Imagine if you’d never seen Labyrinth. How empty and devoid of meaning life would be. You wouldn’t know how to navigate mazes and bogs, get along with muppet creatures, or the power of Magic Dance. Well, for younger generations and the uninitiated, this is a sad reality they must endure. But that could all change this April as Labyrinth returns to theaters nationwide (in the US) after almost 32 years since it premiered.
With that in mind, we got thinking about some of Bowie’s less celebrated film roles. What other deep life lessons are lurking in David Bowie’s filmography?
Digging into Bowie’s filmography in the Filmogs database, we were pleasantly surprised at just how many acting credits Bowie has. Before Jareth the Goblin King sweeps your off your feet this spring, here are a few films featuring David Bowie that are worth revisiting.
10 Films Featuring David Bowie You Should Revisit:
A British science fiction, and arguably one of Bowie’s most noted film performances. He plays the extraterrestrial referenced in the title who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering an extreme drought.
Bowie stars in this erotic horror alongside Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, which also happens to be Tony Scott‘s directorial debut. The story centers on a love triangle that emerges between a vampire couple and a doctor who specializes in aging research after Bowie’s character, John, discovers his eternal life does not come with eternal youth. The film is a loose adaptation of the 1981 novel of the same name by Whitley Strieber.
A fictionalized account of the artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s life, in which Bowie plays Basquiat’s friend and mentor, Andy Warhol. The story traces the young artist’s trajectory from living in a cardboard box in Tompkins Square Park, his fame and success, helped by the likes of Warhol, to his untimely death of a heroin overdose at 27.
(1999) – released in the United States as B.U.S.T.E.D.
Bowie plays an aging gangster who struggles to keep the peace between warring Manchester gangs. Film Threat magazine called it a “very British tale of vengeance and mayhem worth sitting through – though just barely,” at the time of release. It also noted Bowie’s presence in the movie as odd, “he often seems to be wandering in from a movie on another channel.”
Fire Walk With Me serves as a prequel to the 1990 TV series, Twin Peaks, about the mysterious death of a teenage girl, Laura Palmer in a sleepy US town. Fire Walk With Me explores the life of Laura Palmer in the months preceding her death and has all the hallmarks of the TV show; it’s surreal and creepy. Bowie plays an FBI agent, Phillip Jeffries who trained alongside Gordon Cole (played by David Lynch). Jeffries reappears after having disappeared in Buenos Aires. While it was met with boos when it was premiered at Cannes’ Film Festival in 1992, reception has since softened towards the film, becoming a cult classic.
Directed by Martin Scorsese and boasting an all-star cast that includes Willem Dafoe, Harvey Kietel, Barbara Hershey, Harry Dean Stanton, and of course, David Bowie. The film is based on a novel of the same name and depicts the life of Jesus Christ, his struggle with various forms of temptation, including fear, doubt, depression, reluctance and lust. Reviews at time of release were polarized, but the film earned Scorsese an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Hershey’s performance as Mary Magdalene.
An adaptation of the 1995 novel by Christopher Priest that follows two rival stage magicians in London at the end of the 19th century. The two become dangerously competitive and push the boundaries between illusion, science, and ethics. Bowie plays Nikola Tesla, an accomplice to one of the magicians, building a device capable of replicating animate and inanimate objects.
Baal is a German television film based on the play by Bertolt Brecht. The title character, Baal, played by Bowie, is a young amoral rebellious poetic genius who, after a short and eventful life of debauchery, betrayal and violence, is about to cut his ties to the world and meet his doom.
Also known in European editions as Furyo (Japanese for ‘prisoner of war’). Bowie stars opposite Ryuichi Sakamoto, Tom Conti, Takeshi Kitano and Jack Thompson. The film is based on Sir Laurens van der Post’s experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war in WWII, as depicted in his works, The Seed and the Sower. Bowie plays Major Jack Celliers, a rebellious New Zealander with a guilty secret.
Mr Rice’s Secret(2000)
Mr. Rice’s Secret is a Canadian family drama film starring David Bowie in the title role. Mr Rice is a mysterious man who leaves a series of clues for his neighbour, a 12-year-old boy with cancer to be discovered after Mr Rice himself dies. The purpose of the clues are to help the child appreciate life. Rice mostly appears in flashbacks throughout the film.