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From stage to screen – 10 of our favourite films featuring pop stars

Have you seen the trailer for House Of Gucci? We’re willing to bet you have, and that you might even have watched it more than once. It’s set to be the must-see, must-talk-about film of November (and probably December, too). And that’s due, in no small part, to its star: Lady Gaga.

Gaga’s transition from pop star to film star has been pretty spectacular. After a couple of minor roles in films like Machete Kills and Muppets Most Wanted, her starring role in A Star Is Born earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. (And if you haven’t already been earwormed by the film’s most famous song, Shallow… well, you have now!)

But maybe no-one should have been surprised. After all, pop stars are performers, accustomed to putting on a costume and transforming into another person. In honour of Gaga and House Of Gucci, here are 10 of our other favourite films featuring pop stars:

Labyrinth (1986)

There are many things to love about Jim Henson’s Labyrinth – Hoggle! Ludo! Sir Didymus! And that little worm! – but David Bowie steals the show. As the Goblin King, he’s sinister and seductive, veering from terrifying to vulnerable and back again sometimes in the space of one scene.

Plus, he somehow pulls off one of the most difficult haircuts ever seen on screen. A bravura performance.

A View To A Kill (1985)

Bond baddie Zorin clearly has expensive taste in bodyguards: A View To A Kill sees Grace Jones play May Day, a formidable henchwoman who looks flawless even when hoisting her enemies over her head. Bond had no choice but to win her over, really – surely even he couldn’t have bested her in a fight.

I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

In one of Park Chan-wook’s stranger films – which is saying something! – K-pop star Rain plays a patient in a mental institution who falls for a fellow patient who believes herself to be a cyborg. The gentle protections he puts in place for her, without arguing with her or otherwise upsetting her, are incredibly sweet.

The set-up might sound dark, but this is actually a romantic comedy, and Rain (as you’d expect!) makes a great romantic lead.

Mudbound (2017)

R&B royalty Mary J Blige had acted before Mudbound, but Dee Rees’s powerful portrayal of racism and PTSD was her breakthrough. Here, Blige channels her own pain into a raw, aching performance that’s deeply affecting – gratifyingly, it earned her a stack of awards nominations.

Expect her turn as Dinah Washington in Respect, the Aretha Franklin biopic, to be similarly well received.

Dancer In The Dark (2000)

Experimental Icelandic musician Björk gave an indelible performance in Lars von Trier’s musical melodrama Dancer In The Dark – but be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted!

Björk plays an impoverished immigrant with a degenerative eye disease, desperately saving her money for a sight-saving operation for her son. Without spoiling too much, nothing ends well. It’s a total heartbreaker, in no small part due to Björk’s performance, and the songs that she wrote and performed for the soundtrack.

Dreamgirls (2006)

Bill Condon’s screen adaptation of the musical Dreamgirls features not just one but two popstars in key roles: Jennifer Hudson as Effie, the original lead singer of girl group The Dreams, and Beyoncé as Deena, who replaces her. Loosely inspired by the real story of The Supremes and their rise to fame, the musical is the perfect showcase for some true pop icons.

Moonlight (2016)

Singer Janelle Monáe made two history-making movies in 2016 – the other one was Hidden Figures – but if we have to pick just one, we’ll go with Moonlight. The Oscar-winning drama follows Chiron, a bullied young black man, through three key parts of his life; Monáe plays Teresa, possibly the film’s kindest character, who meets Chiron at his youngest and most vulnerable. Her performance isn’t showy, but quiet, deliberate, and measured – she comes off effortlessly assured, and endlessly compassionate.

Mermaids (1990)

Cher’s filmography is long enough to merit its own Wikipedia page, but for the purposes of this list, we’re going to shine the spotlight on Mermaids – just because it doesn’t get enough love any more. Cher plays an unlucky-in-love single mother whose unconventional parenting leaves her kids feeling adrift. The whole cast is great – the two kids are played by Winona Ryder and Christina Ricci – but Cher is in her element playing an unapologetically flamboyant nomad who refuses to let anyone dampen her lust for life.

(Also, Cher’s cover of The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss), recorded for this film, is one of the classics.)

Beaches (1988)

Although she was arguably a Broadway star rather than a pop star, Bette Midler was nonetheless known for her musical talents before she moved into films – but it should have come as no surprise that she was a talented actress. In weepie drama Beaches, she plays an ageing singer who rushes across the country to be with her lifelong friend as she’s dying. Midler is very much playing to type here, but her performance is heartfelt – and yes, you’ll cry.

Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan’s decision to cast One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles in his war drama attracted a lot of attention at the time, with much speculation that it was a piece of stunt casting that could only backfire.

Turns out Nolan knew what he was doing, though, because once the film was out, it turned out Styles could hold his own in a cast that also included Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, and Kenneth Branagh. The one caveat here is that he doesn’t have a major role – but surely he’ll be cast as the lead in something before too much longer?