Elvis Presley remains one of the most iconic entertainers of all time. Hailed as the King of Rock N’ Roll, the world-famous musician began his big-screen career in 1956 via Love Me Tender, in which he performs the titular tune as a Civil War soldier. The film launched Elvis’ movie career, which lasted until 1969 and includes a total of 31 feature films.
While Presley’s films were hardly Academy Award contenders, they were often tailor-made for his persona as a cool, hip-swinging, guitar-playing crooner who knew how to have a good time no matter what situation he found himself in.
10G.I. Blues (1960) – 6.2
In Elvis’ fifth film, G.I. Blues, he plays Tulsa McLean, a U.S. soldier stationed in Germany, where he has big dreams of opening a nightclub to sing and perform in after the war is over. While waiting, he makes a bet with his pal Dynamite to woo a famous dancer but ends up taking the bet himself when Dynamite is restationed.
Although the film made news for being the first to star Elvis after his return from his military service in Germany, critics found the film to be light, inconsequential fluff.
9Love Me Tender (1956) 6.2
Elvis made his feature debut via Love Me Tender in 1956, in which he sings the iconic song of the same name. In addition to using Elvis Presley songs, the story traces Clint Reno (Presley), the brother of a Confederate Soldier who gets mixed up in a train robbery. With loyalties torn between his brother and his wife Cathy (his brother’s former flame), Clint must make the toughest decision of his life.
While critics noted the film was a success among Elvis’ music fans, Presley’s performance was a little rough around the edges as a singing bad guy. Still, Elvis made two more movies the following year.
8Wild In The Country (1961) 6.4
In a more contemplative turn than most, Elvis plays a troubled young man named Glenn Tyler who becomes a budding literary writer in Wild in the Country. It’s one of the more serious movies Elvis made, and one that doesn’t rely on his musical talents.
Tyler is a delinquent sent to a counselor named Irene Sperry (Hope Lange) to rehab his image. While under her aegis, Tyler discovers a penchant for writing scintillating prose while slowly falling for Irene in the process. While the film showed a softer side of Elvis, most critics found the story too cliche-ridden.
7Girl Happy (1965) 6.4
Elvis plays Rusty Wells in Girl Happy, a rollicking romp in which the lead singer of a 60s pop group is hired to take a gig in Fort Lauderdale during spring break. However, there’s one big catch. Wells must look after club owner Big Frank’s wild teenage daughter, Val (Shelley Fabares). It’s one of Elvis’ best movies set at the beach.
With a breezy plot and gorgeous Florida locations, the film is firmly entrenched in the subgenre of 60s beach movies. Unlike Wild in the Country, Elvis’ music is on full display with such fun and catchy tunes as “Puppet on a String” and “Do the Clam!”
6Viva Las Vegas (1964) 6.4
Often lauded by critics as Elvis’ best post-army film, Viva Las Vegas combines excellent music with the adrenaline-fueled excitement of a racecar film. Elvis often combined the two, but rarely this well. Much of the credit goes to his electric chemistry with costar Ann-Margret.
Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a hotshot racer preparing for the Grand Prix tournament. Working as a waiter to pay for a new car engine, Lucky strikes up a blistering romance with Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). With a breakneck pace, short runtime, and consistent entertainment, Viva Las Vegas is Elvis at his finest.
5Flaming Star (1960) – 6.5
The great Don Siegel directed Elvis in Flaming Star, in which he plays a half-blooded indigenous American named Pacer Burton. The Texas-set film uses some of the best movie tropes from westerns when Pacer is torn between his two cultures fighting for supremacy.
As the son of a white settler father and indigenous mother, Pacer attempts to assuage the conflict between both sides when a raging battle breaks out. However, Pacer is put to the test when the “Flaming Star of Death” beckons him into a world of abject violence. The film drew plaudits for its action scenes, supporting cast, and Elvis’ demanding central performance.
4Loving You (1957) 6.5
Both Elvis films released in 1957 are among his four best of all time, according to IMDb. The first to come out was Loving You, one of the best music biopics of the decade. The semiautobiographical account traces a small-time musician reaching superstardom.
Elvis plays Zeke Rivers, a delivery boy whose talents as a country-western musician are discovered by an influential publicist. As Zeke climbs the ranks of stardom, his loyalties are torn between his publicist or his newfound romance with fellow singer, Susan. As Elvis’ second film, the story mirrored his own life so much that very little professional acting was needed.
3Jailhouse Rock (1957) 6.5
Elvis’ third feature film is also his third-best, so says IMDb. Named for his iconic song of the same name, Jailhouse Rock centers on Vince Everett, a young hood serving a one-year jail sentence for manslaughter. While inside, Vince’s cellmate gives him a taste of the music business.
Almost overnight, Vince learns the ins and outs of running a record label and soon becomes a cultural phenomenon. However, fame and fortune drive a wedge between him and his closest loved ones. As an early start vehicle, the film was praised for emphasizing Elvis’ trademark moves and stage persona.
2Follow That Dream (1962) – 6.6
Presley plays an easygoing nomad named Toby Kwimper in Follow that Dream, a film directed by Gordon Douglas. Toby belongs to a family of wanderers who break down in Florida and decide to set up shop on the beach.
Toby lives a serene life on the beach until the mob moves in and attracts the attention of a social worker who wants to evict the Kwimpers for good. Elvis was praised for giving a hilarious performance in a film that accentuates but doesn’t rely on his musical skills to earn its charm.
1King Creole (1958) 7.0
According to IMDb, King Creole is Elvis Presley’s best movie of all time. In the fourth film of his career, Elvis plays Danny Fisher, a school flunky forced by his father to perform at the King Creole nightclub in swinging New Orleans.
When the shady criminal and rival nightclub owner Maxie Fields pressures Danny to join his club, Danny can’t decide who to remain loyal to. Directed by Casablanca‘s Michael Curtiz, Elvis’ realistic performance is bolstered by stellar supporting turns from Walter Matthau and Vic Morrow. As such, King Creole still reigns supreme!