From Documentaries to Mockumentaries, Dramas, Comedies, and Musicals, we cannot deny that music and musicians make great topics for movies. Stories of our favourite stars working their way to the top, with often many a stumble on the way up, to inspirational looks into what makes music an important part of our lives!
How often have you gone out and bought a movie soundtrack or perhaps even waited for the credits to see who wrote the music. Music and sound play play a critical role and is often what binds a movie together. Violins creaking and screeching indicate murderers lurking behind a door, about to pounce on unsuspecting victims. Evocative music can carry a film, lead you through the story, and stay with you for days. We can look into history changing soundtracks such as Ennio Morricone’s “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” in another post, but today we have rounded up a list of 50 movies about music or musicians that you can add to your movie list.
An innovative and revolutionary animated classic from Walt Disney, combining Western classical music masterpieces with imaginative visuals, presented with Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The eight animation sequences are colorful, impressive, free-flowing, abstract, and often surrealistic pieces. They include the most famous of all, Paul Dukas’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Mickey Mouse as the title character battling brooms carrying endless buckets of water. Also included are J.S. Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor”; Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite”; dinosaurs and volcanoes in Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”; the delightful “Dance of the Hours” by Ponchielli with dancing hippos, crocodiles, ostriches, and elephants; and Mussorgsky’s darkly apocalyptic “Night on Bald Mountain.” —Tim Dirks
Nicky and his friends find that their youth club is in danger of being flattened to make way for a new office block unless they can come up with £1500 to pay the new owner, the ruthless property tycoon Hamilton Black. To help raise the cash, Nicky records a song and his friends broadcast it via a pirate radio station, touting him as “The Mystery Singer” – the plan works and interest in their up and coming show is heightened by this new but unknown heart-throb. But Nicky has an even bigger secret and one that he cannot share, even with his girlfriend Toni. — Rhino
An intimate look at the Woodstock Music & Art Festival held in Bethel, NY in 1969, from preparation through cleanup, with historic access to insiders, blistering concert footage, and portraits of the concertgoers; negative and positive aspects are shown, from drug use by performers to naked fans sliding in the mud, from the collapse of the fences by the unexpected hordes to the surreal arrival of National Guard helicopters with food and medical assistance for the impromptu city of 500,000. – Dan Hartung
Pink Floyd filmed playing live in an ampitheatre in Pompeii. Several tracks from ‘Meddle’ as well as earlier LPs are included. Also includes interviews and clips of the band working at Abbey Road studios on what would become their landmark ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ release. — Scott Butler
In Berlin in 1931, American cabaret singer Sally Bowles meets British academic Brian Roberts, who is finishing his university studies. Despite Brian’s confusion over his sexuality, the pair become lovers, but the arrival of the wealthy and decadent playboy Maximilian von Heune complicates matters for them both. This love triangle plays out against the rise of the Nazi party and the collapse of the Weimar Republic. — Jwelch5742
Cracked Actor: A Film About David Bowie is a television documentary film about the musician David Bowie, made by Alan Yentob for the BBC’s Omnibus strand. It was first shown on BBC1 on 26 January 1975. It was filmed in 1974 when Bowie was struggling with cocaine addiction, and the documentary has become notorious for showing his mental state during this period.
This film is an excellent biography of Woody Guthrie, one of America’s greatest folk singers. He left his dust-devastated Texas home in the 1930s to find work, and discovered the suffering and strength of America’s working class. – L.H. Wong
The musical career of rock and roll pioneer Buddy Holly is chronicled, from the days when “Peggy Sue” was “Cindy Lou”, a song about his first girlfriend, to the meteoric run of “That’ll Be the Day” up the charts, to his marriage, breakup with the Crickets, reunion with the Crickets, and untimely death. – Jason A. Cormier
The Kids Are Alright is a 1979 rockumentary film about the English rock band the Who, including live performances, promotional films and interviews from 1964 to 1978. It notably features the band’s last performance with original drummer Keith Moon, filmed three months before his death at Shepperton Studios in May 1978. (wikipedia)
Urgh! A Music War is a 1982 British film featuring performances by punk rock, new wave, and post-punk acts, filmed in 1980. Among the artists featured in the film are Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD), Magazine, The Go-Go’s, Toyah Willcox, The Fleshtones, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, X, XTC, Devo, The Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Dead Kennedys, Gary Numan, Klaus Nomi, Wall of Voodoo, Pere Ubu, Steel Pulse, Surf Punks, 999, The Alley Cats, UB40, Echo & the Bunnymen and The Police. These were many of the most popular groups on the New Wave scene; in keeping with the spirit of the scene, the film also features several less famous acts, and one completely obscure group, Invisible Sex, in what appears to be their only public performance. (wikipedia) If you are a fan of the early 80’s this would be a time travel film back to the days of very early MTV.
The life, success and troubles of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as told by Antonio Salieri, the contemporaneous composer who was insanely jealous of Mozart’s talent and claimed to have murdered him. Claiming to have murdered the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the elderly Antonio Salieri recounts to a priest his dealings with the brilliant composer. Salieri was court composer to Austrian Emperor Joseph II when Mozart and he first met. The Emperor, a major patron of the arts, immediately commissioned Mozart to write an opera in German, rather than the customary Italian. Mozart is childish, arrogant, annoying and brilliant all at once and Salieri is simultaneously in awe and green with envy at his genius. Salieri uses Mozart’s difficult relationship with his father and his guilt over being a bad son to drive him slightly mad and into a downward spiral of ill health, leading to his death. – garykmcd
The band Spinal Tap first appeared in a video aired as part of a 1979 sketch comedy special called “The TV Show”, a project spearheaded by Rob Reiner and Michael McKean. Following this the movie was released as a spoof of a heavy metal band tour. The story follows the British band “Spinal Tap”, known as the loudest band in England on their comeback tour of America. “Hilarious behind-the-scenes footage is combined with faux-concert clips to breathe life into the imaginary group.- Greg Bole”
Biopic of the famed saxophone player, Charlie “Bird” Parker. Addicted to drugs from a young age, Parker suffered the corresponding highs and lows. Supported by his loving wife Chan (Diane Venora), who resisted attempts to have him placed in a mental institution, he continued to play his new style of music, revolutionizing jazz. – garykmcd
The story of the famous and influential 1960s rock band The Doors and its lead singer and composer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971.
Also known as Safe Journey. The journey of the Romany people told through musicians and dancers of India, Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain.
Pianist David Helfgott, driven by his father and teachers, has a breakdown. Years later he returns to the piano, to popular if not critical acclaim. – Jon Reeves
The true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose from cult status to performing at the Astrodome, as well as having chart topping albums on the Latin music charts.—Jojo Mac
After the death of her father, Little Voice, or “LV”, becomes a virtual recluse, never going out, and hardly ever saying a word. She just sits in her bedroom listening to her father’s collection of old records of Dame Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, and various other famous female singers. But at nighttime, LV sings, imitating these great singers with surprising accuracy. One night she is overheard by one of her mother’s boyfriends, who happens to be a talent agent. He manages to convince her that her talent is special and arranges for her to perform at the local nightclub, but several problems arise.—Lexicon – Perth, Western Australia
A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour. (IMDB)
A Polish Jewish musician struggles to survive the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto of World War II.—Kenneth Chisholm
Manchester 1976: Cambridge educated Tony Wilson, Granada TV presenter, is at a Sex Pistols gig. Totally inspired by this pivotal moment in music history, he and his friends set up a record label, Factory Records, signing first Joy Division (who go on to become New Order) then James and the Happy Mondays, who all become seminal artists of their time. What ensues is a tale of music, sex, drugs, larger-than-life characters, and the birth of one of the most famous dance clubs in the world, The Hacienda – a mecca for clubbers as famous as the likes of Studio 54. Graphically depicting the music and dance heritage of Manchester from the late 70’s to the early 90’s, this comedy documents the vibrancy that made Mad-chester the place in the world that you would most like to be. —IGB
A young rapper (EMINEM), struggling with every aspect of his life, wants to make it big but his friends and foes make this odyssey of rap harder than it may seem.
After being kicked out of his rock band, Dewey Finn becomes a substitute teacher of an uptight elementary private school, only to try and turn his class into a rock band. A funny and rocking tale for the whole family that showcases Jack Black’s talents.
Mockumentary captures the reunion of 1960s folk trio the Folksmen as they prepare for a show at The Town Hall to memorialize a recently deceased concert promoter.
The story of the life and career of the legendary rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles, from his humble beginnings in the South, where he went blind at age seven, to his meteoric rise to stardom during the 1950s and 1960s. The movie won two Oscars.
A chronicle of country music legend Johnny Cash‘s life, from his early days on an Arkansas cotton farm to his rise to fame with Sun Records in Memphis, where he recorded alongside Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Carl Perkins.
The film charts Walker’s career in music, with a focus on his songwriting, and features exclusive footage of recording sessions for his most recent album, The Drift including a memorable sequence in which Walker oversees the recording of the punching of a joint of pork, for the percussion on the song Clara. Rock legend David Bowie, who often professes to have been inspired by Walker, acted as executive producer of the film. (wikipedia)
Biopic of the iconic French singer Édith Piaf. Raised by her grandmother in a brothel, she was discovered while singing on a street corner at the age of 19. Despite her success, Piaf’s life was filled with tragedy.
The Wrecking Crew documents the work of studio players who recorded the tracks for such hits as “California Dreamin’“, “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’“, “Be My Baby“, “The Beat Goes On“, and “Good Vibrations“. Interviews with producers, engineers, and session musicians reveal the warmth and humor that allowed their collective talents to turn a simple chord chart into an international phenomenon.
Chico is a young piano player with big dreams. Rita is a beautiful singer with an extraordinary voice. Music and romantic desire unites them, but their journey – in the tradition of the Latin ballad, the bolero – brings heartache and torment.
The life and times of the rock band Queen – told in two parts covering in part one the 1970’s and in part two the 1980’s and beyond. Archive footage and interviews with band members help to explain the history of the influential band.
Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock n roller, Rodriguez. This film resulted in an Oscar win, and world wide fame for Sixto Rodriguez.
Beca, a freshman at Barden University, is cajoled into joining The Bellas, her school’s all-girls singing group. Injecting some much needed energy into their repertoire, The Bellas take on their male rivals in a campus competition. A fun fuelled feel-good musical comedy for the whole family.
Follow a week in the life of a young folk singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961. Guitar in tow, huddled against the unforgiving New York winter, he is struggling to make it as a musician against seemingly insurmountable obstacles – some of them of his own making. – Production
A promising young drummer enrols at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realise a student’s potential.
In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist Dr. Eugene Landy.
Drama and reality combine in a fictitious 24 hours in the life of musician and international cultural icon Nick Cave. With startlingly frank insights and an intimate portrayal of the artistic process, the film examines what makes us who we are, and celebrates the transformative power of the creative spirit. – Pulse Films
A documentary about the life and legend Nina Simone, an American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist labeled the “High Priestess of Soul.”
Archival footage and personal testimonials present an intimate portrait of the life and career of British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse.
The rap group NWA emerges from the mean streets of Compton in Los Angeles, California, in the mid-1980s and revolutionizes Hip Hop culture with their music and tales about life in the hood. Nominated for an Oscar.
A frank and honest account of George Michael‘s professional life and career, made by the man himself with various artists adding to the narrative.
A musician helps a young singer find fame as age and alcoholism send his own career into a downward spiral.
Vox Lux follows the rise of Celeste from the ashes of a major national tragedy to pop super stardom. The film spans 18 years and traces important cultural moments through her eyes, starting in 1999 and concluding in 2017. Starring Natalie Portman, the film looks at the cult of celebrity and the media machine in all its guts, grit and glory. Features the music of Sia.
A musical fantasy about the fantastical human story of Elton John‘s breakthrough years.
This intimate, in-depth look at Beyoncé’s celebrated 2018 Coachella performance reveals the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement.
So save or pin this list for future reference and add some compelling musical films to your repertoire. Perhaps you will learn something new and interesting about your favourite musician or your favourite genre of music!