David Bowie's 8 most memorable movie roles

The Man Who Fell To EarthCinema 5David Bowie in ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth.’

Late Sunday night, the world lost one of its greatest artists when David Bowie passed away after an 18-month battle with cancer.

The 69-year-old was known for generation-defining music that spanned over 40 years, but in that time he also took on movie roles that were as eclectic as his music. And while he was by no means prolific on the screen, what he left stays with us just as much as his songs.

From an alien, to a vampire, to a Goblin King, here we look back on eight of David Bowie’s most memorable roles.

'The Man Who Fell to Earth' (1976)

Cinema 5

Following his Ziggy Stardust phase in music, Bowie took on his first major film role in this now-classic sci-fi movie directed by Nicolas Roeg, in which he plays an alien who comes to earth to get water for his dying planet. The film explores greed and corruption as Bowie's character creates a billion-dollar company to build the spaceship to return to his home. Bowie's somber performance is one of his most memorable in all his film work.

'Just a Gigolo' (1978)

United Artists

Two years later, Bowie took on the lead role of a World War I veteran who comes home to Berlin to become a companion to a lonely rich women after being unable to find work. The movie was a failure critically and at the box office, but the performance by Bowie shows his chops, as his character's debonair flair proves this musician wants to be taken seriously as an actor.

'The Hunger' (1983)


Tony Scott's drama starring Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as a vampire couple who seduce Susan Sarandon is an entertaining piece of 1980s pulp that makes for a great guilty pleasure. Bowie here is a mix of sexy and vulnerable, and getting steamy opposite Deneuve and Sarandon isn't a bad way to make a movie, either.

'Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence' (1983)

Universal Pictures

Showing that he wants to be challenged in movies as much as his music, Bowie here plays a prisoner of war during World War II. The film highlights the horrific acts of a POW camp, as Bowie's character's rebellious actions force him to endure more inhuman methods of punishment.

'Labyrinth' (1986)

TriStar Pictures

Earning Bowie his most well-known performance, at least in the US, this Jim Henson-directed (and executive-produced by George Lucas) fantasy tale of a young girl's (Jennifer Connelly) journey to reclaim her baby brother from a Goblin King (Bowie) is a trippy song-and-dance tale that was a bomb at the box office, but has since become a cult classic. A main reason is Bowie, sporting a ridiculous blond wig and very tight tights. He just goes all-in with his performance.

'The Last Temptation of Christ' (1988)

Universal Pictures

Bowie tones things down a lot to play Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese's movie based on Nikos Kazantzakis' controversial novel of the same name. Though he has a short time on screen, he has a strong performance across from Willem Dafoe as Jesus.

'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me' (1992)

New Line Cinema

Bowie's performance as long lost FBI agent Phillip Jeffries is bizarre and just perfect for the world of 'Twin Peaks.' With a southern twang and babbling to Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) inside the office of the FBI, he has a quick scene that concludes with him screaming and disappearing from the office.

'The Prestige' (2006)

Buena Vista Pictures

Bowie as inventor Nikola Tesla is great because of the build-up director Christopher Nolan gives to the character. Tesla is mentioned numerous times in the movie as illusionist Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) searches for him in hopes that the great Tesla will create a teleporter. Bowie as Tesla appears on screen for the first time walking through rays of electricity shooting everywhere. No better way for a legend to make an entrance.

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