It seems like every aspect of our lives and popular culture has been influenced one way or another by the great minds of musicians. From the music album covers that have been made famous to films that have been scored and soundtracked, musicians have left a lasting impression on us through their audiovisual masterworks. Musicians have even taken the big screen by storm, taking on experiences as huge actors or even as directors.

Whether it’s pop stars trying out acting or actors making music, performing artists have had their fair share of acting roles in the movie industry. Instead of leaving their skills confined to just their art, these performers have chosen to blur the lines, expanding their talent far beyond our expectations. With so many musicians appearing in a variety of films, it can be hard to keep up with which musician fits what kind of movie.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the top movies where musicians have been featured. From obvious collaborations to musicians having secret cameo appearances, all the way to musicians trying their hand at directing, this piece will cover it all. Read on as we explore the top times that musicians have made an appearance on the silver screen.

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

The most notable example of a musician appearing in a movie is arguably Bohemian Rhapsody, a biographical music drama where Rami Malek starred as the lead singer of the popular band, Queen. The film was a massive box office success and won four Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture.

The film focuses on the meteoric rise of Queen in the 1970’s and 1980s, and their relationship with lead singer Freddie Mercury. Hailed as one of the most flamboyant and influential singers in the music industry, Freddie Mercury’s performance was the driving force behind Queen’s success.

Metallica – Through the Never

Musicians appearing in movies isn’t a new trend, and in 2013, the heavy metal band Metallica took their talents to the silver screen when their concert film, Through the Never, was released. Directed by Nimród Antal, the film follows a roadie (Dane DeHaan) as he takes on an important mission for his band.

Though it was an experimental film, it was successful enough to have been released in IMAX 3D. It also featured documentary scenes of Metallica in their studio and on the road, giving viewers a glimpse into the band’s daily lives.

Rihanna – Ocean’s 8

In 2018, artist Rihanna made a cameo in Ocean’s 8, a heist crime film that featured an all-female cast. The film follows 8 female criminals as they attempt to pull off a heist of a necklace from the Met Gala in New York.

Rihanna appears in the movie as Nine Ball, a technology expert, who helps the criminals complete their mission. This wasn’t her first foray into movies, as she previously played an alien in the sci-fi comedy Battleship, as well as having roles in the action comedy This Is The End and the drama Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

Ice Cube – Friday

Before taking up his role on the silver screen, Ice Cube got his start in music, originating from the infamous gangsta rap group N.W.A. His reputation in the music industry helped him made the transition from rapper to actor, kicking off his career by staring in the 1995 comedy Friday.

The film follows two unemployed men, Craig and Smokey, who spend their day jobless, getting into all types of shenanigans. Ice Cube is credited as a writer for the project, as well as playing the lead role as Craig. Friday gave rise to two additional sequels, Next Friday and Friday After Next.

Will Smith – Ali

Will Smith’s made it big when he entered the music scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and he’s been a powerhouse ever since. But in 2001, he took his performance to a new level with his lead role in Ali.

A biopic film, Ali recounts the life of the famous American heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali, who was famously known to be one of the greatest boxers in history. Smith was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film, and it marked the start of his successful film career.

Michael Jackson – This Is It

In 2009, months after Michael Jackson’s untimely death, Columbia Pictures released the live concert film This Is It, which served as a tribute to the King of Pop.

The film was crafted from the rehearsal and preparation Jackson had done for the This Is It tour, and it featured clips from Jackson in rehearsals and interviews, as well as the various on-stage performances he had been preparing. The movie grossed more than $261 million in the box office, and it gave fans around the world a chance to pay their respects to the pop star.

Jennifer Lopez – Hustlers

Before taking to the big screen, Jennifer Lopez made her name in music, becoming the first Latin star to hold the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Later on, Lopez made a powerful statement when she was cast as the main protagonist in the crime drama Hustlers.

Following the story of four strippers living in New York, Hustlers takes a deep dive into the harsh realities of the sex industry, and the journey of resilience these women embark on. Lopez earned Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for her performance in the film and even landed a role in the Netflix original movie The Wedding Planner.

Other Examples

Though we’ve highlighted some of the most popular examples of when musicians played a starring role in film, it’s certainly not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other examples of musicians who’ve made a splash in the movie industry, or musicians who’ve been cast in smaller roles that you may not have noticed.

Here are a few more examples of when musicians appeared on the silver screen:

• Nicki Minaj – The Other Woman
• Taylor Swift – Valentine’s Day
• Katy Perry – The Smurfs
• Justin Timberlake – The Social Network
• Beyoncé – Dreamgirls
• Missy Elliott – The Perfect Match
• Selena Gomez – Spring Breakers
• John Legend – La La Land
• Pharrell Williams – Hidden Figures

Where Music and Film Collide

Music and movies have always gone hand in hand, with countless projects blurring the lines between both industries. In recent years, filmmakers have been getting more creative and ambitious in their collaborations with musical artists. From soundtracks to themed music videos, to having musicians direct and compose scores, to casting them as lead roles, the possibilities and potential of having musicians take part in movie projects are endless.

Take for example, the film Soul, when Academy Award-winning director Pete Docter sought out the help of hip-hop artist and songwriter Questlove to compose the film’s music. It surely won’t be the last collaboration of its kind, and we’re likely to see an abundance of creative ideas being created from the mix of music and film.

Though musicians are usually found on the stage or in the recording studio, it’s no surprise that some of our favorite stars have taken their performance to the big screen. Musicians have been cast in leading roles, as well as secret cameo appearances, and they’ve even put their director’s hats on to create hit movies.

The crossover between music and film has been strong, and we can’t wait to see what exciting collaborations will arise in the future. Until then, we’ll continue to look back on memorable times when musicians appeared on the silver screen, and we’ll revisit some of our favorite musical films.

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