The rock star is as much a part of American pop culture as the cowboy, the gangster, or the pirate. People love rock stars and not just specific rock stars. There’s something just so enticing and mysterious around the concept. There have been countless movie rock stars but a few of them are just a cut above the rest. Some actors created a character so memorable that it heightened the overall gravity of the film. These are my picks for the top 7 Movie Rock Stars (or something close to it) to ever grace the silver screen.
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Johnny Fontane, The Godfather
Nobody remembers The Godfather for its musical numbers, but Al Martino’s “Johnny Fontane” in the iconic 1972 mafia classic was spectacular. Maybe he felt so comfortable in the legendary fictional crooner’s shoes because the character was supposedly based in part on him (although there are stories that the character was also based on Frank Sinatra).
Russell Hammond, Almost Famous
Is there anything more stereotypical “rockstar” than standing on a roof and proclaiming yourself a “golden god,” right before jumping into a pool? Well, maybe denying it once you’ve sobered up. Billy Crudup’s guitar-toting, musical miscreant did both in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous.
Powerline, A Goofy Movie
The only cartoon character making an appearance here, Powerline is simply undeniable. What was basically a tongue-in-cheek ribbing of MC Hammer, became the most iconic character of 1995’s A Goofy Movie, if you don’t count Goofy himself. Powerline was so in-demand that even now, 25 years on, real-life merch from his fictional world tour can be purchased at Target.
Dorothy Vallens, Blue Velvet
Isabella Rossellini truly carried David Lynch’s neo-noir cult-classic. Her portrayal of the depraved, yet tragic club singer was otherworldly. Sure, Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth yelling ”Pabst Blue Ribbon!” into another character’s face is pretty great. But it’s the tragic tale of Dorothy Vallens that adds that signature Lynch, unsettling nuance to the film.
The Soggy Bottom Boys, O Brother Where Art Thou?
In the year 2000, it seemed like just about everyone knew the words to O Brother Where Art Thou?’s unbelievably catchy lead song, “Man of Constant Sorrow.” That unforgettable track no doubt had a huge effect on people’s response to the movie. But so did the believability of George Clooney, John Turturo, and Tim Blake Nelson as escaped convicts Everett, Pete, and Delmar.
DJay, Hustle & Flow
DJay should perhaps be Number One on this list considering Terrence Howard was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for playing him. But alas, he ranks at Number Two. DJay was a real rags-to-riches story, one that doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. But, the ending isn’t quite sad either. Howard brought a high level of care to the part and really made the entire movie feel real. Plus, “It’s Hard Out Here for A Pimp” is one catchy tune.
The Blues Brothers, The Blues Brothers
To put any other movie musician(s) at the Number One spot would be positively blasphemous. I mean, after all, Jacob and Elwood Blues were “on a mission from God.” But it’s so much more than their connection to the Almighty that puts these dark shades and suit-wearing bluesmen in the top spot. John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd’s genuine love for their characters (“Joliet” Jake and Elwood Blues) bled through into every performance in the movie. The two accomplished comedians relished their chance to live out their musical fantasies.
Photo: Billy Crudup (l) and Patrick Fugit (r) in Almost Famous.