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The 10 best Dolly Parton movies

What a way to make a living!

Dolly Parton is a living legend, a dedicated philanthropist, and, dare we say it, a rock icon. One doesn’t reach iconic status overnight, and Parton has been hard at work with her craft for decades. Though the queen of country music is known for her vocal chops and songwriting skills, she’s also built herself a career as an actress since first appearing in the 1980 film 9 to 5. Since then, Parton has appeared in moving dramas, comedic musicals, and everything in between.

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From her guest appearances on shows like her goddaughter Miley CyrusHannah Montana, to executive producing her own projects, Parton has developed a varied filmography over the years. Let’s take a look at 10 of her best movies so far.

10. Rhinestone (1984)

Rhinestone is generally considered a flop by most metrics. The film bombed in the box office, didn’t impress critics, and won two Golden Raspberry Awards. So why is it on this list? Simply put, Rhinestone is good because it’s bad; a movie where Dolly Parton takes Sylvester Stallone and turns him into a country singer, despite him having nary a musical bone in his body. It’s pure, enjoyable camp.

9. A Smoky Mountain Christmas (1986)

Name a better duo than Dolly Parton and made-for-TV Christmas movies. Ok, you probably can, but the point stands; Dolly loves herself some good, Hallmark-esque movies. In the film, Parton plays a country superstar who goes incognito so she can get some rest and relaxation at her friend’s cabin in the country. When she arrives for her vacation, she’s surprised to find several orphaned children have taken up residence, but Parton’s character just takes it in stride, deciding to become the parent they never had. It’s cheesy, predictable, and prominently features Parton singing a song with the same name as the movie. Christmas specials don’t get better than that.

8. Wild Texas Wind (1991)

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In an another made-for-TV film, Parton plays a country singer (gasp!) named Thiola Rayfield who travels the country with her band, Big T and the Texas Wheel. The film follows Thiola as her band starts to find success and she grows closer to the group’s manager, Justice Parker, who is soon revealed to be a violently abusive man with an alcohol problem. Things get more chaotic when a murder occurs, and Thiola becomes one of the main suspects. A lot is going on in this film and I couldn’t be happier. Also, Willie Nelson has a cameo for some reason which is cool.

7. Christmas on the Square (2020)

Parton not only stars in this feel-good Netflix film, but exercises her songwriting skills by having written all the music; no small feat since Christmas on the Square is a full-on musical. In addition to Parton’s role as an angel, Christine Baranski plays a Scrooge-like character named Regina Fuller, who informs the residents of her hometown they have until Christmas Eve to leave their homes before Fuller sells the entire town to a developer. Little does Fuller know that she’s in a Christmas movie — she doesn’t stand a chance against glam angel Parton and small town magic.

6. Unlikely Angel (1996)

A Christmas movie with an interesting premise, Unlikely Angel follows Parton as… Yes, a country singer, but this time there’s a twist — she’s dead! When singer Ruby Diamond crashes her car on her drive home one night, she wakes up to find she’s no longer alive. Before she can enter heaven, Saint Peter tells her she must complete a good deed on Earth first; she has until midnight Christmas Eve to reunite a family who have grown distant after the death of their mother. The movie is cheesy, wholesome, but also bittersweet.

5. Joyful Noise (2012)

In this film starring Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, and Jeremy Jordan, Parton plays a woman named G.G. Sparrow who wants to lead her church’s choir after her husband, the choir director, passes away. When a rival singer, Vi Rose Hill (Latifah), is named the church’s new director, G.G. must overcome her jealousy to help guide the choir to win a national competition. The two strong-willed women butt heads over the choir’s musical direction — which leads to a memorable food fight scene — as G.G.’s grandson tries to make the group more contemporary (and make a move on Vi’s daughter (Palmer). Joyful Noise definitely takes some inspiration from Glee, but I’m not complaining.

4. Straight Talk (1992)

Parton utilizes her boundless charm in the romantic comedy, Straight Talk, as Shirlee Kenyon, a woman who leaves her boyfriend for a better life in Chicago after losing her job. Down on her luck, things start to pick up when she gets a job as a switchboard operator at a local radio station. On her first day on the job, she’s mistaken for the doctor the station hired for a question and answer segment. Luckily for Shirlee and the radio station, she excels at giving people advice. As her on-air reputation grows, reporter Jack Russell thinks Shirlee’s hiding something and vows to uncover her true identity, but he’s in a romantic comedy, so he has to fall in love with her along the way. I’m a sucker for movies where a woman moves to a big city and has a fun adventure, so this is up there for me.

3. Steel Magnolias (1989)

Based n the play of the same name, Steel Magnolias follows a multi-generational group of six women who share each other’s victories and tragedies in their small Southern town community. Parton plays a beautician named Truvy Jones and lot of the film takes place at her home salon, where the town’s women come to get their hair done and share a little gossip. The film is filled with a cast of talented women, including Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, and Julia Roberts in what has become a career-defining film for all involved.

2. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas has Parton starring as Miss Mona Strangely, the madame of the “Chicken Ranch,” and what might be the most wholesome brothel in history. Miss Mona has earned a reputation as a kind and charitable citizen of her town, often donating to local causes and helping out her fellow townspeople in any way she can. She has a secret relationship with Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds), who happily looks the other way when it comes to the legality of Miss Mona’s work. Things get complicated when a meddling TV personality makes it his mission to get the brothel shut down. The movie is known for its great musical performances, including Parton’s hit “I Will Always Love You.”

1. 9 to 5 (1980)

In her theatrical debut, Parton stars as Doralee Rhodes, an overworked secretary who has had enough of being sexually harassed by her boss. Along with two of her equally frustrated coworkers, played by Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the three women enact an elaborate revenge fantasy, that includes kidnapping their boss and liberating their fellow office mates. Parton not only got a hit song out of this film, she also earned her first Golden Globe nomination. 9 to 5 remains just as impactful and relatable, even 40 years later.


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Staci White
Since the moment she listened to her first Britney Spears CD at the tender age of six, Staci has been a lover of all things pop culture. She graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors in Linguistics and somehow turned her love of music, movies, and media into a career as an entertainment writer. When she’s not writing for WGTC, she’s busy fulfilling her own pop star dreams as a singer/songwriter or hanging out at her local coffee shops.