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HomeEntertainmentMoviesDavid Bowie's Best Film Roles, Ranked

David Bowie’s Best Film Roles, Ranked

If you are not already conscious, musician, visionary, and performer David Bowie might do just about do something. While Bowie drew acclaim as a musician for a lot of his profession, the singer’s acting roles are equally notable. Bowie starred in sci-fi, horror, fantasy, warfare dramas, artwork movies, and all the pieces in between, and managed to include his bigger than life persona into every of his respective performances. Bowie’s movie roles additionally demonstrated his notable vary and showcased layers to an already spectacular set of expertise.


Updated December seventh, 2022: If you are a fan of David Bowie, you will be completely satisfied to know we have up to date this text with extra of the gifted musician’s finest movies.

For followers of Bowie’s movie roles, the dialogue is passionate as to which serves as his strongest efficiency to this point. Thankfully, we have complied a roundup of a few of Bowie’s most dramatic, campy, poignant, or flat out gonzo roles multi functional place. Take a glance and discover out which movie actually represents the performing pinnacle of the Starman.

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10/10 Just a Gigolo

Warner-Columbia Filmverleih

For David Hemmings’ 1978 extremely ironic drama Just a Gigolo, Bowie seems as Eastern European soldier Paul von Przygodski, who, coming back from World War I, finds work as a high-class prostitute in a German brothel run by the Baroness (Old Hollywood icon Marlene Dietrich in her closing movie function). Bowie is good-looking and charming, however the movie would not benefit from the musician’s charisma and appears like a present with out substance.

Just a Gigolo was disliked by critics, audiences, and Bowie himself, who described the film as “my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one.” However, this movie ought to be seen solely to see that the Bowie movie flop remains to be extra attention-grabbing than many different movies.

9/10 The Prestige

David Bowie in The Prestige
Warner Bros. Pictures

Christopher Nolan’s 2006 movie The Prestige is notable for a lot of causes, and Bowie’s sly but impactful cameo as Nicolai Tesla is a real spotlight. Despite the brevity of the function, Bowie’s theatrical swagger and cheeky humor segue successfully into the character’s a part of the movie and depart a long-lasting impression. While the function might’ve simply been a glorified walk-on, Bowie manages to make Tesla’s look really feel pivotal to the themes at hand, and he greater than captures the genius’ stressed spirit and eccentricity completely.

Related: Christopher Nolan’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked

Nolan reportedly begged Bowie to look within the movie and, fortunately for viewers, he not solely accepted however delivered a scene-stealing function that enriched the movie within the course of. Bowie’s efficiency in The Prestige was well-received by critics and audiences alike and proved that even in a short function, Bowie might nonetheless create a efficiency that resonates.

8/10 Absolute Beginners

David Bowie in Absolute Beginners
Palace Pictures

Julien Temple’s 1986 musical Absolute Beginners explores life in London through the late Fifties, exhibiting the transformation from the jazz age to the rock and roll Nineteen Sixties. Bowie is just a minor participant within the movie, an advert man known as Vendice Partners, however his catchy title song grew to become extremely popular within the UK and spent 9 weeks on the charts.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen worse acting in a major British film… That song, in my opinion, was the only good feature of the whole film”, IndieWire quoted Jake Eberts, whose movie studio Goldcrest Films collapsed after the business failure of Absolute Beginners.

7/10 Basquiat

David Bowie in Basquiat
Miramax Films

It’s no secret that Bowie was a grasp of embracing the absurd and that actually extends to his movie performances. In the 1996 Basquiat, Bowie takes on the role of none other than iconic pop artist Andy Warhol. Bowie’s efficiency right here lacks subtlety and is clearly unrestrained, however its over-the-top nature and flamboyant contact is delightfully entertaining, his theatrical type giving the function a vibrancy, and his line readings and mannerisms strike the precise steadiness of campy and self-aware.

Many performers have taken on the function of Warhol, and whereas some have painted him as a tortured visionary, Bowie’s exuberant and spirited tackle Warhol is refreshing to see. Also, bonus factors for the way Bowie shamelessly rocks the Warhol wig; but once more, it is a man who is aware of a factor or two about pulling off a coiffure.

6/10 The Last Temptation of Christ

David Bowie in The Last Temptation of Christ
Universal Pictures

Based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ controversial novel of the identical title, Martin Scorsese’s 1988 epic spiritual drama The Last Temptation of Christ humanizes the determine of Jesus Christ (played by Willem Dafoe), tormenting by the temptations of demons, asking himself which is the precise method. Resonating with some audiences whereas offending others, Scorsese’s retelling of Christ’s closing days was accused of being an offensive and unholy movie.

In The Last Temptation of Christ, Bowie steps into the function of Pontius Pilate. He performs it so refined, soft-spoken, and gifted, trying nearly sympathetic as he kills God.

5/10 The Hunger

David Bowie in The Hunger
MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

For each musician turned actor, it looks like the vampire movie is a rite of passage, and Bowie made an entrance into the style in 1983’s The Hunger. In the hyper-stylized movie, Bowie performs John, the lover to the immortal vampire Miriam (Catherine Deneuve); the vampire couple finds themselves ensnared in a love triangle that checks their loyalties to 1 one other.

The movie is notable in showcasing its gothic aesthetic, and Bowie’s haunting and seductive efficiency solely provides to its attraction – his chemistry with Deneuve is simmering and provides an edgy layer of sexuality to the proceedings. Bowie’s penchant for efficiency artwork served him properly, as he interprets his glam showmanship to the cinema very successfully right here. The Hunger wasn’t a essential hit however has since established a cult following and is taken into account one in every of Bowie’s most iconic function movie roles to this point.

4/10 Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

David Bowie in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
New Line Cinema

Few performers can grow to be an iconic character in only one scene, nonetheless Bowie managed to do exactly that in his function as Philip Jefferies in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Bowie’s tormented function as Jefferies within the beguiling David Lynch classic is one in every of his strongest performances, and though he is solely actually current in a single scene, he greater than owns his display screen time. Bowie brings an anguished depth to Jefferies and demonstrates a real dramatic presence right here.

Bowie’s function is considered by many to be one of the most iconic moments of the film, and has been broadly embraced by the fandom. It’s a testomony to Bowie’s expertise that regardless of the brevity, his function as Jefferies stays so vital and impactful.

3/10 Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

David Bowie in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence
Palace Pictures

Though Bowie had starred in movies earlier than 1983, it was with that 12 months’s Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence and Hunger he established the seeds of his performing potential. The movie follows Bowie as a POW throughout WWII and his relationship with a rating commander which evolves in surprising methods. The movie finds the actor in his most critical efficiency, and he manages to be as much as the duty with conviction, sincerity, and emotion.

Bowie is also in a extra understated temper right here and manages to nonetheless carry over his charismatic presence within the course of. It’s a harrowing movie all through its period, and whereas it would be straightforward for an actor to ham it up, Bowie’s restraint right here is tremendously highly effective. His efficiency in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence drew him essential acclaim and helped set up his credibility as an actor, and his work within the quiet, mysterious, typically lovely movie stays one in every of Bowie’s most interesting dramatic performances.

2/10 Labyrinth

David Bowie in Labyrinth
Tri-Star Pictures

While Bowie could have had extra ‘critical roles,’ few stay celebrated and adored like his flip because the Goblin King within the 1986 fantasy movie Labyrinth. Bowie’s efficiency is gloriously excessive and theatrical, and he places his glam rock pedigree to nice use. Bowie is understood for being a flamboyant performer, and he makes use of this power tremendously in Labyrinth, proudly owning each scene he is in.

Related: Labyrinth: Why the Classic Film Needs a Sequel

Credit’s additionally on account of his comedic timing as properly, as he manages to gamely work together with the movie’s many animated characters and younger performers with ease. Bowie’s flip because the Goblin King is widely known by many and constantly introduces him to new generations. For many, Labyrinth serves as a gateway to Bowie and is one in every of his most important on-screen performances.

1/10 The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth
British Lion Films

One of Bowie’s earliest main roles got here within the 1976 science fiction movie The Man Who Fell To Earth. With a lead character inspired by Bowie’s stage persona, the movie follows Bowie as an alien who crash lands on earth within the type of a human all whereas navigating trendy society. The film is famous for its existential and philosophical themes because it explores morality, corruption, need and the human spirit. Bowie’s efficiency as Thomas Jerome Newton makes large use of his otherworldly presence, and his depth and vulnerability are highly effective to observe. Bowie additionally organically demonstrates an intimacy and understanding of his character that permits us to realize deeper resonance for his plight. Refreshingly, his efficiency lacks any vainness and is natural and heart-felt all through.

Like a lot of Nicolas Roeg’s masterpieces, The Man Who Fell To Earth polarized audiences on the time, and Bowie wasn’t fully accepted as a respect actor; he would solely lead yet one more movie for seven years after this one, till Hunger and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. The movie, nonetheless, has gone on to ascertain a cult following and is considered one of the crucial influential science-fiction movies of its time. Bowie’s efficiency right here has additionally been famous as one in every of his most defining roles as properly, with many mechanically associating the Starman musician with the person from the celebs within the movie. While Bowie has starred in lots of movies, his function in The Man Who Fell To Earth stays his most definitive.

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