From Lady Gaga to Britney Spears: The best and worst musicians who swapped stage for screen

Roll out the red carpet, strike your best pose and get your acceptance speech ready.

It’s awards season.

For an actor, there’s no greater recognition for a performance than winning an Academy Award, which have celebrated the year’s best films since 1929. And for ones that have missed the mark, there’s the Golden Raspberry Awards, which have recognised the year’s worst films since 1981. Neither have been off limits to the many pop stars who have turned to acting.

Indeed, for every Lady Gaga, who is nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award for A Star Is Born, there has been a Britney Spears, who was panned for her starring role in the coming-of-age drama Crossroads almost 20 years ago. So to celebrate Gaga’s nomination, we analysed the Oscars and the Razzies to chronicle the best and worst performances of the artists who swapped the stage for the screen.

The only eligibility criteria were that they had a) to be known for their music before their acting and b) not be playing themselves – apologies to Spice World fans.


There are 26 musicians who have received 37 Academy Award acting nominations between them, with eight of them going on to win. The first to do so was Bing Crosby, who received the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in 1944 musical Going My Way. He later received two more nominations, making him the most successful musician-turned actor of all time. Seven other artists have been nominated multiple times, including Will Smith – formerly of hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince – who received Best Actor nods for Ali (2001) and Pursuit of Happyness (2006). Cher was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Silkwood (1983), before winning Best Actress for her part in Moonstruck (1987). Jennifer Hudson is the most recent musician to have been honored at the Academy Awards, having won Best Supporting Actress at the 2006 ceremony for her portrayal of Effie White in Dreamgirls. Hudson is one of just two music stars, along with Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl, to win an Oscar on their acting debut.


Dramas account for 18 of the 37 films in which musicians have received an acting Oscar nomination – eight more than any other genre. That total includes Mary J. Blige’s Best Supporting Actress nomination for playing Florence Jackson in post-war period drama Mudbound in 2017. Unsurprisingly, the next-most popular genre is musicals with 10 nominations. Diana Ross earned a Best Actress nomination at the 1972 Oscars for playing Billie Holliday in Lady Sings the Bluesin one of four Biopics. The remaining nominations are from comedies (2), rom-coms (2) and one western.

Gender/award split

When a musician has been nominated for an Oscar, it’s typically for playing the leading role. Of the 37 nominations, 23 have been for either Best Actor or Best Actress – accounting for 62 per cent. Female musicians are also more likely to receive an Oscar nomination for acting than their male counterparts. Twenty-two of the 37 nominations have been for women, equal to 59 per cent.


Nine of the 37 Oscar nominees played musicians in the films they were nominated in – the most of any role. The most recent example of this is Lady Gaga in the aforementioned A Star is Born. Three of the 37 nominees played actors or actresses – the next-most popular role – including Ann-Margret in Carnal Knowledge (1971), for which she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

[Courtesy of Betway Sports]

History tells us that the transition from musician to actor will normally go badly. Thirty-five musicians have received 55 Golden Raspberry nominations between them, with 10 of those winning 17 awards. The worst offender on the list is Madonna, who has been nominated for eight Razzies – four more than anyone else – and has won five. She has won three for Worst Actress and two for Worst Supporting Actress in films including erotic thriller Body of Evidence (1993) and Swept Away (2002). Mark Wahlberg and Barbra Streisand are next on that list with four nominations each. They are also two of five musician-turned-actors to have been nominated for both an Oscar and a Razzie. Liza Minnelli, however, is the only one to have won both. She won the 1972 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Cabaret before respective Worst Actress Razzies for Arthur 2: On The Rocks and Rent-A-Cop in 1988.

Yes, they were that bad.

Jazz musician Ahmed Best is the only musician to win a Razzie on their acting debut, having picked up the Worst Supporting Actor award for voicing Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999).


Comedies account for 19 of the 55 films in which musicians have been nominated for a Razzie – nine more than any other genre. That total includes Under the Cherry Moon, for which Prince received the 1986 Worst Actor award. The next-most popular genre is drama with 10 nominations, followed by musicals (9), action (7) and thrillers (5). Vanilla Ice was nominated for Worst Actor in Cool As Ice (1991) – a film that was later disowned by its own director – which is one of four rom-coms. The remaining nomination was for Kris Kristofferson as Worst Actor in 1981 western Heaven’s Gate.

Gender/award split

As with the Oscars, musicians have been nominated for more Razzies in a leading role than a supporting one. Of the 55 nominations, 34 have been for either Worst Actor or Worst Actress – accounting for 62 per cent. Female singers and musicians are, again, more likely to receive nominations compared to men. Thirty-two of the 55 Razzie nominations have been for Worst Actress or Worst Supporting Actress, making up 58 per cent.


Of the 55 Razzies nominees, 12 were playing musicians in the films which they were nominated – which, like the Oscar nominees, is more than any other role. That includes Mariah Carey, who won Worst Actress for her role as aspiring singer Billie Frank in Glitter (2001), which was named as one of the 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made in the Official Razzie Movie Guide. Three of the 55 nominees played dancers in the next-most popular role, including Chris Brown in 2014 box-office bomb Battle of the Year. Brown was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor for his role in the film, which made a loss of $3.45m.

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