With the release of Love and Mercy this weekend, I was thinking about other types of movies like it. For those who don’t know, this one showcases the life story of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, told through two different actor portrayals, Paul Dano as young Brian and John Cusack as the older version. It’s been getting great reviews and I can’t wait to see it. Every year there seems to be one of these movies that chart the rise and fall stories of out favorite musicians. Last year it was Jersey Boys, a fun musical ride I can’t recommend enough. But it got me thinking what the best music bio films are. After looking around and doing some research, here’s what I came up with.
1). The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
To look at Gary Busey today, you really have to use your imagination on how he could possibly play Buddy Holly. Thirty-five years ago, he earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal, singing all the songs and playing the legendary rock star perfectly. We get an insight of how Rock and Roll was kick started and brought to the masses by Holly and the Crickets up to the fateful plane crash that killed him and fellow musician Ritchie Valens who’s subject to another music film called La Bamba.
2). Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
If you’re an old country fan, you know Loretta Lynn and her soulful heartbreaking songs about the simple life such as the film’s title song “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. Sissy Spacek did win an Oscar for her portrayal of the country queen and Tommy Lee Jones showed range with his goofy but charming husband role; Beverly D’Angelo even plays Patsy Cline perfectly. It’s a masterpiece for all country music lovers and will surely stun you with its honest rags to riches story.
3). Amadeus (1984)
You probably didn’t see this one coming, but it only goes to show you these types of movies are usually done well. Amadeus tells the incredible story of Mozart and the rivalry between him and Salieri, though a lot of it was intensified for plot purposes. Still, we can’t argue with Tom Hulce’s memorizing performance. The film earned Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars for F. Murray Abraham. Classical music lovers, this is a must watch!
4). The Doors (1991)
I had to throw a little classic rock in there. Oliver Stone charts the entire career of the sixties band up until Morrison’s death. Lude, crude, shocking, and best of all dramatic and intense, I had never known there was so much tension in the band until watching this film. Best of all, it focus’ on Jim Morrison played by Val Kilmer in a role he was seemingly born to play. We can’t help but feel for the guy and shake our heads as he descends deeper into madness. And obviously there are a lot of Door’s songs throughout the movie as well. Oh, and Meg Ryan!!
5). Ray (2004)
Though I’ll never forgive Jamie Foxx for winning the Oscar over Leo DiCaprio that year, I still have to appreciate the incredible mannerisms Foxx manages to pull off as Ray Charles here. Soulful and entertaining because of the brilliant performance, Ray is your classical biopic that charts a single person through their career, overcoming obstacles and becoming legend. Maybe I can forgive Foxx just this once for his Oscar win… he practically became Charles which is what you want to see in a movie like this.
6). Walk the Line (2005)
Everyone seems to have seen this one. It’s a near perfect biopic that has Joaquin Phoenix shining as the country music legend Johnny Cash. Reese Witherspoon picked up an Oscar for playing June Carter. Together, they released an album of Johnny’s hit songs and the best thing about it is a lot of people couldn’t tell the difference. Deep, moving, and most of all entertaining, Cash’s life story just looks so good put onto film.
7). I’m Not There (2007)
Okay, so it’s a little allegorical but this is as close as were going to come to seeing Bob Dylan’s life on the big screen. Seven different actors portray him at a different stage in his life including Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and the Oscar nominated Cate Blanchett who is undoubtedly the best part of the film. A little hard to understand at times, it actually barely references Dylan but still paints a picture of the 1960’s music scene and his impact.
Have any favorites I missed? Leave comments below on your favorite music movies and go check out Love and Mercy in theaters now.