This article was originally published in 2016 and has been updated in celebration of what would have been David Bowie’s 75th birthday on January 8th, 2022.
Top Performances is a recurring feature in which we definitively handpick the very best performances from an iconic actor or actress.
While the world comes together in collective mourning at the loss of cultural icon David Bowie, it’s important to remember his contributions outside of the realm of pop music. Throughout his lifetime, Bowie managed to parlay his immense stage presence and intriguing position as a celebrity into one of the more interesting screen careers a musician has ever enjoyed.
While most rock stars suffer in their film careers from never being able to shake their persona, Bowie’s resume is enhanced by that same recognition. These characters manage to become a reflection of Bowie himself, contextualizing and grounding each part through the lens of the man and his fame. Bowie never played Just Some Guy; almost all of his roles celebrated the weirdos and super-freaks who found kinship with him through his music and his personality.
David Bowie’s film career wasn’t the most prolific, but it was nothing if not fascinating. In honor of that, here’s a rundown of the roles Bowie found himself inhabiting on film and TV.