The 10 Best Musician Roles and Cameos in Movies

Long has the silver screen been a draw for the minstrels of the world, often with catastrophic results. However, as long as actors, athletes,and celebrities continue to torture us with singles, a delicate truce exists. Listed here are some of the most successful, unique, or otherwise crazy cameos and roles that our favorite performers have attempted through the years.

Bowie has a trove of great roles to pull from, most notably his performance in The Man Who Fell to Earth, but his portrayal of the ingenious Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla in The Prestige is an underrated accomplishment. Bowie has fallen victim to his own success in previous films, where the audience is only too aware of his presence. Here his more subdued approach shows complexity and blends nicely with the mad scientist routine in one of Christopher Nolan’s under the radar flicks.

Garfunkels post Simon career in the early seventies marked the artists involvement with several large scale films, including the mega WWII production Catch-22. His performance as the idealistic Captain Nately is a seamless adaptation from Joseph Hellers classic novel, which he demonstrates with the poise and delivery of a far more experienced actor. While the film was received as a bit of a flop, that had more to do with the bloated budget, and less with the solid performances of Garfunkel, John Voight, and Alan Arkin among others.

The world may never truly appreciate the brilliance of Tom Waits, but so long as we have a record of him wearing an ascot and coercing a senior citizen with hard candy into a menage a trois, there’s a substantial argument to be made on his behalf. The film Mystery Men is forgettable, save for perhaps Paul Reuben’s return from the depths of public finger wagging, but Waits’ swagger makes it worth a guilty viewing.

Say what you will about Courtney, when she’s not verbally abusing flight attendants or shuffling through rehab, there have been a few highlights. Love’s performance as Althea Flynt is convincing and moving, which may or may not be the result of her own personal trials with substance abuse.

Technically speaking Keanu Reaves could have made this list, due to his involvement with the group Dogstar, but that’s the easy way out. Yes, that’s Kiedis as the neo fascist surfer drug dealer punk named Tone. A character of unparalleled depth, his highlights in the film include brawling with a Reeves/Suaze combination (which is unbeatable), and getting his foot shot off during a drug raid. Hollywood at it’s finest.

For a film of strained pauses and abstract dialogue, the stripes steal the show. Be it Jack’s explanation of the Tesla coil, Meg’s exploration of the earth as an acoustic conductor, or the raging guitar riffs from the Stooges on the juke box, there’s loads to enjoy without having to be a fanboy of the garage rock duo. Jack White’s unique charm pushes through Jim Jarmusch’s über indie romp, and earns some leeway for a few of the less entertaining acts in the film (there were a total of eleven).

If you’ve never seen this travesty, then do yourself a favor and strap in for what will be a completely underwhelming experience. Elvis in real life was battling irrelevance and weight gain for what would start the sadder chapter of his career, and he somehow got roped into doing this beach bopping nightmare. Watch in horror as the king shuffles along to a song about boiling mollusks, wooing the locals with his heart of gold and mysterious past (he’s really a rich boy, shhhhh). I don’t mean to bash the guy too much, and his previous ventures into film weren’t exactly stellar, but this one sticks out as a uniquely awful and strange affair.

What a match made in heaven, a country musician and an abusive backwater yokel. It takes a special talent to be genuinely unlikeable on film, and “Doyle” achieves that feat with great effectiveness. Be it his dislike for gay people, women, children, the mentally challenged, his friends…basically everyone involved in his tiny southern town, there’s sure to be something that offends your senses as an audience member. It all serves to console us when he meets his fate at the end of this sentimental and tragic portrait.

If you’re in the mood for an experimental head trip, then Jagger’s biggest role in the cult classic Performance, should suit your fancy. Jagger plays a washed up pop star who has “lost his demon”, and now spends his time living with two floozies, tripping on psychedelic mushrooms, and exploring his own identity/sexuality. No, it’s not a biography before you ask. The piece is full of campy lens flutters and rapid scene changes, all the while attempting to merge these “modern” techniques and late sixties psychedelica with a tangible story line. Despite it’s inherent shortcomings, Performance went on to inspire a new generation of film makers,and confronted topics previously labeled as obscene or distasteful in an artistic and intriguing manner.

This horrendous shlock fest fed Costners ego, but not his pocket book, as this along with Water World practically ended his career. It’s a tragedy most people will never see this cameo, it’s literally impossible to not claw your eyes out after the first ten minutes. In case you wear protective goggles, Petty is decent as a Mad Max style appointed official. It’s mentioned in the film that he was famous once, but now he’s just like everyone else…except he’s the mayor. If they had skipped the third act and shown a set with the Heartbreakers maybe they could have avoided the $62,373,766 net loss.

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