In 1963, Buck Owens topped the country charts with "Act Naturally," which opened with the prophetic line "They're gonna put me in the movies." But decades before that tune (later covered by the Beatles) was a hit, country stars were already trading the concert stage for the sound stage.
Experiencing varying degrees of box office success and critical acclaim (or disdain), country artists have been making the transition to the big (and small) screen since the movie business began. Just shortly after talking pictures took the country by storm, the Father of Country Music, Jimmie Rodgers, appeared in a short film called The Singing Brakeman.
Since that time, numerous singers have acted in everything from TV series and music videos to blockbuster films. Below, The Boot focuses our lens on 10 country artists who've acted -- naturally or otherwise -- in the movies.
Though she has since starred in her own successful sitcom and also conquered Broadway, in 1990, McEntire was first bitten by the acting bug (well, more like an icky, overgrown worm) in the sci-fi comedy horror hit Tremors. If not for scheduling conflicts, a gazillion people could have seen her by decade's end, playing the unsinkable Molly Brown in a little film called Titanic. And though she's not seen, you can hear that unmistakable voice of hers in the animated films Charlotte's Web and The Fox & the Hound 2.
His distinctive voice and a return to country music tradition made Travis one of the most influential entertainers of the '80s and '90s. He soon turned his attention to TV roles and feature films, which have included Fire Down Below, Black Dog and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. More recently, prior to his 2013 stroke, the country icon was a by-the-book deputy director of the CIA in Jerusalem Countdown.
Although he's bound to be best remembered as Robbie Ray Stewart, dad of Disney's Hannah Montana (played by real-life daughter Miley), Cyrus earned some serious indie cred in 2001 for the role of Gene, the pool cleaner in David Lynch's enigmatic thriller Mulholland Drive. In 2010, he was in The Spy Next Door with Jackie Chan. And let's not forget the 2001 action flick Radical Jack. On second thought ...
After making his inauspicious big-screen debut in 1987 as a member of the Bayou Band in the Rob Lowe-Winona Rider film Square Dance, Adkins wasn't seen again on film for 21 years. Trailer Park of Terror didn't make him a screen legend, but 2010's Lincoln Lawyer did have him sharing scenes with Matthew McConaughey. With The Virginian, Mom's Night Out and other roles still to come, Adkins has carved out a pretty solid second career in films.
It's all too easy to forget that Presley made a few great films when he made so many truly terrible ones. Harum Scarum? The title alone is cringe-inducing. Still, early on in his film career, the charisma and charm of the young man who would be King shone through in such films as Love Me Tender, King Creole and the electrifying Jailhouse Rock. Another standout was 1964's Viva Las Vegas, but it was all pretty much downhill from there.
Making his silver-screen debut alongside Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in 1979's Electric Horseman, Nelson followed with film roles as eclectic and unexpected as his musical output, appearing in everything from Honeysuckle Rose and Barbarosa to Wag the Dog and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. He lent a bit (just a bit) of cred to the Dukes of Hazzard remake, taking the role of Uncle Jessie. Being Nelson, he pretty much steals any scene he's in.
Rarely playing anyone but a version of herself, Parton made her debut in 9 to 5, one of the most successful comedy films of all time. She spouted a plethora of quotable lines and more than held her own against screen vets Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Sure, 'Rhinestone,' which paired her with Sylvester Stallone, was hardly a glittering addition to her film resume, and subsequent efforts have paled in comparison to 9 to 5, but Parton returned to the big screen for A Joyful Noise, which she starred in with Queen Latifah. Dolly being Dolly is always an enjoyable, larger-than-life experience.
Were he to completely walk away from his music career (and we're not suggesting he do that!), Yoakam would most certainly have the chops to be a full-time actor. He was, in fact, an actor even before becoming a musician. Since he began, he's created some of the most vile, unforgettable on-screen villains in such films as Sling Blade, Bloodworth and Panic Room, but there's definitely more to him than those nasty characters suggests. We can't wait to see what he does next.
McGraw may be the most surprising singer-turned-actor that Music City has given Tinseltown. Although most of his roles thus far haven't been substantial, leading-man material, he certainly has the range (and the star power) to pull off a name-above-the-title performance. He scared us in Friday Night Lights, inspired us in The Blind Side and had us conflicted in Country Strong. (We don't know what the hell he was doing in Four Christmases!)
The former Army captain and Rhodes scholar's film career spans 40 years and more than 100 movie roles, with a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in 1976's A Star Is Born. Bringing the same "lived-in" feeling to his films as he has to the songs he's written, Kristofferson has tackled nearly every genre imaginable, from sci-fi (the Blade series) to comedy (He's Just Not That Into You) to family fare (Dreamer). On the heels of his starring role in the indie drama Bloodworth, the singer/actor was honored by the Nashville Film Festival for his contributions to the silver screen.
Who's Your Favorite Country Star Who Has Acted?
There are plenty of other country stars who have graced the silver screen. Did we miss one of your favorites here? Let us know in the comments section below!
This list was compiled by Stephen L Betts, and revised by Sterling Whitaker.