- Sting, Tupac Shakur, Flea, and Mos Def are just a few examples of musicians who have proven themselves to be talented actors as well.
- Beyoncé, Eminem, Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, and Barbra Streisand are other musicians who have successfully transitioned to the world of acting.
- These musicians have been able to transcend their musical reputations and reinvent themselves through a variety of characters onscreen, proving that they are more than just musicians.
A handful of famous musicians have actually turned out to be surprisingly good actors. While many musical artists have dabbled in acting roles throughout their careers, very few have emerged and proven themselves as legitimate talents in music and acting. Many examples of musicians and recording artists appear in film and television in cameos that largely represent themselves and their famous personas. However, not many musicians have successfully been able to transcend their established reputations and reinvent themselves through a variety of characters that essentially make their accomplishments as musicians irrelevant.
The following ten musicians turned actors are known primarily for music, which means they are not a well-known dual threat as both actor and musician. These musicians are known primarily for their successes in their respective genres and are nearly as known for their roles as actors despite having numerous notable appearances in famous films and television shows. Even if some of their acting careers were brief, these musicians’ ability to capture an audience both onstage and onscreen remains a unique feat that few are able to accomplish. Here are ten of the most successful musicians who turned out to be surprisingly good at acting.
Sting is a popular English musician who is known for his world-famous songs such as “Every Breath You Take”, “Shape of My Heart”, and “Desert Rose”. He was part of the successful band The Police who made a number of hits in their own right including “Message in a Bottle” and “Roxanne”. Sting, also known by his real name Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, has appeared in a number of movies and television shows such as the original 1984 Dune movie as well as David Lynch’s Blue Velvet and the recent Emmy-nominated series Only Murders in The Building.
9 Tupac Shakur
Both Tupac Shakur’s musical and acting careers were cut short due to his untimely and tragic death. The impression he was able to make as an actor was incredibly impressive considering the fact that he had appeared in just six movies before he was shot and killed in 1996. Tupac is still widely considered one of the best rappers of all time by hip-hop fans, with major hits including “Changes”, “Dear Mama” and “Keep Ya Head Up”. Some of Tupac’s best movies are Above The Rim, Juice, and Gridlock’d.
Michael Peter Balzary, better known as Flea from the popular rock band The Red Hot Chili Peppers, has acting experience that spans decades. Besides being known as the charismatic bassist of the rock supergroup, Flea has appeared in a wide variety of film and television shows, some of them even animated kids’ series. Flea was the voice of Donnie in The Wild Thornberrys that hardly ever spoke English and said mostly gibberish in the show. He also appeared onscreen in dozens of films such as The Big Lebowski, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Inside Out, Baby Driver, and Babylon.
7 Mos Def
Mos Def, known as Yasiin Bey in the acting world, is a prolific rapper and hip-hop artist whose talents extend far from music alone. Mos Def as a rapper is known for his poetic lyricism and originality which ultimately pushed the boundaries of underground hip-hop in the late 90s and the early 2000s. Mos Def also appeared on popular albums by artists such as Kanye West’s and A$AP Rocky. As Yasiin Bey, Mos Def has acted in The Italian Job, Begin Again, and 16 Blocks.
Beyoncé is one of the most popular singers and performers of all time who has also had a great string of acting performances to add to her already outstanding resumé. The singer is known for dozens of number-one hit songs such as “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” and “Crazy In Love”. She has acted in a number of major motion pictures including Disney’s live-action The Lion King, Austin Powers in Goldmember, and Dreamgirls.
Eminem, also known by his real name Marshall Mathers, has won an Oscar and an Emmy for his performances in film and television. With Eminem’s unexpectedly popular biopic 8 Mile, the rapper was able to prove his ability as a serious actor beyond his incredible skills as a rap artist and lyricist. The rapper also appeared as himself in the 2009 film Funny People and remains one of the few people who are primarily known for their musical talents to have won an Academy Award.
4 Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake rose to fame in the late 1990s for his lead role in the pop group N*SYNC. He later had a highly successful career as a solo recording artist before taking his talents to the world of acting. Timberlake has appeared in very significant roles and has even starred in a number of major motion pictures. Some of his most notable movie credits include The Social Network, In Time, and Inside Llewyn Davis.
3 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga emerged in the late 2000s as one of the best pop artists of the 21st century with a commanding voice and spectacular grasp on popular dance music. The artist enjoyed a successful run as a global pop icon before focusing on her acting career with works such as American Horror Story, House of Gucci, and the 2018 A Star Is Born remake starring Bradley Cooper. Lady Gaga was nominated for her performance in A Star Is Born and will star as Harley Quinn in the highly-anticipated Joker sequel alongside Joaquin Phoenix.
2 David Bowie
David Bowie is one of the most influential music artists who ever lived and also made a great impact in his roles in film and television. The singer/songwriter known for famous songs such as “Space Oddity”, “Heroes”, and “Under Pressure” has also acted in a number of prominent onscreen projects such as The Prestige, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Labyrinth. The world-famous artist appeared in dozens of films throughout his life, making him one of the most undeniable talents of the 20th century.
1 Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand is an incredibly talented musical artist and actor who actually won an Oscar for her performance in the 1969 film Funny Girl. She technically shared this award with Katharine Hepburn, but the singer-turned-actor still remains one of the most versatile and accomplished dual threats in Hollywood. The singer known for popular hits such as “Woman in Love” and “The Way We Were” starred in movies including 1976’s A Star is Born, Yentl, and Meet the Fockers. She is one of the best examples of artists who are primarily known as musicians that became surprisingly good actors.