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Here Are 10 Essential Movies About Music

Music, or the lack of it, is a driving force behind every movie, An appealing synchronization of music and moving images adds the emotive zeal to a movie-viewing experience. Films about music are cinema paying a tribute to music at its best. While a biopic may shed light on the extraordinary lives of musical luminaries the world has seen, a musical or a plot revolving around music can also prove to be a winsome watch.

Music, being a unifying vehicle, surpasses the traditional limits between groups of humans, including race, gender, and religion. Here are ten such movies about music, across genres and biopics, that are essential for a film lover’s experience.

Related: 15 Greatest Movies About Jazz

10 Ray

Universal Pictures

Chronicling the life of the American singer and musician Ray Charles, Ray is a time-tested movie on music that is a must-watch for cinephiles and music lovers. Jamie Foxx’s performance as Ray Charles was hailed by critics as one of the best performances of his career, and for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. The film focuses on around three decades of Ray Charles’ life, right from his early childhood years in Florida, across his rise to fame and towards significant milestones in his career.

With a screenplay written by James L. White, the film was directed by Taylor Hackford, who took almost 15 years to develop the film and secure financing. Ray went on to receive success at the box office and continued to be regarded as one of the best biopics on a musician of our times.

9 Whiplash

Miles Teller punches his drums, Whiplash (2013).
Blumhouse / Sony Pictures

Damien Chazelle scored appreciation worldwide for his directorial film Whiplash, a powerhouse of a film on music. Miles Teller and J.K Simmons drew extensive praise for their leading roles in the film. The movie portrays the story of Andrew Neiman, a drummer in New York City who aspires to achieve greatness in sync with his idol, Buddy Rich. The conductor of his band at the Shaffer Conservatory, Terence Fletcher, is a strict disciplinarian who uses a non-traditional approach to training his students, even going to the extent of abusing them.

The story depicted in Whiplash isn’t the usual story of a teacher-disciple ending on a motivational note. It’s a tale of grit, passion, manipulation, and sheer willpower. Whiplash, while being a commercial success, has also sealed its fate as a must-watch flick due to its inherent trait of being a musical tribute, sharp editing, and glorious performances. J.K Simmons bagged all the reputed awards for his role, including a BAFTA, Oscar and a Golden Globe, while Tom Cross won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

Sound of Metal - Riz Ahmed
Amazon Studios

A musician gone deaf. This is what the plot of Sound of Metal is all about, albeit with deeper connotations. Co-written and directed by Darius Marder, the film follows a couple, Ruben and Lou, who are both into music as a drummer and singer, respectively. Things start going downhill after Ruben experiences hearing loss and struggles to cope with the following predicaments. Recuperating from a past drug addiction, a concerned girlfriend, and the looming deafness, Ruben fights to keep up with life.

The film ends up being a beautiful take on the passion for music and the seeming possibility of a silent world in the life of a musician. Riz Ahmed’s role as Ruben was critically acclaimed, and the film drew widespread praise worldwide, receiving several Academy Award nominations. It premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2019, followed by a theatrical and digital release in 2020.

7 8 Mile

8_Mile 1200 x 630
Universal Pictures

8 Mile featured the debut performance of the rapper Eminem, who also starred as the lead character. The film, although a fictional account, had several real-life segments from Eminem’s own life, including the title of the film, 8 Mile, which was indicative of the road near which he grew up. It tracked the story of the lead character Jimmy, an aspiring rapper living a hapless life devoid of money in the city of Detroit. Popularly known by his stage name B-Rabbit, Jimmy’s inspiring journey throughout rap battles in Detroit features as the movie’s main theme.

Eminem’s role in the film drew critical acclaim, while the song he composed and sang for the movie, “Lose Yourself,” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It ruled the charts after its release and won two Grammy Awards as well.

6 This Is Spinal Tap

A scene from This is Spinal Tap
Embassy Pictures

A comedy film heralded as a cult classic, This Is Spinal Tap is a film which popularized the mockumentary style of filmmaking. With a multicast including Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, the film sketched the events occurring on the US tour of a British rock band, Spinal Tap, while they were being documented by a filmmaker Martin Di Bergi.

The three lead actors of the film co-wrote the movie with the director, Rob Reiner. Full of riotous and funny depictions of the workings of a rock band, the movie resonated with several real-life musicians who accorded approval to many of the scenes. Rob Reiner, who was making his feature directorial debut with the film, had known the three actors from before and had collaborated with them earlier on an episode of a TV show. Over the years, This is Spinal Tap has become culturally significant with music fans and experts.

5 School Of Rock

Jack Black in School of Rock
Paramount Pictures

One should not miss School of Rock at any cost if they are a music enthusiast. Jack Black plays the role of a fired band member, Dewey Finn, who impersonates a substitute teacher in a school. The movie, directed by Richard Linklater, navigates through his attempts at converting the studious children of the class into fans of music and skilled musicians. He helps some of them overcome their insecurities and assembles the students to form a rock band for a Battle of The Bands concert.

The movie is funny at times and motivational in sections while addressing the need to get what one sets their heart on in life. The writer of the film, Mike White, got the idea for the plot from the Langley Schools Music Project. As one looks back at School of Rock, the realization dawns how music was the single binding factor for a class brimming with diverse kids.

4 Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis
CBS Films

The Coen Brothers work their magic on this musical film, set in the early 1960s in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Inside Llewyn Davis unveils the story of a struggling folk singer Llewyn Davis, who at the time of the American folk music revival, grapples to survive in the city with no money and limited sales of his solo album. He also deals with personal muddles and the increasingly competitive folk music scenario at the time.

The cinematography of the film is hauntingly beautiful, but what stands out is the film’s soundtrack. Several songs in the film’s album are inspired by those of Dave Van Ronk, who was taken as the main reference for the character of Davis. Critics greatly praised Oscar Isaac’s performance, as he successfully delivered the nuanced disappointment of a struggling singer who only had his music for company.

3 Amadeus

Mozart conducting in Amadeus
The Saul Zaentz Company

A recipient of eight Academy Awards, Amadeus is a fictionalized account of a seeming rivalry between the celebrated composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. The writer, Peter Shaffer, adapted the film’s script from his 1979 play of the same name. The filmmakers of the film took creative liberties to weave an entertaining tale around the lives of the two composers, but the neat storytelling, along with the career-defining performances by the lead characters, has ensured a place in history for the film.

The collaboration between Shaffer and the director Miloš Forman was widely praised, while F. Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. It also sealed its fate as a box office success on its release in 1984.

2 The Blues Brothers

A scene from The Blues Brothers where the two men are looking grim in the city.
Universal Pictures

The Blues Brothers were inspired by the lead actors’ Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi’s earlier band of the same name, which was created as a part of a Saturday Night Live sketch in the late 1970s. The original band had gained significant prominence back then, and Belushi and Aykroyd decided to create a film based on the two characters Jake and Elwood Blues. Aykroyd co-wrote the film with director John Landis. Several original members of the band were also cast in the film, with many other actors and musicians. The Blues Brothers was acclaimed for its musical numbers, grippy plot, and humorous take, with special applause for the car chase scenes.

Related: These Are Some of the Best Movies About Musicians

1 24 Hour Party People

Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People
Pathé Distribution

24 Hour Party People is a popular biographical film covering the changing music scenes in Manchester from the 70s to the early 90s. The movie is based on the life of television presenter and Factory Records owner Tony Wilson, while several members of real bands of that era make appearances in the film. As a record label owner, Tony Wilson was responsible for much of Manchester’s popularity at the time in the music scene, which is the main focus of the movie. Steve Coogan plays the role of Wilson while being supported by several other actors. The film is the perfect homage to Manchester and its musical groups, with various soundtracks of those groups featured in the movie.

This story originally appeared on Movieweb

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