described "Straight Talk" as "... an agreeable yet hopelessly forgettable little romcom."

In "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," Parton plays Miss Mona Stangley, a brothel owner fighting to keep her business open.

Dolly Parton Burt Reynolds
Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds together in 1982. Rich Mahan/Sun Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 50%

Synopsis: For years sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds) had an arrangement (and sexual relationship) with Miss Mona, allowing her to run the "Chicken Ranch," a brothel and pillar of the community, illegally outside of town. When a journalist comes to town and reveals the operation, the Chicken Ranch and Earl's relationship with Miss Mona are jeopardized.

"There are a few funny jokes, some raunchy one-liners, some mostly forgettable songs set to completely forgettable choreography, and then there is Dolly Parton," legendary film critic Roger Ebert wrote. "If they ever give Dolly her freedom and stop packaging her so antiseptically, she could be terrific."

Dolly Parton cameoed as Dolly Gnome in the 2011 film "Gnomeo and Juliet."

Dolly Parton Gnomeo
Dolly Gnome. Touchstone Pictures

Rotten Tomatoes score: 55%

Synopsis: A modern take on the Shakespeare classic, "Gnomeo and Juliet" shows the rivalry of the gnomes of the Red Gardens and Blue Gardens. Despite this, a young Gnomeo (James McAvoy), a Blue, and Juliet (Emily Blunt), a Red, fall in love but must overcome familial obstacles if their relationship is to succeed.

In 2011, Rafer Guzmán of Newsday wrote, "Uneven is the course, as the Bard might say, but the ride is plenty of fun."

"Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love" is the second TV film portraying Parton's childhood.

Coat of Many Colors
Parton narrates and has a cameo in the 2016 film. NBC

Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

Synopsis: Dolly Parton's (Alyvia Alyn Lind) father (Ricky Schroder) buys his wife (Jennifer Nettles) the wedding ring of her dreams, but threatens the family's Christmas in the process. Dolly's Uncle Billy (Cameron Jones) encourages her to use her talented voice to leave her poor upbringing and try to make it as a musician.

Hank Stuever of The Washington Post wrote, "These numerous, disorganized plot points attempt to make up for the flimsy dialogue and hammy acting - flaws that weren't nearly so evident in last year's movie."

Dolly Parton stars as an angel in the Christmas musical film "Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square."

Christmas on the Square
Dolly Parton in her 2020 musical film "Christmas on the Square." Netflix

Rotten Tomatoes score: 64%

Synopsis: When the wealthy Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski) returns to her hometown intent on selling it to a mall developer, she is visited by an angel (Dolly Parton) who tries to convince her otherwise.

Sarah Boesveld of The Globe and Mail wrote, "Christmas on the Square lets the viewer kick back and indulge in all things Parton."

Dolly Parton starred as herself in the 2010 documentary film "Hollywood to Dollywood."

Hollywood to Dollywood
Gary Lane (L) and Larry Lane, the twin brothers behind "Hollywood to Dollywood." David Livingston/Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 67%

Synopsis: Twin brothers Gary and Larry Lane have written a script dedicated to their hero, Dolly Parton. Together they drive their RV Jolene cross-country to Dollywood on a mission to deliver it to their idol.

The Hollywood Reporter's review of the film describes it as a "casually charming road trip doc about aspiring screenwriters desperate to meet their show biz idol."

In "Steel Magnolias," Dolly Parton plays Truvy Jones, a salon operator who experiences the emotional highs and lows of life with a group of close friends.

Steel Magnolias
Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Dolly Parton, and Daryl Hannah pose for a portrait in October 1989. Aaron Rapoport/Getty Images

Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%

Synopsis: "Steel Magnolias" follows a group of women who frequent a beauty parlor in small-town Louisiana. Together they experience the highs of a wedding and the lows of a health scare and the death of a friend, all of which cause the women to grow in their own ways.

Angie Errigo of Empire Magazine wrote, "A good film for the soft-hearted more than the paean to womanly strength that was its motive."

Dolly Parton narrates the TV film "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors," which tells the story of her childhood.

Coat of Many Colors
A young Dolly plays the guitar in "Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors." NBC

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Synopsis: "Coat of Many Colors" follows a 9-year-old Parton (Alyvia Alyn Lind) in rural Appalachia following her dream of becoming a star. It also portrays her family's struggles and growth after a tragedy affects each of them differently.

Variety's Brian Lowry wrote, "'Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors' is a TV movie like mama used to make - a relentlessly faith-based holiday confection geared toward an audience that had reason to feel underserved by network television."

Dolly Parton made her acting debut in the 1980 hit film "9 to 5."

Dolly Parton 9 to 5
Dolly Parton (center) co-stars with Lily Tomlin (left) and Jane Fonda (right) in the 1980 film "9 to 5." Twentieth Century Fox

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Synopsis: Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin co-star as a trio of secretaries who abduct their misogynistic boss and run the company in his absence. While in charge, the women implement a range of diverse policies that make the company a more equal and enjoyable workplace. Parton contributed her iconic song of the same name to the film's soundtrack.

According to Roger Ebert, the film "is a good-hearted, simple-minded comedy that will win a place in film history, I suspect, primarily because it contains the movie debut of Dolly Parton. She is, on the basis of this one film, a natural-born movie star, a performer who holds our attention so easily that it's hard to believe it's her first film."

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