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Top 10 Movie Performances by Musicians

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco

These talented performers can do it all. For this list, we'll be ranking the best performances by musicians on the silver screen. Our list includes Lady Gaga in “A Star is Born”, Eminem in “8 Mile”, Queen Latifah in “Chicago”, and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Performances by Musicians.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Movie%20Performances%20by%20Musicians. Special thanks to our users mac121mr0 and ReaderGamerSinger for suggesting this idea!


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Script written by George Pacheco

Top 10 Movie Performances by Musicians

Top 10 Movie Performances by Musicians

These talented performers can do it all. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Movie Performances by Musicians. For this list, we'll be ranking the best performances by musicians on the silver screen. We're only going to be considering celebrities who first got their start in the music world, so performances such as Jamie Foxx’s in "Ray" will have to be saved for another day.

#10: Queen Latifah

"Chicago" (2002)
Queen Latifah's appearance in the big screen adaptation of Broadway hit "Chicago" wasn't the first time this member of hip hop royalty tested out her acting chops. Latifah had actually earned plenty of cred working in both film and television, from co-starring on the sitcom "Living Single" to working on "Juice," "Jungle Fever" and "Set It Off." 2002 signified something of a turning point for The Queen, however, as her performance as Matron "Mama" Thornton earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Sure, she may have been edged out by co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones, who took home the Oscar, but it was here where Queen Latifah officially crossed over into the mainstream.

#9: Diana Ross

"Lady Sings the Blues" (1972)
Call this a case of dream casting. "Lady Sings the Blues" featured one musical icon portraying another, as Diana Ross stepped up to the plate to embody the legendary Billie Holiday. Truth be told, this Motown-produced film featured a plethora of talent around Ms. Ross, including Scatman Crothers, Billy Dee Williams and Richard Pryor, but never was The Boss' star diminished one little bit. Instead, Diana shines as Holiday, proving that she could deliver with just as much power on the silver screen as she did on stage. Ross would go on to further push her acting skills in hits like "Mahogany" and "The Wiz," but it's "Lady Sings the Blues" that wins our heart.

#8: Frank Sinatra

"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962)
The 1962 film adaptation of "The Manchurian Candidate" signified something of a career resurgence for Frank Sinatra, who had already been acting in films for over a decade. Gone were the fluffy, lightweight musicals of yesteryear, and in their place was a meaty, co-leading role which made the most of Sinatra's natural screen chemistry. The Chairman of the Board had already won Best Supporting Actor awards from both the Oscars and Golden Globes for his work on "From Here to Eternity," and "The Manchurian Candidate" cemented him as a true double threat; someone who could conquer both the film and musical mediums with style and charisma to spare.

#7: Ice Cube

"Boyz n the Hood" (1991)
Today, Ice Cube is known for starring in a wide variety of films, from the "Friday" and "Jump Street" franchises to B-movie horror flick "Anaconda" and family comedy "Are We There Yet?" But it was "Boyz n the Hood" which first brought Cube to the big screen after breaking through with the formative gangsta rap group N.W.A. The film is gritty, real, and Cube is absolutely great, showing remarkable poise and grace for a musician trying out acting for the first time. If you're never seen this stone cold classic from John Singleton, then make some time and check it out: you will NOT regret it.

#6: Eminem

"8 Mile" (2002)
Sure, one could argue that the reason why Eminem is so good in "8 Mile" is the fact that the film closely follows the real life story of its star. This isn't to trivialize the work Mathers puts into "8 Mile" though, as it would've been all too easy for Eminem to phone in his performance as part of some sort of vanity project. Instead, he lays it all out there on the table, baring personal and painful details on the screen for all to see. "8 Mile" isn't sanitized and it isn't always pretty, but that's why we're still talking about it today.

#5: Lady Gaga

"A Star is Born" (2018)
There's been a lot of buzz around Lady Gaga's performance in the 2018 version of "A Star is Born," and with good reason, as the pop icon digs deep into her own personal life to deliver something that takes the film beyond mere "remake" status. Just as Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson killed it in the 1976 version, so too do Gaga and Bradley Cooper, putting their own personal stamp upon a film that’s won over audiences and critics alike with its blockbuster musical performances and deep, emotional pathos.

#4: Barbra Streisand

"Funny Girl" (1968)
We just mentioned the immortal Babs and her career-defining work on the 1976 iteration of "A Star is Born," but this wasn't the first time Streisand knocked it out of the park. No, Barbra was already pulling on the heartstrings of audiences with the 1973 tearjerker "The Way We Were," and before that the next movie on our list, 1969's "Funny Girl." This film signified Streisand's film debut, after first playing the role of Fanny Brice on Broadway, and quickly earned her critical and commercial praise for her charm and comedic timing. Don't like musicals? We say give "Funny Girl" a chance anyway.

#3: Jennifer Hudson

"Dreamgirls" (2006)
"Dreamgirls" was already well known by Broadway aficionados when it was adapted to the screen in 2006, having already made a star of its lead, Jennifer Holliday. Fans of the musical wondered who could possibly perform the iconic Holliday number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," which demands a supersonic amount of vocal range and power. Enter "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson, who silenced skeptics with a performance that earned her "Best Supporting Actress" awards from The Oscars, Golden Globes, and Critic's Choice. Here, the proof is in the pudding, as Hudson's rendition of the tune is enough to turn just about anyone to jelly.

#2: Bjork

"Dancer in the Dark" (2000)
We've mentioned a lot of positive, life affirming films in our list. "Dancer in the Dark" is...not one of those. However, director Lars Von Trier's exercise in emotional torture wins a place here for the absolutely incredible performance of its star, Bjork. The film is bleak and depressing, yet captivatingly beautiful, thanks largely to how much power Bjork brings to the role of Selma Ježková, who is going blind from a degenerative eye condition. "Dancer in the Dark" doesn't rely only upon Bjork's amazing voice to carry its weight, but instead works with the Icelandic singer's expressive face and instinctive acting talent to create a film that's truly one of a kind.

Before we name our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions!

Dolly Parton
"9 to 5" (1980)

Mark Wahlberg
"Boogie Nights" (1997)

#1: Cher

"Moonstruck" (1987)
"Moonstruck" isn't your average "'80s movie." The romantic comedy is funny, witty, moving and heartfelt, with much of this success laid squarely at the feet of its lead, Cher. The Goddess of Pop had been experimenting for a while with acting, but it was with "Moonstruck" that she, well..."struck" gold, earning her an Academy Award for "Best Actress." These accolades were well deserved; Cher seems truly at ease in front the camera, with a poise likely earned via her decades of performing alongside ex-husband, Sonny Bono. "Moonstruck" was all Cher and Cher alone, however, and it was a truly epic tour-de-force.

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