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    15 Surprising And Chaotic Vanessa Hudgens Performances You May Have Forgotten About

    Remember when she was in a zombie movie with Cousin Greg?

    Dearly beloved, we gather here to discuss an actor with perhaps the most versatile, chaotic, and still-unfolding career in Hollywood.

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    Your favorite water-stocked-mini-fridge lover, Coachella queen, and problematic pandemic thought leader: Vanessa Hudgens.

    The Disney Channel / Via giphy.com

    "People are gonna die." 

    The High School Musical star has not one, but TWO separate films heading to Netflix this weekend, and they are the perfect pairing to illustrate how bonkers this woman's career is.

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    Dressing up as a cow to perform a number originally belted by Idina Menzel is not even that weird for V, all things considered. 

    First up we have The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star, the third in a trilogy of Netflix Christmas movies based on a Mark Twain novel, where V. Hudge plays three identical royal individuals.

    Netflix / Via giphy.com

    The campy original was a sleeper hit turned cult classic that spawned two sequels. The plot is ridiculous, and the characters she plays are named Lady Fiona Pembroke, Stacy Juliette De Novo Wyndham, Princess of Belgravia, and Lady Margaret Katherine Claire Delacourt, Queen of Montenaro. That should tell you everything you need to know. 

    But while she may be triple-headlining what is basically a Hallmark Christmas movie, she also has a prominent role in the directorial debut of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the prestigious, star-studded, Oscar-destined Tick, Tick... Boom!

    Netflix / Via giphy.com

    The film is a semi-biographical retelling of the life of Jonathan Larson, the composer and playwright of Rent. The movie follows his journey as a broke artist living in New York during the AIDS crisis, and Hudgens plays one of Larson's friends and a prominent singer in his company. Hudgens looks right at home among the heavy-hitting cast and sounds great on the cast album (which I've listened to seemingly 500 times already).

    And yet, these two polar-opposite films are just the tip of the iceberg when delving into V's topsy-turvy career. She's done so many strange projects, she basically deserves an Oscar.

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    So here are 15 gloriously chaotic, fantastically entertaining, and sometimes downright strange performances from the queen of breaking free.

    E! Network / Via giphy.com

    1. Bandslam (2009)

    Charlie Saxton, Tim Jo, Ryan Donowho, Vanessa Hudgens, Gaelan Connell, and Alyson Michalka pose for a band picture
    Van Redin / Summit Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

    To begin, let's examine one of her early post‚ÄďHigh School Musical¬†films, in which she teams up with fellow Disney Channel alum Aly Michalka (part of the incomparable pop duo Aly & AJ). The film, which got positive reviews but floundered at the box office, followed a love triangle of sorts as they prepared for the titular rock band competition. Hudgens, never here for a normal role, plays a character named "Sa5m," which is pronounced "Sam" because obviously the 5 is silent. This film is also strangely a tribute to the work of David Bowie and features a cameo from the legend himself, which happened to be his final film performance. The movie is a delight and makes sense when you think about Hudgens' career at that point, but still a bit strange out of context.¬†

    Watch it on Amazon Prime Video. 

    2. Beastly (2010)

    Vanessa Hudgens reaches to hold Alex Pettyfer's hand
    Takashi Seida / CBS Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    I think we all remember the period in time at the turn of the 2010s when Alex Pettyfer was THE hottest human being alive. And for some reason the creators of Beastly tried to sell us this cock-and-bull story that he was HIDEOUS because he had face tattoos?????? But then he saves Lindy (Hudgens) from some drug dealers and she can miraculously see that he is hot after all! This is also the last film performance to date from one of the Olsen twins, as Mary-Kate plays the witch who curses him in this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It may have a 21% on Rotten Tomatoes, but it's definitely worth a rewatch with a few friends if you're looking for a good time that's vintage 2010 and includes a shirtless Pettyfer. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video. 

    3. Dog Days (2018)

    Jon Bass talks to Vanessa Hudgens as she holds a dog
    Jacob Yacob / LD Entertainment / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Remember when Hudgens was in an ensemble film all about dogs that was directed by Streeter himself, Ken Marino, of all people? Yeah, neither did I, but here she is right in the thick of a canine-crazed set of a half-dozen love stories. She's a cute barista who was crushing hard on a veterinarian but then meets a man who runs a dog shelter (I'm sensing a trend). It's a cute little family film with more four-legged friends than you'll see at the Central Park dog park on a Saturday morning. 

    Watch it on Hulu. 

    4. Freaks of Nature (2015)

    Vanessa Hudgens and Nicholas Braun shout
    Jamie Trueblood / Columbia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    So Cousin Greg, the newest Terminator, and Gabriella Montez walk into a bar. And the bar is filled with vampires and zombies. And the bar is being attacked by aliens. Is it a VERY nerdy joke or is it the plot to this comedy-horror movie where V plays a hot vampire named Lorelei? The film had such a limited release that it doesn't even have a Rotten Tomatoes score, despite starring a number of decently big names. How did Hudgens end up in this? Who knows! But it is another fun, weird film in her bananas filmography. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video. 

    5. Gimme Shelter (2013)

    Vanessa Hudgens with messy hair holds a basket of belongings
    Roadside Attractions / Courtesy Everett Collection

    No chaotic filmography is complete without a Christian drama about a down-and-out person in need of saving. Hudgens' version features her as a homeless pregnant woman who finds hope in a Christian home for pregnant women. The chaos of this film choice is compounded by the shaggiest wig that has ever appeared on God's green earth. Just look at that picture. Edward Scissorhands fell asleep at the wheel. The title of the film refers to the fact that her character needs a place to stay, but might as well refer to the fact that 32 living species could be hiding in that wig without a soul knowing. 

    Watch it on Netflix. 

    6. Grease: Live (2016)

    Vanessa Hudgens and Sam Clark get ready to dance at the gym
    Kevin Estrada / Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Despite the fact that Hudgens is primarily known for High School Musical, which is, as the name implies, a musical, I think the world often forgets that she is first and foremost a theater actor. She has been the lead in a Broadway show, for goodness' sake! It should have been no surprise, then, that she stole the show as Rizzo in the live version of Grease. This was all the more impressive given that her father died the day before the live show aired. If you're going to revisit any of the legion live musicals that have been produced in the last 10 years, I'd suggest this one, with its 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. 

    Watch it on Paramount+. 

    7. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

    Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzman, Vanessa Hudgens, and Dwayne Johnson look up in the sky
    Warner Bros. Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Another film that has me brimming with questions. In 2008, Warner Bros. distributed Journey to the Center of the Earth, based on the Jules Verne novel and starring Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson, and  Anita Briem. After the film was moderately successful, they released a sequel four years later. Only, somehow in the production shuffle, both Fraser and Briem were jettisoned and Dwayne Johnson and our girl V were brought in. And so we now have Hudgens starring in a sequel to a movie she wasn't in, along with the Rock. It's a fun movie and did well at the box office, but Hudgens seems incapable of landing a single straightforward role that makes sense. 

    Watch it on HBO Max. 

    8. Machete Kills (2013)

    Vanessa Hudgens looks into the sunset
    Open Road Films

    This is easily the most jaw-dropping film for Hudgens. Let me see if I can even explain this. Danny Trejo played a character in Spy Kids named Machete. He is Carmen and Juni's uncle and provides them with spy equipment to beat Floop. Then, when Spy Kids' director, Robert Rodriguez, was making a B-movie double feature with Quentin Tarantino, they made a fake action-movie trailer about Machete. That fake trailer spawned an actual film, and Machete Kills is the sequel. Following along? Somehow (I have to imagine this was a request called in by a friend), Hudgens appears in this sequel as the daughter of a cannibal brothel owner who is killed early on in the film. Weird. Weird. Weird. OH, and Oscar winner Lady Gaga makes her film debut here. 

    Watch it on Netflix. 

    9. Powerless (2017)

    Danny Pudi and Vanessa Hudgens clap
    NBC

    Did you know that Hudgens is technically a member of the DC Universe? Yep, that's right! Our girl was the star of a short-lived NBC sitcom about a group of people who work at Wayne Enterprises. She and Danny Pudi (Community) play the leads as they try to create products that will be helpful to humans living in a superhero world. DC is known for taking more out-of-left-field swings than their Marvel counterparts, and sadly, this show didn't connect with enough audience members to stick around, but our lady V does deserve a good sitcom. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video. 

    10. Rent: Live (2019)

    Brandon Victor Dixon, Valentina, Jordan Fisher, Mario, Kiersey Clemons, Vanessa Hudgens, Brennin Hunt, and Tinahse pose on scaffolding
    Pamela Littky / Fox / Courtesy Everett Collection

    As a big Rent fan and a PASSIONATE stan of the new Tick, Tick... Boom!, I am deeply pained to even have to mention this truly cursed live production of Rent. The cast (Jordan Fisher, Valentina, Tinashe) is incredible, BUT I do not think everyone was necessarily...shall we say...correctly cast. I do love Hudgens, but sticking her in the Idina Menzel role when their voices are incredibly different is a...choice. And then of course, Brennin Hunt (Roger) broke his foot during the dress rehearsal, which meant they couldn't do choreography in the live show. Instead they mostly aired the low-energy dress rehearsal with bits intercut that have Roger in a wheelchair not doing anything. The whole thing is a disaster, including the reunion with the original cast. Oh, and to top it all off, a technical issue kept many viewers from seeing the first five minutes because it wasn't airing. 

    Rent it on Amazon Prime Video. 

    11. "Say OK" Music Video (2007)

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com / Via Hollywood Records

    And now let us take a minute to remember Hudgens' brief career as a recording artist. Despite the fact that her whole career has been dominated by musical performances, she really only released music of her own in the immediate aftermath of High School Musical. Her debut album, V, included this kind of happy, but kind of sad bop. You can tell that Disney was milking the HSM energy for all it's worth, as Zac Efron stars in this music video along with her and the pair bowl, pour salt on fries, and text on slide phones. VERY 2006. The perfect time capsule that makes you wonder why she hasn't released more music. 

    12. "Sneakernight" Music Video (2008)

    View this video on YouTube

    youtube.com / Via Hollywood Records

    In 2008, Hudgens' second album, Identified, came out, and the one and only single is "Sneakernight," which somehow is both baffling and makes all the sense in the world. The entire song is about about dancing in sneakers (because "basically what we're gonna do is dance"), and the product placement for Ekko's glowing shoes is PROMINENT. IDK what came first, the song or the Ekko deal, but the real winner here is 2008 fashion. The fedora. The sparkly tank top. The hoodies. Yes, even the Ekko glowing footwear. The stuff of legends. I can't wait until 2030, when all these trends will be back in style. I, personally, am very excited for the return of the plaid short, but perhaps that's just me. 

    13. Spring Breakers (2012)

    James Franco points guns at Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens leaning against a car
    Annapurna Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Tick, Tick... Boom! is not the first time Hudgens has been in a prestigious awards-circuit film. In 2012 she joined Selena Gomez and James Franco in this crime drama about a group of girls on spring break in Florida who get caught up in the criminal underworld. While most of the awards attention was paid to Franco, V played the part of the irresponsible and reckless friend, well, definitely bolstering the movie. Just when you think that Hudgens is all about silly music videos and dog movies, she's taking drugs in a bikini and grabbing guns. 

    Watch it on Hulu. 

    14. Sucker Punch (2011)

    Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Emily Browning, Scott Glenn, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung march down a trench
    Clay Enos / Warner Bros. Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Let us never forget that Hudgens is also in this girl-group, psychological action film directed by Zack Snyder of #ReleaseTheSnyderCut fame. Sucker Punch revolves around Babydoll (Emily Browning), who must venture through a variety of fantasy worlds to retrieve items that will help her escape the mental institution she's been unjustly locked up in. Hudgens plays one of her machine-gun-wielding squad members recruited to help her out. The film did horribly in theaters and received poor reviews but has since achieved something approaching cult classic status for its innovative visuals and action scenes. Also, as the Snyder star has continued to rise, people have revisited this romp with fewer pitchforks than they were holding initially. 

    Watch it on Hulu. 

    15. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody (2006‚Äď07)

    Monique Coleman and Vanessa Hudgens wear saloon girl outfits
    Disney Channel

    And last but certainly not least, Hudgens joined her HSM costars Monique Coleman and Ashley Tisdale on The Suite Life of Zack and Cody several times. She plays London and Maddie's slightly nervous friend from school, Corrie. Remember the Disney Channel eras when all your favorite stars were popping up on each other's shows? There were the DCOMs and the music videos. Hudgens was right in the thick of it. Shocking that she wasn't in That's So Suite Life of Hannah Montana or the Disney Channel Games. 

    Watch it on Disney+.