Dolly Parton
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Dolly Parton’s Greatest Movie Roles

We love Dolly Parton's music--and her philanthropy, of course. But what about her acting career? These are her best film roles, ranked!
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Dolly Parton is a national treasure. Even those who would never be caught dead listening to country music have a very special place in their hearts for Dolly. The multi-talented woman is a country music star, of course. But she’s also an award-winning songwriter, actress, businesswoman, philanthropist, and all-around fashion icon.

I mean, she sends books to kids for free and funded vaccine research. Dolly is a saint!

In case you want to know more about the legendary country star and her real-life escapades, two new books were released just last year. Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics was released by Dolly herself. Journalist Sarah Smarsh released her own book about Dolly, too, titled She Come By It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs.

And hey, if you’re hoping to tap into your own inner Dolly, the icon released her own perfume. According to her, she’s been mixing her own signature scent for years from bath oils, powders, and perfumes. She decided to share it with the rest of us when she released Dolly: Scent From Above.

Related: Here’s Our Review On What Dolly Parton’s Perfume Smells Like!

But if you need even more Dolly than that, look no further than these movies. She made the jump onto the big screen in the 1980s and never looked back. That first movie was 1980’s 9 to 5. From there, she continued her acting career – something that she still does to this day. Parton produced and starred in the Netflix musical movie Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square, a project that earned her a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Television Movie.

And while that film is a good one, Dolly Parton has had several wonderful roles in film over the years. She has starred opposite Sylvester Stallone, Queen Latifah, Sally Field, and Jane Fonda. She’s played musicians and a hairdresser, a radio show therapist, and even a brothel madam. Some were theatrical releases, and others were made-for-TV – but all of them are filled with Dolly Parton’s signature magic.

Jake Farris in Rhinestone

Have you ever wondered if Sylvester Stallone could cut it as a country music star? Yeah, no one else has, either. But in case the idea intrigues you, 1984’s Rhinestone has got you! Dolly Parton plays Jake Farris, a country music star trying to turn an obnoxious New York cab driver (Stallone, of course!) into a singer. It’s all to win a bet and get out of a contract with a sleazy club manager. Was it a critical and financial failure that has become mostly forgotten? Yes. But it’s one of those “so bad it’s good” films that are fun to watch.

Lorna Davis in A Smoky Mountain Christmas

1986’s A Smoky Mountain Christmas stars Parton as Lorna Davis, a country music star who plans a quiet trip in the Smoky Mountains to escape from Los Angeles during the Christmas season. Her restful trip turns into an adventure, though, when she becomes involved with seven orphans, a mysterious mountain man, and a mountain “witch woman” who is determined to kill her. This made-for-TV musical might not be the best movie there ever was, but it’s still a heartwarming holiday flick that’s as sweet as Dolly herself.

G. G. Sparrow in Joyful Noise

In 2012’s Joyful Noise, Dolly stars opposite Queen Latifah as rival church choir members. Parton’s G. G. Sparrow is the main benefactor to the church, so she’s not too keen on someone else being appointed the choir’s director. The small town choir is preparing for a national competition, though, and they must learn how to cooperate in order to bring home a win. The film received mixed reviews from critics, but it was praised for entertaining musical numbers. Parton wrote three of the songs for the film, and the soundtrack is performed by the stars of the movie. All in all, it’s a feel-good movie that’s worth the watch, especially for Dolly Parton fans.

Shirlee Kenyon in Straight Talk

Raise your hand if you would do anything to get advice from Dolly Parton! For Straight Talk, she’s ditching out life and relationship advice on-air. She portrays Shirlee Kenyon, a down-and-out woman who ditches small town life and moves to Chicago on her own. She soon finds herself pretending to be a call-in therapist with a successful radio show, but a reporter is ready to uncover her story – and begins dating her to get the information he needs. All in all, it’s an entertaining, silly rom-com, and critics praised the performances of lead actors Dolly and James Woods.

As Herself in A Country Christmas Story

For 2013’s A Country Christmas Story, Dolly Parton doesn’t portray someone else. She’s here as herself while hosting a singing contest at Dollywood. Behind the scenes, of course, she also wrote two original songs for the Lifetime movie. The plot centers on a young bi-racial girl from the mountains of Appalachia, as she journeys to the stage at Dollywood to participate in the singing contest. She is reunited with her estranged musician father, played by Brian McNight, and discovers the impact of African Americans on country music.

Ruby Diamond in Unlikely Angel

The name “Ruby Diamond” is about as unbelievable as Dolly Parton being an egotistical and selfish country singer, but that’s what this made-for-TV movie brings us. Ruby Diamond meets an untimely death and suddenly finds herself with a second chance at salvation from Saint Peter. She must help reunite a family before midnight on Christmas Eve if she wants to earn her wings. If she fails, she will find herself heading to a much more fiery destination. Parton served as an executive producer, and also wrote a couple of original songs for the movie.

The Painted Lady in Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love

Dolly Parton’s fans likely already know who the “painted lady” is, and why she’s important when it comes to Dolly. Sometimes also called the “town tramp” or the “town trollop,” she was a real-life person living in Sevier County when Dolly was growing up and inspired the country singer’s iconic look. That’s why it’s so neat to see Dolly portray the role in Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. It’s a sequel to Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, and both films are based on Parton’s true story of growing up in rural Tennessee. The only reason Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love is here instead of Coat of Many Colors? Because Dolly executive produced and narrated the latter, but didn’t have an on-screen role. 9-year-old Dolly was portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind for the movie.

Mona Stangley in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Although critics had their fair share of things to say about The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, it is absolutely one of Dolly Parton’s most iconic roles. This musical comedy is an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name and stars Parton along with Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Jim Nabors, Charles Durning, and more. Parton is Miss Mona Stangley, a working girl who inherited the brothel after the original owner passed. The town’s sheriff is a regular patron, and along with Mona, he is fighting to keep it running when a television reporter targets it as a devil’s playhouse.

Truvy Jones in Steel Magnolias

Steel Magnolias is a delight, and so is Dolly Parton as Truvy Jones! For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet (I’m looking at you, Zoomers), this comedy-drama centers on the bond between a group of women in a Southern small town, and how they cope with the death of one of their own. It’s definitely a story of female solidarity and love. Dolly’s Truvy Jones is the town’s hair stylist, and her home serves as the base for the other women to gossip and become closer. This was the first drama that Dolly ever starred in, and the profoundly moving film really allows her to shine. Dolly is just the beginning of the all-star cast, though. It also features Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, Julia Roberts, and more.

Doralee Rhodes in 9 to 5

Is there even such a thing as a Dolly Parton fan who hasn’t seen 9 to 5? While Steel Magnolias was Parton’s first drama, 9 to 5 was her first-ever movie role. It helped to establish her as an actress and propel her even further into super-stardom. She stars alongside Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in the hit workplace comedy. They team up together to live out their fantasies of overthrowing their terrible, chauvinistic boss.

As you can probably guess, Parton’s hit tune of the same name comes from this movie. It went on to become one of her biggest hits of the decade and has remained popular even to this day. It was even used for a Squarespace ad in 2021 when Parton recorded a new version of it titled “5 to 9.”