Bye bye, Bowie. Undoubtedly the greatest pop star ever and arguably the greatest artist of any kind of the last fifty years has died, and now that we have all finally abandoned the faint hope that the sad news was a hoax (or some sort of Bowie-esque artistic statement) it is time to assess the legacy of David the Great, including his unique cinematic legacy.
The first thing to say about Bowie and movies was that first, and foremost, he was not simply a great actor, but rather a great star. It was as if the persona that was so ambiguous, so androgynous and so utterly indeterminate in his other artistic endeavours (the music, obviously, but also the fashion, the visual iconography and even the sexuality, which may have been his ultimate art form) was too fixed, too rigid in cinema. Like many stars of Hollywood's golden age, Bowie never really disappeared into a role, no matter how nuanced or subtle his performance. In a film, unlike in a concert or a promo video, he could only ever be David Bowie, the last great star of the 20th century, even as he took on weighty roles like Pontius Pilate, a Japanese PoW the inventor Nicola Tesla. Consequently, his greatest movie performances were invariably as himself or one of his artistic alter-egos (Thomas Jerome Newton, aka The Man Who Fell To Earth, being an artistic self-creation to rank alongside Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke).
Nevertheless, Bowie’s influence on cinema, as on almost every other popular art-form, was indelible. While many cinema buffs will no doubt remember him most for his iconic performance in Labyrinth, or his more recent work in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, there are dozens of ways in which Mr. Bowie contributed to cinema (some less obvious than others).
So, without further adieu, here are the Top 10 Bowie movies, and being a Bowie Top 10 I hope it has at least a flavour of the sheer idiosyncrasy of the man himself.