Believe it or not, Elvis Presley actually made some good movies.

Sure, at the height of his film career, throughout the 1960s, he was cranking out three tame, corny, formulaic musicals a year, movies that robbed him of his rock 'n' roll edge and made him safe for children. But it's time to reexamine the conventional wisdom that Elvis' movies are a part of his career that's best forgotten.

On the 75th anniversary of his birth (Jan. 8), his movies are getting a reappraisal, in essays like this one from the Los Angeles Times and in festivals like the one today over at Turner Classic Movies, where the film scholars who run the channel have programmed a whole day of arguably classic Elvis movies. Believe it or not, Elvis Presley actually made some good movies.

Sure, at the height of his film career, throughout the 1960s, he was cranking out three tame, corny, formulaic musicals a year, movies that robbed him of his rock 'n' roll edge and made him safe for children. But it's time to reexamine the conventional wisdom that Elvis' movies are a part of his career that's best forgotten.

On the 75th anniversary of his birth (Jan. 8), his movies are getting a reappraisal, in essays like this one from the Los Angeles Times and in festivals like the one today over at Turner Classic Movies, where the film scholars who run the channel have programmed a whole day of arguably classic Elvis movies.

Turns out Elvis really could act, if he had a decent director and script and not too many sugary songs to sing. Of course, many of Elvis' best on-screen moments came when he was just being himself, in documentaries and concert films. We've counted down movies showing Elvis' dramatic talents as well as his natural stage gifts in the list below of the King's 10 best feature films.

10. 'Girl Happy' (1965)
Piffle, but entertaining piffle. Elvis is a bandleader who reluctantly chaperones a mobster's daughter during spring break in Fort Lauderdale. He has good chemistry, however, with the hot-to-trot coed (Shelley Fabares, a favorite leading lady of Presley's, who would star opposite him in two more films). Proof of how much star power and pure entertainment value Elvis could radiate, even in one of his more perfunctory vehicles.

'Spring Fever,' from 'Girl Happy"


9. 'Live a Little, Love a Little' (1968)
Most Elvis movies, with all their squeaky-clean vaudeville spectacle, seemed an anachronism in the revolutionary 1960s. Not this one. In this musical, one of his last, Elvis is actually shown in a woman's bed, and he even has a psychedelic freak-out. Today, this one is best known for introducing the song 'A Little Less Conversation,' which became a massive worldwide hit in a remixed version 33 years later, nearly a quarter century after Presley's death.

Trailer for 'Live a Little, Love a Little'


8. 'This Is Elvis' (1981)
Col. Tom Parker, Elvis' lifelong manager, allowed filmmakers Matthew Leo and Andrew Solt access to Elvis' previously unseen home movies. From those and concert footage, they compiled this warts-and-all account of the King's career, from its early zenith to its long, painful ebb. The movie also uses actors for voiceovers and reenactments of pivotal moments in Presley's life; this seems like old hat now, in the era of 'The E! True Hollywood Story' and 'Behind the Music,' but it was controversial and groundbreaking at the time.

Concert medley from 'This Is Elvis'


7. 'Viva Las Vegas' (1964)
Elvis found his greatest leading lady in Ann-Margret, the only one in all his musicals who could compete with him in showmanship, raw sex appeal, and hip-shaking moves. As the two try to one-up each other, they set the screen on fire.

'Come On, Everybody,' from 'Viva Las Vegas'


6. 'Wild in the Country' (1961)
Elvis' most underrated movie is also his least musical and contains one of his most dramatic performances. In this film (with a screenplay by Clifford Odets, of all people), the King plays an aspiring writer who gets into girl trouble (and not fun girl trouble) with three women (Tuesday Weld, Hope Lange, and Millie Perkins). The movie's failure at the box office crushed Elvis' dreams of becoming a serious thespian; after this, it was strictly formula musicals for the next eight years.

Opening of 'Wild in the Country'


5. 'Flaming Star' (1960)
In another strong, largely non-musical performance, Elvis stars in this revisionist Western as a biracial man torn between his white and Kiowa heritages. A still frame of a gun-toting Elvis became an iconic Andy Warhol print. The great action filmmaker Don Siegel ('Dirty Harry') directed.

Trailer for 'Flaming Star'


4. 'Elvis on Tour' (1972)
This concert film shows Presley at the beginning of the fat-Elvis hunka-hunka-burnin'-love period, but he's still a riveting stage performer with tremendous vocal chops and charisma to burn. Winner of a Golden Globe for Best Documentary, the film features montages edited by the then-unknown Martin Scorsese, who uses the same vivid split-screen technique he employed in 'Woodstock.'

Concert medley from 'Elvis on Tour'


3. 'Elvis: That's the Way It Is' (1970)
Elvis was still at the top of his game during the filming of this backstage doc, made at the start of his Las Vegas period. The initial cut of this movie featured more fan footage and fewer live songs, an imbalance that was rectified in a 2001 reissue. It's the best of Elvis' theatrically-released concert films (though the best overall is the made-for-TV 1968 'Comeback Special').

Trailer for 'Elvis: That's the Way It Is'


2. 'Jailhouse Rock' (1957)
In Elvis' third film, he truly came into his own as a screen performer. There's more dramatic grit than usual in this tale of a short-tempered ex-con whose gift for music brings him both fame and heartbreak. Plus, there's the indelible images of dancing convicts in that thrilling, deftly choreographed title number.

Trailer for 'Jailhouse Rock'


1. 'King Creole' (1958)
Elvis longed to be another James Dean, and in this gritty drama of vice and corruption in New Orleans, he nearly got there. Directed by Michael Curtiz ('Casablanca'), the film stars Elvis as a nightclub singer trying to escape the clutches of a Big Easy crime boss. (Walter Matthau is surprisingly terrifying in this role, and Elvis holds his own on screen opposite him.) Elvis' edgiest screen performance also features some of his rawest-rocking tunes (notably, 'Trouble' and 'Hard-Headed Woman'). After this movie came Elvis' two-year stint in the Army and a decade of mostly mediocre musicals, so this is the last time he acts like he still has something to prove.

Elvis Presley confronts Walter Matthau in 'King Creole'
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