Happy Birthday, Madonna!
The reigning Queen of Pop turns the big 5-7 today and to celebrate we thought rather than focus on her music career we’d take a look at her work as an actress instead.
Related: Remember Thirty Years Ago When Madonna Was A Huge Movie Star?
The general consensus among critics and fans alike is that, try as she might, acting is just not Madonna’s forte. As much as we’d like to see her one day accept the Academy Award for Best Actress, the Queen herself seems to understand that’s probably never going to happen, in part because people don’t want it to.
In 2008, she told an interviewer, “What film can survive people saying it’s going to be a bomb from the second it’s announced? Making movies is such an effort, and to do that over and over again, with the possibility that I am going to get the shit kicked out of me — and they really enjoy doing it — I mean, it doesn’t make sense. I have sort of let it go.”
Related: Happy Birthday, Madonna! 56 Reasons Why We Love The Queen Of Pop In GIFs
It’s true. Madonna holds the record for being the actress with the most Razzie Awards ever, with a grand total of 15 nominations and nine wins, including one for Worst Actress of the Century in 1999. But that doesn’t mean she’s hasn’t had a few shining moments on the silver screen.
Scroll down for 15… No, um, 10… No, seven times Madonna was a really great actress, and join us in wishing her a very happy birthday!
7. Dangerous Game
Seriously, what the hell is this movie even about and why did Madonna ever agree to do it? The gritty, convoluted film-within-a-film is boring to the point of being almost unwatchable. Madonna plays an actress who is being emotionally tortured by her director. Or something. Who really knows? Yet despite a truly terrible story and even worse script, she somehow manages to give a pretty solid performance. When asked about the film after its 1993 release, Madonna replied: “Even though it’s a shit movie and I hate it, I am good in it.” We concur.
6. The Hire
This cross between a short film and a car commercial was released in 2001. It was directed by Madge’s then-husband Guy Ritchie and was produced as part of a series for BMW. Madge channels herself when playing a verbally abusive singer being chauffeured to a performance venue. During the ride, the driver (played by Clive Owen) snaps and begins driving like a maniac, knocking her around in the backseat before she’s eventually catapulted from the vehicle and onto a red carpet in front of eager paparazzi. The film is one of Madge’s few attempts at “irony” that actually succeeds.
5. A League Of Their Own
It’s hard not to love Madonna as “All the Way” Mae in 1992’s A League of Their Own. She’s funny, sexy, and she has that great dance number at the juke joint where Marla Hooch gets wasted and meets her future husband. True, she doesn’t really bring anything to the role that any other actress couldn’t also convey. Except, of course, that she’s Madonna. And because of that she hits it out of the park. (Pun intended.)
4. Madonna’s Love Letter To Hydrangeas
This was a cellphone video shot in the style of a silent film that Lady M uploaded to her YouTube channel in 2012 after she was caught talking shit about a bouquet of hydrangeas presented to her by an adoring fan. Scripted dialogue has never been Madonna’s strong suit, so the silent film format really works to her benefit here. But the thing we love most about this video is the thing we love most about Madonna in general: She’s an unapologetic bitch.
3. Desperately Seeking Susan/Who’s That Girl
We’re lumping these two roles together because, honestly, Madge basically plays the same character in both films: A brassy blond from New York who finds herself caught up in some bizarro situation that forces her to rely on her street smarts. She pulls it off both times with humor and charisma, proving that with the right material, a patient director, and enough takes she can actually land a punch line. No, really, she can!
2. MDNA Skin Commercial
Did you know Madonna has a skincare line? It’s called MDNA Skin and you can only buy it at department store kiosks in Japan. In 2014, she released this trippy black-and-white commercial for it. It depicts the singer wearing a black trench coat and underwear as she writhes around on her bathroom floor. “Having good skin is important to me,” she purrs, “but so are other things. … Chrome clay mask. Serum. Skin rejuvenator. Can you feel it? The future? Love? Now.” The film works because it’s only a minute long, so it never gets boring, and it leaves the viewer wondering, “What the hell did I just watch?”
long-form music video film is probably the closest Madge will ever come to clenching an Oscar. Sadly, she was snubbed by the Academy, who didn’t even give her a nomination. She did, however, take home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy in 1996. And she deserved it. Not only did she carry the film, but she had a record 85 costume changes and she was pregnant during shooting. Evita was a huge hit at the box office, raking in nearly $145 million, and it remains one of the strongest performances in Madonna’s entire movie catalog.
Related: Rebel Heart: Madonna’s Most High Profile BFF Breakups And What We Can All Learn From Them
I could not finish Dangerous Game…. Nor Who’s that Girl… Nor Swept Away… Nor Desperately Seeking Susan. A League of their Own and Evita were okay.
I know that Dick Tracy was actually a very cheesy movie but I loved Madonna in it. As well as her guest appearance on Will & Grace.
I like her acting… and her older material… not the campy “gay” songs like “Holiday” and “Vogue”, but her softer stuff like “Take a Bow” (All of Bedtime Stories pretty much), “I’ll Remember”, “Frozen”… “Jump” is one of my all time favorites of hers — I stopped feeling her after Confessions on a Dance Floor.
That said, she seems to be an awful human being, but I don’t know her personally… Her music is great… before 2007
She will never be remembered as a good actress. In fact, there are no roles that could be said to be memorable.
At heart, Madge was a second-rate talent with a first-rate publicity department. Nothing she has ever said, sung or acted will be anything other than hollow or shallow.
Her gay fans were just as hollow and shallow as she was.
Yeah I was going to say 1. You got Evita right.
Darcy John Hallihan
Who’s That Girl? is one of my fav movies of all time.
Madonna was horrible in Evita. She doesn’t have the vocal range to hit those high notes.
A League of their Own… that’s the only movie where her acting is convincing
a league of their own was okay, especially when Madonna threw that mitt to that fat kid right on the face knocking him out, awesome! and of course it was a good movie because she died in the end, awesome!
She should only stick to what she does well because it isn’t acting. Love her music hate her acting
On her birthday?
You missed out all those interviews where she told everyone that MDNA was a good album. 😛
@jason smeds: You know, son…I feel so blessed that we are given the gift of your presence…a true paragon of human perfection…I see you there with Christ, Moses, Gandhi…I bet even they look up to you…and when they do, they see one nasty, unhappy jerk of an ass who tries so hard to be something he’s not.
So you are the catty cliche gay site that hates on Madonna..and on her Bday.
Desperatly Seeking Susan/Dick Tracy/Swept Away/Truth or Dare/Evita- that show with William Defoe/Shanghai Surprise
I much prefer Madonna’s EVITA recordings. She sings it with a frailty and weariness that is incredible; much preferable, to me, than Patti LuPone’s strident vocals. Her live on-camera singing of the Lament is wonderful, but she holds your attention the entire film. it’s a genuinely terrific thing to behold. she nailed it.
Madonna, as a film performer, simply needs a strong director to get the right work out of her. She actually is rather good in Swept Away, merely playing an unlikeable person in a film that’s sadly tonally-inconsistent. But she’s damn good in it.
And she does a lot of wonderful work in A League of Their Own. truly.
Even Who’s That Girl, which is a mess of a film, has a surprisingly committed performance from Madonna – she makes bold character choices, and in a better-made film it could have been regarded as such.
i also loved her in Dick Tracy. i mean, come on! Breathless Mahoney is so sultry!
Happy Birthday Madonna, been a fan since Borderline. If we got criticised a 1/4 as much as she does we’d never leave our house.
William Bryant Jacobs
To all of the Madonna haters here: She is rich and famous and you are NOT. She has fulfilled her dream to take over the world; have you fulfilled your dreams?
Happy B-day Madonna. Sure we can criticize her all we want, but she deserves props for bringing gay culture to the masses. Before Madonna, gays were silly hair dressers to be made fun of and beaten up. She showed America that gays are just as normal as they are, but with a little more style and groove. 🙂
@SpunkyBunks: i disagree. Madonna helped show that gays aren’t as normal and boring as middle-americans. and thank GOD for that.
“Desperately Seeking Susan” worked well for Madonna because she played herself. There was no acting involved.
I don’t understand why Queerty is obsessed with Madonna’s so-called acting chops? No one in their right mind and certainly no one in Hollywood, AKA, the money boys, equate Madonna with acting.
Perhaps if she applied the same steely determination to studying acting she applied to music, then Madonna might have a slight chance. But, at 57 years of age, it is highly unlikely that will happen.
At the end of the day, Madonna was once a pop tart. Now, she’s just desperately seeking relevancy.
Russell C Stephens
Madonna is a dancer that sings. She is not an actress and has surrounded herself with the people that will make her the most successful at those 2 things. Otherwise she is a God.
Nah I’m good.
Big mistake leaving Truth or Dare off this list. That was the film that took her from A-list pop star to Icon. And let’s be honest it WAS a performance, and a very good one.
I’d also add Dick Tracy. She showed class and wit in that one, and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
Dumb, unclever, smarmy article from a site that promotes Gaga who can sing better but is much more transparently narcissistic, deluded, and insincere. Failure.
OMG!!!!!! THEY FORGOT SHANGHAI SURPRISE!!!!!! #OSCARMATERIAL
Madonna brought gay culture to the masses? Puh-lease. All she did was parade on stage like a semi-stripper to titillate straight guys while claiming that she was all for gay rights. Her videos were almost completely devoid of male homosexuality. In fact, I’m hard pressed to remember any male-male interaction in any of her music videos.
Sure, she put a little bit of male homosexuality in her SEX book but it was almost as an afterthought in my view. She was very into fake lesbianism designed to titillate straight guys with girl-girl fetishes.
Hopefully the male homosexual community will never again support a woman like Madonna.
”Madonna brought gay culture to the masses? Puh-lease.”
You seem to have forgotten Vogue – a song that directly references gay subculture. There was also Truth Or Dare, where she was obviously surrounded by gay male dancers, and then gay men featuring in her best selling, but highly controversial SEX book.
This may not satisfy your standards, whatever they may be, but she was at the peak of her fame and the kind of exposure she gave to LGBT culture made a huge difference to many who were coming to terms with their sexuality.
As for Madonna on film, her best performance as someone above has already stated was Truth or Dare. And second to that, Desperately Seeking Susan which perfectly captures her recalcitrant, punky-princess appeal at that time. Different enough to be interesting, but not so out there as to be offputting and unsexy.
How dare you! Evita? Oh, the shame! There are things that are sacred and this is one that Madonna was “on a planet of her own!” Patti LuPone and Betty Buckly have both done this role justice, Madge-not even close, she fought all those years for a role that wasn’t anywhere close to something she could even halfway pull off! There were so many issues with this hag that by the time it was released it didn’t even resemble the original! Give me a break, she has never had one decent role and earned every single razzy!!! She is well aware that she cannot act, she would like to blame the critics, just as she does for poor record/ticket sales but really, we all know who’s to blame– Who’s That Girl!!! Grow a pair and start recognizing her for the coniving person she really is! She doesn’t do a thing in life on the spry, her whole life is a script, albeit a terrible one!
@jason smeds: Well said!!!!! I think I love you!
That awful film she made with Willem Defoe had one of the most cringe inducing campy moments in film history where she licks her fingers then sticks them in her twat…I remember seeing that in the theater and people moaning and gasping…LMFAO!
She’s such a classy lady!
As usual, Jason has made an inflammatory and sweeping generalization about a culture he often appears to know little, if anything about. To summarize all of Madonna’s artistic achievements since roughly 1983 into a pithy ten-words-or-less criticism is absurd and can’t be taken with the least amount of seriousness. She’s critically acclaimed, has produced some of the best pop songs ever recorded, and is an unparalleled performance artist.
Her acting is one dimensional. In her scenes, there’s never any sense of her being sensitive to the environment around her or the other actors. This “I am the center of the universe” shtick worked for Desperately Seeking Susan, but nothing since. She will never act in anything significant again, as the work on her face means that any subtlety or nuance (not that she had much, even before botox and fillers) are now gone.
Madonna is a terrible actress because (i) she has no presence on film; she’s too small and her speaking voice is weak and limited; and (ii) she’s all external; she has never projected any form of interior life. Nonetheless, her movies are good bad movies- I’ve had some great laughs watching her poor attempts at acting. That Dafoe one was particularly hysterical.
Antonio Banderas was by far the best thing about “Evita”. Madonna superficially and visually fit the part, and her singing was good enough (although the strain was evident), but her acting was foggy, unfocused and timid. There are times her facial expressions don’t even remotely match the lyrics; and in the scene where Eva meets (and reels in) Peron, it was rather dismaying to see that Madonna, of all people, could not even believably play a seductress.
David Bolton obviously loved ‘Glitter’ as well, the Mariah Carey vehicle that catapulted her acting career, correct? I suppose as far as Madonna the actress is concerned it goes something like this: ‘It was only yesterday she was dumped in Times Square with seventeen dollars and a dream to rule the world. She held various jobs, donut shop tramp er waitress, wonderful front singer in band, etc… Today she is living that dream as a boner-flied actress who despite her acting prowess continues to be snubbed by the Academy. She has given us many of the best screen performances someone has seen because it sure hasn’t been me, although she wasn’t too bad on SNL with the whole Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea sketch doing Happy Birthday Mr President lol. The others have been complete and utter let downs, Dangerous Game, Bloodhounds of Broadway, Shadows & Fog, Body of Evidence, as if the tell- tale signs from the beginning weren’t a clue with A Certain Sacrifice- ugh! Which by the way can all be yours for $. So there we have it, please no more big screen for you, for us, haven’t we suffered enough???
@odowd4sure: It’s truly fascinating that you know so much about a woman you refer to as a ‘hag’. That says an awful lot about her enduring and polarising presence in popular culture, that Madonna has always been aware of. You may not like it, but you’re as much a part of the Madonna bandwagon as the fans that cough up 500 bucks to see her show.
To put commercials and YouTube videos over Dick Tracy is idiotic. Sorry, but it just is. And I think the writer needs to re-watch DSS and WTG, because the characters, other than being females, are nothing alike. One is a brassy, punk, bitchy, quasi-bully tough chick and the other is a bouncy, bubbly, goofy, clumsy, sweet, con-artist troublemaker. It’s like saying Debbie Harry and Betty Boop have the same personality. (They do not.)
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