Rock stars wanting to be actors and vice versa are a common phenomenon in Hollywood. No one quite managed to pull off the transition with the success of Cher, who remains the only rock icon to manage to not only make a successful transition to acting but also to win an Oscar for acting and not composing.
It wasn’t an easy transition though. Cher paired with husband Sonny Bono in her teens to become the duo simply known as Sonny and Cher. After a string of hit records, the duo launched a successful television variety show where Cher was able to hone her acting and comedic skills as she appeared in various sketches. Her marriage to Sonny would end in divorce, and Cher struggled to transition in to acting. Upon receipt of a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for “Silkwood,” Cher thanked all the Hollywood moguls who would never give her a job.
It wasn’t until Cher was nearly 40, that things suddenly fell into place for her as an actor. She took a break from her Las Vegas singing career to take a role in a Broadway play called “Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean” for director Robert Altman. The play flopped but a film version of it released in 1982 didn’t, and Cher’s acting career was launched.
The next five years were a fruitful time for her and she gave a number of acclaimed performances often winning major awards for them. By the time 1987 rolled around, her Oscar narrative was just too delectable for Academy voters to ignore. She had three major films released that year culminating in the highly praised “Moonstruck.” The story of how someone who was at times considered a bit of an industry joke but became a serious actress was too hard to ignore, and Academy members voted her the Oscar for Best Actress of 1987, beating her good friend Meryl Streep.
In recent years, Cher’s film appearances has been sporadic but she now has the summer movie “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.” Aside from a few cameos in films where she played herself, Cher has graced movie screens only 15 times. Tour our photo gallery above as we rank all of these films from worst to best.
15. WILD ON THE BEACH (1965)
Beach movies were quite popular in the sixties with the likes of Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello populating them. This film is notable only since it is the first time Cher appeared on film. A month prior to the release of this film, Sonny and Cher had released what would become their most popular song “I Got You Babe.”
14. ZOOKEEPER (2011)
Cher provides the voice of a lioness in this comedy starring Kevin James as a zookeeper who has trouble with his dating life. The animal voices are provided by a diverse group of celebrities with people like Don Rickles, Sylvester Stallone and Adam Sandler joining Cher as the menagerie.
13. STUCK ON YOU (2003)
Cher plays Cher or at least a fictionalized version of her in this film from the Farrelly brothers. Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon star as conjoined twins, one of whom wants to be an actor. Cher is committed to a television series she doesn’t want to do so she gets the idea to hire one of the twins as her leading man. She hopes this scheme will result in the show being cancelled.
12. FAITHFUL (1996)
After six years away from acting, Cher returned to film with mixed results in this adaptation by Chazz Palminteri of one of his stage plays. Her performance is a bit restrained (literally since she spends most of the film tied up), but some of her comic timing and natural screen presence do manage to shine through. The story is that of a suicidal housewife who learns she wants to live again after being held hostage by a hitman.
11. GOOD TIMES (1967)
This film sort of laid the groundwork for “The Sony and Cher Show,” which would become a popular variety program in the 1970ss. The film stars the duo in various comedic sketches and musical numbers. To top off the uniqueness of the collaborators the film was directed by a little-known TV documentarian named William Friedkin. Friedkin would soon become one of the most influential directors of the seventies with films such as “The Exorcist” and his Oscar winner “The French Connection.”
10. CHASTITY (1969)
Conventional wisdom usually dictates that Cher only became a dramatic actress in the 1980s after spending time on two variety shows. In actuality she made her dramatic film debut in this 1969 film written for her by Sonny. The film tells the story of a young runaway making her way across the country. It was not particularly well received by critics or audiences but Cher does display an easy confidence on screen and it does show the seeds of the actress she would later become.
9. TEA WITH MUSSOLINI (1999)
A big part of Cher’s singing career was always her lavish costumes and grandiose concerts. In contrast for her film roles she usually chose much lower key and ordinary characters to play. This film is an exception to that rule. In this semi-autobiographical story from director Franco Zeffirelli, Cher plays a highly glamorous and at times over the top socialite who assists a bunch of British women care for a young boy whose mother has died.
8. BURLESQUE (2010)
In recent decades Cher has only rarely worked in film but she did return to the big screen for this musical. She plays the owner of a burlesque style night club in which an aspiring young performer played by Christina Aguilera starts working.
7. SUSPECT (1987)
Instead of “Moonstruck,” Cher thought if any of her 1987 films would get her award notice it would be this courtroom drama. She plays a public defender assigned to defend a homeless deaf mute (Liam Neeson) who is accused of murdering a woman who worked as a clerk in the justice department. The case becomes much more complicated than originally thought and involves high ranking politicians.
6. MERMAIDS (1990)
This story of an eccentric single mother raising two daughters was a bit of a troubled production. Acclaimed directors Lasse Hallstrom (“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”) and Frank Oz (“Little Shop of Horrors”) both left the production after clashes with Cher. Richard Benjamin eventually took over the film. Cher does well creating an unconventional and confused mother struggling with her children, but it is Winona Ryder as the oldest daughter who is obsessed with Catholicism and idolizes nuns who steals the film.
5. THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK (1987)
This adaptation of an acclaimed novel by John Updike was a bit of a chaotic production that ran over budget and required constant rewriting of the script. Cher is actually quite strong in her performance and brings just the right amount of comic timing to the part. And her long speech where she lists all of Jack Nicholson’s faults and ending with “and you smell” is a perfectly delivered comic moment.
4. COME BACK TO THE 5 AND DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982)
This film came about in an unusual manner. After a number of film failures director Altman turned to the stage and mounted this play on Broadway. Casting Cher, who had little acting experience at the time, brought the play a lot of attention but reviews were bad and the play closed in two months. Altman than decided to quickly film the play with the original cast and the small low budget production received positive reviews especially for Cher.
3. SILKWOOD (1983)
“Silkwood” was the film that brought Cher legitimacy as a serious actress in high profile films. Cast next to Streep and with Mike Nichols as her director, Cher was finally in the major leagues of filmmaking. Not everyone was welcoming at first since Cher often tells the story of sitting in a movie theater watching a trailer of the film and when her name came up after Streep’s people laughed. Once the film came out though the laughs stopped since her portrayal of an unglamorous lesbian janitor in a nuclear power plant stunned audiences who didn’t think she could pull off this level of acting.
2. MASK (1985)
Cher won the Cannes Film Festival award as Best Actress for her role as the mother of a teenager with a facial deforming genetic disorder. She seemed to be on track to be a major Oscar contender, but the film got bogged down in a lawsuit when director Peter Bogdanovich sued over the replacement of Bruce Springsteen songs on the soundtrack with ones by Bob Seger. While Cher and Eric Stoltz both received Golden Globe nominations they were surprisingly left off the list when Oscar nominations were announced.
1. MOONSTRUCK (1987)
Cher won an Oscar as Best Actress of 1987 for this very popular comedy that tells the story of a drab bookkeeper who falls in love with her finance’s brother. The film received six Oscar nominations in total and also won for Best Original Screenplay for John Patrick Shanley and Best Supporting Actress for Olympia Dukakis, who played Cher’s no-nonsense mother. The role of Loretta Castorini seemed to fit Cher like a glove even though it was originally planned for Sally Field.