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14 Times Musicians Played Movie Villains (And Totally Nailed It)

Updated July 27, 2021 768 votes 134 voters 2.7k views14 items

List RulesVote up the famous musicians who made the best movie villains.

It's hard to make a name for yourself in the music business, so those who do it deserve respect. Deserving of even more respect are established musicians who go on to make it in the acting field, as well. Singers have been trying to make that transition since the dawn of cinema, with some doing it much more successfully than others. Barbra Streisand? Major success. Vanilla Ice? Not so much. A lucky few have not only made it, but also triumphantly done one of the most difficult things to do: play a credible villain.

The following musicians have all surprised and delighted audiences by making us forget the personas by which we primarily know them, and making us believe them as bad guys. They come from multiple genres of music, including rock, hip-hop, country, and pop. Nailing a role as a musician would have been easy for any of them. Nailing a villainous role was much trickier. They reached into their respective bags of tricks to get audiences booing and hissing at their on-screen malice.

Which of these musicians who played movie villains best nailed their performance? Your votes will decide.

  • David Bowie was one of the most versatile musical artists of the 20th century, able to adapt his sound to accommodate perpetually changing musical styles and tastes. He started off in the late '60s as a standard rock musician, then morphed into his alter ego Ziggy Stardust during the "glam rock" phase of the 1970s. In the latter half of that decade, his sound took on more of a soul quality with songs like "Fame." In the '80s, he became one of the top new wave artists, scoring massive hits including "Let's Dance" and "Modern Love." He even went through a period of making industrial music in the '90s. With that kind of range, it's no wonder he's considered a quintessential rock star.

    Bowie also dabbled in acting, often earning rave reviews for his work. His most beloved performance comes in 1986's Labyrinth, a film that was a box-office disappointment at the time but has gone on to become a cult classic. He brings a playfully menacing quality to the role of Jareth the Goblin King, a kidnapper of babies who embraces a sense of magic and illusion in his realm. Bowie infuses Jareth with a rock star attitude, making the character a villain who is as charismatic as he is evil. The air of mystery he brings is captivating.

    Great villain?
  • Tina Turner is nothing short of music royalty. This Grammy winner first broke out performing with then-husband Ike. Together, they had hits that included "River Deep - Mountain High" and "Proud Mary." The marriage didn't last, thanks in part to Ike's abusiveness. Turner didn't stop, though. She went on to have a grade-A resurgence during the '80s with the hits "What's Love Got to Do with It," "Better Be Good to Me," and "Private Dancer." Her streak continued into the '90s. She's been recording across five different decades and is widely loved and respected for her talent. 

    Turner made an unexpected but intriguing choice to play Aunty Entity, the villain of 1985's Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. She's the ruler of "Bartertown," one of the few remaining inhabitable places in a post-apocalyptic world. It's a region she governs with an iron fist. Onstage, Turner has always been a magnetic performer, and she brings that quality to the film. Her villainous turn is memorable for possessing energy and showmanship. Aunty Entity likes to have all eyes on her. The singer knows how to achieve that impact. 

    Great villain?
  • Sting rose to fame as one-third of the Police. During the '80s, their music was ubiquitous, thanks to smash hits including "Don't Stand So Close to Me," "Message in a Bottle," and "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic." Their biggest hit, 1983's "Every Breath You Take," spent a whopping eight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it the No. 1 hit of that year. After the band broke up, Sting went on to have a successful solo career.

    In David Lynch's adaptation of Dune, he was cast as Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, the sadistic and power-hungry nephew of a sinister baron. As a public figure, Sting was known for a slightly enigmatic quality, as he dabbled in New Age practices, embraced Jungian psychology, and bragged about his prowess in bed, thanks to the use of tantric techniques. This made him a great choice for Feyd-Rautha, a man who radiates a desire to go against the grain. Beyond that, Sting also makes him a self-absorbed figure who takes wicked delight in his own ability to inflict misery on others. 

    Great villain?
  • Debbie Harry was one of the most important figures of the NYC punk scene. Combining sex appeal with a strong, independent vibe, she quickly became a sensation at music clubs, particularly the famed CBGB. Together with her band Blondie, Harry had some of the biggest hits of the early '80s, among them "The Tide Is High," "Call Me," and "Heart of Glass." Their song "Rapture" was the first song that incorporated rap to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. 

    One of Harry's biggest fans is Baltimore filmmaking bad boy John Waters. He hired her to play Velva Von Tussle in his 1988 classic Hairspray. Velva and her husband own an amusement park, which they prevent Black people from attending. In addition to being racist, they've also raised a snooty daughter, Amber, who serves as the antagonist to heroine Tracy Turnblad. Waters's movies are known for being intentionally exaggerated, and Harry leans into that, investing Velva with a larger-than-life quality. We don't laugh with the character, we laugh at her, just as Waters intends.

    Great villain?