Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (2023)

20. Big fireballs! (1989)

Some inspired castingsmade this biopic extremely watchable– and it's a film that doesn't fit into any scheme of the genre: the rise of the misfit or the tragic fall. Dennis Quaid is rock 'n' roll wild man Jerry Lee Lewis, the '50s rebel star who married his 13-year-old cousin Myra, played by Winona Ryder, much to the dismay of America and his other cousin, the preacher . Jimmy Swaggart played by Alec Baldwin. But Lewis remains unrepentant and defiant to the end. A riveting dramatization of how sex, evangelical passion and rock 'n' roll joy are intimately intertwined in the American family.

19. The Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

It was supposed to be a soundtrack album instead of a movie and the narration wasn't very good. But Diana Ross, making her film debut as an actress, delivered a passionate and deeply committed performance as Billie Holiday in this Motown-produced film opposite Richard Pryor and Billy Dee Williams. The film revolves around Holiday's childhood and her first two marriages, possibly avoiding the whole dark truth about her abuse. Even so, Ross sells it with complete dedication, especially in the prison scenes, and the singing is a rarity in musical biographies: a legendary singer played by a legendary singer.

18.Sid e Nancy(1986)

One of the great punk films because it leaves nothing to the boredom, disillusionment and misery that lurks behind punk's brief, impressive burst of anarchic rage. Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb give excellent performances as Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who lead a life of paralysis and misery in New York City's Chelsea Hotel after Sid is trapped following the Pistols' breakup. He craves heroin, just like that delicious superstar drug he was just getting used to.

17. Sweet Dreams (1985)

Crazy for trying... crazy for crying. Director Karel Reisz's bold and fierce attempt to dramatize the life of country star Patsy Cline, a film about Cline's friend Loretta Lynn, who may not have been able to fully escape the shadow of Michael Apted's coal miner's daughter. Jessica Lange brings a slender beauty to the role of Cline (aping Cline's own singing), and Ed Harris plays her husband, who, in sickeningly familiar fashion, beats her and is unable to accept her star status.

sixteen.rocket man(2019)

Produced by the man himself, Elton John's authorized biography ends disappointingly before the '90s and before he meets the true love of his life, David Furnish. Perhaps misleadingly, the classical music biopic's presentation of a dizzying rise followed by a drug/selfishness crisis and subsequent redemption boils down to just two-thirds of the journey. But Taron Egerton is a very playful Elton impersonator, singing all his voices himself, and Jamie Bell is his songwriter, Bernie Taupin. Part jukebox musical and part Andrew Lloyd Webber-style spectacle, the film is sure to be revived on stage in a post-Covid world.

15.straight out of compton(2015)

This explosive biopic about West Coast hip-hop pioneers NWA contains most of the genre's pivotal moments, but it also popularized a new music biopic: the chaotic showdown in the record company offices as the NWA takes over. and anger erupts at police brutality. in south Los Angeles. Ice Cube is played by his son O'Shea Jackson Jr. (an uncanny resemblance). The film takes a casual approach to the theme of sexism, but shows how its angry lyrics have become politicized in a new way of being nihilistic, apolitical and impartial, bringing down the white world of success. A musical biopic by turning the volume control clockwise.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (2)


Andy Serkis gives us an absolute blast with his wonderful portrayal of punk-era singer and polio survivor Ian Dury singing all of Dury's voices with his current band, the Blockheads. Naomie Harris plays Dury's partner; Tom Hughes plays their guitarist Chaz Jankel; Ray Winstone plays Dury's father in the flashback; and Toby Jones plays the mean nurse at the desolate polio hospital where Dury spent his childhood. Serkis, who also served as an executive producer, can be seen in nearly every frame of the film, fueling it with his wild energy. It's a bold, passionate image, and while it's a labor of love, it's never boring.

13. Accident (1994)

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Iain Softley's clever film about the Beatles' early days offers a roundabout way to get up close and personal with the music legends; The filmmakers could not afford to use copyrighted Lennon/McCartney music. A study of the hard life of the band performing in Hamburg in the early 1960s, the film focuses inconsistently on Stuart Sutcliffe (Steven Dorff), the member of the band who would die of a cerebral hemorrhage just as they were on the cusp of greatness. and his German girlfriend Astrid Kirchherr, played by Sheryl Lee. (This tragic aspect may have influenced Anton Corbijn's Control.) Ian Hart gives a crisp, elegant, and angular performance as John Lennon, who enjoys an intense, almost romantic friendship, with the convict Sutcliffe.

12.Last days(2005)

There is debate over whether or not Gus Van Sant's utterly, almost depressing, hypnotic film is a biopic. But other than the name, that's what it sounds like: a brilliantly daring dive into the tortured, unhappy mind of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain in his final hours, played by Michael Pitt, fictionalized as Blake, who stars in everything. Long, eerie, near-silent sequences show his sadness and desperate loneliness as he wanders restlessly through his chaotic mansion and surrounding wooded estate like a wounded animal. It's captivating and even moving to see Blake/Kurt, through sacrifice and pain, reach the edge of the cliff.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (3)

11.walk the line(2005)

It would take a heart of stone not to take advantage of it and fingers of stone not to follow it. There's a warm, generous richness to this biopic about country singing legend Johnny Cash. In this role, Joaquin Phoenix took a big leap in his career and Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar as his great love, June Carter (and Phoenix and Witherspoon sing all the songs). Director James Mangold tells a compelling story filled with historical detail about Cash's bleak childhood picking cotton in Depression-era Arkansas, his guilt over the death of a beloved brother, his unhappy military career and the strained marriage that culminated in his death. deep to the wails of a singing voice in Man in Black unveiled at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee. Witherspoon is brilliant as Carter, almost outshining Phoenix. It almost manages to convince the audience that it really is, or should be, all about her.

10.Good mood(2012)

Good Vibrations is a great music biography about someone who isn't a singer, musician, or even a producer. It's about a record store owner who became a small indie label owner in the halcyon days of punk and John Peel, when things like this could really matter. The heroine is Belfast business visionary Terri Hooley, played by Richard Dormer, who takes an enthusiastic turn to punk on the Undertones' live set and opens a record shop called Good Vibrations in the heart of divisional Belfast. sectaries between tribes. Irrelevant. This became the spiritual headquarters of punk in Northern Ireland and the starting point for the Undertones and their breakthrough single Teenage Kicks. The iconic real-life moment when Peel plays this record twice in a row creates a great scene in the film where the band misses the first time and is immediately incredulous and delighted to see him again.

9.Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story(1988)

that was the43-minute experimental film with no budget.with which young Todd Haynes became famous during the last years of Karen Carpenter's turbulent life. It used existing footage, featured dialogue scenes with Barbie dolls as the main characters and, most daring of all, used the original songs without copyright permission. (This financial obstacle is the reason why the genre of musical biographical films is generally reserved for the large studio films that can cover the expense of releasing an album with a soundtrack, and it was beyond the reach of independent filmmakers; this could be the case.they were the subject of David Bowie's new film, "Stardust"..) For all these reasons, Karen's brother Richard Carpenter filed a legal objection to the film in 1990 and it was overturned before it gained cult status on the internet. Carpenter fans around the world have come to realize that what Haynes' film really is is a bitter, if bizarre, love letter from a fan to Karen, and a radical deconstruction of Carpenter's mythology, fandom, and rhetoric. Haynes is doing a live-action remake right now.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (4)

8. The Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

british television directorMichael AptadoHe was already an important player, mainly thanks to his work atUp documentary series for British television, which followed the lives of 14 children from different backgrounds. This is a moving account of the life of country singer Loretta Lynn, from her rough beginnings in the hill country of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. The film was a huge success due to the magnificent performance of Sissy Spacek (who sang the themes herself and was personally cast in the role by Lynn), who is remarkably talented at acting for almost all ages, from her teens to her 20s. . Apted's Up documentaries were British-style about class chains, but this American story is about something else: social mobility and all that's possible. Spacek's Lynn achieves almost overnight success, rising out of abject poverty, mentored by Patsy Cline and married to a husband who, in fact, is not his usual bad brute, but an admittedly flawed human being, played by Tommy Lee Jones. Of course, there must be a crisis related to success.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (5)

7. What does love have to do with it? (1993)

Of all the musical biopic rules, the title of the famous song stands out in this 1993 biopic about superstar Tina Turner, played by Angela Bassett. It's about abuse, and not just the abuse that a hero or heroine in a musical biopic might endure as a child and then break free as an adult star, turning remembered pain into art, but the real, ongoing abuse that comes from that, the husband and singing partner who gave her her big break - in this case, Ike Turner, oddly played byLaurence Fishburne. And what does love have to do with it? anything and everything Tina was brutally abused by her husband for years, the abuse escalated with her success and fame and Ike's constant paranoia that she was better than him and that the public liked her better than him. In the end, she leaves bruised, bleeding and with only a few coins in her pocket, and asks a local hotel to let her stay until she recovers. It is this depiction of domestic violence, which can somehow remain invisible to the outside world and perhaps even the inner circle, that makes this film so powerful.

6. Road to Fame (1976)

Hal Ashby has created a biographical film about Steinbeckian music based on the fictionalized autobiography of minstrel and folk singer Woody Guthrie, played here by David Carradine, whose father John played preacher Casy in John Ford's The Grapes. A beautifully composed historical piece set in the American Dustbowl of the 1930s, it is comparable to, and possibly an inspiration for, early Terrence Malick.Chloe Zhao's new film, Nomadland. Musical biography as a genre can be politically conservative, since its sympathy and awareness of the outsider is only activated by the representation of a singer's humble past, and this awareness usually dies with the singer's success. Guthrie is shown leaving Oklahoma for work in California, traveling the railroad tracks, living among vagrants and laborers in their camps, and entertaining them with his songs. Experience the brutal exploitation of migratory fruit pickers and immerse yourself in their lives. But when he manages to sing songs about the situation on the radio, instead of advancing her career, she moves on, towards cities where her music can truly transform the lives of workers. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, Bound for Glory faced All the President's Men, Taxi Driver and Network, all losing to Rocky. is pink(2007)

Olivier Dahan's film about French singer Edith Piaf, which electrified audiences in France and around the world in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, can drive you to despair with its confusing narrative. The dizzying flashback/flashforward structure certainly represents a departure from the traditional biographical narrative of rise, crisis and return, but it seems intended to disguise the discreet omission of Piaf's life in wartime occupied France as it was in survival. cool with the nazis What a glorious performance by Marion Cotillard, who strangely transforms into the singer. She deftly impersonates the singer with that passionate vibrato, like the alarm of a crazy car, whose physical thinness and apparent fragility aroused such gallantry among her countrymen. He has bright eyes, tall hair, and sharp teeth that add even more scorn to the insults he hurls at his submissive entourage. And she walks too, in a sort of marionette motion, as if her elbows and her pelvis were invisibly connected.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (6) control(2007)

Photographer Anton Corbijn made an impressive directorial debut with Control, a black and white film about the life and hard times of Ian Curtis, lead singer of the new wave band Joy Division, who committed suicide in 1980, on the eve of his first birthday. . life in the United States. route. Suffering from epilepsy and depression, haunted by a failed marriage and the waves of violence and nihilism his music had unleashed, he was terrified of the rushing trainload of celebrities, none of whom he could control.Sam Rileystands out as the sensitive, intense and awkward Curtis; Samantha Morton is Ian's delicate and reserved wife, Deborah; and Alexandra María Lara plays the Belgian journalist Curtis falls in love with (Lara was supposed to marry Riley). In working-class and middle-class English decor, there are superbly executed kitchen sink-less film details, every detail captured with passion. It's a reminder that the late '70s, as hip as it seemed at the time, wasn't all that different from the decadent '50s or the hungry '40s.

3. Elvis (1979)

Originally filmed for television but later released in abridged form, John Carpenter's “Elvis” is a marvelous performance by 27-year-old Kurt Russell as a young Elvis Presley. The film follows his life from his earliest youth, with Shelley Winters as his mother, Gladys, through his superstar years, with Pat Hingle as Colonel Tom Parker, ending in 1970, at the dawn of the Las Vegas years and before the troubles of Weight. Russell is an unforgettably intense Elvis, playing a strong but subtly observed version of the speaking voice (but lip-synching to country singer Ronnie McDowell on the songs). It was his inspired and visible performance, just three years after Presley's death, that truly spawned the global phenomenon of Elvis impersonations, which endured in pubs, bars and bachelorette parties across the world, albeit largely without the ability to from Russell. It shows Elvis' intensity, instability and complex emotional pain.


Director Taylor Hackford's simple commemorative film has arguably become the gold standard for a classic music biopic, due in large part to Jamie Foxx's outstanding performance as R&B and soul singer Ray Charles, who went blind when he was nine but grew up. with Horatio. Algiers. selling star record Foxx himself is not a bad singer, although he lip-syncs to the soundtrack original. Charles himself advised on the film's development until his death shortly before its theatrical release. Foxx delivers a virtuosic performance as Charles, eerily replicating his physical movements and idiosyncrasies, especially the undulating walk, somewhere between the caution of a blind man and the arrogance of a star. Angled and seemingly unwieldy focal points on the shoulders and elbows consistently provide balance and control; The subtle figure-of-eight head movement is an aural exploration of the physical environment that unfolds over the piano keyboard in an ecstatic affirmation of the music. Charles is shown experimenting with many forms of music: blues, country, R&B, rock 'n' roll, and most notably gospel. In a way, the entire movie is a lecture to Ray Charles.

Top 20 Music Biographies, Ranked! (7)

1. Funny Girl (1968)

Barbra Streisand made her film debut here with her Academy Award-winning performance, setting the stage for enduring love among fans the world over. Sensationally playing singer and pre-war comedy star Fanny Brice, she transforms Brice's ridiculous transformation into an extraordinary and unique personality who combines glamor and modernity in an accessible way. Perhaps no musical biography in history offers such a transformation: not the meticulously observed and obsequious re-creation of a well-known star who normally appears in the genre, but a re-creation or reinvention that is instantly more famous than the original. Almost a legend, Hollywood veteran William Wyler made a film that didn't have much to do with the '60s, but had roots in Broadway (the film is based on the hit show) as well as cinematic lore. the music has spanned the last three decades. "Funny Girl" has a big biographical musical component or flaw: it's about the main act and everything else around it is subservient. Even Streisand's stunning leading man, Omar Sharif, is a little quiet. But Streisand is everything: Her talent, femininity, Jewish identity, sexuality and vulnerability are presented with over-the-top glee, and her songs are, of course, enticing — "Don't Rain on My Parade" in particular. ".


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