Music Films

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I have been doing some research on “music” films for my Podcast. These are anything that is About music, songs the industry. Would be grateful To know of any films you have seem and how you rate them , (maybe out of 5) I quickly without lots of thought did 6 i really liked. Once, Begin again, blinded by the light, High Fidelity, Searching for Sugarman and Sing Street. Im sure ive missed lots i love

Thx in advance for your help.

Ooh I watch a lot of these - here are some I particularly like:

Stop Making Sense (Talking Heads concert film)
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (no fondness for Metallica required)
The Decline of Western Civilisation pt 1 and 2 (first one is about LA punk, second about hair metal)
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (the story of a Canadian metal band that never quite made it)
No One Knows About Persian Cats (Interesting semi-documentary about the alternative music scene in Iran)
Synth Britannia (excellent film about the early 80s UK synthpop scene)
Breadcrumb Trail (about the band Slint)
The Punk Singer (about Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill / Le Tigre)
Mistaken for Strangers (The National on tour, filmed by the singer's brother)
Separado! and American Interior (two films made my Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, both of which mix travel, music and language)
Dig! (the story of the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (about the lo-fi musician and his battles with mental illness)

Not documentary:
We Are The Best! (teenage Swedish punk rock movie)
Frank (Michael Fassbender as a fictionalised version of Frank Sidebottom)
Dogs in Space (Australian punk movie, starring Michael Hutchence of INXS)
Subway (a band of criminals form a band while on the run)
Good Vibrations (documents the music scene in Northern Ireland during the troubles)

IA's picture

I don't know about ratings, I rarely find them very useful, but I'll drop them in since you asked.
My favorites are (these are quite mainstream)...

This is Spinal Tap (5 stars)
It's a fake documentary about a fake rock band that seems to be quite popular but does all wrong decisions. Hilarious!

Almost Famous (5 stars)
A teenager pretends to be a big time Rolling Stones journalist and follows a band through their gig. It's absolutely gorgeous.

Amadeus (5 stars)
Story about Mozart, how badass of a rockstar he was back in his day.

Whiplash (5 stars)
A jazz drummer enrolls a music class by a psychotic teacher who pushes him until he breaks. Not realistic, but still, really nice music, great sets, production, and I can relate to that feeling of pushing yourself to get better. (Also, one of the three actually brilliant Blumhouse films.)

Wayne's World (5 stars)
Two music-obsessed guys with a random satellite TV show find themselves as pawns of a bigger plot, but keep doing what they do best... having fun. It's weird, because this is not really directly a music film. The guys don't play in a band or anything. But the music is just so present in the movie. They go to multiple gigs in the film, one by Alice Cooper... and then go to backstage. There's the famous Bohemian Rhapsody scene, and the No Stairway music store scene. It's weird. But I love it, because it's just such a feelgood movie.

Also movies where music is a character to a lesser extent, Scott Pilgrim (4 stars) and Baby Driver (3 stars). It's odd, in Baby Driver, the importance of the music is played up a lot. Then in the big driving scene in the movie, the mix is so bad that you can't even hear the Queen song underneath the roaring car engines. Uhh, really stupid. Biggrin

Oh, then there's Taking Woodstock (4 stars)
...that I guess has more to do with organizing Woodstock than the actual festival. You don't see any of the music acts in the film, just the stuff happening around the festival. Very nice.

And a few that I just remembered Walk Hard (3 stars)... that I don't remember much about, I think it was fine. The Pianist (2 stars)... doesn't really have anything to do with music. He plays the piano a couple of times. Idk.

Also, the musicals I've seen with brilliant music. Sound of Music (5 stars) and my favorite musical, Aladdin (5 stars).

EDIT: Geeze, right I forgot, the Beatles movie!

Yesterday (4 stars)
A man is hit by a truck and after he wakes up in the hospital, he realizes Beatles doesn't exist and nobody else knows the band. So he starts to perform their songs. Very cute!

Here are some more ive seen.

Bohemian rhapsody
Walk the line
The doors
Miss simone
Little voice
8 mile
A star is born
Straight outta comptom
Inside llewellyn davis
La bamba
Eddie and the cruiser
Still crazy
That thing you do
School of rock
The commitments
A hard days night
Purple rain

Non fiction:

Everything @Vom Vorton has just listed. "Frank" in particular is a wonderful fantasy on the life of Chris Sievey / Frank Sidebottom.

Penelope Spheeris made three of the "Decline of Western Civilization" films that Vom mentioned. They're all worth watching, though they're also depressing!
Sam Dunn's "Metal: A Headbanger's Journey" is a film made by a metalhead who is also an anthropologist, and is fascinating. Sam went on to make an 11-part documentary series for VH-1 called "Metal Evolution" which featured pretty much everyone in the metal scene who wasn't dead. Essential viewing for metalheads.
"Lemmy: 49% Motherf***er, 51% Son of a Bitch" is a close and compassionate look at the legendary hellraising frontman's life.
"It MIght Get Loud" is two hours of Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White nerding out about guitars in a deserted warehouse. There is a theremin involved.
"Time Stand Still" is a documentary about Rush's 40-year career and the influence they have had on their fans and is narrated by Ant-Man himself, Paul Rudd.
"Beyond The Lighted Stage" is an older documentary about Rush, with extras that include the band having dinner together (which is a lovely demonstration of the cameraderie that they had).
"All You Need Is Love" is a 13-part series by Tony Palmer showing the state of the music industry in the late 1970s, made at the dawn of punk. It pretty much set the standard for music documentaries but be warned: it's not always kind to its subjects, particularly poor old Keith Moon.
"The Wrecking Crew" (NOT the 1968 Dean Martin spy spoof trainwreck) is about the collective of LA session musicians who played with EVERYBODY.
"Muscle Shoals" is about the legendary recording studio in Alabama. You would not believe the size of the list of artists who recorded there; many appear in the film.
"Sound City" will prove to you just how much of a metal fanboy Dave Grohl is.
"Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns" is a documentary about They Might Be Giants which features some very familiar faces, and leads up to the release of their album Mink Car on September 10th, 2001...
"Down From The Mountain" happened because the reaction to the music on the Coen Brothers film "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" was so intense they took the soundtrack on the road.
"Buena Vista Social Club" - and after it came out, EVERYONE wanted to do a music documentary. Wonderful music, sensitively handled by Ry Cooder.


"A Hard Day's Night" showed you that the Beatles were doing this sort of stuff before you were born.
"Love and Mercy" is a dramatization of the fall and rise of Brian Wilson. It's worth watching with a surround system handling the audio to appreciate the miracles Atticus Ross worked with the sound design.
"Bohemian Rhapsody" might play *extremely* fast and loose with reality, but damn it sounds good and I thought they'd actually got John Deacon to play himself for most of the film. The recreation of their Live Aid set will take your breath away, particularly in 4K.

"Help!" showed you that the Beatles were doing this sort of stuff before you were born.
"This Is Spinal Tap" because it spawned a whole genre and if you haven't seen it recently, watch it again and marvel at how on-point it still is.
"The Commitments" - because you will never see a more sweary, stroppy and endearing celebration of rhythm and blues.
"Suck" in which a band become vampires and achieve fame and fortune, as well as attracting the attentions of a demented vampire hunter. Alice Cooper and Malcolm McDowell compete to see who can deliver the most scenery-chewing performance; Iggy Pop, Henry Rollins and Moby tag along for the ride.
Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes" deserves a mention for both the sequence with Tom Waits and Iggy pop in a deserted diner and the part where the Wu Tang Clan's GZA and RZA notice who it is who's cleaning up the restaurant they're in: "It's BILL motherf***ing MURRAY!"
Rachel Talalay's "Tank Girl" - just for the sight of Iggy Pop as a mutant kangaroo.

A few others that don't really fit in anywhere above:

Aki Kaurismäki's ridiculous (and highly entertaining) Leningrad Cowboys trilogy:
"Leningrad Cowboys Go America"
"Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses"
"Total Balalaika Show"

Godfrey Reggio's sublime trilogy of -qatsi films, which were so influential that they changed the look of music videos overnight (yes, U2; I'm looking at you). The score by Philip Glass is some of his finest work.
"Koyaanisqatsi" (1982)
"Powaaqqatsi" (1988)
"Naqoyqatsi" (2002)

Ron Fricke was Reggio's Director of Cinematography and went on to make of jaw-dropping movies of his own. I've not seen them all but I can recommend
"Chronos" (1985) which features the music of Michael Stearns playing a bunch of weird stuff including an instrument called "The Beam". Trust me on this: as soon as you hear it, you'll instantly think of the V'Ger spacecraft from Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
"Baraka" (1992) is heartbreaking and mesmerising and once again has a score by Michael Stearns.

Sorry, just from memory, all 5 stars:
Mary Poppins
Sound of Music
Singing in the Rain
The Enchanted

Not a film per se, but the Leonard Bernstein lectures cover a good chunk of documentary. I especially liked the performance of Bach’s keyboard concerto by Glenn Gould.
Many of these are on YouTube.

Begin Again - Keira Knightley is a struggling songwriter, Mark Ruffalo is the washed up label executive. I have a soft spot for this movie.

Ray - Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles is so good.

Lords of Chaos - IMDB: In 1987 Oslo, 17-year-old Euronymous (Rory Caulkin) becomes fixated on creating "true Norwegian black metal" with his band Mayhem. He mounts shocking publicity stunts to put the band's name on the map, but the lines between show and reality begin to blur.

Oh, I forgot my old time favourites! West Side Story! 5 seems to be too little. I'd say 10! And also Oliver!

Second The Commitments. That's a really fun one.
Still Bill is lovely. It's an interview style documentary on Bill Withers.
And did no one suggest the Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000 yet? Seriously?

@headfirstonly I am so surprised that I'm not the only one that has seen Koyaanisquatsi. I own the DVD. Never saw the other two. If you actually liked it, you might also like Decasia, by Bill Morrison. You know that weird out of body experience some people get near the end of Koyaanisquatsi? By the end of this I was very disoriented. I watched it in a lecture hall when I was TAing a survey class and afterwards I had a difficult time walking to the front of the hall to pass out papers.

Note: I don't recommend Decasia for the musical score. Just to be clear. That's more if you like unsettling experimental film.

RIP Sir Alan Parker, director of The Commitments (and Bugsy Malone, and The Wall, and Evita, and Angel Heart...) who has passed away at the age of 76 Sad

dzd's picture

Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox Story 5 stars Wink Its a spoof on pretty much every rockumentary movie and the music industry itself, and actually has a really great original soundtrack.

Allegro Non Troppo 5 stars an Italian film set to animation in a parody of Fantasia. I was recently turned onto that is masterful, and really needs to be re-mastered, I believe it is from the mid 70s

thx everyone for your comments they are most helpful! Im sure there are plenty more both good and bad.

ones like
Rock of Ages
Music and lyrics
The Runaways
The Saphires
Hearts beat loudly
Dream Girls
josie and the pussy cats
jersey boys

oh the last waltz

A friend of mine, Jeff Stacy, directed this film about Bobby Keys, sax player for the Stones. Near his home town in Texas, originally.

nice thread! alot of my favorites have been mentioned, but here's a few others, i don't think have been

'the last waltz'- a concert movie from 1976, starring the Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Van Morrison and lots more- and directed by the great martin scorcese. 5 stars!

'the grateful dead movie' - from 1974. opening sequence is a bit dated, but a great viewing of the band in its prime as well as deadheads and the whole dead scene. havent seen in a while- for me, probably 4 stars for the musical content

'masked and anonymous'- written by and starring bob dylan, a really really really strange dystopian fantasy future thing- eerie and kind of prophetic, in its own way, 4 stars. lots of weird star cameos too

there are various documentaries on miles davis, duke ellington, and jazz as a whole I'd recommend, tho i'm forgetting names and directors. the ken burns 'jazz' series is good for the older stuff, i think he is not as strong on the 'modern (ie post 1950's) jazz stuff tho.

Lots of good suggestions already. Based on the above I suggest adding these:

Tom Petty - Running Down A Dream
Paul Westerberg - Come Feel Me Tremble
Guy Clark/Townes Van Zandt/Steve Earle/Rodney Crowell - Heartworn Highways
Leonard Cohen - Bird On A Wire
Big Star - Nothing Can Hurt Me
Bruce Springsteen - Springsteen on Broadway, VH1 Storytellers
Stephen Sondheim - Six By Sondheim

Some great suggestions here! Here are a few that I think haven't been mentioned:

"A Mighty Wind" (another Christopher Guest film similar to "Spinal Tap" but that covers the folk music boom back in the '60s)
"Hamilton" (Original Broadway Cast - you need to subscribe to Disney+ to see this, but it's well worth it, we subscribed and then cancelled)
"Rush: Time Stand Still" (Rush of course)
"Moneterey Pop" (Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Otis Redding and others live in 1968 I think)
"Gimme Shelter" (The Stones)
"Jesus Christ Superstar"

And can't wait for the new Peter Jackson version of The Beatles "Let it Be." Supposed to be tons of never-seen footage and a much more positive presentation of those studio sessions. I think they delayed the release until 2021.

dzd's picture

early 80's "Heavy Metal"......... another animated one, no idea how that stands up still today, but terrified me as a child Smile 4 stars

@dzd I saw the Heavy Metal movie again recently for the first time in about thirty years (it's available on Netflix here in the UK). It hasn't aged well.

Fond memories of Heavy Metal... Endless arguments of the line "snow dive" or "nose dive" or ... well I guess the argument was about what it was.

I liked the documentaries on Sarah Shook and The Disarmers and Lydia Loveless.

dzd's picture

@headfirstonly I was afraid of that....I'll keep it in memories then Biggrin

a lot of good ones in this list I haven't seen, I did just in the last month or so watch that Dave Grohl "Sound City" one, it was interesting.

"Ernie Ball: The Pursuit of Tone", has quite a few good ones its a docuseries........the Buddy Guy one has been my favorite I've seen.

I gotta second @IA's recommendation of "Scott Pilgrim vs The World".
I don't think I've ever seen a film with more rock 'n' roll attitude.
If you've ever been in a band you'll laugh at all of the inter-band politics here.
And there's even a bass guitar battle.

I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned one of my very favourite movies of all time, "Phantom of the Paradise".
A totally bonkers and over the top music film from 1974.
A perfect and wonderful soundtrack written, surprisingly, by Paul Williams.

@Fuzzy I love Phantom of the Paradise! Not sure why that one didn't come to mind.

A few more I've thought of since my last post:

Her Smell - despite the odd title, this is a killer rock 'n' roll movie about a Courtney Love-esque rocker dealing with fallout from years of drug abuse and misbehaviour, the music is great and it's really raw and moving! One of the best films that I saw last year.

Streets of Fire - OTT cult movie about the kidnap and rescue of Diane Lane, lead singer of a band who mostly perform 80s power ballads. Great supporting cast, including Willem Dafoe and Rick Moranis.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains - Diane Lane is the lead in this one too, and she's in a teen punk rock band with Laura Dern, what's not to like?

Times Square - more teen punk rockers, in this case a couple of NYC runaways who form a band and do whatever the 1980 equivalent of "going viral" is. From the director of Empire Records.

Smithereens - similar theme to Times Square but a lot more raw and authentic (hence also more bleak).

Green Room - a young hardcore band run into trouble when they find they've been booked to play at a neo-Nazi bar, violence erupts. Starring Patrick Stewart and a great bunch of younger actors including the sadly departed Anton Yelchin.

And I can't BELIEVE I forgot Rock 'n' Rock High School, one of my favourite movies (I named an album after a quote from it!), in which PJ Soles skips school to get tickets to see the Ramones because she has written a song for them. So much fun.

I forgot one my own cult favs, breaking glass with Hazel O’Connor and Phil Daniels. The problem is where am i and i guess other gonna find time to listen to all these great recommendations.

Have you seen this: about music with a really interesting angle: The Great Hip Hop Hoax (2013). I'd rate that 5 stars. I'll be thinking of others all day now.. and wanting to watch them.

How about "Suburbia", a 1984 Roger Corman exploitation film about the punk "lifestyle".
Definitely a cult classic.

A few months back, I stumbled upon while channel surfing Walk Hard, which @dzd mentions. Had never even heard of it - hilarious!
Heavy Metal, which a few of you mention, brought back some fond memories of the drive-in where I saw it.
I enjoyed the recent Cats movie - I knew going in the horrible reviews it had gotten.
And I liked the Mamma Mia and Pitch Perfect movies my teenage daughter asked me to watch with her.
@mike skliar mentioned the Grateful Dead movie, and I've watched who knows how many Grateful Dead concerts over the years. More and more have become official releases, including one shown every Friday night for the last few months.

dzd's picture

One I just watched tonight, "The Simulation Theory: The Film" a lot of concert footage of Muse's album of the same name mixed with a little side story about a group of scientists, pretty wacky stuff, I quite enjoyed it.

@Chip Withrow I couldn't say how many times I've seen that, still cracks me up every time..........Too many funny lines/songs in that thing, story was it was written over a long weekend after watching all those music biopic movies Biggrin Ray Charles/Johnny Cash/etc....

Two not mentioned that I do not, see/saw above:

"Still Crazy" from 1998 (British)
"CBGB" w/Alan Rickman, 2013
(There's a couple, two-ish "documentary" ones, and another I don't see, -- who knows)

@dzd "Heavy Metal", -- now that was a brain chemisty movie if there ever was one. You have to see it with just the correct amount of THC blood infustion, as a virgin with a raging erection of thoughts while sitting next to your stunningly beautiful ~16 yo girlfriend with only half the life experience you have now, maybe less. Then, it makes sense.

-- Also, do they make theaters like that anymore where even in the back row you have to turn your head to see the sides of the screen and the "dead spot" seats are still at 98dB Wink

To watch it on DVD on your 1080 flatscreen is like having sex when your 80 wearing 3 condoms and no lube.

-- But, that could just be me Wink Smile (I tend to think a bit diffrent from folks around-hear...)

dzd's picture

@ustaknow I was probably 6 or 7 sitting probably two foot away from an old console tv poltergeist style Smile pretty mind blown, it wasn't my saturday morning cartoons that's for sure hahah

@Fuzzy I watched a trailer for the "Phantom of Paradise" I have vague recollections of seeing that one as well, but was hazy for a different reasons years I may of either seen or just dreamed it Biggrin looks like it stands up remarkably well. I'll have to give that one a watch sometime.