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Top 10 Music Biopics of All Time

08.14.2015by: Alex Maidy
Today marks the release of STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, the long in development biopic about the rise of seminal rap group N.W.A.. In the annals of film history, the true stories of musicians and their rise and fall has been fodder for countless films. From critically acclaimed classics to fan favorites, there is a huge range of films about music of all kinds. Here is our ranking of the ten best musical biopics ever made. If we missed your favorite, let us know in the talk backs below.


This may not be the greatest movie on the list and it does gloss over a lot of the dark parts of Johnny Cash's life, but it gets the music right. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon sing like pros throughout the film in what amounts to a greatest hits compilation of the Cash family. The extended cut of the film is better than the theatrical version but there is still so much that could have been included but wasn't.


Angela Bassett's best role may be as Tina Turner in this biopic that absolutely shows the dark side of the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner. Laurence Fishburne is disturbing as the abusive Ike but Bassett truly embodies Tina Turner in a transformation that is second to none. The music is great throughout the film even if the movie does get a little melodramatic at times.

#8 - BIRD

Clint Eastwood's love of music came out in full force in the 1988 story of jazz musician Charlie Parker. Forrest Whitaker is phenomenal in a movie that is criminally underseen by many, including Eastwood fans. Jazz is often difficult for people to break into but BIRD definitely is a good way to learn about some of the dark stories in music history.

#7 - RAY

RAY may be pretty by the numbers when it comes to biopics, but Jamie Foxx channels the late Ray Charles in a way no other actor could have. The balance of darkness and uplifting stories makes RAY engaging throughout and a very enjoyable couple of hours. The supporting cast here is exceptional, especially Kerry Washington, Regina King, and Terence Howard.


With a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER has almost no detractors. Telling the rags to riches story of Loretta Lynn, the film is another exploration of country music that may convert haters of that type of music. Sissy Spacek is awesome as Lynn and commands the stage almost as well as the actual singer.


The most unique biopic on this list, I'M NOT THERE tells the story of Bob Dylan through several short films, each starring a different actor as the famed musician. The stories may be fictionalized, but each actor does one hell of job of playing Dylan's personality traits. From Christian Bale to Heath Ledger, each version is brilliant but it is the impeccable job Cate Blanchett does that really makes this a must see movie.


24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE is unique in that it examines multiple bands and musicians through the story of Tony Wilson, a British television presenter who goes on to found the seminal Factory Records. From Joy Division to Happy Mondays, Michael Winterbottom's film goes to dark places but also uses Steve Coogan's comedic timing to great effect. If you aren't familiar with Manchester's music scene, this movie serves as a great introduction.


Anton Corbijn's biopic of Ian Curtis, the late lead singer of Joy Division, takes a much darker look at the band than 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE did. Sam Riley is astounding as the troubled singer whose spiral is colorful despite the film being black and white.


What can I say about SID AND NANCY that you don't already know. Less a biopic than a slice of life and death of a member of The Sex Pistols, SID AND NANCY features one of Gary Oldman's best performances as the late Sid Vicious. The music takes a back seat to a tragic love story that plays out disturbingly on screen.


While it may be fictionalized, I defy you to find a more stirring and powerful movie about a classical composer. AMADEUS is a work of brilliance with astounding performances from F.Murray Abraham and Tom Hulce. You may not be a classical fan but I assure you that AMADEUS is a movie that will instantly become one of your all-time favorites and change the way you listen to music forever.

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