25+ Times Musicians Tried To Make It In Hollywood

Madonna

Madonna provided the soundtrack to the eighties. Not content to conquer just the airwaves, Madonna set her sights on the movies and starred opposite Rosanna Arquette in Desperately Seeking Susan to moderate acclaim.

Madonna’s movie career since has been up and down, winning a Golden Globe for Evita and a Golden Raspberry for her work in Swept Away.

Taylor Swift

Currently busy dominating the world on her Eras tour, Taylor Swift has attempted to break into movies several times. Thus far, Swift has not picked the best projects with Valentine’s Day and Cats both being ill-received by film fans and critics alike.

Having directed many of her own music videos to much acclaim, Swift’s potential Hollywood domination could come from a career behind the camera.

Kris Kristofferson

Prior to becoming an actor, Kris Kristofferson already had an established career in the music business. In his early career, Kristofferson helped write songs for music royalty such as Janis Joplin and Johnny Cash.

His history made him the perfect casting choice for the 1976 version of A Star is Born. These days Kristofferson is best known for playing Whistler in the Blade movies.

Billy Idol

Rebel Yell singer Billy Idol was originally cast in The Doors as Jim Morisson’s friend, Tom Baker. It was meant to launch Idol’s acting career, but then the musician got injured in a serious motorcycle accident.

He still appears in the movie, but in the much smaller role of Cat. His only other brush with Hollywood came when he played himself in The Wedding Singer. Sadly for Idol, the biking accident also cost him the role of the T-1000 in Terminator 2.

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah’s Academy Award nomination for her performance of Mama Morton in 2002’s Chicago came early in her acting career. Prior to that, Queen Latifah was a rapper, hip-hop, and R&B giant.

Since her acting nomination, the star has remained in the acting world starring in projects as diverse as Taxi, Hustle, and Girl’s Trip.

Harry Styles

A fan of movies that feel like movies, Harry Styles made the jump to acting after One Direction parted ways. His debut came in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, but it was his casting in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling that grabbed the headlines.

Unfortunately, critics were not wild about his performance; perhaps his next project, Faster, Cheaper, Better, with Nightcrawler director Dan Gilroy will fare better.

Eminem

Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers, was perfectly cast in 2002’s 8 Mile, as the drama contains autobiographical elements from his own life. The film saw Eminem star as Jimmy, a young rapper from Detroit with dreams of being a star.

The performance earned him an MTV Movie Award for Best Actor. However, outside of a few cameos as himself, Eminem seems to have since left Hollywood behind.

Sting

As he transitioned from being Sting in The Police to a solo artist, Sting tried his hand at acting. He took a key role as the Ace Face in 1979's Quadrophenia, the film adaptation of The Who's concept album.

Later, Sting appeared as Feyd Rautha in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Frank Herberts’ sci-fi epic Dune. The film was a commercial catastrophe and even David Lynch has denounced the project – although it has gone on to garner somewhat of a cult following.

Lady Gaga

Viewed by many as the modern-day Madonna, Lady Gaga has followed in the iconic singer’s footsteps and turned her hand to acting.

So far her track record has fared better than Madonna’s, with both A Star is Born and House of Gucci generating awards nominations and wins. All eyes are on Gaga’s next project, a sequel to 2019’s Joker, in which she will play Harley Quinn.

Will Smith

Before he was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air on TV, Will Smith was performing under the name Fresh Prince alongside DJ Jazzy Jeff. Their first single, Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble, and his debut album, Rock the House, were hits.

Then in 1991, Smith was cast in the classic sitcom. Since then, Smith has gone on to juggle both a successful solo and acting career, even winning an Oscar for his performance in 2021’s King Richard.

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson is proof that sometimes reality talent contests get it wrong. Somehow, the powerhouse singer placed only seventh on the third season of American Idol.

Two years later, Hudson announced her comeback in style by winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of Effie in the 2006 movie Dreamgirls.

Awkwafina

It’s hard to find a big-name film – live-action or animation – right now that doesn’t include Awkwafina. Her performance in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians catapulted her to the big leagues, the star having since appeared in The Little Mermaid, Renfield, and Ocean’s Eight.

However, once upon a time, Awkwafina made her name as a rapper, going viral on YouTube in 2012 with a song about her private parts.

Beyoncé

Now an iconic independent woman, Beyoncé was once a part of Destiny’s Child. Before the group slowly parted ways, Beyoncé branched out into movies.

She joined Mike Myers in 2002’s Austin Power in Goldmember, before getting a little more serious for her role in 2006’s Dreamgirls. In recent years, Beyoncé has been busy focusing on her music, but a return to the screen is sure to come.

Kelly Rowland

After witnessing fellow Destiny’s Child singer Beyoncé move into movies, Kelly Rowland decided to follow suit. In 2003 she was cast in the tent-pole battle of the baddies horror, Freddy vs. Jason.

Whilst her character didn’t have a whole lot to do, she did get to sass the King of nightmares – Freddy Krueger, which makes her the more iconic Destiny’s Child actor in our eyes.

Ludacris

During the late nineties and early noughties, Ludacris was rolling on a wave of hit songs. Then, he began acting under his given name of Chris Bridges.

In 2003 he was cast in the small role of Tej in 2 Fast 2 Furious. In 2011 he was bought back for Fast Five as a major player, and now remains one of the core family members.

Björk

Icelandic musician Björk has been enthralling audiences with her unique brand of music since she was aged just eleven. During the nineties she had a slew of hit songs, and then in 2000 she starred in Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark.

This performance garnered lots of acclaim, even snagging the Best Actress award at Cannes Film Festival. However, Björk's subsequent acting roles have been few and far between. Most recently, she starred in Robert Eggers’ Viking epic The Northman.

Rihanna

Rihanna has been trying to break into acting almost as long as she has been singing. Unfortunately, she has yet to find the perfect part to play that will make audiences take notice of her.

An early appearance in the critically-panned Battleship did nothing to help, nor did her turn in 2017’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J launched his musical career with the iconic Def Jam records in 1984. Like many of his rapping peers, LL Cool J has given acting a try.

LL proved himself to be excellent comedic entertainment in his own sitcom, In the House. This work led to hilarious roles in horror films Halloween H20 and Deep Blue Sea.

Busta Rhymes

After LL Cool J went down so well in Halloween H20, fellow rapper Busta Rhymes decided to go toe-to-toe with iconic slasher Michael Myers in the next film in the horror series, 2002's Halloween: Resurrection.

His character managed to survive the film, but Rhymes’ fledgling acting career didn’t manage the same when faced with the movie’s critical panning. Apart from the odd role here and there, Rhymes has since remained firmly in the music world.

Britney Spears

The true princess of pop, Britney Spears was a force to be reckoned with during the late nineties. She had a steady stream of hit singles, albums, and sell-out shows; having earned almost every musical accolade, she turned her attention to acting.

In 2002, she starred in chick flick Crossroads. Unfortunately, Crossroads proved that whilst she could sing, Spears’ ability to act was lacking. Even so, Spears also auditioned for 2004's The Notebook, and impressed the producers enough that she was seriously considered for the role ultimately taken by Rachel McAdams.

Christina Aguilera

Throughout their careers, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears were pitted against one another, and so when Britney moved into movies, Christina followed suit.

Her film debut came in 2010 when she starred in Burlesque alongside fellow singer-turned-actor, Cher. Sadly, Burlesque performed about as well as Crossroads, leaving the perpetual rivals in a stalemate once more.

Meatloaf

Meatloaf was a born performer, and each and every one of his shows was like a trip to the movie theater. Whilst these shows gave Meatloaf some creative outlet, he turned to the big screen to properly stretch himself.

He starred in cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but it was his work in David Fincher’s Fight Club as Bob that won over movie critics.

Ice Cube

With rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube revolutionized the hip-hop world. His acting work has also made waves; his first role in Boyz n the Hood was a knockout.

Since then Ice Cube has routinely and successfully shifted back and forth between comedy and drama, with roles in Three Kings, the Friday series, the Barbershop series and the Jump Street movies being particular highlights.

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake rose to fame as part of boy band NSYNC. The star then went solo and had phenomenal success with his album FutureSex/LoveSounds.

After ruling the pop world, Timberlake ventured into the movies. Early film Southland Tales may have tanked, but the Trolls series, in which Timberlake voices the character Branch, is a global smash-hit.

Machine Gun Kelly

Rapid-fire rapper Machine Gun Kelly has been acting for a number of years under his real name of Colson Baker.

His biggest role to date came in the Netflix movie The Dirt, a biopic of the band Mötley Crüe. In the film he played the forever-in-lust drummer, Tommy Lee.

Mandy Moore

Mandy Moore was one of many singers pushed into the pop world after both Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera proved popular. Whilst Moore struggled to achieve the same level of success as either, she has proven herself as a strong actor.

Her work in 2004’s Saved! shredded her princess image, and she earned major recognition as Rebecca Pearson in TV series This is Us. Moore also got to show off both her singing and acting as the voice of Rapunzel in Disney's Tangled.

50 Cent

Rapper-turned-actor 50 Cent, aka Curtis Jackson, had a novel way of transitioning from music to movies, when he starred in Get Rich or Die Tryin’.

In the film he played Marcus, a drug-dealer trying to go clean and make it in the rap world. Several sequences in the film were very close to Cent’s own background, making the film a pseudo biopic.

Lenny Kravitz

Having made a name for himself with songs Fly Away, Are You Gonna Go My Way and American Woman, Lenny Kravitz is a rock icon.

Given that both his ex-wife, Lisa Bonet, and his daughter, Zoë Kravitz, are actors, it is no surprise that Lenny Kravitz eventually stepped in front of the camera. His first big role came playing Cinna in the The Hunger Games.

Jessica Simpson

Although she had a semi-successful singing career, pop starlet Jessica Simpson never took off in the same way as Britney or Christina.

Her debut single I Wanna Love You Forever was her biggest hit, charting at number three on the Billboard 100. Simpson then turned her attention to acting where she had middling success with comedies Employee of the Month and Dukes of Hazzard.

Ice-T

Since 2000, Ice-T has appeared in over five-hundred episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. However, back in the 1980’s, Ice-T had a career as an underground rapper.

In 1991 he got his first taste of acting in New Jack City, and stayed. It wasn’t an easy road, with the double-whammy of critically panned Tank Girl and Johnny Mnemonic threatening to derail his career before it began.

Mark Wahlberg

Before he was Mark Wahlberg, star of Deepwater Horizon, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Boogie Nights, Wahlberg was better known as Marky Mark.

The star performed songs with his hip-hop group The Funky Bunch, but was met with backlash from those believing he was cashing in on his older brother Donnie’s fame in boy band New Kids on the Block.

Frank Sinatra

Ol’ Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, was one of the first musicians to move into acting. A titan of the music world, Sinatra also managed to amass credits in films such as Ocean’s Eleven and Guys and Dolls.

The crooner was also originally intended to be the star of 1988’s Die Hard, although – being 70 at the time – Sinatra declined.

Aaliyah

At the turn of the millennium, Aaliyah was an R&B princess. Her single, Try Again, took the charts by storm, and so too did her turn in the film Romeo Must Die.

The star was primed for a bright future, but sadly passed away in a tragic aircraft accident ahead of the release of her next film, Queen of the Damned, in which she played the iconic Akasha.

Snoop Dogg

There’s a long tradition of rappers moving into movies when the music dries up, and not wanting to be left behind, Snoop Dogg joined the movement.

Happy to play up to his chill image, Snoop has made a career in comedy. He was great as Huggy Bear in the Dukes of Hazzard movie, but less so in the dire Soul Plane.

Whitney Houston

The late Whitney Houston was famed for her incredible vocal range, and her single I Will Always Love You managed to stay atop the Billboard charts for a record-setting fourteen weeks.

The song was from 1992's The Bodyguard. This huge hit saw Houston co-star with Kevin Costner, and made her an instant movie star. The accompanying soundtrack album also became the biggest selling record of Houston's career.

Elvis Presley

Whereas Frank Sinatra may have pioneered the singer-to-actor trend, Elvis Presley demonstrated just how successful the move could be. Already a megastar of music, Presley’s appearances in films such Jailhouse Rock, G. I. Blues, and Blue Hawaii, took him interstellar.

Presley's transition, and ability to maintain and grow his audience via the movies, has been a clear inspiration to many musicians through the years.

David Bowie

No matter what the late, great David Bowie turned his talent to, he excelled at it. His music has helped change the lives of many, and his work in film is equally important.

Never one to let ego cloud his decision, Bowie had an impressive and eclectic movie career starring in The Hunger, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Labyrinth, and Zoolander.

Jon Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi front-man Jon Bon Jovi was a stadium-rock heartthrob during the eighties and early nineties. Eventually Bon Jovi set out on an acting career with fairly disappointing results.

He had small roles in Moonlight & Valentino and U-571, as well as a ten-episode arc on TV show Ally McBeal, but never achieved the same status he had as a rock God, and so he returned to music.

Alana Haim

Alana Haim, the youngest of the sisters in the band Haim, is a more recent convert to the world of acting, and has come out swinging.

She made her feature debut in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza and instantly found herself the recipient of Best Actress honors from multiple critics’ groups during award season.

Cher

Cher is arguably one of the most successful musicians to go Hollywood. She won an Academy Award for her work in 1988’s Moonstruck, with other iconic titles including Silkwood, Mermaids, and The Witches of Eastwick.

Later movies such as 2010’s Burlesque were less well received, but her last minute appearance in Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again proved that Cher will always be a star.