Good Elvis Movies – Films Starring Elvis

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 at 5:56 pm

Some might say that the phrase “good Elvis movies” is right there alongside “good types of cancer to get,” but The King actually made a number of decent films during his career. And in addition to the films starring Elvis, let’s not forget about movies over the last few decades that feature appearances from Presley, as played by someone else.

If you’re looking for Elvis Presley movies, or any other musical for that matter, be sure to become a member of Netflix. They have over 100,000 movies to choose from, and their library is growing all the time. It’s simple to join, subscription rates are low, and there’s never any late fees. If Elvis were alive today, I’m certain Netflix would replace peanut butter and banana sandwiches as one of his favorite things in the world.

Elvis on Tour (1972) – The only one of the films starring Elvis to win an award, Elvis on Tour captured the 1972 Golden Globe for Best Documentary. It was also his final film, following The King on a 15-city tour of the United States. One of the secrets of success: a little-known director named Martin Scorsese handling some of the montage sequences. Songs include “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” “See See Rider,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away.”

‘68 Comeback Special (1968) – It’s a TV special and not a movie, but I’m still including it on this list of films staring Elvis. That’s because it features a leather-clad Elvis showing the world that he was still cool after years of declining sales. Combining intimate, live numbers with lavish productions, the show shot Presley back to the top, and the following year he would record “Suspicious Minds” (my all-time favorite of his songs). Decades later, MTV would popularize the concept introduced in the ‘68 Comeback Special with their MTV Unplugged broadcasts.

Jailhouse Rock (1957) – In the third film of his career, Elvis stars–according to the trailer–”in his first big dramatic singing role.” As a “tough, blackboard jungle kid” named Vince Everett, Presley played an ex-con trying to make it in the cutthroat music industry. Considered scandalous for its time, the highlight came when Elvis shakes his hips along with a number of convicts to the strains of “Jailhouse Rock.” The sequence, choreographed by Alex Romero, even drew applause from Gene Kelly, who just so happened to be visiting the set.

This Is Elvis (1981) – Filmmakers Andrew Solt and Matthew Leo gained access to Elvis’ home movies, and, combined with concert footage and reenactments, they reconstructed the life of The King from his pre-teen years up until the very end. Elvis at age 42 was played by Johnny Harra, who was considered the best Elvis impersonator by men such as Burt Reynolds and Dick Clark. Oddly, that very same Johnny Harra performed at a friend’s birthday party.

King Creole (1958) – Elvis stars as a nightclub singer, Danny Fisher, who’s desperately trying to get out from under the thumb of crime boss Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau). Based on the novel A Stone for Danny Fisher, the film was originally earmarked as a non-musical, with the lead role intended for either Ben Gazzara or James Dean. While many of the good Elvis movies are documentaries instead of works of fiction, King Creole shows that Elvis could act when provided when strong material and skilled direction. I guess it didn’t hurt that director Michael Curtiz also helmed Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Adventures of Robin Hood, and Casablanca.

Join Netflix for a complete selection of Elvis Presley movies

Viva Las Vegas (1964) – Elvis acts opposite Ann-Margret, and he soon finds himself in a legitimate battle for center stage. She’s just that good, but it only serves to drive Elvis to greater heights, and both leads ends up the better for it. Their dueling dance moves on “Come On, Everybody” are a high point, as is Elvis’ famous “Viva Las Vegas” (the only song in his movie career to be filmed without any cuts). The chemistry between The King and Ann-Margret was very real, as the two had entered into a behind-the-scenes affair, something that Elvis was known to do with many of his leading ladies.

Wild in the Country (1961) – Elvis plays a troubled young man who wants to become a writer. The film focuses on Presley the actor, and therefore only a few songs were included in the film. Unfortunately for Elvis, his next film, Blue Hawaii, was a mega success that guaranteed him years of profitable-yet-unfulfilling roles on the big screen. The King romanced Tuesday Weld off-screen, and other notable cast members included Hope Lange, Millie Perkins, and Rafer Johnson.

In addition to films starring Elvis, there have been plenty of movies over the years with other actors playing the role of The King. Here are, in my opinion, some of the best:

Elvis (1979) – John Carpenter and Kurt Russell team up for the first time in this television movie about the life of Elvis Aaron Presley. Russell had previously worked with the real Presley in It Happened at the World’s Fair, and his dead-on imitation earned him an Emmy nomination. Years later, Russell would also play an Elvis impersonator in 3000 Miles to Graceland, as well as providing the voice of a young Presley in Forrest Gump (with Gump supposedly inspiring Elvis’ dance moves).

True Romance (1993) – Whenever comic book clerk Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) needs to make an important decision, he can always count on the spirit of Elvis (played just off-screen by Val Kilmer) to help him out. Whether defining what it means to kiss ass or suggesting the murder of a pimp, Elvis always ends his bathroom conversations the same way: “I’ve always liked you, Clarence. Always have, always will.”

Finding Graceland (1998) – Harvey Keitel plays a drifter who claims to be Elvis. Repeat: Harvey Keitel plays a drifter who claims to be Elvis. Co-starring Johnathon Schaech, Gretchen Mol, and Bridget Fonda, the highlight of the film comes when Keitel performs “Suspicious Minds.” Clad in a blue jumpsuit (with cape), the song starts slow and builds to an energetic conclusion that has audience members clapping and dancing. Keitel can really sing, too, even though his distinctive cadence can still be heard throughout.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) – When an Egyptian mummy begins draining the lifeforce of nursing home residents, it’s up to an aging Elvis Presley (Bruce Campbell) and a black John F. Kennedy Jr. (Ossie Davis) to stop him. But the film is about so much more than a battle against the undead, including meditations about aging, loss of manhood, and the perils of fame. Filled with drama, black humor, and horror, Bubba Ho-Tep works on a number of levels.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) – Musician Jack White cleans himself up to make a cameo as The King of Rock ‘n Roll. Arriving backstage after a set, Elvis engages in a conversation with Dewey Cox (John C Reilly) and gives him the following words of wisdom: “There’s two things you need to know. I’m The King, and, number two….(throws a mock karate blow at Dewey’s neck)…Look out now!” He then goes on to say, “It’s called karate, and only two kinds of people know it…Chinese and The King. And one of em’s me.” This is followed by a series of unintelligible mumblings in Elvis’ distinctive accent.

If you’ve enjoyed this list of good Elvis Movies, you may want to consider becoming a member of Netflix. That will allow you to watch Elvis movies anytime you want, and subscription prices are designed to meet anyone’s budget. We do get a commission if you sign up, but any profits go right back into Only Good Movies.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 11th, 2010 at 5:56 pm and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “Good Elvis Movies – Films Starring Elvis”

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August 12, 2010


Great to see the John Carpenter Elvis Biopic getting a mention. Cult Labs are currently promoting the UK DVD and Blu-Ray release (16.08.2010)

Check out all the info and official clips from the movie at the link above.

August 12, 2010


Russell’s portrayal of Elvis was probably the best Elvis biopic there was.

I’m glad to see that you put the concert films first on the list. They to me embody Elvis (even though I have a soft spot for bloated endgame Elvis).

But I’m sad to see that Charro! and Change of Habit didn’t make this list. I’m not saying that they deserved to be on the list, I’m just sad that they aren’t.

August 12, 2010


Thanks for the reply, Chris.

“Bloated endgame Elvis” — I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one before. 🙂

February 8, 2011

Randolyn Zinn

You might be interested that I choreographed Harvey Keitel’s version of “Suspicious MInds” in the film FINDING GRACELAND. He was a superb collaborator and worked incredibly hard. I’m so glad people are enjoying the number.

February 8, 2011


Thanks for dropping us a line, Randolyn. It’s always interesting to hear a little behind-the-scenes info. It’s a great scene, and you should certainly be proud of how it turned out.


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