It's not uncommon these days for actors to try their hand at music... but it's definitely unusual to see them do it well.
Thanks to the magical invention of Autotune, anyone with a SAG card seems to think they can put out a platinum album. But some actors prefer to make their singing debuts in feature films instead and impressed moviegoers with a vocal range no one knew they had. We'll find out if Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe can be included in that elite list when Les Misérables hits theaters on Christmas Day, but until then, check out our roundup of the top 10 actors we didn't know could sing -- until they did it on the big screen!
1. Renee Zellwegger (Chicago)
We always knew that Renee's acting skills were on point, but no one had any idea she could sing until this 2002 flick came out. Renee took on the role of Roxie Hart, a housewife with aspirations of becoming a vaudeville sensation. Her memorable musical performances led to an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, while the movie became the first musical to win the Oscar for Best Picture since Oliver! in 1969. In fact, Chicago is largely responsible for every Broadway-to-big-screen movie musical that's been made since.
2. Tom Cruise (Rock of Ages)
Tom reportedly sang for up to five hours a day to prepare for his role as rocker Stacie Jaxx, but it didn't do much to help the movie's dismal box office sales that led to Rock of Ages actually losing money. Despite that, Tom more than held his own vocally in the flick -- and was oddly endearing belting out '80s tunes that were hits back when he was a rising star.
3. Daniel Day-Lewis (Nine)
We're used to seeing Daniel in super-intense dramatic roles that don't exactly call for vocal solos. But the actor proved he's talented at pretty much everything, showing off some impressive musical skills in the 2009 flick Nine, where he played the role of Italian filmmaker Guido Cortini. His performance led to some prestigious nominations, including one for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes.
4. Meryl Streep (Postcards From the Edge)
At this point, it's been more than confirmed that Meryl can sing -- her leading role in the 2008 big screen take on Mamma Mia! was yet another example of that. But we had no idea about her singing ability back in 1990 when Postcards From The Edge was released. Her role as a recovering drug addict trying to restart her acting career led to some heartfelt vocal performances that allowed fans to see her in a whole new light.
5. Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Jeff looks like a rugged country singer to begin with, so we were all pretty damn happy when it turned out he could sing like one, too. His role as Otis "Bad" Blake in the 2009 flick led to a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor, and his singing ability was so well received that he ended up releasing a self-titled debut album in 2011.
6. Gwyneth Paltrow (Duets)
Try as she might, no one seems to want Gwyneth to have a solo career in the musical business. That doesn't mean she can't sing, though. Her duets with Huey Lewis throughout the 2000 flick were well-received, even when the movie overall received mostly negative reviews. Since, she's gone on to marry a major musician (Chris Martin of Coldplay) and belt frequently in her recurring role on Glee.
7. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Reese played the role of Johnny Cash's famous wife June Carter in this 2005 movie and called the idea of singing on-screen a "horrifying" prospect. Her trepidation was unfounded -- she won the Oscar for Best Actress and the movie went on the gross over $186 million worldwide. It was just reported yesterday that Reese is now looking to have the same impact on the Billboard charts when she records a duet with Michael Buble to be released next year.
8. Jamie Foxx (Ray)
If you were seeking actors to portray Ray Charles while casting this 2004 movie, Jamie would have seemed like one of the last choices on anyone's list. But despite the initial skepticism, he managed all the nuances of Ray's vocal ability and turned in some memorable musical numbers that led to him winning the Oscar for Best Actor. Kanye West also sampled some of Jamie's vocals from the flick for his notorious hit Gold Digger.
9. Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd)
What can't Johnny do?! He's taken on a variety of roles throughout his career, but this 2007 film marked the first time that he would be required to sing on-screen -- and in a musical, no less! Johnny was more than up for the task, though, and even won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
10. John Travolta (Grease)
Obviously. At this point, we knew John could act and, based on his role in Saturday Night Fever, also dance. But it wasn't until this 1978 flick was released that moviegoers became aware that John was a full-on triple threat. Some of the songs from the movie remain amongst the most popular musical numbers of all time 35 years later. And recently, he reunited with co-star Olivia Newton-John to put out a Christmas album!
What's your favorite actor-turned-singer performance?
Photos courtesy of Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures