For some reason, there are people in the movie business who think that because a musician is popular, then they may be a good actor (or at least, a big box office draw). Of course, a few musicians have successfully crossed over like David Bowie, Tom Waits, Cher, Will Smith, and Barbra Streisand, just to name a few. However, not every crossover from music to acting has gone as smoothly. The problem is that while the two art forms involve performing and emoting, they don’t share many other similarities.
Beyoncé Knowles basically has two types of acting roles: those where she mostly sings and others where she has to act. One role definitely works better than the other. For example, she is passable in musicals where she plays in supporting roles like The Fighting Temptations, Cadillac Records and Dreamgirls. But any of her movies where she has to do anything beyond sing are pretty bad. For example, Beyoncé’s acting was clunky in the worst Austin Powers movie.
She also starred in the critically panned Obsessed, where she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress (she lost to Sandra Bullock in All About Steve). If Beyoncé sticks to singing roles, she may be able to skate on her charm and charisma, just don’t expect to see her accepting an Oscar for acting anytime soon.
9. Vanilla Ice
Born Robert Van Winkle, Vanilla Ice was launched to pop stardom in 1990 after his single “Ice Ice Baby” put his album on top of the charts for 16 weeks. To capitalize on his popularity, merchandise was mass produced and Vanilla Ice even had a musical cameo in the 1991 hit movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.
Thinking that Vanilla Ice could go from a musical cameo to a lead actor in a film, the movie Cool as Ice was developed as a vehicle for the rapper. In Cool as Ice, which is based on Marlon Brando’s film Wild at Heart, Vanilla Ice played a motorcycle-driving rapper who falls for an honor student in a small town. It was a horribly bland idea and it bombed at the box office, only making $1.1 million on a $6 million budget. For his horrendous performance, Vanilla Ice won a Golden Raspberry for Worst Actor and Cool as Ice won for Worst Movie.
Since the disastrous debut, Vanilla Ice has had cameos in other films and starred in an ultra-low budget parody of The Matrix, but thankfully he never again starred in a film from a major studio. Currently Vanilla Ice is a star of a reality show where he flips houses.
8. Kelly Clarkson
The first season of American Idol was a cultural phenomenon, especially among 18-49 year olds. Seeing that money could be made from exploiting this, the people at Fox thought it would be a good idea to cast the winner and semi-finalist of their reality show singing competition in a feature length film. Because why not? Everyone knows that reality stars and singers must be able to act.
A movie was developed called From Justin to Kelly, and it’s about a waitress from Texas, Kelly, (Kelly Clarkson) who meets a student from Pennsylvania, Justin (Justin Guarini), and they have a complicated relationship. It was released and completely bombed in theaters because, naturally, it was a terrible movie. A major problem was that neither Kelly Clarkson nor Justin Guarini could act. Since they couldn’t act, and the situation was probably a little awkward because Kelly beat Justin, their on-screen chemistry is some of the worst in the history of cinema.
The film was awarded nine Golden Raspberries, including Worst Actor and Worst Actress for Guarini and Clarkson, respectively. They also took home Worst Couple. A year later, on the 25th Anniversary of the Golden Raspberry, From Justin to Kelly was named the Worst Musical of Our First 25 Years. It is also considered one of the worst movies of all time by many critics. Thankfully, Clarkson and Guarini haven’t been given leads in any movies since their disastrous big screen debut.
7. Mick Jagger
Throughout the years, Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger has dabbled a little bit in acting. He is decent in a few films, like 1970’s Performance, where he plays an eccentric rock star. He’s also really good in all the Rolling Stones’ concert films. But any time that Jagger tries to show off his dramatic chops and play something beside a weird musician, you can see he isn’t nearly as talented on a movie set as he is on a concert stage.
In Jagger’s first movie, Ned Kelly, he played the titular character and it could have been a decent movie, but Jagger’s acting ruins it. However, his most notable failure as an actor is when he was cast as a villain in the 1992 sci-fi movie Freejack. In the film, Jagger is the leader of a group of time traveling bounty hunters who are transporting a race car driver to New York City in 2009, so that his brain could be swapped out for a billionaire’s. Sadly, Jagger really didn’t have that futuristic tough guy swagger to make him a believable villain.
After Freejack, Jagger had two supporting roles in two movies. One was Bent, which was released in 1997, and then he appeared in 2001’s The Man from Elysian Fields. Neither film was a hit with critics or audiences. Since then, Jagger has only made cameos as himself in films and shows.
6. Bob Dylan
Over the years, people have tried to put Bob Dylan in movies, despite the fact that it’s obvious that he really, really can’t act. He got his first role in a film in 1973, and later starred in the horrendous Hearts of Fire as a reclusive rock star who takes on a female protégé. The film was so bad that it only got a limited release and Dylan later wrote it off entirely.
Time went on and Dylan stayed away from acting, but in 2003, he was in the film Masked and Anonymous. The problem was that a lot of really good actors wanted to work with him, because after all, he is BOB DYLAN. When you put really good, professional actors like Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Bruce Dern, and Ed Harris in a movie alongside Dylan, his acting looks even worse. The movie was loathed by critics, who called it completely self-indulgent and that Dylan’s acting was near catatonic. Since then, Dylan has not done any acting.
5. Jessica Simpson
Releasing her debut album in 1999, Jessica Simpson was originally marketed as a “cleaner” version of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. After two popular, but ultimately forgettable albums, Simpson married Nick Lachey from 98 Degrees and they starred in one of the earliest reality shows, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. On the show, Simpson came across as a vapid airhead, but since she was pretty and famous, someone thought she belonged in the movie business. In 2002, she got her first “acting” gig, (and we use that term very loosely) appearing as Daisy Duke in the horrendous big screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazard. For the film, it appears that all Simpson did to get into character was put on a pair of short-shorts. Amazingly, this would be her most famous role and the standard to which her other roles would be compared, because her movies only got worse from there.
Simpson went on to co-star in the atrocious Employee of the Month with Dane Cook. Apparently, Cook said that one time while on the set for the film, Simpson asked him if they were shooting a movie. After that bomb, she went on to star in the almost direct-to-video movie Blonde Ambition (it played in eight theatres). She had a cameo as herself in the notoriously awful Mike Myers film, The Love Guru, and she appeared on the series Entourage as herself in 2010. Since then, she has mercifully stopped acting.
4. Britney Spears
Britney Spears broke onto the worldwide pop scene with her provocative song and video “…Baby One More Time” in 1997. After a few more hits, there were big expectations that Britney Spears might be one of those mega-stars who would transcend the musician-acting barrier. But, anyone who has even heard of the film Crossroads knows that Spears’ acting was worse than any song she ever put out. The film, which was based on an idea from Spears herself, went into production in 2001 and was released in 2002 to horrible reviews. Spears was awarded the Razzie for Worst Actress, and she also took home another one (figuratively) for Worst Song.
While the film did bring in over $60 million, it certainly wasn’t the launch pad to movie stardom that some people were expecting. After Crossroads, Spears made a cameo in Pauly Shore is Dead and Will and Grace. She also did two guest spots as Abby in How I Met Your Mother in 2008, but that is it for her acting career.
3. 50 Cent
After the success of 8 Mile, people thought that, for some reason, Eminem’s protégée Curtis Jackson, better known as his stage name 50 Cent, could pull off the same feat. The problem was that the only things that 50 Cent and Eminem have in common is that they are both rappers with interesting life stories. Nevertheless, in 2005, a film based on the life of 50 Cent, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, which was directed by Academy Award winner Jim Sheridan, was released to a chorus of bad reviews.
What’s interesting is that Samuel L. Jackson, who is famous for being in so many movies, turned down a role in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ because he didn’t want to work with such an inexperienced actor and he spoke publicly about turning down the role. He condemned the idea that because someone is successful in one art, that they are automatically good at another one. He hated the idea of putting his name behind that notion and didn’t even read the script for Get Rich or Die Tryin’.
Despite the setbacks of not being able to act, 50 Cent has had more than his share of acting gigs. The problem is that almost every movie he’s in is terrible and he’s usually one of the reasons they are so bad. On Rotten Tomatoes, only two movies that he’s appeared in are considered “Fresh.” The two films that weren’t completely panned by critics are Spy, where he makes a cameo as himself, and he plays a very minor character in the John Cusack and Nicholas Cage serial killer movie you’ve never heard of called Frozen Ground, which is only “Fresh” by only a single percentage point.
Ask anyone who’s seen the 1984 Prince vehicle Purple Rain what they think of it and they will tell you the same thing: the music is great, but the rest of it…not so much. Prince Roger Nelson, who usually just goes by either Prince or a couple random, squiggly lines, plays a character called The Kid that is essentially just a fictionalized version of himself. The Kid is trying to escape his horrible home life through the music he plays as the front man of a band called The Revolution. As mentioned earlier, the music is great, and it’s the sixth bestselling soundtrack of all time, but the rest of the movie feels like a really long music video because Prince’s acting is so bad.
After Purple Rain, Prince directed and starred in the film Under the Cherry Moon in 1986. The movie was hated by critics and failed commercially. Prince won two Raspberries for the film for Worst Director and Worst Actor. Undeterred, Prince made a third film, which was a semi-sequel to Purple Rain called Graffiti Bridge. Not learning anything from Under the Cherry Moon, Prince wrote, directed and starred in the film and it again earned Prince a nomination Raspberry for Worst Actor along with Worst Writer and Worst Director. And even though Purple Rain was a huge success, the sequel didn’t attract much of the same audience and it is considered to be one of the worst movies of the 1990s. But again, the soundtrack was loved, which is perhaps when Prince got the hint that he should just stick with music.
We’re the first to admit that Madonna has a few good movies, but there’s a reason that Madonna Louise Ciccone is still known for her music and not her acting. Some of her less than stellar films include Shanghai Surprise, Dangerous Games, Body of Evidence and Who’s That Girl. But the movie where Madonna’s pathetic acting really shines through is the notorious 2002 film Swept Away. What’s interesting is that Swept Away is a remake of a 1974 film, and the remake is pretty faithful to the original. What made the remake so offensively bad is Madonna’s acting. Many critics said that it was so bad that it is a punishing ordeal for anyone who watches it. The film won five Golden Raspberries, including two for Madonna’s acting (Worst Actress and Worst On-Screen Couple).
The question then arises: does appearing in a supporting role in A League of Our Own and starring in Evita justify the rest of Madonna’s work? And the answer is, of course, hell no. She probably knows that too, because Swept Away was the last movie she starred in and she will hopefully stay in acting retirement.
Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, follow him on Pinterest, or visit his website.