Image: Photo Courtesy of Netflix © 2020
Dolly Parton’s Greatest On-Screen Hits
Seems like the world can never get enough of Dolly Parton. With a career spanning over 50 years and an eponymous theme park, the self-aware, self-proclaimed “Backwoods Barbie” is everywhere and, thankfully, not going away anytime soon. These days you can find her front and center with Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine efforts, donating $1 million to its research and urging all her fans to get vaccinated.
You can also find her across screens large and small, showcasing her many talents. Here’s your chance to watch 11 favorites. Some are old friends, and some may be new discoveries, so be prepared to settle in and stream your Dolly fix.
Starring Dolly herself
“9 to 5” (1980)
Released in 1980, “9 to 5” was a classic during its time, and it’s still extremely relatable (women’s empowerment in the workplace, anyone?). Parton not only played a leading role alongside gal pals Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, but also garnered an Oscar nomination for the title song fans still sing today.
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1982)
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, Dolly stars opposite Burt Reynolds as Miss Mona Stangley, owner of Texas’ notorious Chicken Ranch, where they sell something other than pullets (but there’s nothin’ dirty goin’ on). Bonus: Dolly sings “I Will Always Love You,” which she also wrote, in this film. The song was a two-time country chart-topper in the U.S. and later went on to become an international pop hit sung by Whitney Houston.
“Steel Magnolias” (1989)
As Truvy, the local hairdresser, Parton displays humor, heart and resilience with a cast of Hollywood heavyweights (Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Olympia Dukakis, Shirley MacLaine and Daryl Hannah) in this deep-fried dramedy. Keep the Kleenex close at hand.
“Straight Talk” (1992)
Dolly Parton has top billing here! As an Arkansas transplant now living in Chicago, Shirlee Kenyon (Parton), through a series of misunderstandings, becomes a radio host named Doctor Shirlee. But thanks to her no-nonsense approach, she discovers fast fame and popularity despite her lack of qualifications.
Where to stream: Prime Video
“Unlikely Angel” (1996)
Parton stars as self-involved lounge singer Ruby Diamond. When she meets an untimely demise, her entry into heaven is halted when St. Peter (Roddy McDowall) informs her that she must return to Earth to complete a good deed before she can earn her wings.
Based on Dolly’s music
“Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors” (2015)
Narrated by Parton, this autobiographical made-for-TV film about her upbringing and family struggles in rural Tennessee features Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroeder as young Dolly’s parents. If the title sounds familiar, it’s because it shares the name of Parton’s melancholy hit single.
“Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” (2019)
This eight-episode series is an anthology of short stories and inspirations behind some of Parton’s music, including “Jolene,” “Two Doors Down” and “These Old Bones.” Parton appears in this as well, with a cast including notables such as Kathleen Turner, Mac Davis, Delta Burke and Gerald McRaney.
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” (2020)
Produced by and starring Dolly Parton as an angel (of course!), this Scrooge-adjacent storyline is filled with 14 original Christmas songs—written by Parton, natch. With co-stars Christine Baranski, Jenifer Lewis and Treat Williams, and directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen, it’s a true feel-good film to add to your holiday viewing list.
Where to stream: Netflix
“The Dolly Parton Story: From Rags to Rhinestones” (2020)
This documentary chronicles Parton’s humble beginnings in the Appalachian Mountains through her meteoric rise in the entertainment industry.
“Dolly Parton: Here I Am” (2019)
This bio-documentary combines interviews with musicians, co-stars like Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, plus personal footage and archival clips to frame Parton’s life, career and artistic process. Learn the origin stories of hit songs “I Will Always Love You” and “9 to 5.” A must-see for any tried-and-true Dolly fan!
Where to stream: Netflix
“Dolly Parton: Queen of Country” (2016)
While other documentaries frame Parton’s story from birth to stardom, this feature focuses solely on her music and her string of hits that have positioned her as the most honored female country performer of all time.
Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to seeing Dolly Parton on screen. If you’re looking for more, a deep dive on YouTube will uncover a steady stream of legendary performances and TV appearances.
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