Movies about musicians have been a staple of cinema for decades, capturing the drama, passion, and glamour of the music industry. From the early days of Hollywood to the present day, films about musicians have explored the creative process, the struggles of fame, and the personal lives of some of the most iconic figures in music history. But what sets these movies apart from the traditional musical genre?
While both music movies and musicals feature music as a central element, they approach the subject matter in very different ways. Musicals typically feature characters breaking into song and dance as a means of expressing their emotions, often advancing the plot through the use of these musical numbers. Music movies, on the other hand, tend to focus on the behind-the-scenes aspects of the music industry, depicting the struggles and triumphs of musicians as they navigate their way through the business.
These films often provide a glimpse into the creative process, showing how songs are written and recorded and how performers prepare themselves for the struggles that lay ahead of them in their journey to make a name for themselves. They also delve into the personal lives of musicians, exploring the relationships, conflicts, and struggles that shape their careers. Whether it’s the gritty realism of a biopic or the fictionalized account of a musician’s rise to fame, music movies offer a unique window into the world of music and the people who make it.
With the rise of streaming services, it’s easier than ever to discover music movies that span multiple genres, from drama to comedy, and explore different eras and styles of music. From the trials and tribulations of rockstars, to the struggles of jazz musicians, to the triumphs of hip-hop artists, these films offer a wealth of stories that are sure to captivate and entertain audiences of all ages. So whether you’re a music aficionado or simply a lover of great storytelling, be sure to check out the many movies about musicians (that aren’t essentially musicals), and discover the incredible stories behind some of the most iconic figures in music history.
16 Georgia (1995)
This film is a melancholic and introspective look at the life of a musician and her struggles with addiction, fame and artistic expression. The plot follows the story of Sadie Flood, a talented but troubled singer-songwriter, who is haunted by the legacy of her late sister, a famous musician.
Georgia is a character-driven drama with a strong emphasis on the relationship between the protagonist and her family. The music in the movie is integral to the storyline, as it is a reflection of the inner turmoil and emotional journey of the main character. The performances are raw and emotive and the soundtrack is a perfect match for the mood and tone of the movie.
15 Empire Records (1995)
Empire Records is a coming-of-age comedy-drama that takes place in the world of record stores. The plot revolves around a group of friends working in a record store, who are trying to save the store from being sold to a large chain. The film is a nostalgic and lighthearted look at the music industry and the passion for music that unites people.
The movie is an ensemble-driven film, with an ensemble cast of young actors. The music in the movie is a large part of the story, with the characters discussing music and listening to different genres. The film has a killer soundtrack and a lot of the songs are used to reflect the mood and the progression of the story.
14 Almost Famous (2000)
Almost Famous is a semi-autobiographical film that tells the story of a teenage journalist, who is sent on tour with a rock band in the 1970s. The plot is a coming-of-age story that explores the themes of friendship, love, and the pursuit of one’s dreams. The movie is a character-driven film, with a strong focus on the protagonist’s journey and the relationships he forms with the band members.
The music in the movie is a central element, with the film showcasing the band’s live performances and the impact of their music on the protagonist and the fans. The film is a love letter to rock and roll, and the soundtrack is a perfect representation of the music of the 1970s.
13 High Fidelity (2000)
High Fidelity is a romantic-comedy that tells the story of a record store owner, who is struggling with a recent breakup and his love for music. The plot is a character-driven film that explores the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery and his quest to find true love. The movie is a ensemble-driven film, with a strong focus on the protagonist’s relationships with his friends and his love interest.
The music in the movie is a key element, with the film expertly portraying the protagonist’s love for music and his passion for collecting records. The film is a love letter to the world of music and the soundtrack is a perfect representation of the music of the 1990s.
12 School Of Rock (2003)
School Of Rock is a classic movie musical that is the perfect blend of comedy and rock and roll. The story follows Dewey Finn, a wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher and turns a class of straight-A students into a rock band. The chemistry between Jack Black and the child actors is undeniable, making for a truly entertaining and heartwarming film.
The music is catchy and upbeat, with memorable numbers such as “It’s a Long Way to the Top” and “Stick It to the Man.” The movie also showcases the power of music and how it can bring people together, making it a must-watch for music lovers and non-music lovers alike.
11 Walk The Line (2005)
A biographical drama film depicting the life of Johnny Cash, Walk the Line is a powerful and emotive film that explores the life of one of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century. The film tells the story of Cash’s rise to fame, from his humble beginnings in Arkansas to his rise as a country music superstar.
The film is a powerful exploration of the artist’s life, depicting the struggles and triumphs that shaped his career, as well as his personal relationships, including his marriage to June Carter. The music in the film is a highlight, with Joaquin Phoenix delivering a powerful and convincing performance as Cash, singing his hits with raw emotion and energy.
10 Control (2007)
Control is a biographical film that tells the story of Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division. The film is set in the 1970s and 1980s, depicting Curtis’s life from his teenage years to his untimely death at the age of 23. The film explores Curtis’s struggles with mental health, his relationships, and the rise of Joy Division.
The film is a unique and powerful dive into Curtis’s life, portraying the often dark and complex nature of the artist. The film’s soundtrack is a highlight, featuring Joy Division’s iconic songs that perfectly capture the mood of the film, making it a must-watch for fans of the band and music lovers alike.
9 Le Concert (2009)
The Concert (Le Concert) is a French film that tells the story of Andrei Filipov, a former conductor of the Bolshoi Orchestra who was fired for hiring Jewish musicians. The film is set in the present day, with Filipov now working as a cleaner in a Moscow concert hall. When the orchestra’s conductor falls ill, Filipov gets the chance to conduct the orchestra once again, and he assembles a group of his former colleagues to play in a concert in Paris.
The film is a heartwarming and funny story about second chances, friendship and the power of music. The film’s soundtrack is a highlight, featuring classical music that perfectly captures the mood of the film, making it a must-watch for fans of classical music.
8 Crazy Heart (2009)
This film tells the story of a down-on-his-luck country singer named Bad Blake, who is struggling to come to terms with his fading career, his past mistakes, and his growing alcoholism. The film explores the harsh realities of the music industry, as well as the personal struggles of a musician who has lost his way.
Crazy Heartis led by Jeff Bridges’ powerful performance as Blake, and also features standout performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell. The music in the film is also noteworthy, with original songs written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, which helped the film win an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
7 Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a unique blend of music, comedy, and fantasy. It tells the story of Scott Pilgrim, a slacker musician who must defeat seven evil exes in order to win the heart of his dream girl. The film is a visually stunning, action-packed, and comedic romp through the Toronto indie music scene.
The movie features a talented cast of actors, including Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Aubrey Plaza. The film also features an eclectic soundtrack, which ranges from garage rock to electronic music and perfectly captures the energy and vibe of the indie music scene.
6 Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
Inside Llewyn Davis tells the story of a struggling folk musician in the 1960s, who is struggling to make a name for himself in the New York City music scene. The film is a deeply atmospheric and melancholic exploration of the struggles of the artist, and the sacrifices that one must make in pursuit of their dreams.
The film is led by Oscar Isaac’s powerful performance as Llewyn Davis, and also features standout performances from Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, and Justin Timberlake. The film also features an outstanding soundtrack, which is filled with traditional folk songs, and was produced by T Bone Burnett, which helped the film win a Grammy award for Best Soundtrack.
5 Whiplash (2014)
Whiplash is a dramatic, intense film that takes an unflinching look at the cutthroat world of music education. The story follows a young drummer named Andrew, who is determined to become one of the greats. He enrolls in a prestigious music conservatory, where he becomes a student of the infamous Terence Fletcher, a demanding and abusive instructor who is determined to push his students to the brink.
The film explores the complex relationship between Andrew and Fletcher, as well as the intense pressure and competition that exists within the conservatory. The film is not only a story of ambition and perseverance but also of the sacrifices that one makes for their passion. The music in this film is a major element, the film is filled with powerful, intense drumming sequences that keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
4 Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Straight Outta Compton tells the story of the rise of N.W.A, one of the most influential and controversial hip-hop groups of all time. The film charts the group’s rise from the streets of Compton to the top of the charts, following their struggles with the music industry, the media, and the law. Along the way, we see the group’s members navigate the challenges of fame, fortune, and internal conflicts, as they create some of the most iconic and influential music of the late 20th century.
The film is a powerful and unflinching look at the birth of gangsta rap and the social and political issues that surrounded it. The music in this film is an integral element, the film is filled with iconic tracks and powerful performances that showcase the group’s impact on music and culture.
3 Her Smell (2018)
Her Smell is a chaotic, raw and intense film that follows the tumultuous life of a self-destructive punk rocker, Becky Something. The movie explores the highs and lows of fame, addiction, and the creative process through the lens of Becky’s career. The film captures the energy and intensity of the punk rock scene, showcasing an incredible performance by Elisabeth Moss as the troubled musician.
The film also features an original soundtrack that perfectly captures the mood of the story, with a mix of original songs and classic punk anthems. Her Smell is a powerful and unflinching look at the dark side of the music industry, and a must-see for fans of intense character studies and music-themed dramas.
2 CODA (2021)
CODA is a heartwarming and emotional film that tells the story of a young woman, Ruby, who is torn between her love for music and her duty to her hearing-impaired family. The movie explores themes of family, identity and the power of music through the eyes of Ruby, who is the only hearing member of her family. The film showcases stunning performances by Emilia Jones and Troy Kotsur, who play Ruby’s parents.
The music in the film is a mix of original songs and contemporary covers, with a focus on a cappella singing which adds to the emotional depth of the story. CODA is a beautifully crafted film that will leave audiences smiling, crying and humming along to its catchy and heartfelt soundtrack.
1 Elvis (2022)
Elvis is a biographical film that tells the story of the life and career of the “King of Rock and Roll”, Elvis Presley. The movie spans his early days as a struggling musician to his rise to fame and eventual downfall. The film features an all-star cast, including Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as his legendary manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
The film features an outstanding soundtrack that includes many of Elvis’ classic hits, as well as some lesser-known gems, that perfectly capture the spirit of the era. Elvis is a well-crafted and engaging film that provides a fascinating look into the life of one of the most iconic figures in music history and will leave audiences tapping their feet and humming along to the songs of the King.