The best movies to watch about musicians

The dizzying highs and lows of real-life fame in the music industry have long been a source of fascination for Hollywood. Maybe it’s the pre-made “three-act structure” that most stories fall into, or the inherent competition for musical performance on stage is too tempting for filmmakers. Despite that, biopics about musicians are part of the cinema scene almost every year. This year’s big entry for this category is Elvis. Directed by Baz Luhrmann, the man behind the 2001 fantasy musical Moulin Rouge!This latest installment on Elvis Presley’s life focuses heavily on the complicated relationship Presley has with his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (played by Oscar-winning Tom Hanks) and looks like there will be all the visual splendor one would expect from the famous director when he tackles the story of the king of rock and roll.

To help you prepare for Elvis, we’ve put together a list of quality musical biographies that you can check out at home right now on various streaming services. It covers many musical eras and styles, but the stories of struggle, success, fortune, and temptation are captivatingly universal.


Ian Curtis and the rest of the Joy Division in control.

Photo: Weinstein Company

Control tells the tragic life story of Ian Curtis, the frontman of the British post-punk band Joy Division. Facing epilepsy and severe depression, the influential singer-songwriter took her own life at the age of 23 – just a day before Joy Division set off for their first North American tour. Control looks back on his life from his high school years until his sudden death less than a decade later. It paints a picture of how sometimes all the success and family love in the world isn’t enough to numb feelings of emptiness and isolation. This bleak story is captured in beautiful black and white from music video director Anton Corbijn (Nirvana’sHeart-Shaped Box”), a gripping injured lead performance from Sam Riley (cruel), and numerous hypnotic songs performed by the actors themselves, taken from two single Joy Division albums.

Control available to watch for free with ads on Pluto TV, Freevee, Plex and Tubi.

Go up

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in Get on Up

Image: Universal Pictures

Biopics aim to shed light on their themes – to help anthropomorphize mythological characters for audiences that are die-hard and casual fans. That’s not what this 2014 Godfather of Souls movie does. Do not get me wrong; Go up trying to personify James Brown. It offers a look at all the triumphs and tragedies in his life interspersed with quiet moments and ping pong leaves the viewer between them with abandon. This kaleidoscope approach to his life story is compelling and reinforced by the late Chadwick Boseman’s performance that ranks among his finest. It won’t, however, yield a deeper understanding of why James Brown is the man or performer he is. His existence in the film is almost a complete opposite mystery. Go up captures the man’s undeniable charisma and sense of vitality in his live performances. You won’t know James Brown’s “why” when you watch this movie, but you will find it amusing and enthralling.

Go up available to watch on Netflix.

Love and benevolence

Paul Dano and a band in Love & amp;  Mercy.

Image: Lionsgate, Roadside Attraction

One approach biopics can take is to focus on particular moments in one’s life rather than trying to cover it all. A good example of this is 2014 Love and benevolence, about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The famous singer-songwriter suffered a nervous breakdown in the mid-1960s and lived in seclusion for several years. Love and benevolence dramatize his story by dividing it into two separate parts. The first is about Wilson’s low mental state as he created the band’s most acclaimed album, Pet sounds (and the immediate consequences of its commercial failure). The second is about a time period more than 20 years later, when Wilson is living a solitary life under the direction of his current therapist. He met and fell in love with a woman named Melinda Ledbetter, who helped him get out of that toxic relationship and learn to live again.

Scenes with young Wilson (played by a sweetly innocent Paul Dano) in the studio shot in a pseudo-documentary style allow viewers to experience firsthand the joys of creating with him, even when he We become more and more detached from those scenes. around him. The older Wilson is portrayed by the appropriately tangled John Cusack in the more traditionally presented scenes, as viewers are led through the story of his budding romance with Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) ) and their struggle against the control of the therapist Wilson (an animated but engaging Paul Giamatti). Wilson’s latter-day struggles to win his life back Love and benevolence an arc that should resonate with anyone who finds a way to persevere through tough times thanks to the people they care about.

Love and benevolence available to watch on HBO Max.


Mötley Crüe performing in The Dirt

Photo: Jake Giles Netter / Netflix

Mötley Crüe’s collaborative autobiography Dust Considered by many to be the greatest “all-in-all” memoir ever written about the metallic hair scene. Epic and “so weird it has to be true” stories straight from the band’s members about their origins, their street lives, and all the over-the-top unreal they go through. ripe for adaptation. The stories in the book are chaotic and messy, and on every other page you wonder how the band managed to avoid death or permanent disability.

Directed by Jeff Tremaine (Jackass franchise) who knows a thing or two about self-destruction squads, the adaptation captures the turbulent energy of the original book using multiple double narrators. when contradicting each other but always keep the story going. one unbelievable or dramatic moment to the next. The result is an energetic movie that feels both fun and lively meta. It’s a slick, loud and fast-paced package that feels perfectly in keeping with the visual-conscious anarchy of the Mötley Crüe brand.

Dust available to watch on Netflix.

The Doors

Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison, performing in The Doors.

Image: Tri-Star Pictures

The Doors is a love letter from director Oliver Stone to the idea of ​​famous frontman Jim Morrison. Musical biographies often exaggerate or simplify the details of a story to make it more suitable for a cinematic adaptation, but here Stone completely ignores nuance and completely embrace the “legendary” aspect of these stories. He presents The Doors lead singer as poetic, death-haunting parts, wanting to be mystic and magnetic drunkard. There’s no real nuance between these seemingly contradictory features in the story of the band’s founding and rise to Morrison’s tragic death from a drug overdose. The film’s overwhelming exaggeration, fetishism, and loose nature could not have been tolerated without Stone’s captivating hallucinogenic direction, Val Kilmer’s helpless performance in the film. as Morrison, and the leading supporting cast includes Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, Mimi Rogers, and Michael Wincott. It may not be all correct, but The Doors feels like the perfect distillation of the band’s vibes and their enduring appeal.

The Doors available to watch on Prime Video and Paramount Plus.

The fugitives

Dakota Fanning sings in The Runaways.

Image: Appeared

Runaways were never meant to last. But in the short four years that the all-female hit rock group has been active, they’ve made a huge impact. They started trends that helped open the door to more women in the heavier music world and launched the careers of many mainstream rock artists. However, they were teenagers at the time of the band’s formation, and were not really equipped for the harsh world they had entered. This 2010 film, which revolves around guitarist Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and the band’s fleeting curator Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), deals with the inevitable fallout that ensues as the group struggles to cope. started with unexpected success at a young age.

Filled with great music (some even performed by the actors themselves), The fugitives encapsulates the youth of pioneers in the field of rock music. It greatly streamlines the band’s history – narrowing it down to a story of Jett’s determination and Currie’s disintegration as they move closer to true stardom. Stewart and Fanning match as charming as yin and yang of The fugitives. Their presence, along with an ugly Michael Shannon playing their controversial manager as a glam-rock mad scientist, makes the film a must-see.

The fugitives available to watch on Hulu and free with ads on Tubi.


Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon lock eyes and sing in Walk the Line.

Image: 20th Century Fox

This biopic of beloved country music icon Johnny Cash is often regarded as one of the genre’s gold standards. It tells the story of Cash’s rise to the music industry with all the tragedies, substance abuse, and eventual redemption typically expected from biofilms. This movie rises to the top thanks to excellent visual effects from writer-director James Mangold (Logan) and all others involved in its production. Other aspects really set Walk In addition, it also focuses heavily on the love story Cash has with fellow star June Carter. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon have a lot of chemistry in their roles, which has led to both being nominated for an Academy Award for their performances – with Witherspoon even winning the title of Lead Actress the best that year. The two were also part of the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to the film, which featured multiple Cash and Carter covers by the pair.

Walk available to rent upon purchase on digital VOD platforms such as Apple and Google Play.

Wu Tang: An American Saga

Three performers in Wu-Tang: An American Saga raise their fists in front of a banner that reads “Eric & amp;  Rakim

Photo: Craig Blankenhorn / Hulu

It’s a challenge trying to condense a performer or band’s story into a single film. Now imagine trying to properly summarize the stories of 10 highly influential musicians whose history is ripe for dramatic retelling as each member of the age-old hip-hop group known as Wu. Tang Clan. All those larger-than-life personalities can’t be properly brought up with the mere minutes that a standard biopic would allow for each of them.

Wu Tang: An American Saga solved this problem by expanding the biographical format from one movie to a limited series of seasons. The show tells the rich-to-riches story of rival street corner kids during the cocaine epidemic in the early 90s, rising above the violence of local conflicts to come together for a cause. shared love of music. Created by founder Wu Tang RZA, this authentic (but appropriately embellished) approach to the group’s history will appeal to not only fans of the group, hip-hop and biopics but Also for anyone who loves thrilling dramas like HBO Wire or FX’s Snow.

Wu Tang: An American Saga available to watch on Hulu.

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