Dolly Parton movies establish her as a definitive creative triple-threat. She's a massively talented singer, Grammy-winning songwriter and veteran actor. Oh, and she's also a philanthropist who provides one million free books to children each month. If given enough time, she could probably solve all of the world's problems.
In the meantime, we have her movies. Before proving her big-screen acting chops right out the gate with 9 to 5, Parton's pivot to Hollywood wasn't without its detractors. To some, it was the latest sign that a verified queen of country music was preparing to abandon Nashville altogether and go "pop." Ultimately, country music benefitted from having one of its all-time best storytellers transition to another medium.
From a Sylvester Stallone vehicle to a Southern classic, here are the 12 best results from Parton's jump from Dollywood to Hollywood. Our list sticks with feature-length films and skips the various TV shows that've benefitted from Parton's self-depreciating humor and storytelling depth— from goddaughter Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana to the Netflix anthology series Dolly Parton's Heartstrings.
12. Rhinestone (1984)
If you've ever wondered how Sylvester Stallone would fare as a country singer... well, you might be the only one. But 1984's Rhinestone asks the question: what if Parton had to make a New York City cab driver into a country singer in order to get out of a contract with a sleazy club manager? The film was panned upon its release, but it did spawn two Top 10 country singles for Dolly: "Tennessee Homesick Blues" and "God Won't Get You." The plot is just ridiculous and delightfully campy enough for a so-bad-it's-good movie night.
11. Christmas at Dollywood (2019)
Unsurprisingly, Hallmark's winning Christmas movie formula and the seasonal magic of Parton's East Tennessee theme park go together like homemade biscuits and sausage gravy. Danica McKellar plays one of the romantic leads in a familiar big-city workaholic falls for a tiny-town dreamer tale, with Parton appearing in the film as herself.
10. Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square (2020)
Parton plays a holiday-saving angel in this musical film adaptation of a stage play. To pull this off, she halts a Scrooge-like character, played by Christine Baranski, from selling not just an orphanage but an entire small town. Sometimes, over-the-top hits the spot while scrolling for something to watch with the whole family.
9. Wild Texas Wind (1991)
Made-for-TV movie Wild Texas Wind stars Parton, Gary Busey and Ray Benson. Filmed in Austin, Texas, the film follows an aspiring singer (Parton) and her abusive alcoholic manager (Busey) and centers around a murder. The film features a cameo by Willie Nelson and original music penned by Parton and Benson.
8. A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)
TV movie A Smoky Mountain Christmas stars Parton as country music star Lorna Davis, who travels to the Smoky Mountains to escape the grind of Los Angeles. While there, she meets and becomes caretaker of a group of orphans. The Christmas classic is as heartwarming and sweet as Parton herself. It set the right tone for Parton's ongoing string of holiday-themed films.
7. Straight Talk (1992)
We all know that Dolly gives the best advice, so it makes perfect sense that she'd play Shirlee Kenyon, a down-and-out woman turned advice guru, in the romantic comedy Straight Talk. James Woods co-stars in the tale of a small-town woman who falls into unlikely success in Chicago.
6. Unlikely Angel (1996)
CBS' made-for-TV movie Unlikely Angel finds Parton playing another country star. This time it's the slightly egotistical Ruby Diamond (yes, really), who meets an untimely death and is assigned a mission to reunite a family on earth before she can become an angel. That stretch of Parton's career also brought us another TV movie, 1999's Blue Valley Songbird. Both are among the films for which Parton served as an executive producer.
5. Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love (2016)
Parton's TV movies about her childhood growing up in the Smoky Mountains are becoming a Christmas tradition. NBC special Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love follows the Parton family as they sacrifice their holiday gifts so their father can buy their mother a wedding ring. The movie stars Ricky Schroder and Jennifer Nettles as Parton's parents and Dolly herself as the town's "painted lady."
It's the sequel to Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors (2015), which starred Alyvia Alyn Lind as young Dolly. It also kept a Christmas film trend going, along with 2013's A Country Christmas Story.
4. Joyful Noise (2012)
The 2012 film Joyful Noise stars Parton and Queen Latifah as rival church choir members as they prepare for a national competition. The movie also features Kris Kristofferson as Dolly's husband. Like Parton, Kristofferson and Queen Latifah were musical forces who'd proven themselves as multimedia superstars. Overall, the film was evidence that Parton hadn't lost a step over 30 years into her acting career.
3. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
Parton dazzles in the 1982 musical comedy The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, an adaption of the 1978 Broadway musical. She stars as Miss Mona Stangley, proprietor of a small town brothel known as the Chicken Ranch. Things are complicated by a meddling TV anchor on a mission to shut the brothel down and Mona's on-again,off-again relationship with the local sheriff, played by Burt Reynolds. The movie soundtrack spawned the Top 10 hit "Hard Candy Christmas" and made Parton's "I Will Always Love You" a No. 1 hit for the second time.
2. Steel Magnolias (1989)
Southern saga Steel Magnolias stars Parton as Truvy Jones, the hilarious local beautician, advice-giver and town gossip. The film centers on the friendship between a group of women in small-town Louisiana who endure tragedy with a whole lot of wit along the way. A true classic, the film elevated not just Parton but also co-stars Sally Field, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLaine.
1. 9 to 5 (1980)
The 1980 workplace comedy 9 to 5 stars Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Parton as overworked, underpaid and under-appreciated office workers. Fed up with the antics of their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" boss, the three women kidnap and blackmail him and take over the office, providing equal pay and flexible work hours for the employees. The movie officially launched Parton into super-stardom and spawned a hit Broadway musical, a documentary and, of course, Parton's original song "9 to 5."
Parton's career-launching role as Doralee Rhodes earned her a Golden Globe nomination.
This story previously ran on Nov. 28, 2018.
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