Movies and music are two wonderfully different but thoroughly fulfilling art mediums that each extend out across the globe. The sheer variety of movies and songs make it easy for everyone to pick their favorites, but the true magic is revealed once both music and cinema combine as one.
Sure, movies have soundtracks and scores. And there are quite a few songs written about film and television. Once in a while, we get a movie centered around music in general. These movies have musical themes, and often feature major characters that are invested in musical fields. There have been many such films released over the years, but there are only a handful that stand out from the bunch.
10. 'Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping'
Unfortunately, we live in a musical era where some of the biggest songs are engineered hits, and true musicians struggle to find an audience. It seems like popular artists are breaking headlines every month with crazy antics, and Andy Samberg makes fun of all of them in Popstar.
The film highlights the last several years of chart-topping music, and Samberg's character picks apart the lifestyle piece by piece. The movie is packed full of cameos from comedians and musicians, including Seal, Adam Levine, and Usher. If you've ever been frustrated with modern pop music, Popstar shows you that you're not alone.
9. 'This Is Spinal Tap'
Before Rob Reiner went on to direct The Princess Bride and A Few Good Men, he created one of the best mockumentaries that the world has ever seen. In a satirical rag on classic rocker groups, This Is Spinal Tap follows Spinal Tap through their fictional progression as a band, covering their time on-stage and off-stage.
Rock music is one of the most popular genres, and This Is Spinal Tap highlights the genre during its golden age. If you want a movie with plenty of laughs and classic rock, look no further.
8. 'Tenacious D In The Pick Of Destiny'
Yes, I agree that Tenacious D may not be the most popular band in the world. The comedy rock duo has many die-hard fans, but there are also those who criticize their vulgar style. However, their feature film is something that all rock 'n roll fans can appreciate.
Jack Black and Kyle Gass star as themselves in a quest to locate the Pick of Destiny, a Satanic relic supposedly responsible for the success of past rock stars. The movie features loads of cameos, including rock idols Ronnie James Dio and Dave Grohl. Even if you're not a Jack Black fan, try listening to "Beelzeboss" without bobbing your head. I dare you.
7. 'Straight Outta Compton'
Truthfully, I'm not the biggest fan of hip-hop music. That being said, this N.W.A. biopic made me respect the genre more than ever. The story is intense and brutal, showcasing the struggle of five young men in Compton. They let their voices be heard through their songs in a real-life story that shows the power of music.
Even if you're not a hip-hop fan, this movie is worth watching for its historical impact alone. Not many artists have made the impact that N.W.A. have, but they made it possible for musicians to stand up for themselves through song.
6. 'Sing Street'
I almost included School of Rock, since a story of a bunch of kids banding together to make music is a terrific one. Then I remembered a recent release that was sorely under-appreciated, yet featured a similar plot. Sing Street is about a boy who has a crush on a girl, and wants to impress her by forming a band. What purer story is there?
The music they play is very upbeat and catchy, and they start pumping out hits in no time. Even though the boy's father doesn't approve of his efforts, he uses the band to find friendship and love. For any fans of '80s-style movies and stories of young love, this is the one for you.
5. 'August Rush'
Watching full-grown adults expose their musical talent is one thing, but watching a child prodigy is something so much more. In August Rush, Freddie Highmore plays a boy separated from his musically-talented parents at a young age. When he goes on a quest to find them, he discovers that his own extraordinary talent might be the key to making his family whole again.
As far as inspirational stories go, this one makes the Hall of Fame. August Rush makes you appreciate how much music is in the world around you in your day-to-day life. Music isn't just something you play, it's something you experience, and with a movie that includes a severely underrated performance by Robin Williams, this movie is an experience worth having.
There are so many genres of music, each with its own style and sound. Country has acoustic instruments and deep Southern drawls. Heavy metal has screams, guitar solos, and double-bass pedals. Dubstep has flashing lights and bass-drops. Sometimes, music means not having to draw within the lines. Sometimes musicians can find their own unique sounds, like Frank did.
Frank is all about non-conformity. The film follows a band of misfits that embrace their own individual sound. They make their own music, their own way, without bowing to the societal norm. With bizarre performances and a one-of-a-kind soundtrack, the film itself stands out from the rest of the usual theatrical releases, and it is definitely a masterpiece worth your time.
3. 'La La Land'
How do musicians become musicians? It's simple. They had a dream, and they followed it. That's what La La Land is all about. Seb and Mia are two young starry-eyed dreamers who see Los Angeles as their big chance. Mia wants to be an actor and Seb longs to open up a proper jazz club. Their paths cross, and they work towards their dreams together, until they start to lose motivation.
La La Land is a soulful film with incredible music and memorable performances. It's one of those movies that you can watch over and over again and find something new to love every time. It's a love letter to music and musicians alike, and it deserves every Oscar nomination that it received.
2. 'Inside Llewyn Davis'
Music, like cinema, is considered to be one of the arts. With the arts, comes struggle. Llewyn Davis shows us that from the very first scene. One second, he's up on stage singing a beautiful folk song, and next he's getting mercilessly beaten in an alleyway. Thus is the life of an artist.
Llewyn perseveres through trial after trial, sleeping on a couch every night and struggling to scrounge up enough money for food, all the while trying to find his big break. Sometimes when we listen to music, we don't think about what the artist had to go through in order to find success. Inside Llewyn Davis humanizes musicians and reminds us of their struggle in a deep and thoughtful way.
Any musician who has ever had a lesson knows that not all instructors are filled with sunshine and rainbows. Not every tutor will give you a participation award just for showing up. Fletcher, played brilliantly by J.K. Simmons, is a jazz instructor set on pushing his musicians to be the very best. Most of the time, that means verbal assault and violence.
Miles Teller plays Andrew, an ambitious jazz drummer who is determined to be one of the greats. Under Fletcher's tutelage, Andrew is pushed to his limits, and he has to decide whether the effort is worth the trouble. The movie teaches determination in a very unique way and paves through to an emotionally and musically charged finale that really pays off.
What is the best music-themed movie?
Music is a wonderful thing, and these films have given us a whole new way to appreciate the craft. There are many more musical movies out there, so which ones would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below!