Here Are 24 Musical Biopics You Can’t Miss

Now that the incredibly successful movies about Freddie Mercury and Elton John were released a couple of months apart, a biopic frenzy seems to have been unleashed. But there’s more than Bohemian Rapsody and Rocket Man. In fact, I bet you’ll love the biographical films about music stars on this list more than you loved those two! If you consider yourself a hip hop fan, then #18 and #16 are a must-watch!

#24. Amadeus

We know that classical music composers aren’t usually associated with crazy behavior and unlimited exuberance like a rock or rap star would. Well, brace yourself for a great surprise with this film, which is centered around Mozart’s and Salieri’s tremendous rivalry.

Photo: Courtesy of Orion Pictures.

Amadeus (named after Amadeus Wolfgang Mozart, of course) is based on Peter Shaffer’s famous play. This thrilling adaptation does justice to the play and its whopping 8 Academy Award wins are certainly proof of this.

#23. I’m Not There

Bob Dylan has recently appeared on multiple headlines and Twitter trends. In case you didn’t know, the reason is the new release of Scorsese’s great documentary about Bob’s legendary 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

That’s definitely a must see, as well as I’m Not There. This film is perhaps the most creative approach to such an enigmatic figure like Dylan. In this movie, Todd Haynes has decided to portray the multiple facets of the musician by recruiting 6 stars (including Heath Ledger and Christian Bale), and each of them plays a different side of his persona.

#22. What’s Love Got To Do With It

Continuing with this list of great musical biopics, we have What’s Love Got To Do With It. If reading this didn’t make the chorus sound in your head, there’s surely something wrong with you!. For real, though, Tina Turner’s performance on that single has got to be amongst the best of all time!

Photo: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures.

As you might’ve figured already, this film, released in 1993, narrates the life of the iconic singer and actress Tina Turner. Not only do we get to see her heroic rise, but also her escape from a dangerously toxic relationship.

#21. La Bamba

Can an artist leave an unforgettable mark in history with a less than a year-long career? Most people would agree that it’s impossible, but Ritchie Valens was a notable exception. That’s right,  eight months of recording as a teenager was all he needed to be revered forever!

Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

La Bamba, the name of his biopic, was also the title of one of the greatest hits of the Chicano rock and roll star. Sadly, at only 17, Ritchie died in the famous plane crash of 1959, the one that also put an end to Buddy Holly J. P. Richardson’s career.

#20. Sid And Nancy

Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious’ relationship gave birth to one of history’s most controversial and tragic romances in the music industry. Both of them carried a wild and dangerous lifestyle, and there were countless ups and downs in their relationship.

Photo: Courtesy of Tiff.

Their sad but enthralling story is even more interesting than you might imagine if you don’t know a lot about Sid since it takes place during punk’s wild explosion in London in the late 70s. The Sex Pistols, the band where Sid played the bass, represented the movement’s most anarchic side.

#19. Walk The Line

No, we’re not talking about Aerosmith’s Draw The Line, but about Walk The Line, the biographical drama from 2005 that narrates the life of June Carter and country legend Johnny Cash. Johnny and June are nothing less than one of the most successful and iconic couples in music history.

Photo: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

Named after Cash’s memorable song I Walk The Line, this film boasts amazing performances by Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix. In fact, both of them won Academy Awards for their stunning acting on this one. Impressive, right?

#18. Straight Outta Compton

With the genre’s mainstream furor, films about hip-hop stars have become regular stuff recently. Though some have received lukewarm reviews for their shallow portrayal of the star or their weak script (cough cough, Tupac’s biopic, All Eyez On Me), others have become classics already.

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

This is the case for Straight Outta Compton, which made N.W.A. (rap’s most confrontative and anti-authoritarian group ever) relevant again for a new generation of hip-hop heads. The picture shows O’Shea Jackson Jr, who played Ice Cube, his own father. The resemblance is uncanny!

#17. Ray

Most people hear the name Jamie Foxx and instantly remember Django Unchained or Baby Driver. But the film which earned him an Oscar for Best Actor was actually Ray, where he showcases his talent as a musician and actor by playing Ray Charles. 

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

The biopic, released in 2004, narrates the life of the man who’s perhaps the biggest RnB artist of all time. Jamie Foxx’s execution didn’t earn him an Academy Award only, though, but also a Golden Globe, a Critic’s Choice Award, and a BAFTA. Kudos to him!

#16. 8 Mile

You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, you better…“. 8 Mile didn’t only place Lose Yourself‘s unforgettably motivational chorus in every American’s conscience, but it also gave Eminem an Oscar for Best Original Song.

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

What’s more, this portrayal of the rapper’s improbable rise from being an unemployed guy who lived in an abusive home to the biggest rap star of the 2000s also boasts a surprisingly solid performance by Slim Shady himself. Rolling Stone would later place 8 Mile on its top ten movie list from 2005.

#15. Bird

If the film was directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, that means that the cinema’s fee will definitely be worth the spending. A great example of this is Bird, which consists of a creative non-linear narration of Charlie Parker’s life.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

The saxophonist, who died at the early age of 34, is one of jazz’s most influential figures ever. Amongst other things, we get to see his tough fight against mental illness, his romance with Chan Parker, and his musical relationship with icon Dizzy Gillespie.

#14. Selena

No, Selena Gomez doesn’t have a biopic (yet). This biographical film, which stars Jennifer López, follows the story of Tejano star Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, one of the most successful singers of the 90s.

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Before she was tragically murdered at the age of 23 by the president of her fan club, Selena went from being a relatively well-known singer in Latin America to an internationally acclaimed star, selling over 65 million albums worldwide. What an accomplishment!

#13. Velvet Goldmine

Can you guess who this movie is about by looking at the picture? Don’t feel bad if you can’t figure it out because Velvet Goldmine isn’t a biopic per se. Indeed, when watching this one, the main character will surely ring a bell, but probably because of his David Bowie resemblance.

Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.

But the protagonist, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers, is actually based on Marc Bolan, Bowie, and Jobriath. Not only that but the movie also co-stars Ewan McGregor who plays a character modeled on Lou Reed and Iggy Pop! Bowie was allegedly furious, but he finally didn’t sue.

#12. La Vie En Rose

LaMôme, known as La Vie En Rose in America and the UK, was premiered in 2007. This film chronicles the unlikely rise against all odds of French singer Édith Piaf, one of France’s main stars throughout the 1930s, 40s, and 50s.

Photo: Courtesy of Picturehouse.

Can you imagine yourself busking every day to earn a couple of euros, and suddenly becoming an international superstar? What a story! Marion Cotillard certainly did a good job portraying Piaf, since she earned an Oscar for her performance.

#11. Control

There’s something about the man who was the leader of Joy Division (FYI, in case you’re not familiar with him, we’re talking about Ian Curtis) that screams mystery and darkness. The somber, post-punk sound of the band was also reflected on the leader’s performances.

Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

In fact, even the classical art cover of their legendary debut album, Unknown Pleasures, continues with this aesthetic in a way. On Control we can see the photographer and director Anton Corbijn’s bold black and white attempt at unveiling the mystery behind Curtis’ life.

#10. 24 Hour Party People

If you enjoyed the last one, then you’ll definitely love this film as well! Which is rock and roll’s most archetypical era? Some would answer Woodstock, others the Grunge years in Seattle… It’s a hard question, but another solid candidate for the number one spot is the Manchester scene which went form the late 70s to the early 90s.

Photo: Courtesy of United Artists.

24 Hour Party People takes place exactly during this time, and it tells the adventures of Tony Wilson, the Factory Records boss which played a huge role in the rise of New Order, Joy Division, and others. You can’t miss it!

#9. Lady Sings The Blues

Most people are familiar with an album or at least with a couple of songs of some male Jazz figures, like Miles Davis, John Coltrane or Kamasi Washington, but the female icons of the genre are sadly sometimes overlooked.

Photo: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Lady Sings The Blues tries to change this by vividly recounting Billie Holiday’s crazy life (if you can’t remember any song, Strange Fruit is one of our top recommendations). Starring Diana Ross as Billie, this was her film debut, and what a notable debut!

#8. Blaze

Released last year, in 2018, and directed by Ethan Hawke, Blaze charismatically portrays the events of Blaze Foley’s short life. Though Foley is relatively unknown to the masses, he was actually a hugely influential figure in country music. 

Photo: Courtesy of IFC Films.

Blaze (played by Ben Dickey in the film) was perhaps the most important performer and songwriter of the outlaw movement in Texas. Later, famous musicians who were extremely influenced by the movement (like Willie Nelson) would emerge.

#7. The Buddy Holly Story

Even the ones who can’t name even one song from him recognize his name. Buddy Holly has been the stuff of legends since his prolific career and premature death, inspiring many artists. In fact, several song titles were named after him too (Buddy Holly by Weezer, for example).

Photo: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

This film from 1978 took his story to every cinema in America and earned Gary Busey an Oscar nomination for his performance. Keep reading for more classic musical biopics!

#6. Bound For Glory

Yeah, believe it or not, biopics have been a thing for a couple of decades already, and some of the best were made almost 50 years ago! If you’re still suspicious of this take, then watch Bound For Glory, which was released in 1976.

Photo: Courtesy of United Artists.

Directed by Hal Ashby, this mesmerizing film earned six Oscar nominations and turned Woody Guthrie’s life into one of the genre’s most acclaimed movies. The immensely talented folk singer is played by David Carradine, who did a stunning job at it.

#5. Get On Up

James Brown was probably the most charismatic performer ever. The man simply had the tunes, the look, and the moves as well. His hits have stood the test of time and maintain the capacity of getting a dead crowd to dance their life off.

Photo: Courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Get On Up, named after one of these memorable songs (Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine), sees Chadwick Boseman skillfully play the Godfather of Soul. Slide on to discover more movies about other beloved icons!

#4. Love And Mercy

Before we get along with our top three musical biopics, the biographical movie about the Beach Boys deserves a special mention. Well, to be precise, the film is centered around the band’s leader and main creative force, Brian Wilson. 

Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.

During Love & Mercy, we get to learn about how he made the band’s masterpiece and one of the best albums of all time, Pet Sounds. But it also gets serious when some scenes revolve around Brian’s mental health issues during the 80s.

#3. Nowhere Boy

Finally, our top three picks! Aaron Taylor-Johnson might look like he’s playing any regular modern hipster in the picture, but he’s actually portraying a young John Lennon on Nowhere Boy! Who would’ve guessed?

Photo: Courtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Nowhere Boy, released in 2009, centers around the future legend of The Beatles’ teenage years, his family, and the start of The Quarrymen, his first band. The facts shown on the scenes are pretty on point since they’re based on Julia Baird’s (Lennon’s sister) memoir about her brother.

#2. The Doors

The 60s saw the emergence of some of the most enigmatic and creative artists in rock and roll history. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Stones, The Who, Zeppelin… the list goes on and on, and an entertaining biopic could definitely be done about each of these influential artists.

Photo: Courtesy of Tri-STar Pictures.

But if there’s one musician from this decade who deserved a solid biographical movie, it’s got to be Jim Morrison, AKA The Lizard King. On The Doors, we get to enjoy a notable performance by Oliver Stone, as he poignantly depicts the singer’s sex appeal, talent, and brains.

#1. The Runaways

The Runways was one of the first all-girls hard rock bands to break into the mainstream of a chauvinistic and male-dominated genre. The teenage band got the classic biopic treatment with this movie from 2010.

Photo: Courtesy of Apparition.

Can you guess which actresses played Cherie Currie and Joan Jett by looking at the picture? Those are Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart! Inspired by Currie’s memoir, the movie will definitely motivate a lot of female rock fans to immediately start a band!

Related posts: