Just because you’ve got a solid music career doesn’t mean you should go anywhere near the movie business. Some of the most iconic musical artists of our time simply cannot recreate the sparkle they have on stage.
However, movie studios trying to cash in on the popularity of musicians is a practice with a long history. Sometimes this works out all right; mostly, though, putting untrained actors with big egos in front of the camera means disaster.
When will the studios, and artists who should know better, realize that just because they can captivate an audience with their musical talent, it doesn't necessarily mean they can recreate the same on screen. There were many to choose from, but here are 15 Great Musicians Who Are Terrible Actors.
15 Jennifer Lopez in Gigli (2003)
In 2003, Jennifer Lopez was a hot commodity. At the top of her game, she was also dating actor Ben Affleck at the time. Our Jenny from the block and Affleck quickly became Bennifer and transformed into one of Hollywood’s most irritating golden couples. So what better way to get audiences flocking to the cinema than to put Bennifer on screen?
The Martin Brest directed romantic comedy is a complete mess, and was absolutely panned when it hit cinemas. Following the story of mobster Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck), Gigli is ordered to kidnap the mentally challenged brother of a federal prosecutor. Amongst the chaos Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) gets involved, as Gigli isn’t trusted to do the job right. Ricki is a lesbian and Gigli is your typical “tough guy” and to cut a long story short, the film ends with all characters changed somehow and Ricki being “turned” by Gigli, who by that point has lost the tough guy act, with the pair having a heterosexual fling.
No one comes off well by the end of the film and Lopez, while not the worst actress ever, showcases a performance that could only be described as abysmal.
14 Madonna in Body of Evidence (1993)
Oh Madonna… you can’t help but applaud her for trying. 1993’s Body of Evidence is a poor man’s Basic Instinct, basically.
Sharon Stone’s performance in Basic Instinct (1992) exuded danger and sex appeal with the early 90s awash with steamy erotic thrillers at the time. So, when Body of Evidence was released a year later, a film about a mysterious women accused of murder, it seemed to tick all the right boxes. Willem Dafoe and Julianne Moore also starred but it was Madonna with her stunted performance and a less than adequate script that meant the whole thing crumbled to pieces fairly fast. The film featured bondage, sadomachasm - the whole lot - but even "that candle scene" felt fake and forced. It was about as sexy as a pair of old wet socks.
Around that time, Madonna had released her book Sex and was synonymous with overtly sexual imagery and controversy in interviews and on stage. However, Body of Evidence just overstepped the mark in terms of cynical branding.
13 Mick Jagger in Freejack (1992)
Freejack is a ridiculous 90s sci-fi based loosely (and that’s very loosely, by the way) on Robert Sheckley’s novel Immortality, Inc. Sheckley’s original story is all about the idea that the human consciousness can be transferred into another body. However, Freejack only borrowed the very basic concepts of the story - the idea of a man being transported to a future where everything is for sale.
Alex Furlong (Emilio Estevez) is a race car driver who is about to die before being transported against his will into the distant future, the year… er… 2009. In this dystopian future, the population’s health has been ravaged by pollution and a decaying environment. Bodies are snatched from the past and used as “fresh” substitutes but Furlong escapes, becoming a “freejacker”. It’s up to Victor Vacendak (Mick Jagger) to hunt him down and bring him in.
Jagger will go down in the annals of history as one of the most iconic rock n roll front men of our time but wins zero prizes for his performance in this film. The film itself is almost reaches “so bad it’s good” territory but Jagger’s performance is jarring and stunted, delivering lines like he’s reading them from cue cards behind the camera. It’s laughable.
12 Miley Cyrus in So Undercover (2011)
Say what you will about Miley Cyrus but she’s become one of modern pop’s most important and controversial young stars. From her humble beginnings in Hannah Montana, she’s grown up in the public eye so every tiny little trip-up is under scrutiny - we’ll try not to be too harsh.
In So Undercover, Cyrus stars as a teen private investigator who gets a “hot girl” makeover in order to infiltrate a college campus. This is basically like a teenage version of Miss Congeniality but where that film had warmth and charm, this lacks any semblance of joy at all.
The film feels like a cynical ploy to cash in on Cyrus’ teenage fan base as she plays a detective version of Hannah Montana, i.e. a girl leading a double life. The forced comedic performance is cringe-worthy as Cyrus delivers her lines awkwardly and unconvincingly - let’s forget this whole thing just never happened, shall we?
11 Mariah Carey in Glitter (2001)
Glitter was a failed attempt to kickstart Mariah Carey’s film career. In the music world, she has been on top of her game for over two decades now. She can hit uncanny notes, wow fans with killer performances and has a well earned reputation as being one of pop’s top divas. So what happens when you place a super pop diva into the starring role of her own film? In the case of Glitter, you can expect nothing but a pure and nonsense.
The film charts the journey of an unassuming woman, Billie Frank (Mariah Carey), who is discovered by Julian “Dice” Black (Max Beesley), a nightclub DJ who helps her with her solo career and the pair also end up in a romantic relationship as well. Glitter charts her rise to fame and the pitfalls along the way.
Basically, the film should have been renamed “The Mariah Carey Story”. Carey comes across amateur and unlikable in her performance with Glitter earning several Razzies including including Worst Picture, Worst Screen Couple (for Carey’s cleavage) and Worst Actress.
10 LL Cool J in Deep Blue Sea (1999)
Let’s get this straight - Deep Blue Sea is actually a fairly decent late 90s b-movie that predates the ridiculousness of films like Sharknado. Deep Blue Sea at least attempted some semblance of a storyline and the cast was fairly decent too featuring Thomas Jane, Stellan Skarsgård, Saffron Burrows and Samuel L. Jackson (in one of the best and most shocking on screen deaths!).
LL Cool J also starred as Sherman “Preacher” Dudley, the chef of an underwater research facility studying sharks in order to find a cure for Alzheimer's. LL is pretty much the light relief amongst the cat and mouse game between the group of survivors and the genetically altered sharks as they try to escape the facility. He also wrote and performed the film’s song Deepest Bluest (Shark’s Fin), which is LL’s “chilling” interpretation of life as a shark.
As chef Dudley, there are some classic one liners but LL was never going to win any awards for his corny, predictable delivery.
9 Jessica Simpson in Blonde Ambition (2007)
Around the time of release, the press were reporting Blonde Ambition as a remake of the film Working Girl (1988) but this wasn’t the case, however there are definite similarities.
Kate Gregerstitch (Simpson) is a small town girl who moves to the big city and finds herself becoming a successful business woman. Oh, and there’s a make over (of sorts) too because all women need a make over before they make it big. It's the rules seemingly.
Blonde Ambition hits every single “small town girl in the big city” cliché and Jessica’s role as the simple wide eyed blonde lacks any of the charisma and charm of actresses like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde (2001).
Although Blonde Ambition was a critical failure, it didn’t perform too badly at the box office, mainly due to Jessica Simpson’s fan base. Jessica isn’t the strongest actress and none of her movie performances thus far have been particularly noteworthy but Blonde Ambition take the biscuit.
8 Britney Spears in Crossroads (2002)
Crossroads is the story of three estranged friends who reunited after graduation, go on a road trip in search of their dreams. Sure these friends all have their problems but nothing that can’t be solved by hitchhiking to Los Angeles with a handsome stranger.
Lucy (Britney Spears) wants to reunite with her mother who abandoned her and her father, whilst Mimi (Taryn Manning) faces a teen pregnancy due to rape and Kit is a popular valedictorian who used to be fat. The movie ties up all the loose ends pretty perfectly with a nice neat happy ending but this is a film written through rose tinted glasses, glossing over the real drama and focussing on the “fluff” whilst hitting all the gender clichés you can imagine.
Britney gets a chance to sing at every turn and, even then, the singing and the performances don’t pop as they do when she’s on a real stage. Aside from this, the sentiment and the love scenes feel like they’ve been taken from a teen romance novel and the “acting” is beyond dire. Bin.
7 Rihanna in Battleship (2012)
A film based on a classic board game. What? Yes, this is 2012’s Battleship based on the popular board game by Hasbro and, you guessed it, it’s pretty rubbish. This overly busy, CGI-bloated sci-fi featured a cast that felt a little thrown together too… Basic standard action guys - check. Hot girls - check. Superstar singer trying to claw her way into the movies - hello Rihanna.
When an artist as huge as Rihanna stars in a film, admittedly, it’s hard to separate that persona from what they’re meant to be portraying on screen. This was Rihanna’s debut performance and although this movie was pretty poor, the rest of the cast looked as though, at least, they were making a decent stab at it.
If hostile aliens arrived on Earth after responding to a signal sent by NASA and you found yourself in the eye of the storm, it’d be a pretty frightening experience right? As far as Rihanna’s “performance” was concerned, she looked pretty dead behind the eyes during every scene. It’s not that she was bad but she just didn’t “pop” and her delivery was substandard and lacked anything special.
6 50 Cent In Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (2005)
Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ was rapper 50 Cent’s first foray into the world of film. The movie is roughly based on 50 Cent’s life and charts the tale of a drug dealer who decides to turn his back on a life of crime and pursue his dream of becoming a rapper. It’s your typical rags to riches story, a pretty bog standard affair.
As for 50 Cent’s acting chops? Well, there’s not much to say about it really, his performance is lifeless and his delivery brings new meaning to the word monotonic. If you look up the definition of “wooden” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of 50 Cent starting right back at you.
Samuel L. Jackson even turned down a role in the film citing that he didn’t want to star in a film with an actor as amateur as 50 Cent, however the pair later starred together in the 2006 film Home of the Brave - we’re guessing 50 Cent must have really grown as an actor in that 12-months.
5 Vanilla Ice In Cool As Ice (1991)
Cool As Ice was a vehicle for 90s rapper Vanilla Ice aka Robert Matthew Van Winkle who was riding high at the time with the success of his single “Ice Ice Baby”, the previous year. So it made perfect sense for Van Winkle to head up his own movie right? Wrong.
Johnny Van Owen (Vanilla Ice) is a drifter, riding in from town to town on his motorbike. Oh yes, and he’s also a rapper (obviously). He falls for honour student Kathy (Kristin Minter), whose disapproving father warns her to say away from him. I think we can all guess the ending here - he gets the girl in the end by proving his worth. Or something.
This film was so bad that they even let Naomi Campbell star in it too. In fact, this film is so bad that even the director David Kellogg disowned the movie. Van Winkle is basically just playing Vanilla Ice on a motorbike. He earned himself a Golden Rasberry for Worst Actor but picked up a nomination for Worst Supporting Actor 22 years later in 2013 for That’s My Boy.
4 All of the Spice Girls in Spice World (1997)
Spice World sees the Spice Girls girls bored with the trappings of fame and fortune, with leeches at every turn trying to capitalize on their success. Even their manager is trying to fend off to script writers who are pitching a ridiculous idea for a feature film starring the Spice Girls - how meta.
As the plot unravels, the girls remember their humble beginnings, and go back to where it all began, eventually encountering a series of ridiculous bungling events that eventually leads them to headlining the biggest show of their careers at the Albert Hall.
The amount of cameos they stuffed into this film is insane - Stephen Fry, Elton John, Evlis Costello, Jennifer Saunders, Bob Hoskins; the list goes on. However, this didn’t detract from the poor script and awful acting. On stage, the Spice Girls were a group who changed the face of pop and girl power in the 90s, but on film they flop to new depths.
3 DMX in Cradle 2 the Grave (2003)
Rapper DMX and Jet Li star in this high octane early naughties action thriller. The film actually debuted at number one at the North American box office but its takings in this first weekend accounted for just under 50% of the gross profits overall.
The film featured impossible stunts, explosions, Jet Li hijinks, massive guns, male posturing and hot women. It was pretty much your dumb action flick by numbers but the best thing about the whole movie is the soundtrack, which featured DMX’s “X Gon’ Give IT To Ya”. Admittedly, 2016’s Deadpool has made this song way cooler since but the soundtrack peaked at number 6 in the Billboard 200 and was more successful overall than the actual film itself.
As for DMX’s role in the film… well, he pretty much grunted his way through each scene. Badly. If you want a passionate performance, listen to DMX’s music - you want find any life on screen.
2 Christina Aguilera in Burlesque (2010)
What happens when young girls with big dreams move to Los Angeles? They overcome all the odds to become massive stars of course. Yes, this story is starting to sound more than familiar but this time it’s 2010’s Burlesque starring Christina Aguilera, a story about a girl who leaves her job, moves to LA and, after being turned down at every turn, tenaciously pursues her dream of being on stage.
Admittedly, Aguilera isn’t the worst actress in the world but every scene of the film, when she’s not singing, is uninspired. However, the soundtrack is pure pop perfection and in stark contrast to the yawnsome performances.
This is a bit of a two for one entry as well, with fellow songstress and legend Cher starring alongside Christina. Cher’s turn as Tess gives new meaning to the word dire. In fact, it earned Cher a Golden Rasberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress.
1 Adam Levine in American Horror Story (2012)
Adam Levine is the frontman of MOR pop band Maroon 5 but in recent years, he’s made various appearances in TV and film. One of his most “notable” performances was as Leo Morrison in American Horror Story: Asylum.
Leo and his wife are newlyweds exploring Briarcliff Manor, a derelict insane asylum. Their risqué frolicking leads (satisfyingly) to a gory end as the horny pair search for new places to, ahem, “get acquainted.”
Levine gets the job done as one half of the handsome loved up couple. However, it’s the fact that his appearance mirrors any number of scenes from one of Maroon 5’s music videos that makes this feel extra sickening. For those who aren’t familiar with Maroon 5’s videos, they mostly always involve Levine seducing hot women; it's his thing.
Levine has since appeared in TV shows and films such as Family Guy (2013), Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), Klown Forever (2015) and Broad City (2016) all as… himself! You kind of get the feeling that his “acting” career may be a vanity project and if he were chocolate, he would most certainly eat himself.