There are plenty of actors who forgo their acting careers to become musicians. But what about the reverse? Lucky for us, many creative people are great at many different things. A ton of the musicians who have dipped their toes in the acting pool have absolutely nailed it. Even the most unexpected pop stars and rappers somehow find their place in Hollywood. These musicians have even begun to put their music on the backburner to pursue their acting careers! That’s how talented they are at their newfound artistic route!
Despite these talented musicians showing us their acting chops, there’s still a bit of hesitation everytime a singer decides they want to act. Will they be good? Is this just a publicity ploy? It’s hard not to just want artists to stay in their lane, especially with the number of talented musicians who make fools of themselves on the big screen! But, luckily for us, that’s not true for everyone who decides to try something new. Here are some great musicians who proved they’re equally great actors!
17. Mark Wahlberg
You may not know this, but Wahlberg was a rapper before he was an actor. Growing up, his brother Donnie Wahlberg was in the uber-popular band New Kids on the Block and it made Mark want to get into music too. His group, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, had a few hits in the early ’90s including the jam “Good Vibrations.” The hype for his music didn’t last very long and he soon shifted gears to acting, first appearing in a TV movie and then on the big-screen in Renaissance Man. While he dabbled in music throughout the ’90s, he soon gave it up to act full time. And we’re pretty happy about it! He wasn’t the most talented musician in the world, but he is one of the best action stars that Hollywood’s ever seen!
We all know Madonna as one of the queens of pop music, but did you know she’s a Golden Globe winner?! At the height of her fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Madonna attempted to foray her music career into an acting career. And she did pretty well! She starred in a string of hits like A League of Their Own and Evita, her role in the latter earned her the prestigious Golden Globe. She slowed her acting career in the late ’90s and refocused on her music, but she proved during her time as actress-Madonna that she can go toe-to-toe with all the big Hollywood actors!
15. David Bowie
Bowie is known as one of the most prolific musicians of all time, but he also made quite an impact with his acting. Before his music career took off, he was actually a student of avant-garde acting and did a few short films and plays. When he blew up musically, he branched farther into the acting scene. He made it to Broadway, big-screens, and even TV shows. He’s best known for his role in the cult-classic Labyrinth, but the man made his way through parts in films and shows for decades while making some of the most iconic music of this era at the same time. He was even eyed for 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 but sadly his untimely death made that impossible.
14. Tom Waits
This blues-inspired singer is one of the most distinctive, talented musicians of all time. And he’s translated that talent to films, too! In the ’80s and ’90s, Waits shifted gears into acting and totally killed it. He starred in popular films such as The Outsiders and Bram Stroker’s Dracula. Waits didn’t slow down on making music during this time, proving that he could pull double-duty with ease. His two worlds collided when he earned an Academy Awards nomination for crafting the soundtrack for the film One from the Heart.
13. Mariah Carey
Mariah is the QUEEN of pop music. This is a known fact. But the diva is also an amazing actress! Well, to be honest, she is sometimes. We’re going to ignore Glitter and her Hallmark Original Movie stints and focus on her greatest hits. While she’s made many appearances as herself in movies and led quite a few, it’s her role in Precious that really takes the cake. As a social worker trying to help the troubled titular character, Carey shines in the decidedly unglamorous role. Her raw performance is exceptional and shows that her voice isn’t the only incredible thing about her!
12. Frank Sinatra
Sinatra is known for his crooning songs and playboy lifestyle, but he also had a blooming acting career. When his music career began to stall in the ’50s he turned into one of the prolific actors of the day. He eventually won an Academy Award for his role in From Here to Eternity, which not only bolstered his acting career but reignited his music career as well. Many of his roles earned him more Academy Award nominations and BAFTA award nominations as his career went on. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, he also turned to TV, making appearances on other shows and starring on his own, entitled The Frank Sinatra Show. His influence and reach went far beyond his original music career turned Sinatra into one of the great celebrities of his time.
11. Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson began her musical career on American Idol as a finalist in 2004. Her amazing voice soon made her a pop star despite her not winning the season. That voice also gained her something else: a role in the film Dreamgirls. In the film, she acted alongside Beyoncé Knowles and Eddie Murphey telling a story based on the female R&B; groups of the ’60s and ’70s. Hudson won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award, and a SAG award for her powerful role in the film. She continued on with acting, appearing in movies like Sex and the City and Broadway productions. Next up for her? A role in the Aretha Franklin biopic — and she was by Franklin herself!
10. Jamie Foxx
Foxx doesn’t have to blame in on the alcohol for his acting success! The rapper, singer, and all-around baller has done it all. He’s given us some of the best party jams of the last few decades and acted in some truly prolific roles. He gained acclaimed outside of music for his role in Ray as Ray Charles in 2004. He won an Academy Award and a BAFTA Award for his portrayal. That same year, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in Collateral, making him one of a select group of actors to be nominated for multiple movies in one year. Since then, he’s pretty much given up music, except for a few hits here and there, to focus on his flourishing acting career and TV hosting gig.
9. Bing Crosby
Crosby is the OG star to transition to movies from music. He began his career as a baritone singer, working with groups and then releasing music solo. His biggest hit remains the holiday classic “White Christmas.” He then tried his hand at an actor’s life and excelled like crazy. His most notable roles were those he did with Bob Hope as the two became acting partners and made many “Road to…” movies together. Crosby ended up winning his biggest award for a solo turn, though, in the film Going My Way. He was then nominated again for the movie’s sequel the next year. Crosby is known as the first big “multimedia” star in the world, crossing over into many different avenues. Crosby did it all and did it all well.
Ludacris has been rapping since he was a child, and his hard work and dedication to the music has taken him far. His early-’00s music will forever be classic “Dirty South” rap. He didn’t want to stop at being a musician, though. His first major film role was as Tej Parker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, a role he revived several times for other Fast and the Furious franchise films. He’s also appeared in several popular movies like Crash and Gamer. He’s one of those actors that, perhaps because of his rapping background, doesn’t take himself too seriously but still steals every scene he’s in!
7. Ice Cube
Who would’ve thought N.W.A member Ice Cube would be one of the funniest actors working today?! The iconic rapper helped usher in some of the most influential rap music of all time but it’s his acting work that’s taken over his legacy in recent years. He began acting with the film Boyz n the Hood, for which he received acclaim. He followed it up with the Friday films as well as the Barbershop franchise. Cube has made us laugh in his roles in 21 Jump Street and Fist Fight in recent years, and it’s become hard to imagine Hollywood without the rapper-actor in it!
6. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah has been an actress for so long it’s actually surprising to remember she started out as a rapper! In the late ’80s and early ’90s, she burst onto the rap scene with a few hit singles. But her best single? Her time on the show Single Ladies of course! Although she was still making music while on the show, it was her time on TV that jumpstarted her acting career. She gained acclaim for her acting prowess in the hit film Chicago and it was all up from there! She’s been in several movies since then and pretty much put her music indefinitely on the backburner. Not that we’re complaining! She’s the Queen of rap, and the Queen of making us laugh in everything she’s in!
5. Mandy Moore
The queen of making us cry in This Is Us used to enchant us with her songs! Once upon a time, Moore was a big pop star, coming up with the likes of Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears. In the early ’00s, though, she pushed music aside for a time to star in some movies. She appeared in a supporting role in The Princess Diaries before she made us weep for the very first time in A Walk to Remember. She also starred in some teen classics like Saved! and How to Deal. Now taking on slightly more mature roles, she’s still making us cry – but now weekly – on her hit show and earning Golden Globe nominations for it! Turns out she’s surprisingly great at making us feel all weepy eyed!
4. Jennifer Lopez
J. Lo has been killing it for over 20 years in music and acting. The talented star began her career as a Fly Girl, dancing in the background on In Living Color. She actually began her music career after her acting career, but unsurprisingly, it’s her music that she became most known for. While she was stunning in 1997’s Selena, for which she received a Golden Globe nomination, she became the famed star she is today in 1999 with the release her first single, “If You Had My Love.” The girl could not only act but she had pipes! She starred in a string on rom-coms from that point on as her music career flourished simultaneously. She’s continued to sing, act, and be a general quadruple threat all while never aging. J. Lo is truly #goals.
3. Jared Leto
Much like Jennifer Lopez, Leto is a curious case. While he acted before he was a musician, many knew him as a musician alone before he started jumping into award-winning roles. It’s safe to say he has a foot firmly in both worlds. Leto began his career on the show My So-Called Life as the basically illiterate Jordan Catalano. While he had a few more roles throughout the ’90s, he never hit it really big as an actor. It was in 1998 that he formed 30 Seconds to Mars, launching his career as a musician. The band was wildly popular with many fans not realizing he was ever an actor. His acting past came forward to new fans when he began living the Hollywood life again. His role in 2013’s Dallas Buyer’s Club earned him an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and SAG Award for Best Supporting Actor. He was back and better than ever! He still makes music and movies, taking on high-profile acting roles like the Joker in Suicide Squad.
2. Will Smith
Smith is one of the biggest actors in the world right now, but that’s not how he began his life in Hollywood! He stepped onto the same as a rapper named, what else, The Fresh Prince. His music career didn’t immediately take off, though. It wasn’t until he starred on the show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that his rap persona achieved fame and success. Smith was making music during his entire time on the show, but once it ended, he transitioned his career into film roles. Since then, he’s been a mainstay on big screens, delivering every kind of performance imaginable. He makes us laugh, cry, and scream with excitement on a regular basis. He’s also the only actor to have eight consecutive $100 million grossing films in a row. He definitely did us all a favor putting his music on the backburner for his film career!
1. Justin Timberlake
Of all the actors who have started as musicians, our boy JT trumps them all. The former *NSYNC member seemed to have a hugely successful music career open to him for the rest of his life. The boy band was insane in terms of album sales and rabid fans, and JT was the most popular of them all due to his high profile romance with Britney Spears. He ended up leaving the popular band to start a more serious solo career, which was also, you guessed it, insanely popular. This man can basically do no wrong in the music world. But could he act?! It was in 2000, when he first hosted Saturday Night Live, that the world realized Timberlake is hilarious. Like, he could be a cast member on the show type of funny. When he transitioned to film roles, we also learned he can act his pants off in dramatic parts, too. There is quite literally nothing Justin Timberlake can’t do. And it’s almost not fair to the rest of us!