The passing of David Bowie this weekend came as a huge shock to the entertainment industry — but not as much of a surprise to Bowie himself, who seems to have spent the bulk of his last year planning his exit, accompanied by a sold-out off-Broadway show running through January 20 and a just-released, jazz-inflected album that's earned rave reviews. As Bowie's longtime producer Tony Visconti put it on Facebook, "He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it."

Blackstar album cover

Bowie will always be remembered as a rock star first and foremost, but he was a fine actor, too. Bowie famously played John Merrick on Broadway in The Elephant Man (you can see some rare footage from that performance in this 1980 video interview with Bowie), but he had a remarkable career in the movies.

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

It began with his role in Nicolas Roeg's 1976 science-fiction film The Man Who Fell to Earth, in which he played an alien visiting earth from a dying planet. At Brooklyn Magazine, writer Mark Asch looks at Bowie's body of screen work, from The Man Who Fell to Earth to Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, in which Bowie played Nikola Tesla.

David Bowie as Tesla in The Prestige

Looking to narrow things down? Jessica Kiang at The Playlist tries to select just eight "essential" performances. For the BFI, Samuel Wigley gets it down to five. Or take a look at critic Glenn Kenny's appreciation of Bowie's overall screen presence, including a shout-out to "sentimental favorite" music video "Jazzin' for Blue Jean."


Did we say music video? Yes, Bowie made a few of those, too. At Entertainment Weekly, Kyle Anderson picks Bowie's 20 best music videos.

David Bowie

For more on Bowie's legacy, take a look at David Hudson's exhaustively curated list of links for the Keyframe blog at Fandor. So long, Starman.