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Top 10 David Bowie Movie Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Salomon Micko Benrimoh Whether he was Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, whether it was for music or in the movies, David Bowie knew how to play a role. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 David Bowie Movie performances. For this list, though David Bowie had a musical career that spanned decades, he was no stranger to the big screen. Special thanks to our user MikeMJPMUNCH for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Salomon Micko Benrimoh


Top 10 David Bowie Movie Performances



Whether he was Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke, whether it was for music or in the movies, David Bowie knew how to play a role. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 David Bowie Movie performances.

For this list, though David Bowie had a musical career that spanned decades, he was no stranger to the big screen. As such, we’re taking a look at those performances that show him off at his finest and most memorable.

#10: Monte
“The Linguini Incident” (1991)

Kicking off our list is David Bowie’s dip into the world of romantic comedies. Alright, so it’s more of a heist comedy with some romantic elements but still. “The Linguini Incident” has multiple storylines, and sees Bowie taking on the role of a charming British bartender living and working in New York City. He also happens to be desperate to get married so he can get a green card. Although comedy was an unusual genre for him, Bowie still provided a solid performance alongside other more established actors like Rosanna Arquette, as well as cameos by his wife Iman and Julian Lennon.

#9: Phillip Jeffries
“Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me” (1992)

If you grew up in the early ‘90s, then you’ll remember the popularity of “Twin Peaks.” Its cancellation prompted the creation of a movie that served as both a prequel and epilogue to the famed TV series. “Fire Walk With Me” sees Bowie make a short, but nevertheless important, appearance as Phillip Jeffries, a missing FBI agent who reappears suddenly in a delusional state in front of his colleagues - and warns them of the spiritual dangers that await. The character’s subsequent abrupt disappearance enabled Bowie to catch the attention of audience members as he added even more madness into the mystery of Twin Peaks.

#8: Vendice Partners
“Absolute Beginners” (1986)

Picture a time in England before rock and roll but after the Second World War. This is the setting in which Bowie takes on a supporting role as an advertising executive in a musical that also featured other major British musicians, like Ray Davies of the Kinks. The movie brings to light various issues that affected England during this time, such as race and cultural change, and also allows Bowie to display his true musical talent in various musical numbers.

#7: John Blaylock
“The Hunger” (1983)
With so many different personas throughout the decades, the mid-’70s “Thin White Duke” Bowie was as vampire-like as you could get. This is what made his role as John Blaylock a few years later even more believable and captivating. Promised eternal life by another vampire, John and Miriam embark on an eternal reign of terror in the streets of New York City, feasting on the unsuspecting. Watching this lustful and eerie movie will definitely make you look behind you the next time Ziggy Stardust comes up on your playlist.

#6: Major Jack ‘Strafer’ Celliers
“Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” [aka “Senjō no Merī Kurisumasu”] (1983)

Talk about an international movie! This British-Japanese film sees David Bowie star as an army major from New Zealand being held captive in a Japanese POW camp. This World War Two movie would see Bowie gain attention for his portrayal of the equally rebellious and compassionate military officer who develops a strange bond with the Japanese officers. A favorite among British audiences, the film and Bowie’s performance were extremely well received by critics and received international praise.

#5: Pontius Pilate
“The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)

One of the last movies you would probably ever expect David Bowie to be in is a film about the beginnings of Christianity, which could also be why he is perfect for the role of Pontus Pilate, the brutal Roman governor of Judea. In a Martin Scorsese directed film, opposite a star studded cast that included Hollywood heavyweights like William Dafoe and Harvey Keitel, Bowie is able to hold his own, and garnered praise for his portrayal of the demonized Roman politician who sentences Jesus to crucifixion.

#4: Andy Warhol
“Basquiat” (1996)

If there was one role that David Bowie was born to play, it was Andy Warhol. In the same way that Warhol influenced art with his unique eccentricity, Bowie influenced music. Bowie even borrowed Warhol’s real life wig, glasses and jacket for the role. This is why he fit right in with his portrayal of Warhol in this modern biopic of his young protégé, Jean-Michel Basquiat. A critic even compared Bowie’s on set transformation to a reincarnated version of Warhol – you can’t receive much better praise than that!

#3: Nikola Tesla
“The Prestige” (2006)

A role most people wouldn’t expect to see David Bowie in would be that of a scientist, let alone one of the greatest of all time; Nikola Tesla. But Bowie didn’t let anything like this get in his way as he wowed critics and audiences with his portrayal of the famed electrical engineer. The film sees Bowie help Hugh Jackman’s character to build a machine that will create the ultimate illusion. Bowie didn’t hold back and was even able to nail a convincing Eastern European accent for the role.

#2: Jareth the Goblin King
“Labyrinth” (1986)

The world was introduced to yet another Bowie persona in this musical fantasy that was directed by Jim Henson and executive produced by George Lucas. “Labyrinth” sees Bowie and his classic ‘80s hairdo take on a villainous role as Jareth, the Goblin King who kidnaps the main protagonist’s little brother. In order to get him back, he forces the teenage Sarah to pass through his mystical and dangerous labyrinth. The film received mixed reviews and never managed to take off at the box office, but it has since re-emerged in popularity and earned the status of a cult classic.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
Mr. Rice
“Mr. Rice’s Secret” (2000)
Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski
“Just a Gigolo” [aka “Schöner Gigolo, armer Gigolo”] (1978)
Bernie
“B.U.S.T.E.D.” [aka “Everybody Loves Sunshine”] (1999)

#1: Thomas Jerome Newton
“The Man Who Fell to Earth” (1976)

Taking the top spot on our list is one of the most memorable science fiction movies of the ‘70s. After he gained international stardom as Ziggy Stardust and for hits like “Starman,” Bowie took on his first starring role in this sci-fi drama. “The Man Who Fell to Earth” sees the rock star playing an alien sent to Earth to find a source of water to stop a catastrophic drought on his home planet. Bowie provided a convincing performance that many actors, directors, and musicians have since used as inspiration for other roles and songs. Though the film received mixed reviews upon release, it has since achieved major cult status, with multiple re-releases over the last decades.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite David Bowie movie? For more inspiring top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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