Olivia Newton-John Movies and TV Shows: A Guide to the 'Grease' Star's Surprising Body of Work

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Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John will forever be known for playing Sandy in Grease, but her eccentric filmography features much more than just the beloved '70s-does-'50s movie musical. Before Grease Newton-John brought her signature sweet and sunny presence to a handful of British and Australian musicals and after she starred in Xanadu, a wildly campy musical fantasy, and Two of a Kind, which teamed her back up with her Grease love interest John Travolta.

Olivia Newton-John continued to act into the '90s and '00s. When she passed away in 2022, following a long battle with breast cancer, a generation of fans that grew up with her work mourned her lovely voice and engaging screen presence, but her spirit lives on in her catchy songs and charming films. Here's a guide to the Olivia Newton-John movies and TV shows that helped make her an icon.

Olivia Newton-John movies

Funny Things Happen Down Under (1965)

Olivia Newton-John in 1965
Olivia Newton-John in 1965, the year she made her film debut in Funny Things Happen Down Under
GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

You might be surprised to learn that Olivia Newton-John made her film debut way back in the '60s. In 1965, at 17, she starred in Funny Things Happen Down Under, an Australian musical about a group of young friends who enjoy hanging out and singing at a local born. When the barn's owner runs into financial difficulties, a then-unknown Newton-John and her pals discover a way to make money by dyeing the wool of sheep in fanciful colors.

Toomorrow (1970)

(L-R) 'Toomorrow' stars Benny Thomas, Olivia Newton-John, Karl Chambers, Vic Cooper in 1970
Left to right: Toomorrow stars Benny Thomas, Olivia Newton-John, Karl Chambers and Vic Cooper in 1970
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty

A few years after making her film debut and starting to perform, Newton-John was recruited into a prefabricated pop group, Toomorrow (yep, the two Os are intentional!). Haven't heard of them? Well, most people haven't — the band didn't last long, as their singles were unsuccessful. This didn't stop them from starring in a wacky 1970 sci-fi musical involving Toomorrow being abducted by aliens.

Grease (1978) Olivia Newton-John movies and TV shows

John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John embrace in a promotional still for the film, 'Grease,' directed by Randal Kleiser, 1978
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease (1978)
Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty

Newton-John was already a pop star by the time she was cast in Grease, having topped the US charts with breezy early '70s classics like "Let Me Be There," "Have You Never Been Mellow," "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" and "I Honestly Love You," but the blockbuster success of the '50s-set musical launched her into the stratosphere.

As Sandy, the ultimate good girl gone bad, Newton-John sang timeless hits like "Hopelessly Devoted to You," "Summer Nights" and "You're the One That I Want" and had irresistible chemistry with Travolta's Danny.

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 'Grease,' 1978
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease (1978)
Paramount Pictures/Fotos International/Getty

While Newton-John was originally skeptical about being a part of Grease after the failure of Toomorrow, the movie became her defining work. In a Billboard interview, she said, "Grease opened up a whole other world for me," and Sandy's transition from poodle-skirted sweetheart to leather-clad tough chick allowed her to take more risks as the '80s came around.

MUST-READ: 13 Wacky Behind-the-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew About the Movie ‘Grease’

Xanadu (1980)

Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly in 'Xanadu,' 1980
Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly in Xanadu (1980)
Hulton Archive/Getty

Newton-John was riding high in the wake of Grease's huge success, but her next film, Xanadu, was a notorious box office disappointment. The fantasy musical, which mixed classic Hollywood style with roller disco and featured music from Electric Light Orchestra, stars Newton-John as a Greek goddess who appears in the real world and inspires a struggling artist. In a hat tip to midcentury musicals, Gene Kelly also stars, in his final film appearance. Xanadu may not be as widely beloved as Grease, but it's gained a cult following over the years thanks to its over-the-top aesthetic and playful plot.

Two of a Kind (1983)

John Travolta kisses Olivia Newton-John in a scene from the film 'Two Of A Kind', 1983
John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in Two Of A Kind (1983)
20th Century-Fox/Getty

Travolta and Newton-John teamed up once again in Two of a Kind, a rom-com with a spiritual twist. Travolta plays a troubled man chosen by angels to be redeemed and potentially save the world, while Newton-John is a bank teller who he attempts to rob, only to become his love interest. While the film was not a success, the soundtrack, which included "Twist of Fate," Newton-John's final top 10 pop hit, went Platinum.

Related: John Travolta Young: Must-See Photos of the Superstar Through the Years

It's My Party (1996)

Olivia Newton-John in 'It's My Party,' 1996
Olivia Newton-John in It's My Party (1996)
Hulton Archive/Getty

It's My Party was a reunion for Newton-John and Grease director Randal Kleiser, but this later, lesser-known film is anything but a crowd-pleasing musical. Rather, it's a drama centered on a man who, preparing to die with dignity due to a harrowing battle with AIDS, decides to have his friends and family over for a farewell party. Newton-John plays one of the protagonist's friends and party guests. The movie is a departure from her typically feel-good fare, but it's noteworthy for its timely subject matter.

Sordid Lives (2000)

Olivia Newton-John in 'Sordid Lives,' 2000
Olivia Newton-John in Sordid Lives (2000)

This Texas-set comedy follows a quirky family coming together in the wake of their elderly matriarch's death. Newton-John plays a local singer who also happens to be a tough-as-nails ex-convict. The movie developed a loyal following and was made into a short-lived TV series on the LGBTQ-centered Logo TV channel in 2008, with Newton-John reprising her role.

As the '00s continued, Newton John played moms in Score: A Hockey Musical and A Few Best Men, both of which were little-seen in the US. In 2020, she made her final film appearance with a cameo playing herself in The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee.

Olivia Newton-John TV shows

Olivia Newton-John starred in a variety of TV movies, including the popular '90s holiday movies A Mom for Christmas, A Christmas Romance and The Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice. She also made guest appearances as herself in shows like Ned and Stacey, Murphy Brown, Bette and Glee.

Not all Olivia Newton-John movies and TV shows have the same reputation as Grease, but while the singer and actress will always be our Sandy, it's fun to take a look at her other roles, from a Greek goddess to a Southern rebel.

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