As long as the last several years are any indicator, music movies are thriving. A good VH1 Behind the Music show is like a musical with all the narrative twists and drama. In the finest cases, the actors learn to sing or play a few guitar chords so that viewers may enjoy the music they adore. A wonderful plot and a great soundtrack is all you could ask for in a time when you’re confined indoors. This isn’t the first time that a film has been able to do both. It’s like floating on clouds.
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As simple as finding nine inventive ways to use that bundle of kale you panic-bought last week, narrowing down the category and selecting the top music flicks of all time is difficult. For the sake of clarity, we ruled out documentaries. As fascinating and educational as these films can be, they exist in a completely separate realm. In addition, there are no musicals in the works (mostly). That’s a whole other category that deserves its own long list. The best music movies are waiting for you right now.
1. Almost Famous (2000)
It almost goes without saying that Cameron Crowe’s Y2K film is a classic. In 1973, amid the height of Rolling Stone magazine’s popularity, the story follows a budding young music journalist. Stillwater’s iconic rock tunes sound like they could have been penned by Zeppelin, Skynyrd, or the Allman Brothers. Pennie Trumbull was the inspiration for Kate Hudson’s character Penny Lane (based on Pennie Lane).
2. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
No documentaries were allowed, but we made no mention of mockumentaries in the rules. I laughed out loud at Spinal Tap’s bogus English glam-hair-metal band. The 1984 film adaptation of Christopher Guest’s best-known novel remains as weird and enthralling as ever. The sleazy music is the centerpiece of the show, but the amazing costumes, set design, and portrayal of rock star hilarity aren’t far behind.
3. Last Days (2005)
Last Days is a somber and contemplative look at Kurt Cobain’s dying days. Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain is beautifully shown in this Gus Van Sant-directed film from 2005, set against the misty backdrop of his native Pacific Northwest home. As the face of grunge rock, the film captures the instinctual need to flee, made all the more urgent when your signature ragged sound is being absorbed by the mainstream music machine.
4. Singles (1992)
It would be remiss of us not to mention Singles while discussing grunge. In this 1992 picture, another one of Crowe’s, love and music are depicted in all their glory during Seattle’s most illustrious age. Real-life rock icons like Chris Cornell (RIP) and Eddie Vedder join the cast, and the vignettes of troubled romances brilliantly capture what it’s like to mature without completely giving up your going to gigs and drinking after midnight younger self.. Instead of cheese, it’s the best of Gen X loudness in this rom-com.
5. Purple Rain (1984)
In many ways, Purple Rain is the group’s savior. At his best, Prince is an unparalleled pop-rock god, half sultry crooner and part electric guitar wielding savage, as demonstrated in this album. One lengthy music video, bathed in purple and never taking its foot off the gas, characterizes the smoldering 1984 film. You’ll wish it was the 1980s and that you were riding a Harley-Davidson.
6. The Sound of Music (1965)
Even though the 1965 picture is clearly a musical, it’s nevertheless essential to include. In addition to winning five Oscars, it is frequently featured in lists of the greatest movies of all time, regardless of subject matter. The Sound of Music is a triumph of singing over not singing, culture over the Nazis, and Julie Andrews over anything else. A joy to listen to, the Rodgers & Hammerstein score is also one of the most popular soundtrack albums of all time.
7. High Fidelity (2000)
High Fidelity, starring John Cusack, was released in 2000 and is one of the greatest John Cusack films ever made. It’s a movie that will stick with you for a long time, and it’s probably inspired a lot of thoughtful mixtapes for potential love interests all across the world. The film’s music snobs serve as its central protagonists, so it’s not surprise that choosing a soundtrack proved to be a challenge. However, the film’s soundtrack included the likes of Bill Callahan, Roky Erickson, the Beta Band, Bob Dylan, and many others, making the film a success. This film will make you want to start a vinyl collection if you didn’t already have one.
8. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
There are many films on folk singer-songwriters, but this one is among the greatest (and one of the best movies streaming on Amazon). It was tempting to include Crazy Heart, but Inside Llewyn Davis, which was released in 2013, made the cut. It might be the ethereal score or the ethereal visual style of the Coen brothers. It’s a beautiful depiction of the art scene in Greenwich Village in 1961, with Oscar Isaac at the helm (who performed many of the songs himself). A good soundtrack was guaranteed with T. Bone Burnett as the film’s executive music producer. It’s a must-see because of the talented directors’ addition of depth and a touch of surrealism.
9. A Star Is Born (2018)
The film proves that an actor may be a musician and vice versa, which is a rare occurrence in cinema. Both A Star Is Born and La La Land are excellent examples of the former. The film has Lady Gaga showing off her acting prowess and Bradley Cooper showing that he could have been a drunken country-rock legend in another life. When it comes to great rock musicians, Cooper’s demise in particular is fascinating enough to make you consider putting down the drink for good. Even better, songs like “Shallow” and “Maybe It’s Time” that were composed specifically for headphones and speakers would be huge hits today. Despite the fact that this isn’t the first (or last) time this movie has been created, the 2018 version is by far the greatest.
10. Love & Mercy
John Cusack and Paul Dano star in a brilliant portrayal of Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson as the young and old Brian Wilson, respectively. Dano’s interpretation of a younger Wilson when he stops touring to produce the immortal album Pet Sounds, slowly and steadily sinking into madness, is a stunning performance. Cusack plays an older and wounded Brian Wilson, who is psychologically constrained and trapped under the controversial 24-hour therapy practices of the famed Dr. Eugene Landy in the film’s future. Wilson’s wounded mind is beautiful and terrible as he competes with the Beatles to discover new and creative music on his own. This is one of the best movies currently available on Hulu and should not be missed by music fans.