Musicians Who Ended Up Being Surprisingly Good Actors

By Rick Gonzales | Updated

jennifer lopez

They represent some of the biggest names in the music world. Musicians who decided their talents didn’t only lie within the music industry, but also in the film industry. The entertainment field is littered with musicians who successfully crossed over to film and done so quite well.

There was Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra (the whole Rat Pack even), the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Ice-T, and even Meat Loaf, all who didn’t stand pat with their singing careers and stepped in front of the camera with respectable film careers.

Those names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to musicians turned actors. While they represent some of the best, we have found the best of the best. The following are 10 of the best musicians who ended up being surprisingly good actors.

Musicians Who Are Also Great Actors

10. Tim McGraw

When it comes to recording country music, Tim McGraw has been quite consistent and quite good over his 30+ singing career. McGraw has released 16 studio albums, 10 of them reaching number one on the country music charts.

The first time McGraw stood in front of the camera was on the sitcom, The Jeff Foxworthy Show. Since that time, McGraw has more than shown his fine acting chops with numerous great performances in films like Friday Night Lights, Four Christmases, The Blind Side, Country Strong, Tomorrowland, and The Shack.

Of course, he most recently starred in the hit Taylor Sheridan series, 1883, opposite his wife, Faith Hill.

9. Mandy Moore

mandy moore

Before Mandy Moore learned to break hearts on the big and small screens, she had recorded two albums. Her first foray into features began with a voice role in the film Dr. Dolittle 2.

The first time she was seen on the big screen came in the 2001 comedy, The Princess Diaries. Then Moore’s acting career began in earnest. The following year Moore was seen in A Walk to Remember, the tearjerker based on the Nicholas Sparks novel that brought much recognition to musician turned actress.

Moore has gone on to star in features such as Chasing Liberty, American Dreamz, Because I Said So, 47 Meters Down, and was the voice of Rapunzel in the animated Disney film, Tangled. What Moore is best known for, though, is her role as Rebecca Pearson in the heart-breaking drama series, This is Us.

8. David Bowie

david bowie

Now, if we want to split hairs here with David Bowie, his acting career predated his breakthrough music career by a little bit. His very first acting gig came in a 1967 short called The Image.

Throughout his entire music career, which sadly ended in 2016 when he lost his battle with liver cancer, David Bowie bounced back and forth from music to acting with grace. His first major film role was The Man Who Fell to Earth, playing an alien that comes from a dying planet.

Other notable roles came in films such as The Hunger, Basquiat, The Linguini Incident, and Just a Gigolo.

7. Jennifer Hudson

When we first saw the multi-talented Jennifer Hudson, she was a finalist on the hit singing competition show, American Idol. Surprisingly, Hudson took seventh, though that never slowed her down. Barely two years later, Hudson made her feature film debut in Dreamgirls taking home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

As a musician, Hudson is also a Grammy Award winner. Her films include Winnie Mandela, Black Nativity, Cats, and Respect and she also made her Broadway debut in the musical The Color Purple.

6. Queen Latifah

queen latifah equalizer

Born Dana Elaine Owens, Queen Latifah was first a rap artist and singer before crossing over to film and television. Latifah was only 19 when she released her debut album and two years later, she was finding herself in from of cameras starring in features such as House Party 2, Juice, and Jungle Fever.

After that, Latifah concentrated more on her film career, starring in Chicago, where she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She has also been seen in films like Bringing Down the House, Beauty Shop, Hairspray, and the very underrated comedy, Last Holiday. Lately, Latifah has been seen in the hit television series, The Equalizer.

5. Bette Midler

Bette Midler

The Divine Miss M was a singer well before she chose to try her hand at acting. Bette Midler was known for titillating audiences on stage with shows that were not only entertaining, but raunchy as hell.

She took that persona and turned it into a great acting career with one of her best feature films, The Rose. In this 1979 film, Midler played Mary Rose Foster, loosely based on singer Janis Joplin, whose excess with alcohol and drugs was her fatal downfall.

After that, it was one big film after another for Midler, starring in films such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Outrageous Fortune, Beaches, For the Boys, Hocus Pocus, and The First Wives Club.

4. Mark Wahlberg

Before Mark Wahlberg became known as Dirk Diggler in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film, Boogie Nights, he was a musician known as Marky Mark. His music group, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, released three albums before Wahlberg took a break from music and turned toward acting.

Wahlberg’s career has been filled with numerous big hits that include the aforementioned Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm, Planet of the Apes, The Departed, The Other Guys, The Fighter, Lone Survivor, and Spenser Confidential.

With Wahlberg, it has never been a question about if the man can act, he has definitely shown he can, but it has always been more about his sometimes head-scratching choices of films.

3. Jennifer Lopez

jennifer lopez musicians

JLo. Jenny from the Block. Jennifer Lopez began her career as a dancer. She performed on the sitcom sketch comedy show In Living Color before traveling around as a dancer on various concert tours.

Her film career actually took off before her music career as she had small parts in films like Money Train and Blood and Wine, but it was her lead role as Selena Quintanilla-Perez that brought her well-deserved attention. She followed that film up with the shlocky-but-fun Anaconda and JLo’s acting career took off.

Lopez was another performer who continued to produce albums as well as films. Her film career includes The Wedding Planner, Enough, Maid in Manhattan, The Back-up Plan, Hustlers, Marry Me, and The Mother.

2. Cher

cher musicians

If you take a look at Cher’s filmography, you will see it is not littered with many films. But what you will see in that list are a number of very influential movies. As a musician, Cher got her start a few years before she broke into the acting business.

As an actor, Cher had a few minor roles before she opened eyes in the 1983 film, Silkwood. After that, it was one big hit after another. She was in Mask (no, not the Jim Carrey comedy), Suspect,

The Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck, Mermaids, If These Walls Could Talk, and Burlesque. Cher’s acting has always been top-notch.

1. Will Smith

will smith musicians

Let’s put The Slap aside for now and look at Will Smith, the actor. Of all the musicians-turned-actors, Will Smith might be the most recognizable, and this was before his Academy Awards meltdown.

Smith first made a name in the music world as rapper, the Fresh Prince. Performing with DJ Jazzy, Smith was an immediate hit. He took his popularity to television with the sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel—Air, showing he not only had the chops for comedy, but that he could truly act.

Smith’s first big role came in the feature film, Six Degrees of Separation followed immediately by his smash hit, Bad Boys. Then came films like Independence Day, Men in Black, and Enemy of the State, all of which led to his Academy Award Best Actor nomination for playing legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in the impressive feature, Ali.

Smith’s acting career continued to flourish as he starred in such hits as Hitch, The Pursuit of Happyness, Hancock, Seven Pounds, Concussion, and the continuation of the Bad Boys franchise.

Unfortunately, Smith’s Academy Awards meltdown has derailed his career for the time being and it remains to be seen if it will ever get back on track. It doesn’t, though, take away from the fact that Smith is a fabulous actor.