9 Musicians Who Became Filmmakers

For me art is an interdisciplinary field. Each art form can easily mix, mash up or simply collaborate in other forms.There is no more logical combination than movies and music.

Sound has become one of the indispensable tools filmmakers use to create atmosphere. Even before the talkies, films were accompanied by music. As the movie industry developed filmmakers discovered that blending popular music with their movies would add a whole new dimension to the cinema experience.

Working here at Raindance during the run up to the festival I often overhear programmers explaining how the music in a film is fantastic.

But what about turning the tables and looking at musicians who actually crossed over to become filmmakers? Here’s my  list of 8 musicians who became filmmakers.

1. David Bowie

There’s a very good reason I’m opening my list with Bowie. A music icon and legend, Bowie has some pretty impressive filmography on his account. He mesmerises on screen with such personalities as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige by Christopher Nolan, Pontius Pilate in Last Temptation of Christ by Scorsese and as Andy Warhol in Basquiat by Julian Schnabel. His unique and fiercely independent personality fits perfectly for these roles.

Bowie’s son Duncan Jones has carried on his father’s movie ambitions with the highly acclaimed (and BIFA winning) Moon, and 2011′s Source Code.


2. Ice Cube

American hip hop artist is highly charted on the lists of the best rappers of all time with over 38 million records sold. His film breakthrough came in 1995 with Friday. He shows up on a regular basis in a variety of film projects, from leading role to cameos. His latest work is mostly action-comedy films such as 21 and 22 Jump Street or Ride Along with fellow comedian Kevin Hart.


3. Charlotte Gainsbourg

Anglo-French actress and singer, daughter of English actress Jane Birkin and French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg. In the age of twelve, she made her musical debut with her father on the song “Lemon Incest”. During her career, she released three albums both commercially and critically successful. “Songs That We Sing” was ranked #78 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Songs of 2007.

Her movies include some of the iconic movies of this decade: Melancholia (2011), Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013) Antichrist (2009) and Nymphomaniac: Vol. II (2013)


4.  Michael Peter Balzary aka Flea

Iconic musician, bass-guitar virtuoso known from such bands as Red Hot Chilli Peppers or supergroup Atoms for Peace. Highly recognizable with unique way of expressing himself he turned his energy for film productions, which resulted appearing in films that span many genres such as Back to the Future Part II and Part III, My Own Private Idaho, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Big Lebowski.

(Cult role of Nihilist #2 from The Big Lebowski)



5. Jared Leto

This cheeky guy is successfully avoiding categorization for a long time. His career as a musician and actor started simultaneously so it’s difficult if we should call him a singing actor or acting musician. Regarding what critics says about his pop-rock band founded with brother – 30 Seconds to Mars, he played in critically acclaimed movies like Requiem for a Dream, Mr. Nobody and Dallas Buyers Club which won him an Oscar for best supporting role.

Radio 1's Big Weekend - Day 1


6. Madonna

Flitting between queen of moral controversy and selling hundreds of millions of records, Madonna has often appeared in film ventures. She has directed, wrote, played, and made soundtracks for movies. Her most recognizable role is Evita for which she was awarded with Golden Globe in category of Best Performance by an Actress. Here first two movies, Truth or Dare (1991) and Desperately Seeking Susan (1995)  remain two of my favourite films.

7. Meat loath


Meat Loath – the chubby American with vocals over a three-octave range, singing songs about love. Something, somewhere went terribly wrong, but the result is incredibly effective. Worldwide effective.

One of the best-selling music artists of all time with worldwide sales of more than 80 million records. Meart Loaf has appeared in over 50 movies and television shows, including most notable roles in The Rocky Horror Picture Show and David Fincher’s Fight Club.

8. Will Smith

Guy in black. Muhammad Ali, last guy on earth and bad boy policeman. As of 2014, his films have grossed $6.6 billion in global box office. OBVIOUSLY Will Smith is a big name but before his film breakthrough in Independence Day, he was known as The Fresh Prince who with his friend DJ Jazzy Jeff won two Grammys which sold over 5.5 million albums in the US and had his own television shot called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

All hail the prince.

9. Roland Gift

Last but not least is Fine Young Cannibals frontman Roland Gift who had a string of Top Ten hits including She Drives Me Crazy and Good Thing. Birmingham born Gift is well known as an actor having scored parts in Stephen Frears’ cult classic Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and then in Scandal.

Unlike most musicians who limit themselves to front-of-camera roles, Gift also writes and directs.  He has written a feature which is in development in London, in which he not only stars in but will direct as well. In 2007 he wrote Money. Although my parents loved She Drives Me Crazy, it’s his filmmaking I admire.

Who have I missed? Add into the comments box below.

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