The Flix List: Five notable female singers who (suprisingly) can act

A Whitney Houston song came on the other day on my way home from work. Though the song wasn’t from The Bodyguard, it got me thinking about how much I liked that movie. Kind of like Notting Hill, The Bodyguard tells the story of a major star falling for an ordinary fella, though it didn’t share the same fairy tale ending. Then it got me thinking about what other female singers who actually have pretty decent acting chops. Well, some of you might have read this post about actors who are (surprisingly) good singers from last year, so the professions are reversed in this case.

There are probably more singers who should just focus on their music though, with Madonna & Beyonce at the top of that list, but let’s not focus on the negative. An obvious example of singers who can act is Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for her acting debut in Dreamgirls (which I haven’t seen yet). But I’m excluding her from this list because at the time her singing career wasn’t that prominent yet, her claim to fame was from being the sixth runner-up on American Idol. Besides, I’m only going to include contemporary singers whose movies I have actually seen, which is why Barbra Streissand isn’t on the list either, though she’s also won an Oscar. Anyway, here they are in random order:

  1. Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale)
    I absolutely adore Houston’s magnificent voice, she really has one of the best pipes in the business. But you know what, the girl’s also blessed with on-screen charisma, even though her acting chops probably doesn’t equal her singing talent. I thought she was sympathetic and engaging in The Bodyguard as superstar Rachel Marron. Of course she was basically playing herself but she could be embarrassingly bad like Mariah Carey in Glitter. She also pulls off a believable chemistry with co-star Kevin Costner as the object of her affection. That part wasn’t that hard though, even as I rewatched the music video clips from the movie, I too was swooning over Costner all over again 🙂  I also like Waiting to Exhale a lot, and Houston held her own amongst other black actors in that movie.
    ….
  2. Queen Latifah (Chicago, Stranger than Fiction)
    It’s hard to dispute Latifah’s charm and congeniality, and that comes across effortlessly on screen as well. She’s been in quite a few movie and tv projects since the early 90s, but it wasn’t until about a decade later when the hip-hop star got major recognition for her acting in Chicago. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as the larger-than-life and smoldering Matron Mama Morton, which she lost out to co-star Catherine Zeta-Jones. She was also quite effective in a small role as Emma Thompson’s no-nonsense publishing assistant, proving yet again that she can handle both dramatic and comedic roles.
    ….
  3. Bette Midler (Beaches, The First Wives Club, The Stepford Wives)
    I picked Midler as she impressed me in these movies (though the last two movies themselves weren’t that great), but apparently according to her IMDb page, she was nominated for TWO Oscars. One for The Rose (1979) and For the Boys (1991), neither one I have seen. For me, she’s always going to be remembered for her role as CC Bloom, alongside Barbara Hershey in Beaches, one of the most memorable friendship movies that boast a wonderful soundtrack sang by Midler herself.

  4. Cher (Moonstruck, Mermaids)
    As I had just seen Moonstruck last month, it’s still clear in my head how good Cher’s performance was in that movie. It’s an interesting casting choice that paid off in the end. It’s really a great role for her, not sure if it merits a Best Actress Oscar as I don’t know who else was nominated that year, but certainly worthy of a nomination. She really became Loretta Castorini, the widow who unwittingly falls for her fiance’s brother. One of the best-written female character who’s strong, funny and has one of the most memorable transformation from frumpy to a stunningly glamorous woman. The only other movie I’ve seen her in was Mermaids, playing the role of a free-spirited single mother with panache as well as vulnerability.
  5. Mandy Moore (American Dreamz, Romance & Cigarettes)
    A lot of young pop stars her age have tried their hand at acting (Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, etc.), but I think Moore is probably one of the few that shows a real talent for it. The first time I saw her was in a bawdy musical comedy Romance & Cigarettes at TIFF back in 2005, as the teenage daughter of James Gandolfini & Susan Sarandon. She was pretty good, though the scene stealer in that was Kate Winslet as a foul-mouthed English call girl and Gandolfini’s mistress. The other movie I saw her in was the political comedy American Dreamz, where Moore plays an ambitious teen vying for her chance of stardom in an American Idol-like show. She was spot on and quite hilarious, proving that she has a knack for comedic roles. Looks like the 26-year-old is still juggling singing and acting, and she’s nabbed some lead roles as well, though her movie choices definitely could use some improvement.
    ….
    Honorable mention: J Lo (showed a lot of promise in Out of Sight, quite likable in The Wedding Planner) but generally she’s not as multitalented as she thinks she is.

***

Well, I’m probably missing a few important ones. Feel free to add to the list and enlighten me which singers you think are pretty good actors.

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49 thoughts on “The Flix List: Five notable female singers who (suprisingly) can act

    1. See, I knew I’m probably missing some key people. But to my defense, I didn’t know she was a singer before I saw her in Sound of Music.

          1. She’s in the first one. She plays the snooty rich girl that goes to school w/Anne Hathaway’s character. Or something like that, since it was probably 10 years ago that I saw that movie. 🙂

    1. I did mention Barb in this post but I haven’t seen any of her movies. Beyonce?? Well I haven’t seen anything she’s in either but people say she’s terrible. Didn’t know Gainsbourg was a singer.

      1. PrairieGirl

        Don’t care for Streisand all that much, but she was very good in Yentel and The Way We Were. Also, What’s Up Doc is a very funny comedy classic.

  1. Seriously, Ruth? Madonna can act, of course I’m going to go mention Evita again, and Dick Tracy. I sort of love her in that. And I’ll say Beyonce has potential (she was kind of awesome in Cadillac Records).

    I kind of blah on Jennifer Hudson, but on the subject of Dreamgirls I’d nominate Anika Noni Rose who is a singer, well a Broadway star, and sort of steals the show from everyone involved.

    1. Sorry Andrew… but I thought she was just ok in Evita. That’s why I didn’t say she and Beyonce were horrid, it’s just that their singing talent is way better than their acting chops so they should just focus on that.

      I’m curious to see Dreamgirls only for Eddie Murphy. Prairiegirl kept raving about him I gotta check him out myself.

    1. I gave J Lo an honorable mention as she’s got a likable on-screen presence but not sure that’s the same as acting. Haven’t seen The Cell but yes she was good in Out of Sight, hence the mention.

        1. J Lo should fire her agent as her movies are so terrible. I caught a glimpse of the one with Jane Fonda, don’t know the title, and man oh man whoever green lit that should be shot!

          But believe it or not Ralph Fiennes must think she’s pretty good as he was her co-star in Maid in Manhattan, another stinker that I only saw because of Fiennes’ involvement. Hard to concentrate when the entire time you went, ‘how much $$$ did Ralphie get paid for this???’

          1. I think her and Katherine Heigle need to find better agents. Jennifers movies have been pretty bad as of late, and the only movie Katherine has been in that i actually liked was Knocked Up.

            1. Here’s an idea… how about both of them retire early? 🙂 In the case of J Lo, I’d think she’s busy enough managing her fragrance line as it is.

                  1. Don’t defend her Andrew… save your energy. She needs to realize that a lot of actresses more talented than she would KILL to have the opportunities she’s been given with.

  2. I totally agree with all your choices except Whitney, that woman is just horrible as an actress. But really horrible. Unlike Bette, Cher, Latifah,Mandy are great, and I would also mention Beyonce who has some natural talent. When it comes to Jennifer Lopez, I actually like her much much more as an actress than as a singer.
    Mariah Carey was mind-blowing in THE PRECIOUS even though she was horrible in previous film attempts 🙂

    Joss Stone is someone I always find horrible as actress even though she keeps getting roles (THE TUDORS, ERAGON)…

    Kylie Minogue was cute in MOULIN ROUGE 🙂

    Kate Winslet is amazing in the opposite way actress turned singer – her WHAT IF is one of my favourite Christmas songs of all times.

    1. Oh Dez, obviously we disagree about Whitney… I quite like her in the two movies I’ve seen her in. I was going to mention Mariah but haven’t seen Precious yet.

      You know, I can’t remember seeing Kylie in Moulin Rouge, which scene was she in??

        1. Sorry for the slow response. It’s in the animated version of “A Christmas Carol”. If I remember correctly Kate plays a love interest of Scrooge when he was young and un-Scrooge like. Youtube it, the song is lovely.

          (PS. Kate singing in Sense And Sensibility? Brilliant.)

            1. The point is in Kate’s interpretation of the song and her amazing and heart-breaking voice 🙂 Only a true artist could understand the magic of that song.

  3. wow! loving the discussion thread on this one! I’d like to add a twist about actors who can sing…Ewan MacGregor, Gerard Butler, Nicole Kidman, Julie Andrews, Andy Griffith, and more! LOL.

    singers that can act…well, I’m not going to say that they are award-winning, but I felt that Madonna, Aaliyah, Eminem, Alicia Keys, Barbara Streisand, and Janet Jackson all were decent as well.

    Nice list! enjoyed reading!

  4. Jennifer Hudson is one i would put on my list. Her performance in Dreamgirls was great, imo.

    I would also count Beyonce. Her performance as Etta James in Cadillac records is her best work so far imo.

      1. You’re not the only one mentioning Cadillac Records. Wonder why nobody mentions Obsessed yet. I heard the movie was absolutely horrible.

  5. Jennifer Hudson has love for all her HATERS. I just wonder who and why anybody would hate on Jen? This young multi-talented super star is problemly the most humbled and grounded artist in the business. Oscar for Dreamgirls she earned and deserved! Jen only got noticed from A. Idols, but she gain her fame from Dreamgirls. However she is the most famous person from that show and she did not even WIN(7-place). This young lady is going to shine no matter of what. Like Jhud are not the top is where she is and will be forever more. Anyway we thank you for even making mention of Jen and the movie Dreamgirls.

    1. Hi Norma, I don’t think anybody is hating anyone here. I agree that’s not cool. I have no doubt Jennifer is a multi-talented young lady and I wish her even more success in her endeavors. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Great list Ruth! Whitney Houston might not be the best actress of the bunch but she definitely is the best singer!!! I would add Zooey Deschanel if this was a top 6 🙂

    1. Thanks Castor. Glad to hear you appreciate Whitney’s great voice, she is second to none IMO. I didn’t know Zooey had a singing career before she started acting, never heard her sing before but I know she’s married to the Deathcab for Cutie frontman.

  7. I am sorry to say, no disrespect to these great ladies, but Jeanette McDonald is the greatest female singer to ever act in the movies. She is before our time having acted in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. She had the voice of an angel, range off the charts and was lucky to find a counter part in her movies with Nelson Eddy. I came across her one day watching her in a a movie about Vienna and have been a fan evr since. Ever time I hear her sing, it brings me to tears of joy. TCM should do a feature of her films.

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