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Posted March 30, 2020 by Chris in Features
 
 

The Best Rock Biopics of All Time

Technology may have changed the way we consume music, but movies remain as one of the primary sources of entertainment. The success of recent movies like Rocketman show there is a demand for biopics for some of the biggest names in the industry.

Prepare to grab some popcorn, sit back and enjoy an evening in front of the silver screen. 

So let’s keep this intro short and sweet. Here are the best rock biopics of all time.

Jersey Boys

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Jersey Boys was based on the highly successful musical. It covers the story of New Jersey rock and pop group The Four Seasons, who went on to become one of the defining bands of their era. Directed by Clint Eastwood, Jersey Boys brought in Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio as executive producers. According to Obscure Sound, Gaudio also composed the music for this film.

The biopic showed how the four kids “from the wrong side of the tracks” were faced with all sorts of challenges of being a band in their time, including their regular interactions with mobsters. 

Jersey Boys ended up being one of the most memorable films of 2014.

Backbeat

Backbeat tells the story of The Beatles’ pre-fame Hamburg era. Before The Fab Four was The Fab Five with Stu Sutcliffe on the bass.

Dave Grohl helped to re-record the songs for the film, along with Mike Mills of R.E.M and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. The film focused on the friendship of John Lennon and Sutcliffe, with Stephen Dorff and Ian Hart giving great performances in their respective roles.

Since its release, Backbeat has been praised by the likes of Pete Best and Julian Lennon – so much so that the film was later adapted to the theatre in 2010.

Great Balls Of Fire!

Jerry Lee Lewis developed a reputation as rock’n roll’s greatest hellraisers. That said, Great Balls Of Fire! focused more on the positive side to The Killer’s rise to the top. If it wasn’t for his very controversial marriage to his 13-year old cousin, he could possibly surpassed Elvis Presley.

 

While the film has its critics, Alec Baldwin does a great job as Lee’s poster cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, while Dennis Quaid was excellent in the lead role. 

Don’t turn a blind eye to this film if you’re planning a night in with a rock biopic.

The Runaways

The Runaways is based on Cherie Currie’s Neon Angel: A Memoir Of A Runaway. The title of this rock biopic is pretty self-explanatory; it covers the rise and eventual fall of The Runaways, who were breaking ground unlike any other girl band at the time. The films centres around the relationship between the band’s main members Currie and Joan Jett, played by Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart respectively. Michael Shannon also does an excellent job as the band’s manager/producer.

The Runaways gives a fascinating insight into life behind the scenes during the band’s highs and lows.

La Bamba

Richie Valens’ tragic death, alongside Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, overshadowed his life before La Bamba. However, thanks to Luis Valdez’ excellent work in his portrayal of this rock’n’roll legend helped to ease the pain. 

The film isn’t a straight story of Valens’ life though. Instead, it shows how his professional success impacted the lives of his family, including his half brother Bob Morales and his girlfriend Donna Ludwig.

La Bamba did well in the US and on the other side of the Atlantic. Los Lobos’ version of La Bamba went on to top both the US and UK charts, emphasizing how popular this film really was.

The Buddy Holly Story

Following on from the above rock biopic, The Buddy Holly Story features Gary Busey giving a beautiful performance of the Lubbock-born singer-songwriter that inspired some of the greatest rock groups of all time, such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.

The film still performs well in today’s life. It follows Holly’s story as a teen rocker to a global superstar with The Crickets before looking at his life during his solo career which ended prematurely during the plane crash in 1959.

Busey was awarded an Oscar for his role and The Buddy Holly Story is consistently talked about as one of the best rock biopics of all time.

Ray

Ray focuses on the life of pioneering soul legend Ray Charles. It follows his early days on the North America circuit, his most successful years as an artist with Atlantic Records, the decline in the 70s and his incredible comeback that led to a Grammy for his collaboration with Chaka Khan in “I’ll Be Good To You”.

The film does Charles justice, with Jamie Foxx oozing charisma in the lead role. As noted by Alex Denholm at Gift Wits, it was Ray that saw Foxx jump into superstardom as he earned five major awards including an Oscar, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

Walk The Line

Walk The Line was one of the most successful films of 2005 and remains as one of the best rock biopics of all time. Director James Mangold based this film two separate autobiographies written by the iconic singer-songwriter himself.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Cash and Reese Witherspoon as June Carter. The film shows off the highs and lows of The Man In Black’s life, starting with his musical career and his romance with Carter, through to his struggles that come with being in the music industry and the amazing shows put on Folsom Prison in January 1968. 

Walk The Line was put up for five Oscar nominations, with Witherspoon taking home the award for Best Actress.

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Queen biopic released in December 2018 rounds off this list. It achieved enormous commercial success. In fact, it grossed $900 million worldwide by January 2019, giving Billboard no choice but to award it as the highest-grossing music biopic of all time.

Not only that, but Bohemian Rhapsody was also critically acclaimed, with Rami Malek giving a magnificent performance in the shoes of Freddie Mercury.

This film is now the current benchmark for all future biopics, so no pressure.


Chris

 
I listen to and write about music!