Movies That Rock: They’ve Got the Beat: The All-Time Best Films About Music

By Ross Bonaime, Staff Writer

Last Wednesday, Michael Jackson’s final concert opus, This Is It, was released to rave reviews and sold-out showings.

On Nov. 13, Pirate Radio, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, about DJs going out to sea to broadcast illegal rock and roll radio to ‘60s England, will be released.

With this recent rise in music in movies, here are the top 10 movies about music:

10. School of Rock

What would happen if Jack Black took over a private school’s music class? Probably what happens in School of Rock.

The film shows the educational power that all types of music can have on children and that Black would make a pretty great music teacher.

9. 8 Mile

At the height of Eminem’s musical career, Marshall Mathers made his stunning film debut as underground rapper B-Rabbit and won an Oscar for best song.

The film builds around his constant struggles until finally they burst into a breathtaking musical performance that hits the viewers as hard as life has hit him.

8. I’m Not There

Todd Haynes decided to flip typical rock biographies like Ray and Walk the Line by having six different actors, including a fantastic performance by Cate Blanchett, as Bob Dylan in different points of his life.

This unconventional film is a refreshing look at the folk singer’s career and the personas he created for himself.

7. Yankee Doodle Dandy

James Cagney’s performance as patriotic songsmith George M. Cohan is widely considered to be one of the greatest musician biographies of all time.

Cagney shines as the charismatic musician and makes this one of the most classic music movies ever.

6. DiG!

Documentarian Ondi Timoner followed two bands, The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, for seven years.

What resulted was the success of The Dandy Warhols, the downward spiral of BJM, the destruction of the friendship between the two bands and just how far some will go to make the great music they want.

5. The Jazz Singer

“You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!” Al Jolson proclaimed as the first words heard in “talkie” films. And he was completely right.

Jolson plays the son of Jewish parents who want him to follow his father’s footsteps as a Jewish cantor, but Jolson wants to be a song-and-dance man.

The film finally made it possible for audiences to not only see but hear what was going on in the great musicals.

4. Moulin Rouge

Baz Luhrmann’s spastic take on turn of the century France takes a look at the popular club that nightly features the revolutionaries of Bohemian art.
Satine (Nicole Kidman) plays the beautiful courtesan that young playright Christian (Ewan McGregor) falls in love with.

Luhrmann’s use of modern pop songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Like a Virgin” brought new life to the City of Lights in this tragic tale.

3. This is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner’s mockumentary about a ridiculous metal band is great not just because it is hilarious but also because it’s so similar to the actual bands of the time.

Reiner documents Spinal Tap as they go on their latest tour. What follows is one of the worst tours ever and one of the funniest comedies of all time.

2. High Fidelity

Record store owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) has just been dumped by his girlfriend Laura, leaving him to create his list of top five girlfriends of all time.

Gordon ponders which came first for him, the music or the misery, as his vast record collection and the lessons he’s learned from them help him cope with the loss of his latest love in this romantic comedy.

1. Almost Famous

The story of underage journalist William Miller who starts writing for Rolling Stone and starts touring with up-and-coming rock band Stillwater is actually based on the childhood events of director Cameron Crowe as he followed around various rock bands in his youth.

William’s love for the music brings him to meet legendary “Band-Aid” Penny Lane (Kate Hudson).

Crowe beautifully shows young love, not only for Penny, but also for the music in this lovely look at the legendary rock music of the ‘70s.

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