A wide variety of actors have played Elvis Presley over the years. Other biopics (with varying degrees of accuracy) of the King of Rock have been made, including ones that focus on his time in high school before becoming famous. In just two years, audiences have seen two drastically different films based on Elvis: Baz Lurhmann’s massive epic Elvis, and Sofia Coppola’s more nuanced character piece, Priscilla.
All the films Presley starred in, except his concert documentaries, were fictitious works in which he assumed a fake persona. The King has been portrayed on the big screen in a variety of ways, from a respectable Southern gentleman to a crazed martial arts expert with a fondness for all things ostentatious. The truth is many portrayals of Elvis are highly misconstrued, but that doesn’t stop Hollywood from loving him any less. Here is our comprehensive guide to actors who have played Elvis Presley throughout film history.
Update January 8, 2024: Today is Elvis Presley’s birthday, so in honor of the King of Rock’s big day, this article has been updated with even more performers who have played Elvis.
12 Kurt Russell — Elvis (1979)
Elvis, the very first biopic about Elvis Presley, stars Kurt Russell and covers Elvis’ life up to 1970. The popularity of Elvis on American television led to its theatrical distribution in Europe and Australia. Although the screenplay received significant criticism from reviewers, it was nonetheless nominated for three Primetime Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe. Russell and John Carpenter collaborated on several major films after working together on this project for the first time, including Escape from New York and The Thing. Rent on Prime Video and Vudu.
11 Don Johnson — Elvis and The Beauty Queen (1981)
Elvis is portrayed by Don Johnson in Elvis and the Beauty Queen, which centers on his romance with Linda Thompson (Stephanie Zimbalist), a teenage beauty pageant contestant, following his divorce from Priscilla Presley. Elvis and the Beauty Queen, which has received appreciation for some of its themes, centers on the final four years Elvis spent with Linda and his heroin addiction. However, the movie left no enduring impressions and received many unfavorable reviews. Not available to stream.
10 Paul Hipp — Liberace: Behind The Music (1988)
In Liberace: Behind the Music, Paul Hipp plays Elvis Presley. The bond between Elvis and Liberace is highlighted in this unauthorized biography about the life and passing of the well-known American pianist and singer, Wadziu Valentino Liberace. According to the movie, Liberace instructed Elvis to be more glitzy and flamboyant. Is it possible this is what inspired Elvis’ iconic dancing routines and eccentric suits? Stream on The Roku Channel, Tubi, PlutoTV, and Freevee.
9 Dale Midkiff — Elvis and Me (1988)
Elvis is portrayed by Dale Midkiff in the 1988 film Elvis and Me, which tells the tale of Priscilla Presley’s marriage to Elvis. The movie, which was nominated for a People’s Choice Award for Favorite TV Movie/Miniseries, is based on the book of the same name by Priscilla Presley. Using source material from someone who was actually there and lived the love story is the best way to get a great film in this case. Not available for streaming.
8 Michael St. Gerard — Great Balls Of Fire (1989)
Great Balls of Fire!, one of the rare movies that uses Elvis as a character, but isn’t truly about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, stars Michael St. Gerard as the rock star. The life of Jerry Lee Lewis (Dennis Quaid), who was tipped to become the next Elvis, is shown in this biographical film. Lewis became famous for his musical abilities, but his contentious union with his cousin, a 13-year-old, ultimately contributed to his collapse. The movie examines his ascent to popularity and his experience navigating the music business. Not available for streaming.
7 Rob Youngblood — Elvis and The Colonel: The Untold Story (1993)
Elvis was portrayed by Rob Youngblood in the very first film to detail his relationship with Colonel Tom Parker (Beau Bridges), his manager. The exploitative connection Elvis had with his manager is examined from the perspective of Elvis’ spirit in the 1993 film Elvis and the Colonel: The Untold Story. There aren’t many reviews for the movie, but the ones that do exist don’t do the movie any favors, with The Biopic Story only giving it 1 out of 5 stars. Not available for streaming.
6 Rick Peters — Elvis Meets Nixon (1997)
Rick Peters plays Elvis in Elvis Meets Nixon, the first adaptation of Elvis and President Nixon’s (Bob Gunton) famous meeting. Elvis Meets Nixon is a comedic documentary about the encounter that occurred when Elvis went to the White House to serve as a federal marshal for the DEA, unlike another movie on this list. The real story on which the mockumentary is based was expanded on and exaggerated for the film. Even only for the absurdity of trying to make a comedy out of Elvis, the movie is a fantastic satire. Stream on FuboTV and Peacock.
5 Tyler Hilton — Walk The Line (2006)
Another film that highlighted a celebrity with ties to Elvis Presley was Walk the Line, in which Tyler Hilton, best known for his part in the adolescent drama One Tree Hill, portrays Elvis. Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, is an account of Cash’s journey to stardom and is based on the two memoirs written by Cash. Although Hilton’s part in the film is not very significant, it honors a relationship that the two musicians shared before becoming well-known. Walk the Line garnered favorable reviews from both critics and viewers, receiving seven Oscar nominations and making a whopping $187 million on only a $28 million budget. Rent on Vudu and Prime Video.
4 Peter Dobson — Protecting The King (2007)
In the 2007 film Protecting the King, starring Peter Dobson as Elvis, one of his bodyguards who was employed at the age of 16 is the subject. David Stanley (Matt Barr), Elvis’ bodyguard, was also his stepbrother and shared an opulent lifestyle with him. Despite offering a fresh perspective on Elvis’ life and those around him, the movie did badly, earning just a 35% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Not available for streaming.
3 Michael Shannon — Elvis & Nixon (2016)
A quirky film, Elvis & Nixon, details the real account of Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon’s encounter in 1970. Elvis is portrayed by Michael Shannon in the film, which is based on the meeting that led to the most often sought National Archives photograph — the one of Presley and Nixon shaking hands — being taken. Shannon was nominated for a Best Actor award by the Indiana Film Journalists Association. Stream on Prime Video.
2 Austin Butler — Elvis (2022)
Elvis is a 2022 biopic directed by Baz Lurhmann, starring Austin Butler in the lead. The plot of the film illustrates how Elvis Presley’s career evolved, with special emphasis on Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager, played by Tom Hanks, and their complex dynamic. Elvis’ songs are covered by Butler in his own style. The film sheds light on his unexpected popularity and romance with Priscilla Presley during a time when America’s cultural environment was changing.
Even though many critics lambasted the movie for various reasons, Elvis garnered a 12-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival and the American Film Institute named it one of the top-ten films of 2022. Elvis received eight nominations at the 95th Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Butler. While it might have lost every award it was nominated for, it went on to become a favorite with audiences as it grossed $151 million domestically and $288.7 million worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing film of the Academy Award nominees behind only Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water, respectively. Butler’s performance as Elvis also captured the audience’s heart and is likely now the definitive on-screen Elvis. Elvis is streaming on Netflix and Prime Video.
1 Jacob Elordi – Priscilla (2023)
Seen as somewhat of a companion piece to Elvis, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla tells the story of Priscilla Beaulieu (Caliee Spaeny) and her courtship and relationship with Elvis Presley, played by Jacob Elordi. The film digs into the courtship between the two and eventual marriage while stripping away the romance’s fairy tale nature by highlighting that Priscilla was just a 14-year-old high school student when they met. Spaeny is the star, but Elorid truly shines as Elvis.
In a nice contrast to Butler’s depiction seen in the Elvis biopic of the showman persona of Elvis, Elordi’s Elvis is much more the man behind the persona. It depicts Elvis for the qualities people love about him but also some of the more uncomfortable aspects of his personality, including his controlling personality toward Priscilla and the nature of dating a high school student. Elordi’s natural charm helps sell why Priscilla fell for him and why the world looked the other way in what is an unsavory act. While many awards bodies might have overlooked Elordi, as it is right, the spotlight is being put on Spaeny; his performance is still very well done, and, alongside the release of Saltburn, at the same time, cemented him as one of the next big movie stars. Priscilla is playing in theaters.