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.
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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.
Riverbottom Nightmare Band!
Great article J.S., really nice to see The Blues Brothers as number 1 – classic! Allow me to throw out a shout out to Elvis Presley as brooding ex con bad boy Vince Everett in “Jailhouse Rock”.
Where’s Spinal Tap?!? Going back further, there’s Conrad Birdie, the Elvis parody whose name is in the title of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie.” Going back to before the rock era, two great characters in separate Bogart films: Hoagy Carmichael as Cricket in “To Have and Have Not” and, especially, Dooley Wilson as Sam in “Casablanca.” They didn’t play rock stars but rather saloon singers–but they’re fantastic! But this was a fun article–thanks!
Excellent point about Spinal Tap. Perhaps the list should have gone to 11…
As previously noted, I think the best fake band not mentioned is Spinal Tap, which I would have rated number 1.
And I agree with the classic movie list as well, some great performances out there.
I also especially enjoyed Hugh Grant as “Alex Fletcher” from the 80s fake band “Pop!” In the movie Music and Lyrics (which also had a fake 2000s pop female singer “Cora”).
I would also include The Rutles even though they were from a television special and not a movie.
Finally, not included (and probably better saved as the subject for a different article) would be a consideration of the various versions of A Star Is Born.
A lot to think about, thanks for the article to get my brain working a little!
The Commitments? Not really stars, but…
I agree with several of the other comments about who’s missing on this list, but want to add the character played by Mick Jagger in the movie “Performance” – who better to play a movie rock star than a real one?
Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
The Oneders (Wonders) from That Thing You Do? Come on!
And how can we forget The Rutles? The songwriting satire alone was worth the price of admission!
How about Strange Fruit from Brit Import Still Crazy. Mark Walberg RockStar, Eddie and the Cruisers, The Suburbans….. to name a few
Another vote for The Rutles….