The ten best music biopics
Word came down recently that André 3000 of Outkast will be playing the highly influential Jimi Hendrix in a biopic called All Is By My Side, which centers on the iconic guitarist's early years. With inspired and estimable casting like this, it made us think about the other memorable biopics that have been made in recent years focusing on everyone from the Doors and Ray Charles to Tina Turner and Ian Curtis. Keep reading for a rundown of the ten best music biopics.
10. Great Balls of Fire!
Like Wyatt Earp and Dragonheart, Great Balls of Fire! is one of the few movies where Dennis Quaid didn't play a boring character you forgot about before you even walked out of the theater. As realistic as a PG-13 movie can get, this movie doesn't show the darker and unpleasant side of Jerry Lee Lewis's Lolita-like love story, but it recreates legendary events like burning a piano at a fun full-tilt speed -- similar to his music.
Unfortunately there is a severe shortage of hip-hop biopics in the music world (hint, hint moviemakers), but of the few, Notorious stands out, highlighting the life of Biggie Smalls (aka Christopher Wallace). The movie illustrates more of Biggie's struggle in every day life than the musical icon he became, giving the story a more human quality. With a virtually unknown cast, Notorious also notably reflects the people in Biggie's life with actors who give them an uncanny representation.
8. I'm Not There
As far-out and experimental as Dylan himself, I'm Not There is a film about his life played by six actors, including Cate Blanchett. This movie isn't for the average movie watcher looking for a linear account of a musician. Instead, it is a jumble of scenes about the affect Dylan had on people he crossed paths with.
7. Walk the Line
Before Joaquin Phoenix went off his rocker in I'm Still Here, he played the Johnny Cash like a man enraptured in a burning ring of fire in Walk the Line. This movie could have easily been called The Man in Black due to a large lump of the story taking place after a brief pluck of his childhood on a cotton farm. The large amount of detail and storytelling put into this film makes it memorable and enjoyable -- even for the uninitiated who have never listened to Cash's music.
6. What's Love Got to Do With It
After walking away from this movie, you should be inspired to take on the world with as much fire as Tina Turner and as much blitzkrieg as road warriors in a Thunderdome. This movie takes you up from the shitty childhood of Turner to the peaks of a successful music career, and then back down to an abusive relationship that then left her free but penniless after twenty years. But she ultimately rises from the ashes with the comeback song "What's Love Got to Do With It."
5. 24 Hour Party People
British comedian Steve Coogan was unknown in the U.S. when 24 Hour Party People was released in 2002. The film focuses on two decades of the Manchester music scene, starting with the birth of punk, and wraps it comically and tightly together in under two hours with a story that revolves around the evolving scene and Factory Records. (Nerd alert: Andy Serkis is also in this movie, but not as a J.R.R. Tolkien character.)
4. The Doors
It's hard to believe that Iceman (aka Val Kilmer), who looked like a direct descendant of Jim Morrison with long brown hair (not short douchey blond hair), would be up to playing the pretentious stage rat, but in hindsight, who else could have pulled it off? This, along with other great casting and the unique directing style of Oliver Stone, lit the fire of the music of the Doors in the wonderfully strange days of the late '60s and early '70s.
Control centers around the short-lived life and times of Joy Division frontman Ian Curits, putting the eyes of the viewer at the doorstep of his drugged-down, depressing rollercoaster, in-between episodes of epilepsy-hindered shows. Even though Control was far from being the feel good movie of the year, Sam Riley was able to enter the character of Curtis like he was transmitting his dead soul from beyond the grave.
2. Sid & Nancy
Even the brief appearance of Courtney Love in Sid & Nancy couldn't shoot down the raunchy, realistic love tangle of Sid Vicious, played by Gary Oldman, and the wild-child by his side, Nancy, portrayed by Chloe Webb. No shit, this movie is inevitably tragic, but it's also as rebellious, drug induced and chaotic as a Sex Pistols show.
In his prime as a comedian, Jamie Foxx had a full repertoire of impeccable impersonations, including Ray Charles, whom he went on to play many years later with dramatic flair in Ray. Born to play this role, Foxx turned in a performance that essentially launched his acting career. Like a Daniel Day-Lewis film, Ray is one of those movies where it's hard to pay attention to anything else other than Jamie Foxx who transcends everything in the film.
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