The best Elvis Presley movies
Elvis Presley was the biggest musician in the world. He was also a movie star. Now, his film career wasn’t quite as successful as his music career, but that doesn’t mean he was without his triumphs. Elvis definitely made a splash on the big screen.
Below are the best movies starring Elvis, with some notable songs involved as well.
“Love Me Tender” (1956)
This was Elvis’ first film, and thus a vital entrant into his movie canon. Presley’s star was still rising at the time, so he wasn’t even first billed. However, his popularity was such that the movie’s title was changed from The Reno Brothers to the name of his song during production. Also, fans were so upset that Elvis’ character died in the movie that the end of the film was reshot.
“Jailhouse Rock” (1957)
One of the handful of truly quintessential Elvis movies, with a hit song to boot. In fact, the title song was 21st on AFI’s Top 100 Songs list, and it’s big dance number is still a piece of iconic musical filmmaking.
“King Creole” (1958)
The last movie before Elvis enlisted in the military, King Creole benefits from the quality of the directing. Michael Curtiz helmed the film, and he’s the man who directed such movies as Casablanca, Mildred Pierce, and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
“G.I. Blues” (1960)
Fittingly, Elvis followed up military service with a movie where he plays a guy in the military. Interestingly, the movie caused a riot when it was screened in Mexico City, leading to all Elvis movies being banned in Mexico until 1971.
“Flaming Star” (1960)
The critical assessment of Flaming Star was that this was probably the best acting performance Elvis ever gave. It also had a big impact outside of film. Andy Warhol used an image from this film to create a series of silkscreen artworks that have sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Blue Hawaii” (1961)
It just feels like Elvis singing on Hawaiian beaches was kind of what his film career was destined for. This is the right milieu for him. Indeed, Blue Hawaii is a popular entry in Presley’s filmography. Elvis wearing a lei and playing a ukulele? Yeah, sounds about right.
“Follow That Dream” (1962)
A hitman tries to kill Elvis in the same film where he gives a heartfelt speech to a judge to get his father’s unofficially adopted children returned to him. There’s a lot going on in the movie, and it’s maybe a little maudlin at times. It was a people pleaser sort of film, bolstered by Elvis’ charisma.
“Girls! Girls! Girls!” (1962)
Elvis is back in Hawaii, and also in a love triangle. The movie also featured the song “Return to Sender,” which became a big hit for Presley. Girls! Girls! Girls! also was nominated for a Golden Globe, though it lost to The Music Man.
“Fun in Acapulco” (1963)
Elvis and Ursula Andress, the original Bond Girl, joined forces, but Elvis was not actually having fun in Acapulco. The ban on Elvis films in Mexico also apparently included a ban on Elvis filming in the country, leaving him to shoot footage in Los Angeles. The highest-grossing musical of 1963 (a time when musicals were still big business), it’s also considered notable for being the last Elvis movie before the explosion of Beatlemania in the United States.
“Kissin’ Cousins” (1964)
It’s a weird title for a movie, and it’s a bit silly, but we wanted to include it because Elvis plays dual roles. He plays a serious guy with dark hair as well as his goofy hillbilly cousin who is blond. Yeah, not high art, but it’s fun in its own way.
“Viva Las Vegas” (1964)
To many, Viva Las Vegas is the best Elvis movie. It has the glitz of Vegas. It has Ann-Margret. It has great musical numbers and some wonderful dance sequences. Elvis is truly in his element, and it works on a lot of levels.
Elvis plays a musician who rides the road on a motorcycle and then joins a carnival. This film has an impressive supporting cast to it. Joining Presley are Barbara Stanwyck and Oscar winner Jack Albertson — also Jaws himself, Richard Kiel.
“Tickle Me” (1965)
It’s a bizarre title, but the reviews for Tickle Me were good nevertheless. The movie, about Elvis as a bull rider, was written by two Three Stooges writers, ratcheting up the comedy and the slapstick in this film.
“Girl Happy” (1965)
You know, maybe by 1965 Elvis wasn’t the perfect choice for a movie about college spring break. However, they wanted to capitalize on the popularity of beach party movies of the time, and Elvis was still good at that sort of thing, even if he water skis while wearing a long-sleeved shirt.
“Paradise, Hawaii Style” (1966)
One last time, Elvis returned to Hawaii. It’s not quite on the level of Blue Hawaii, but it’s still a worthwhile film from Presley’s filmography. The fact Elvis’ character is a helicopter pilot was a nice excuse for aerial photography as well.
When you go through Elvis’ filmography, it’s interesting to see how little difference there is from movie poster to movie poster. Elvis has a guitar. Bikini-clad women flank him. In this case, there’s also a car, because Spinout is about a musician and a part-time racecar driver.
It’s Prince and the Pauper combined with a beach party film. Presley plays the son of an oil tycoon who swaps places with a waterskiing instructor so he can see if women like him for him and not his money. Yeah sure, why not? It’s not an Oscar-caliber movie, but it’s what you expect from a film of this ilk.
“Easy Come, Easy Go” (1967)
The soundtrack to this film flopped, and it’s not at the top of his filmography, but there’s some good things to be said about Easy Come, Easy Go. For example, there’s a go-go dancing yoga practitioner in the film. Elvis also plays a deep-sea diver who is also a nightclub singer, which you don’t necessarily see all that often.
“Double Trouble” (1967)
Elvis heads to Europe and gets caught up in the world of criminals and wealthy heiresses. It’s Elvis’ take on one of those European crime farces, though not as good as the best of those genres. Still, if it’s a genre you like, you will get the key things you want from it in Double Trouble.
“Live a Little, Love a Little” (1968)
Elvis’ last three films would come out in 1969, including Change of Habit, a flop where Mary Tyler Moore plays a nun. Live a Little, Love a Little is the last of Presley’s movies that really has anything going for it. Former singing legend Rudy Vallee, then in his sixties, is in the cast as well. Plus, this film gave us the song “A Little Less Conversation,” which became a hit in 2002 thanks to a remix.