Five of the Best: Music Movies

The love-children of music and film.

BY LOUIS HUMBERSTONE

Music and movies have often had a symbiotic relationship. It’s hard to say, for example, what has proved to be a more enduring pop culture classic; Ghostbusters or the film’s theme song. The head-banging tribute to “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the cult classic Wayne’s World earned the song a new legion of fans, whilst The Doors’ “The End” frames a scene in Apocalypse Now with emotional weight and an eerie backing.

This list, however, puts together five of the best films to truly connect music and film. Music plays an important role in all these films, both in terms of soundtrack and themes. This list is by no means complete, and there are too many honourable mentions to list. Nonetheless, have a read, tick off the ones you’ve watched, and make some time for the other classics in between a Netflix binge and that work you’ve been putting off.

5: This Is Spinal Tap

A classic from the mid-1980s, this “rockumentary” remains as fresh, funny, and intelligent as it was on release date. This Is Spinal Tap is the tale of disaster-prone washed up rockers struggling to stage a comeback in America. What makes Spinal Tap such comedy gold is that it presents a variety of situations so ludicrous that you can imagine any of them happening to the world’s biggest bands. What’s more, the movie has been given the seal of approval by artists such as Metallica and Nirvana, which probably means you should pay attention.

 

4: The Blues Brothers

No other film on this list manages to pack in as many stars as the musical crime comedy (a genre sadly underrepresented in Hollywood) The Blues Brothers. Amongst the highlights is a roaring performance of “Think” by the great Aretha Franklin and the late Carrie Fischer as a vengeful ex-fiancée. Add to this one of the greatest car chases in cinematic history, multiple star cameos and a long list of one-liners, and you have a recipe for an outstanding film that makes you tap your feet, laugh along, and play that soundtrack on repeat.

 

3: The Commitments

The Commitments is the tale of a group of working class Dubliners who form a band devoted to African-American soul music. It is possibly the least watched film on the list, but it is nonetheless a thrilling combination of an unknown cast, a stellar soundtrack, and an authentic story that is touching and inspiring. The soundtrack (which hit the number one spot on New Zealand charts) is one of the strongest of all time, featuring covers of “Chain of Fools”, “In the Midnight Hour” and the classic “Try a Little Tenderness”. Even if you’re not big on soul music, The Commitments will have you hooked for weeks afterwards.

 

2: 8 Mile

If 8 Mile is only remembered for the Oscar winning song “Lose Yourself”, I don’t think Eminem would mind: it’s an anthem. However, moving past the song, there’s much more to the multilayered drama following a young white rapper (Eminem) trying to launch his career in a racially and socially tense Michigan. Deriving its name from the highway that runs along the border between the predominantly black Detroit and Wayne County, and predominantly white Oakland County, this movie gets quite dark and grungy, with rap battles that match up to Rocky’s ringside antics.

 

1: Almost Famous

A little bit of a box office bomb at the time, Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of a teenage journalist working for Rolling Stone in the 1970s, following the antics of fictional band Stillwater. Character-driven, yet music relevant, Almost Famous manages to tell a profound, warm-hearted story that is staggeringly organic. The depth of character in the ‘Band-Aid’ Penny Lane, played by Kate Hudson is rare in films, especially with such a crowded cast, yet is pulled off with style. Yes, every element of Almost Famous seems to be about the music, but it teaches us that there are human souls behind what we hear and fragility in stardom.

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