Not musicals, but movies about music, whether it be a band, musician, record shop owner, or producer. I figure this really breaks out into two categories, the fully fictional and the biopic.
One of my absolute favorites is We Are the Best. In part because it’s not about some band making it big, but instead how music and being in a band is a bond between these young friends.
Probably 24 Hour Party People and That Thing You Do. Totally different moods, but both are very pleasant rewatches.
Mr. Holland’s Opus is another favorite although I haven’t seen it in decades and don’t know how it would hold up. As a message it’s needed more than ever.
Inside llewyn Davis.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was good too, I thought.
24 Hour Party People and Control are both fantastic…same people, very different tone.
I thought Love and Mercy was excellent.
Recently, I finally got around to Good Vibrations: about the characters surrounding The Undertones and the punk rock scene in Belfast in the 70s.
Once is one of the rare movies that I saw in the theater with my wife where, after the closing credits rolled, we went back to the box office to buy two tickets for the next showing.
(There are a few too many spoilers in this trailer.)
Only Lovers Left Alive is a vampire movie primarily but one of the vamps is a terrific musician, and there is some terrific music in the movie.
It’s on Disney+ if you feel like revisiting it. I recently did. It inspired me to write about it like Mr. Holland inspired some of his favorite kids to play passably well in his high school orchestra. TL;DR, it was okay but after many years it’s probably time to retire.
I’m a big fan of Pirate Radio, High Fidelity (it may not be about music exactly, but it’s so wound up in its music that it may as well be), and This Is Spinal Tap (can’t believe I’m the first person to throw that out there). Just off the top of my head.
Fantastic writeup! Thank you.
High Fidelity and Good Vibrations are why I included record shop owner in the OP
Inside LLewelyn Davis
The Red Violin
32 Short Films (on Glenn Gould)
Testimony (with Ben Kingsley as Shostakovich)
Sweet and Lowdown (Django Reinhardt with Sean Penn)
The Competition (with Richard Dreyfuss)
The Beggars Opera (also with Daltrey)
I have a soft spot for Music and Lyrics, a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore that is completely forgettable except for the fact that all the songs are far better than they have any right to be.
Also, another vote for Inside Llewyn Davis.
These two are definitely my favorite. I sometimes feel myself swelling with emotion just thinking about how good Whiplash is. Truly one of the movie masterpieces of all time. And Amadeus, to watch that in a cinema in Paris on the Champs Elysee when I was 11 years old, it truly opened up the world of music to me. I was just captivated.
I’ve seen The Red Violin.
Rattle n’ Hum
I’m perhaps a little biased, coming from a former mining village with my dad and his side of the family being former miners too (my grandad and his brothers were proud members of a miners voice choir until fairly recently–a dying, if not dead already, tradition), but Brassed Off was amazing the last time I saw it. That was some years ago, mind. Terrible trailer.
Does Almost Famous count? I recall that being great.
For the record, The Commitments (already mentioned) would definitely be my top pick. And I will also recommend Sing Street, from the guy who brought you (the also great) Once.
I’d certainly say so.
Some consider that Cameron Crowe’s best movie, although I’ll always be a Say Anything partisan.
Back to the original topic, I rather like Lisztomania for its over-the-top gonzoness. Pure essence of Ken Russell, that.
I watched that a few days ago and thought it was brilliant, especially ways in which it plays with the doco format. My favorite moment is an intimate encounter in a nightclub bathroom where one of the subjects appears as himself in the guise of a cleaner to dispute the events that are unfolding just off camera with a nonchalant “this never happened.” Afterwards I had to track down all I could find on Martin Hannett and Tony Wilson.
The French film Eden (2014) has stayed with me.
In addition to the already mentioned That Thing You Do and Spinal Tap I also really like Walk the Line.
Also Leap of Faith (although this might be stretch to say it’s about music)
Rewatched for the first time in probably 40 years just last night The Jazz Singer with Neil Diamond. I remember really liking this movie at the time it was released, but, ugh was painful to watch.
Most definitely NOT on the list, and maybe if you were starting the worst movies about music, would be Can’t Stop the Music