Few pop stars settle for musical sovereignty. Success in one cultural realm is reason to test-drive another. Chart-toppers have been crossing over to the big screen for ages, ever since Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Barbra Streisand and Dolly Parton broadened their brands to include the glamour of Hollywood. Entire movies are built around pop superstars’ name recognition (hello, “Crossroads”). And this month alone, three of today’s most popular singers appear in a theater near you: Harry Styles as a World War II soldier in “Dunkirk,” Rihanna as a shape-shifting cabaret alien in “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” and Kesha as a partygoer in “A Ghost Story.”
There’s no better occasion to revisit pop stars’ big-screen hallmarks. This unscientific roundup of Top 40 artists’ wildest movie appearances spotlights luminaries whose roles complemented or subverted their established personas. This is a non-comprehensive list, so don’t fret if your fave was omitted. I’m interested in specific moments and images that have become indelible, whether for their brilliance, their cheesiness or their singularity.