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The 15 Best Movies About Fictional Musicians

25 March 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Ivan Saric

best movies about musicians

There’s something amazingly cinematic about a musician’s life. They are usually torn between vastness of their creative mind and hardships of the real world, yet they are strangely competent at making themselves likeable.

Musicians are pretty much perceived as coolest human beings possible, and we like the myths and stories that make them larger than life. Some are more glamorous than others, but all of them have something in common – an exceptional protagonist, charismatic character with a disturbing lack of lucidity.

There are lots of movies about musicians that are emotionally satisfying and a whole lot of fun. Here are fifteen great ones about the musical life and its rises and falls. This list is made of films where the musicianship of the main character(s) is entirely relevant to the story. Also, this being a list of stories about strictly fictional musicians, films based on a true story and people are excluded.

 

15. Sound of Noise (Ola Simonsson, Johannes Stjärne Nilsson, 2010)

sound_of_noise_fantastic_fest_image.jpg

Here is a film so bizarre, with a plot so silly that it is just so laughingly absurd. It’s a pure joy, musically and cinematically. Just the concept of having six drummers as guerrilla-like wrongdoers, using common objects as instruments is so vivid it doesn’t even matter how good or bad the movie is.

Luckily this movie can boast itself with both having a fresh idea, interesting characters and gorgeous cinematography. The main story with its musical numbers is frantically awesome, but also the plot line involving the policeman in charge of catching the deviants is excellent. It’s hard to figure out who to root for, as both him and the musicians are relatable in their own right. It’s one of the most unusual recent Swedish films, and It’s as entertaining as it is weird.

 

14. Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh (Bahman Ghobadi, 2009)

Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh

If you by any chance saw ”Heavy Metal In Baghdad”, you’ll know that it is near impossible to be a rock musician in a country that is controlled by Islamic law. Bahman Ghobadi’s bleak faux-documentary, released in English speaking countries as ”No One Knows About Persian Cats” absolutely confirms that fact.

The story involves a group of Iranians who want to form a band and perform in front of fellow young Iranians. Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad, playing themselves, are two nonconformist individuals who start a band with ambition to play a big open air festival in England.

Extraordinary elegant simplicity with which the director handles a serious, complex issue is what really makes this film special. This is truly good cinema in service of tackling a major cultural problem and is certainly worth every minute of your time.

 

13. The Blues Brothers (John Landis, 1980)

The Blues Brothers

Here’s a cult-classic, showing an absurd story about Jake and Elwood, a dynamic duo that wants to save the catholic home in which they were raised by getting their old band back together and playing a couple of shows. Sense of hilarity is overwhelming in their every action as their ”mission from God” involves constant breaking of the divine and earthly laws.

One of the coolest movies of the eighties is overflowing with scenes containing memorable quotes and over the top slapstick comedy. The story abandons all sense of logic and delivers a comical adventure in which the brothers stick it to the police and other authority figures and evade the consequences. It is hard not to like this movie from the days before political correctness and self-conscious movie making. It is innocent and pure reckless comedy.

 

12. Bikur Ha-Tizmoret (Eran Kolirin, 2007)

Bikur Ha-Tizmoret

In this unexpected comedy, lively Egyptian Police orchestra gets lost in Israel on its way to play at the opening of an Arab cultural center in Petah Tikvah. They come by a little desert town, where an Israeli cafe owner keeps the eight musicians overnight among her bored regulars until tomorrow’s bus comes.

Not much of a plot really, but the brightness and structure of the film makes it exceptional. As stereotypes and the animosity of decades come to surface, Egyptians and Israelis alike endure difficulties of communication, independence, authority and seclusion.

The film is so well crafted that one’s enjoyment in watching it seem effortless. It’s sure that an enormous amount of thought, care, and love went into “The Band’s Visit”. Its warm and precise message is told with enough humor to keep it fresh.

 

11. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

John Cameron Mitchell’s film adaptation of the gender-bending rock play actually makes drag interesting, with Mitchell himself as Hedwig Robinson, an East German rock star with a vision to conquer America and find her other half. Basically, “Angry Inch” is a collection of phenomenal rock songs fastened together with genuine passion that feels more natural than in most movies. All things considered, it’s an honest insight in one’s candid universe. And boy is it a colorful one!

The costumes are flamboyant; the hair and make-up is tacky and over the top. It’s not a trashy in its essence though, or a cult film, or a gay film. It’s a memorable musical and a fun film overall. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is extraordinary in being a terrific dark comedy about love as well as being an entertaining musical journey.

 

10. Piano (Jane Campion, 1996)

Anna Paquin in The Piano

This Oscar-winning film follows Ada, an immigrant to the New Zealand and an arranged marriage, who has not spoken for years and lives her life through the sound of her piano. Her husband is a man with a lack of compassion. He tries to break the attachment between his new wife and her piano. In contrast to him is the disorderly Baines who reaches into Ada’s soul and helps her to get in touch with her emotions again and eventually, her voice too.

The film is visually stunning, with its softed colors and vast exterior, and uses the stellar soundtrack by Michael Nyman to tie the story together. Harvey Keitel and Holly Hunter give excellent performance, while Anna Paquin is superb as Ada’s bright daughter. Campion managed to make the story emotionally charged and sensual, and it well deserved the praise it got after release.

 

9. Kolya (Jan Sverák, 1996)

Kolya

Louka is a a former philharmonic cellist who has lost his orchestra job because the Soviet era Czech communist political establishment deem him unreliable. As a consequence Louka has degraded his musical endeavor to playing at weddings and funerals. He has no car and is deeply in debt.

In order to make some money to buy a car and reduce his debt Louka lets a coworker from the cemetery convince him to marry a Russian woman so that she can emigrate to the West. Louka hesitantly agrees and marries the woman but the Russian suddenly departs. This ultimately results in Louka becoming solely responsible for the woman’s five year old son who only speaks Russian.

It is a beautifully touching story with some outstanding performances and a wonderful musical score that contains works by the Czech composers Dvořák, Suk, Fibich, and Smetana that add a special magic to the overall experience.

 

 

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  • Allister Cooper

    Were The Commitments an actual band? The 1992 film was quite memorable in a way.

  • Hukuhuku Nukunuku Pua

    Another beautiful movie …August Rush

  • SupernaturalCat

    Bob Roberts, 1992 satirical mockumentary, written, directed and starring Tim Robbins. Robbins plays a neo-fascist folk singer running for senate. Darkly comical as it is prophetic, considering the hard-right totalitarian turn the US took via the shadow govt’s implementation of the C.O.G. plans via the wholly manufactured ‘terror’ war several yrs after this film was released. Robbins ensured that an official soundtrack to the film was never released to avoid foreseeable hassles with real RWers using the songs/lyrics that were openly racist, sexist, and above all, hostile to basic concepts of fairness, tolerance, social justice, and basically anyone who isn’t a typical flag-waving, jingoistic slogan-chanting authoritarian.

  • Lee Martin

    Why come no love for Walk Hard?

  • Asiye Aydin

    What about Frank? It is amazing!

    • nah

      It is based in a musician that is actually still alive. The band existed.

      • Facundo

        which band?

      • Jeremy Jeffers

        Frank Sidebottom (Chris Sievey) is not alive

  • Dave

    All You Need Is Cash – The Rutles. The movie the created the mockumentary spoof.

  • Daniel Koehnen

    What about “Eddie and the Cruisers” ?
    IMHO both are just great flicks !

  • Mtro Ramón Agúndez

    And… All About Lily Chou—Chou?

  • Alberto Labra

    Come on guys, what about Velvet Goldmine? also a great soundtrack.

    • Guest

      Rumors say it’s actually about David Bowie

    • Vaso A.

      Great movie and soundtrack,couldn’t agree more! Rumors say it was actually made for David Bowie’s life, with both true and fictional moments.

      • Hatesville

        Think it’s a mash up of Bowie and Bolan…

        • Vaso A.

          Bolan? I was thinking of Iggy Pop instead.It’s great anyway

          • Hatesville

            I agree!

        • Klaus Dannick

          I don’t see Bolan in the mix here, save for a performance of “20th Century Boy”. The Kurt Wild character is obviously Iggy Pop, though, even sings Stooges songs.

          • Sandra Ornelas

            Curt Wild is like a mix between Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, he received electroshock therapy just like the character in the movie. I think he’s inspired in Mick Jagger in some things also.

  • marcel

    It’s All Gone Pete Tong was a great movie with a fictional DJ releasing an album after losing his hearing. Too bad you missed it…

    • pedro

      Pete Tong is a real person. The story is about a fictional dj though.

      • marcel

        “Its all gone Pete Tong” is the name of the movie. A lot of real DJs appear in it.

  • Kristoffer Groves

    Wtf. Why isn’t Desperado on this list?

  • Eleni Chzo

    We all miss some of our favorite movies on each and every list,still,this is a verygood one considering the guy that wrote it is just…23 years old!!!

  • I would put Spinal Tap at #1. How can you beat such classics as “Hell Hole”, “Big Bottom”, “Listen to the Flower People”, and of course, “Sex Farm”.

  • La Condenada Nausea

    Well, i was hoping for “Ex drummer” to get into that list, but no… great movie, it needs an honorable mention i think…

  • Still D.R.E.

    THE FIVE HEARTBEATS is better than any film on this list but Lleywn Davis and Whiplash….no love for a great film like that?

  • Daniel Koehnen

    Mario van Peebles “Redemption Road” was also a great flick !

  • JerryLeeGarciaLewis

    Grace of My Heart, about a fictionalized Brill Building songwriter was a great period piece.

  • God Help the Girl?

    • Mariam MH

      God Help The Girl is actually a real band, it’s a project of Bell & Sebastian leader singer .. I love the movie

  • missannthrope

    “Leningrad Cowboys Go America” belongs on this list. Along with a few already mentioned.

  • Dave Teves

    I think Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story is also worth mentioning, don’t you think?

    • Marius Aanonlie

      That movie is BRILLIANT!

  • Klaus Dannick

    Alan Parker’s The Commitments. I mean, c’mon, it’s better than Mr. Holland’s Opus! And I couldn’t agree more that the omission of Bob Roberts is inexcusable.

  • Brian

    Streets Of Fire

  • Nafis Ishraq

    FRANK?

  • Bryton Cherrier

    This list is great for having honorable mentions.
    More lists on this site should have them.

  • Andre Troesch

    Together (2002 film) by Chen Kaige

  • Klaus Dannick

    I love Ingmar Bergman’s work, but I must admit to being disappointed at “Autumn Sonata” topping this list. I consider it something of a mediocre film among Bergman’s often-outstanding works. I was also surprised at the omission of “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains” in favor of by-the-numbers feel-good tearjerkers like “Mr. Holand’s Opus” in the honorable mentions list. Otherwise, this is a solid, interesting list.

  • Diego Caballero Sanabria

    Where is THE WONDERS from Tom Hanks??

    • Tom Walsh

      It’s called “That thing you do” aka “The Oneders” 🙂

  • Velvet Goldmine, Sweet and Lowdown, Shine …

    • Terek Brajan

      Shine is not fiction…

  • Richard McLin

    Have to disagree with The Piano being on this list. Should be replaced by,
    Mr. Holland’s Opus
    Velvet Goldmine
    Almost Famous

    Was very happy to see Once on here.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure!

  • Eri Taide

    ALMOST FAMOUS! Come on!

  • lucasdraper

    Bandits. 1997. German film about a all girl band that breaks out of prison.

  • Scruffy The Janitor

    Almost Famous, Crazy Heart, Frank and We Are The Best! would definitely have made my list.

  • Marko Stojiljković

    Honey Baby (2004), by Mika Kaurismäki, a lesser known but great film about a one hit wonder musician Tom Brackett, inspired by the Orpheus and Euridyce myth.

  • Bob George

    Crazy Heart, come on!

  • Wijnand Visser

    ‘Round Midnight, starring Dexter Gordon and François Cluzet, should be in this list, as well as The Commitments.

  • Joshua Lookout Smithers

    Irish low budget, it was made for 100k! Its a micro budget powerhouse to have won the Oscar in that category.

  • shane scott-travis

    Leningrad Cowboys would have been a nice addition here, and also “Ladies and Gentleman the Fabulous Stains” deserves a spot in the top ten (was a huge influence on the riot grrl scene).

  • Hernan Paz

    Además de Velvet Goldmine, agregaría la francesa De battre mon coeur s’est arrêté.

  • Josh Jisco Schasny

    Hard Core Logo and The Commitments are my choice.

  • Enrique Delgadillo

    Almost Famous!

  • Terek Brajan

    Almost Famous…..half of this list is pile of trash…