Sure, a lot of successful musicians want to try their hand at acting. Some have even succeeded quite well (Madonna, Jack Black). Others, maybe not so much. However, it's usually fun to see a famous musician show up unexpectedly in film, then deliver a solid performance when given a brief chance. Here's a ranking of our favorite film cameos featuring some prominent musicians.
The late Beatle was a huge fan of Monty Python, so when the legendary comedy troupe's star Eric Idle contacted Harrison to help fund the film, the guitar legend eventually came on board. Harrison even earned a spot as an extra in the picture, though he actually had the uncredited role of Mr. Papadopolous. It's rather easy to miss Harrison, who appeared in the film for only a few seconds. Still, any time an actual Beatle is in a movie, it's big news.
Now, Waits has been in countless films, often in a significant role. But, one of his earliest, true cameos came in the 1983 film version of this beloved S.E. Hinton novel. Waits' screen time, as Buck Merrill, was limited to a bar scene, where he opened the door for a frightened Pony Boy (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny (Ralph Macchio), looking for Dallas (Matt Dillon). Waits' lines are few, but his brief role still exudes the cool he's always carried.
The final installment of the Back to the Future trilogy is traditionally considered the worst of the three. However, one of the few bright spots was the cameo by these Texas rockers, who had a fan in the film's director Robert Zemeckis. No surprise, ZZ Top played an "Old West" group that delivered an almost hillbilly-version of its own song "Doubleback," from the 1990 Recycler record. By all accounts, the band was a hit on the set.
We'll see on this list that members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers also fancied themselves as actors. Frontman Anthony Kiedis has been in a handful of pictures but is perhaps most recognized for jumping Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) at the beach showers in this cult classic from 1991. Now, Kiedis' character and his buddies eventually got it handed to him when Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) stepped in to clean a little house.
The former No Doubt frontwoman and solo pop star has made several appearances on the big screen and television -- as herself and in character-credited roles. Perhaps her most well-known cameo came as tragic, young starlet Jean Harlow, who hung on the arm of Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the red carpet, in this epic biopic about the eccentric and reclusive gentleman.
The Blink guys not only contributed to the soundtrack on each of the first two films in the popular American Pie franchise, but the pop-punkers also earned some screen time in the original flick. The then-trio of Travis Barker, Mark Hoppus, and Tom DeLonge, plus a playful monkey, watched online as Jim (Jason Biggs) tried to make time with attractive foreign-exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) in his bedroom. "Houston, we have a problem."
Cameron Crowe's stellar 1992 movie about single life amid the burgeoning Seattle music scene featured some of the biggest bands of the grunge era. Soundgarden was one of those groups in the film. On stage, and when late frontman Cornell silently checked out the new speakers Cliff (Matt Dillon) installed in Janet's car. That didn't go so well for Bridget Fonda's character, but it's still one of the most memorable scenes in the movie.
The Genesis drummer/vocalist and solo star has had a rather expansive film and television career. Though things did not really work put well as a leading man (Buster ), Collins has done a fairly serviceable job in cameo form. As is the case in this Steven Spielberg film starring Robin Williams, where Collins played the mustached Inspector Good, looking into a disappearance. Collins was solid in his portrayal, and probably the right speed for his acting career.
The former 'Til Tuesday vocalist/bassist is quite the versatile entertainer. She's made several appearances in film and on television. However, Mann's fans might consider her most notable cinematic work in cult favorite The Big Lebowski. Where she played the German "Nihilist girl," who gave up her right pinky toe in that movie's kidnapping scheme. She was still well enough to enjoy some lingonberry pancakes.
Another member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and also part of The Big Lebowski. Flea is not only a stellar bassist, but he's enjoyed a pretty solid film career with bit parts and cameos in movies such as Back to the Future Part II and III. However, one of his most memorable film cameos came when his nihilist character took a bowling ball to the stomach from Walter Sobchak (John Goodman).
One of Kanye's more casual moments of entertainment came in a quite memorable cameo in this forgotten Mike Myers film from 2008. Actually, West's spot, where he excitedly sports a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and yells "I love hockey," while attending a game with Myers (playing himself for the moment), might be the best part of a dull movie that did rather poorly, critically and commercially.
Another Seattle band that enjoyed some love in the aforementioned Cameron Crowe flick. Band members Eddie Vedder, Jeff Ament, and Stone Gossard played themselves but were part of the Cliff-fronted band Citizen Dıck. While the group was still trying to find fame in its hometown, it was apparently big in Belgium. Even if Cliff (Matt Dillon) "has haunted the local scene for much too long." However, he's "ably backed by Stone and Jeff, and drummer Eddie Vedder."
Snoop has established himself as a versatile entertainer, spanning the concert stage, movies, reality television, game shows, whatever. However, one of our favorite film cameos involving the famed rapper, featured him doing what he probably likes best. That's copping a puff from Thurgood (Dave Chappelle) and Brian (Jim Breuer) in his cult-classic stoner comedy from the late 1990s.
Zoolander featured several high-profile cameos from prominent musicians (Lil' Kim, Gavin Rossdale, Gwen Stafani), however, none stood out more than that by this late legend. It was Bowie, playing himself, who judged -- after volunteering -- the memorable "walk-off" between Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel ( Owen Wilson). It's arguably the best scene in the movie, and Bowie's presence just added to the over-the-top campiness of it all.
Airheads is not a great movie, but it had some notable moments. Perhaps the most memorable came courtesy of the late legendary Motorhead bassist and singer. While Chazz (Brendan Fraser), lead guitarist and vocalist of the Lone Rangers, admitted his real name is Chester and that he was a geek in high school, it set in motion more revelations from the mob outside the radio station. That included Lemmy Kilmister proclaiming he "was editor of the school magazine."
According to Pirates lore, star Johnny Depp saw a lot of Richards' attitude in the character of Jack Sparrow. So, it would only make sense to have one of Depp's inspirations be part of the film franchise. Richards finally had a place in this third installment of the film series, as the feared Edward Teague, keeper of the Pirata Codex (aka the pirate code), who also happened to be Jack's father. Just think all of the hell Richards and Depp could have raised as real-life father and son.
We revisit Waits, who, as previously mentioned, is a fine actor and fared well in co-starring role with the 1986 indie film Down by Law. But, it's usually worth celebrating when Waits pops up in a movie and steals a scene or two. Like here, the story of young bounty hunter Domino Harvey (Keira Knightley), where Waits appears as the prophetic "Wanderer." It's a small but powerful role that once again shows that if Waits wanted to focus on his acting, he'd likely be a star.
We shouldn't be surprised that White successfully pulled off his hilarious take as Elvis Presley in this John C. Reilly comedy. White is an immensely talented, and versatile, entertainer. His screen time was brief, but while didn't necessarily resemble The King, he had the slur down and freaked Dewey (Reilly) out with his karate moves. Or, at least his karate chop added to the true goofiness of the film.
This Tim Burton cult film featured everybody from Jack Nicholson to Michael J. Fox to NFL star Jim Brown. Yet, it was Jones' appearance as himself that tends to be talked about often. He survives the Martians' attack on Las Vegas while not even getting his suit wrinkled. The movie closes with Jones' classic "It's Not Unusual," while he danced viewers into the credits with some friendly animals in tow.
The late "King of Pop" had a sense of humor that often wasn't seen -- we are not including holding his baby over a balcony. Jackson, however, showed his comedic side in the mediocre sequel to the massively popular original Men In Black film. Jackson's cameo is brief. Playing "Agent M," he reports into Chief Zed (Rip Torn), but seemed a little perturbed that his boss was not listening to his concerns. It's actually one of the most normal moments of Jackson's career.
One of the best parts of Petty's cameo as Bridge City Mayor is his dialog with Kevin Costner's title character. "I know you. You're famous," The Postman said. The Mayor responded: "I was once. Sorta. Kinda. Not anymore." Petty's character returns the favor to Costner later on. Just a little fun between two of the world's biggest entertainers, who had mutual respect for each other's work in their respected fields.
When relationship-challenged, record-store owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) wanted to get back in touch with some lost loves, he related the quest to a Bruce Springsteen song. The Boss, in turn, played along with a random, but entertaining, cameo that somewhat paved the way. Bruce also delivered some truth to Rob's belief that addressing past failed relationships will better his love life in the future -- maybe.
Who knew Billy Idol could do comedy, well? His extended cameo in this Adam Sandler-Drew Barrymore smash was quite good. Poking fun at himself, since the film took place during the 1980s, Idol was brilliant while trying to help Robbie (Sandler) win over Julia (Barrymore) while on a flight to Las Vegas. He didn't draw too much attention to himself and also served the plotline quite well.
There was plenty to love about Back to the Future. However, one of the funniest moments of a very funny movie came when Marty's band, The Pinheads, played a hard-rock version of Lewis' hit "Power of Love" during the "Battle of the Bands" audition. Lewis, playing one of the judges, tells the group that they're "just too darn loud." Some quality shade was thrown at a cover of his own song. Subtle, but superb.
Cooper is another musician who has made a successful crossover to the screen -- and even the stage. Truth be told, he's always been a showman with his on-stage theatrics over the years. Yet, pop culture fans still consider his hilarious and historically knowledgeable cameo in Wayne's World to be one of the highlights of a stellar career. We'll never pronounce "Milwaukee" the same way again. Oh yeah, also, "we're not worthy!"