From unmistakable eighties fashion to New Age affectations, fake accents, and breathtaking live performances, Madonna always keeps us guessing. Over the years, she’s been a chameleon who plays many parts—and one role she goes back to again and again is “movie actress”! Some of her film gigs have been critically acclaimed, and some are worth of the not-so-coveted Golden Razzie, but you simply can’t deny that she has range. From good girls gone bad to bad girls with hearts of gold, and everything in between, Madge has played nearly twenty different characters, all with vastly divergent motivations— and moral compasses.
In honor of the documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare and the screwball comedy Desperately Seeking Susan, which are streaming on Fandor for a limited time this month, we thought we’d take a minute to see how some of this enduring pop cultural icon’s most unforgettable on-screen performances fall on the old alignment chart:
Lawful Good: Eva Perón, Evita
Sure, it was a controversial casting choice at the time, but in the long view, it’s truly a coup: The Material Girl gets her moment to prove that she can truly, on her very best days, become a triple threat—and a working-class hero to boot. Who woulda thunk it?
Lawful Neutral: Boss #3, Girl 6
Even with only a few minutes on-screen in Spike Lee’s cult-status phone sex operator saga, Madonna made a big splash as a different kind of #girlboss. Whether or not you take the job, and how you make it work, is not her problem.
Lawful Evil: Breathless Mahoney, Dick Tracy
Lawful evil is the kind of evil that sells records, honey. Mahoney may be a femme fatale, but even dames who play by their own rules have rules, and she (spoiler alert) also happens to have an alter ego who fights fire with fire.
Neutral Good: Elspeth, Four Rooms
Witchcraft is a tool that can be used for many purposes, but resurrecting a dead friend (and deity) with the help of your coven and a hotel hot tub is certainly a suitably pure pursuit. Plus, there’s absolutely nothing evil about that amazing outfit.
True Neutral: Herself, Madonna: Truth or Dare
By now, we’ve seen enough to know that no matter what, Madonna is not performing, even when she’s just “being herself”! Even when she’s at her most intimate with an audience, she’s ultimately always in control.
Neutral Evil: Nikki Finn, Who’s That Girl
Look, she may not have murdered her boyfriend, but she’s willing to do a whole hell of a lot in order to avenge him, including violate parole (repeatedly), dangle people off of parking garages, and steal a cougar named Murray. It’s nothing personal, but if you don’t want to get hurt, you should probably stay out of her way.
Chaotic Good: “All the Way” Mae Mordabito, A League of Their Own
A barrier-breaking athlete, best friend to Rosie O’Donnell, and a troublemaker (but in that cute WWII-era way) Mae is Madonna at her most benign — really, a little bit of sass is her only crime.
Chaotic Neutral: Susan Thomas, Desperately Seeking Susan
Madonna has been doing “manic pixie dream girl” since before most manic pixie dream girls were born. Bored New Jersey housewife Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) learns the hard way that Susan’s life should come with a warning label: “Don’t try this at home.”
Chaotic Evil: Sarah Jennings, Dangerous Game
First of all, this is, hands-down, Madonna’s best on-screen performance. Second of all, it will chill you to the bone. The role of a leading lady driven to darkness by a demanding director pokes at the layers of artifice Madonna herself has played with her whole career, and in it, she is nothing short of shades of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence: troubling and mesmerizing in equal measure.
For more on the movie appearances of your favorite pop stars, make sure you check out our article on Cher and our videos on Prince and David Bowie! And if you’re a fan of alignment chart memes, you won’t want to miss the one we made for our favorite High School Mean Girls!