15 Great Movies That Will Bring You Back To The Radio Days

8. Telling Lies in America (Guy Ferland, 1997)

Telling Lies in America

Karchy Jonas (Brad Renfro) is a teenager in high school who is just figuring out the world he is living in and his place in it. His family immigrated to the United States from Hungary when he was 10 years old and now (7 years later) Karchy feels like a real American; he also feels it’s time to find his place in the world.

One day he meets radio personality Billy Magic (Kevin Bacon) who takes him under his wing. Things are looking great for young Karchy and his future in the radio business – now with Billy Magic at this side. Unfortunately, he soon learns that the local authorities are after Billy Magic, after he accepted a bribe from record companies to give their songs air time.

Karchy soon learns that nobody’s perfect – not even his idol – and if you want to survive in this cutthroat business, you have to lie through your teeth. He then begins to wonder if this really is the path he wants to follow in life. This is one of the few stories about the dark side of the radio and the temptations of being dishonest.

Karchy may have adapted well to the American lifestyle – to his conservative grandfather’s shock he has his breakfast in the form of a Coca-Cola – but he may not yet be ready to sacrifice his integrity to get ahead. In the end, maybe Billy Magic was right: radio makes you radio breaks you.


9. Private Parts (Betty Thomas, 1997)

PRIVATE PARTS, Fred Norris, Jackie Martling, Howard Stern, Robin Quivers, 1997

Howard Stern is what every music geek dreams of: he can play whatever music he wants and say whatever he wants to say…and people love him for it. But becoming Howard Stern wasn’t easy…not even for Howard Stern. This biographical comedy details Stern’s rise to the top.

From his early local DJ-ing days to his heydays as “Fartman” (his alter-ego) on MTV, Howard Stern has been through a lot and offended many people on the way. His first stunt, as presented in the movie, is getting a girl sexually aroused by asking her to place the speaker of her radio between her legs and turn up the volume. While she is doing that, he will talk so that the speaker can produce vibrations.

This “stunt” causes a riot but also captures the attention of radio executives who see his straightforward approach as the exact thing needed to shake things up. From there on then is just one offense after another; but the people love it and just can’t get enough of the Howard Stern phenomenon.

“Private Parts” features Howard Stern as Howard Stern as well as cameos from famous musicians (because rock music is a huge part of this film) like Ozzy Osbourne, Slash, Ted Nugent and Dee Snider. If you are a fan of Howard Stern and rock music, this movie is not to be missed.


10. Lavorare con Lentezza (Guido Chiesa, 2004)

Lavorare con Lentezza

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of European feature films about radio (there are plenty of documentaries though). Even though this Italian gem is a feature film, it is shot to look like a documentary because it is based on actual events that took place in the 70’s.

The story is the true story of Radio Alice, a pirate radio in Italy whose voice could not be silenced for a long time. The whole concept of Radio Alice was based on freedom of speech: absolutely anyone could come in and speak their mind on the radio.

Because of the two founders’ political left-wing affiliation the radio caused a lot of trouble among authorities, especially when its influence started to grow among listeners more and more keen on joining the autonomism movement. The title can be translated as “Working Slowly”, which is very fitting for the pace and feel of the film.


11. The Upside of Anger (Mike Binder, 2005)

THE UPSIDE OF ANGER, Kevin Costner, Keri Russell, 2005, (c) New Line

“The Upside of Anger” stays true to Mike Binder’s bitter-sweet style of making movies. The film is about a woman named Terry (Joan Allen) and her four daughters. After her husband’s leaves her for another woman Terry finds her consolation in alcohol and in Denny (Kevin Costner), a former baseball player now a radio talk show host.

Terry and Denny bond in their mutual appreciation for alcohol and in their anger on life. Denny doesn’t particularly like his job as a radio talk show host constantly insulting his fewer and fewer listeners and hanging up on them. The two become very close and Denny does his best in getting to know Terry’s daughters. She helps them in their childhood and teenage goals and gradually wins them over.

The problem is that Terry is too scared to commit again after her failed marriage and keeps postponing the final step of the relationship. Eventually time heals all wounds and as family secrets start to be revealed, Terry realizes that her anger might be misguided.


12. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

It seems only fitting that Robert Altman’s swan song is a film about the radio’s swan song. “A Prairie Home Companion” takes its title form a long running radio show of the same name that has been on the air since 1974. In the true Altman-esque fashion the movie features a lot of characters (all played by famous actors), that interact naturally, talk over each other, creating a well -studied chaos.

The plot follows the possible demise of the show due to the decline of radio entertainment. All the stars of the show come together to put up the biggest performance the radio has ever seen wanting to go out with a bang.

On the night of this extraordinary performance, the cast receives two opposite visits: one from a representative from the radio franchise who was come to decide whether or not should stay on the air and one from an angel who has come to comfort the people who gave their sweat, blood and tears for the show. Despite their differences, the people involved try to get along in order to prove to company man, the world and themselves that they deserve to go on entertaining.


13. Talk to Me (Kasi Lemmons, 2007)

Talk To Me

In the 1960’s, ex-convict Ralph “Petey” Greene (Don Cheadle) lands a job at a Washington D.C. radio where he becomes extremely popular.

Greene’s radio talk show covers a lot of delicate subjects of the time such as equal rights and freedom of speech. His show touches a lot of souls (especially in the African-American community) but also rubs a lot of people the wrong way. His friendship with his manager Dewey Hughes (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is also threatened when the two clash over ideas and principles.

On top of the social presure and his love-hate relationship with Dewey Petey has his own demons to battle in the form of drug and alcohol addiction. The film is biographical and doesn’t cut any corners in presenting Ralph “Petey” Greene and his radio talk show exactly the way they were: edgy, provocative, not always right but always from the heart.


14. The Boat that Rocked (Richard Curtis, 2009)

Pirate Radio

If there was ever a film that perfectly combines comedy with rock music it is definitely this one. With the exciting 1960’s as its setting, the film tells the story of members of a British pirate radio broadcast that live on a ship anchored somewhere in the North Sea. The group faces constant threats from the British government but their love for rock music overcomes every shortcoming of their illegal existence.

The film features an ensemble cast amongst whom: Bill Nighy (the godfather of the radio), Phillip Seymour Hoffman (the American DJ), Tom Sturridge (the new kid on the boat), Rhys Ifans (the legend of the radio) and Kenneth Branagh (the villain of the film). But putting aside the comedy and the adventorous life of the crew this film is all about the music.

For someone with no knowledge of music in the 60’s this is a perfect introduction; for someone who has the knowledge of the music of those times it is a savory trip on memory lane. Amongst the wonderful music that can be heard on this film are The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Jeff Beck, The Who and many more.


15. Parlez-Moi de Vous (Pierre Pinaud, 2012)

Parlez-Moi de Vous

“Parlez-Moi de Vous” (translated into “Talk to Me about You”) is very nice bitter-sweet comedy about a reclusive 40 year old female radio host who offers her advice to female callers but is incapable to apply these advices to her own life. Claire Martin is an expert when it comes to guiding her callers’ lives; she gives exactly the right advices to any situations presented to her. As is the case with most advice-givers, she does not follow them in her real life, which leads to chaos.

All her endeavors (romantic or just personal) ultimately end up in failure. Her only goal seems to be finding the identity of her mother who abandoned her as a small child. This film is a very nice little comedy that is very straightforward with a lead performance that is very convincing; there are no surprises or plot twists in this film…just good old fashioned life.

Author Bio: Horia Nilescu is a 30-year-old cinephile from Brasov, Romania. He works at a local bookstore as a multimedia & events manager (handling supplying issues in regards to cd’s and dvd’s and also organizing local events). He is passionate about film and fascinated by its diversity. He has created a local film club in Brasov (going of 3 years) in which he handles all aspects. He likes to talk and write about movies but most importantly he likes to watch them.