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12 Best Musician Movies of All Time

Updated March 27, 2018
7 min read

Musicians don’t have it easy – hours of rehearsals, practice and a long arduous climb till they are recognized or they make it big in the music scene. However, for the ones at the top – they are immortalized, almost treated as gods and it doesn’t take much imagination to believe that there would be movies made about them. Movies made on music is a rare occasion where two arts come together, beautifully, and we have some fantastic films that glorify the stars of music or tell a story about a particular musical genre. Here is the list of top movies about famous musicians ever. You can watch some of these movies about musicians on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. Many of these movies are about classical musicians, whereas others are about jazz, band and rock musicians.

12. Love & Mercy (2014)

This film about Beach Boys’ leader Brian Wilson is sure to give you the good vibrations! The title is taken from Brian’s 1988 song and the plot is split between the 1960s and 1980s with Paul Dano playing Brian in the 60s and John Cusack playing the role in the 80s. The film explores Brian’s panic attacks and subsequent treatments all the while tracing his trajectory with the band. A finely made film, the movie will, of course, appeal to Beach Boys’ lovers but will at the same time give you a glimpse into the creative process of a genius composer who perhaps did not get as much recognition as he should have.

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11. Sid and Nancy (1986)

Directed by Alex Cox, this film explores the life of Sid Vicious, best known for being the bassist of Sex Pistols but also rather well known for his heroin addiction. The film stars Gary Oldman as Sid and Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen, the heroin-addicted love affair that would destroy two lives. A dramatic but thorough look into the downward spiral of Sid’s life right up to the moment of his death, exploring how the band broke up and how Sid’s violent streak worsened as he moved from heroin to meth and an array of drugs. The film shows the wild side of musician’s lives and the kind of rough wildness that has come to be associated with punk music.

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10. Loud Quite Loud: A Film About the Pixies (2006)

This film which came out after ten years of a messy break up for the band sees them on their ’04 tour. The documentary style of the movie serves as a close inside look into the band’s touring right unto their last stint. While the post break up band members aren’t overtly hostile they do not come across as a fully functioning unit either and the film makes it clear that one shouldn’t expect a reunion. Nonetheless the professionalism of the band and the passion of the fans makes this movie a memorable experience.

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9. Soaked In Bleach (2015)

The documentary drama that explores the last days of Kurt Cobain right up to his suicide is told from the perspective of Tom Grant, Courtney’s hired private detective. The movie is an excellent dramatization of the last few days and combines real interviews to give the film a realistic feel. The title which borrows from Cobain’s song ‘Come As You Are’ speaks of acceptability and the film boldly explores the possibility of Cobain’s death not being a suicide. A fantastic look into the great absurdist lyricist and lead member of Nirvana, this movie is a must see for grunge fans.

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8. Born to be Blue (2015)

Ethan Hawke stars in this film and plays the role of Chet Baker. The film follows Baker’s life for the most part but does take liberties. The thorough decision to turn the jazz maestro’s life onto the screen ensures that we are made aware of the numerous women Baker dated and the early childhood days of trouble and days that needed sheer will on his part to be one of the finest jazz musicians that the world has seen.

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7. Straight Outta Compton (2015)

2015 was a pretty good year for films dealing with music and it saw the release of the most anticipated Straight Outta Compton, a film dealing with the gangster rap group NWA. The film is an insightful look into the dynamics of the group and the kind of background they came from and how it affected their music. An excellent movie involving some of the known names of the industry including Dr Dre and Ice Cube, this movie is one of the best about R&B and Hip Hop.

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6. 8 Mile (2002)

The title of the film derives from 8 Mile road a stretch of road that connects a predominantly white and a predominantly black neighborhood. The film explores Jimmy Smith’s childhood, the young boy living in a trailer in Michigan, a white boy who’d go on to dominate the hip hop scene at that time predominantly starring black people. A fine movie about struggles, family issues and a background into Eminem’s mind and lyrics this movie remains a fine masterpiece about a musician.

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5. Amadeus (1984)

Based on one of the greatest music composers in the world Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, this film is directed by Milos Forman. The film follows Mozart’s stay in Vienna and his rivalry with Salieri. The film is one of the finer films made on music, featuring Mozart’s music heavily and it gets the latter 18th century set design just right. The audiences are in for a visual and auditory treat with this film.

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4. I’m Not There (2007)

Directed by Todd Haynes, this movie is a very unique look at one of the most unique figures in music – Robert Zimmerman better known as Bob Dylan. The film follows a non linear narrative and stars a host of extremely talented actors from Cate Blanchett to Heath Ledger to Christian Bale. They all play the same person in effect since the personas they portray are the various versions of Dylan’s own characters that he put out in public. A movie that will make you think and force you to introspect much like Dylan’s music, this movie is an excellent homage to the great man.

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3. The Doors (1991)

Directed by Oliver Stone we might as well guess that this movie follows the band The Doors. The film in truth focuses more on the lead singer and songwriter – Jim Morrison, the poet who the world fell in love with. Played by Val Kilmer, Stone’s film has focused its thrust on the general hedonistic lifestyle of Jim rather than getting bogged down in specifics. Although the film has received mixed reviews from some quarters it remains one of the best movies on the music scene of that period and an insightful look into the mind of the American poet.

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2. Walk The Line (2005)

The film about Johnny Cash takes its name from Cash’s famous song. The film handles the volatile singer’s life rather safely. It explores the relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter and how the singer kept on loving her despite all the drug problems, all the fame. A good look at music of the time and Cash’s attachment with the quartet which starred Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, the movie has some excellent songs and Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon does a wonderful job playing the legendary singing duo.

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1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

One of the greatest films on music – the movie stars John, Paul, George and Ringo as themselves during the height of Beatlemania. The film follows the band through a few days of their hectic life as they manage the adoration of fans and the schedule of concerts while dealing with various mishaps along the way. A comic brilliance handled in a typical British manner this movie remains critically and commercially acclaimed for good reason.

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