Truly great music biopics are amazing at transporting you deep into the lives of some of the world’s most famous and loved artists. They give you a candid peek into their origins, their struggles for recognition and fame, their loves and losses and their sometimes intense emotional turmoil on the way to superstardom.
It takes hard work to become a star – which you’ll find out watching these 10 brilliant music biopics.
Legendary soul musician Ray Charles had an incredibly tough childhood – aged seven, he witnessed his young brother drown, then he lost his sight aged nine. Jamie Foxx puts in an outstanding, Oscar-winning performance as Charles, who despite his disability goes on to become one of the most influential artists in history while battling the demons of drug addiction and infidelity.
Director: Taylor Hackford
Walk The Line (2005)
One of the freshest and most authentic music biopics you’ll ever see. Walk The Line traces Johnny Cash’s days growing up in poverty on the family farm, learning the guitar and breaking into Memphis’ music scene after developing his unique sound. Joaquin Phoenix (Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (June Carter) both put in incredible performances as two talented musical souls intwined.
Director: James Mangold
Nowhere Boy (2009)
Telling the story of a Liverpool lad who went on to change the world, Aaron Johnson stars as John Lennon, a rebellious teenager living with his aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas). At his uncle’s funeral, Lennon sees his estranged mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff). Julia soon introduces young John to rock ’n’ roll records and teaches him to play the guitar, and the rest, as they say, is history…
Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
Who would’ve thought a baggage handler named Farrokh Bulsara would one day become one of the most iconic rock singers of all time? Rami Malek stars as the inimitable Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, who defied prejudice and stereotypes to become a musical icon. The biopic powers through all the greatest hits of Queen, culminating in their breath-taking performance at Live Aid in 1985.
Director: Bryan Singer
Part biopic, part musical, Rocketman absolutely blasts along in telling the fantastical tale of how a shy, talented pianist named Reginald Dwight became the global superstar and icon Elton John (played wonderfully by Taron Egerton). Chock full of his hits, this bombastic movie doesn’t hold back in depicting John’s controversial life.
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
In another masterpiece from the Coen brothers, Oscar Isaac plays folk singer Llewyn Davis, a struggling musician trying to make a name for himself in the Greenwich Village folk scene of New York City in 1961. Filled with darkly funny and melancholic moments, the film takes us on Davis’ meandering journey – will he get that elusive big break?
Ok so unlike the other films on this list, this is an entirely fictitious character – but the Coen brother’s have a track record of blurring fact and fiction.
Directors: Joel & Ethan Coen
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
In 1988 N.W.A’s first album ‘Straight Outta Compton’ revolutionised music culture, and changed hip hop forever. The biopic of the same name follows the group on the cusp of superstardom, depicting their uncompromising and sometimes brutal life in south Los Angeles. And in what could be a first in the history of film, N.W.A member Ice Cube is brilliantly played by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
Director: F. Gary Gray
What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)
After discovering her love of singing in her Tennessee church choir, Anna Mae Bullock (Angela Bassett) moves to St. Louis to pursue a career in music, where she has a life-changing encounter with Ike Turner (Laurence Fishburne). Changing her name to Tina Turner, the musical couple soon have hit after hit. But as Ike gets increasingly abusive, Tina decides to strike out on her own.
Director: Brian Gibson
Young, gifted and charismatic, Viennese composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) becomes an arch rival of the disciplined and formal Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), who resents Mozart for his outrageous talent and lifestyle. Salieri hatches a plan to bring Mozart down, but it’s one that could destroy them both…
Director: Milos Forman
24 Hour Party People (2002)
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