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The 15 Best Music Movies of All Time To Watch Right Now

We’ve never needed music movies more than we do right now. As the world reopens in the midst of a pandemic, ex-normal outings like a trip to a concert or music festival feel, well, a little weird. We want that part of our shared culture back, sure, but for now, we’ll ease back into things with the music movie.

These gems entertain on so many levels, from the rich stories in biopics to the hilarity of a good mockumentary. No matter what direction the film heads, it’s always backed by some great live action and a soundtrack of really good music. So, with Super Bowl season in full swing and more great television to watch than ever, why give up the couch? Don’t. Get comfortable, throw on your favorite rock ‘n’ roll cutoff, and settle in to one of these fantastic music movies.

Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, and Michael McKean of Spinal Tap.
Pete Cronin/Getty Images

Here are the best music movies to stream now.

Almost Famous (2000)

Almost Famous
90 %
7.9/10
r 122m
Genre Drama, Music
Stars Patrick Fugit, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson
Directed by Cameron Crowe
Cameron Crowe’s Y2K classic almost goes without saying. The film takes place in ’73 and follows an aspiring young music journalist during the heyday of Rolling Stone magazine. The classic rock songs written for make-believe band Stillwater feel as though they could be the work of Zeppelin, Skynyrd, or the Allman Brothers. And Kate Hudson’s character, Penny Lane (inspired by Pennie Trumbull), is as delightful and freewheeling as they come.

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap
92 %
7.9/10
r 82m
Genre Music, Comedy
Stars Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer
Directed by Rob Reiner
This examination of fake English glam-hair-metal band Spinal Tap is absolutely hilarious. One of writer Christopher Guest’s greatest gifts to the public, the 1984 film is as absurd and intoxicating as ever. The scuzzy music steals the show, but the outstanding wardrobe, stage layouts, and picture-perfect depiction of rock star ridiculousness aren’t far behind.

Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021)

Summer of Soul (...or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
96 %
8/10
pg-13 117m
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Stevie Wonder, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jesse Jackson
Directed by Questlove
The summer of 1969 is overshadowed by the big classic rock acts of Woodstock. Meanwhile, an amazing festival unfolded in Harlem, drawing some of the best talent of the time. This powerful and wonderfully-scored music doc breaks down the Harlem Cultural Festival, a true showcase and celebration of Black music and marginalized gathering that actually drew 300,000 people. We’re talking Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, B.B. King, and so many more. Better, it’s a fantastic directorial debut from musician Questlove.

Singles (1992)

Singles
71 %
6.7/10
pg-13 99m
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance
Stars Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick
Directed by Cameron Crowe
The ’92 film is another by Crowe and paints a lovely portrait of love and music during Seattle’s most famous era to date. Actual stars like Chris Cornell (RIP) and Eddie Vedder enter the mix, and the vignettes of struggling relationships capture perfectly what it’s like to grow up without completely sacrificing your going-to-shows, drinks-after-midnight younger self. It’s a rom-com that swaps the cheese for the best of Gen X noise.

Purple Rain (1984)

Purple Rain
55 %
6.5/10
r 111m
Genre Drama, Music, Romance
Stars Prince, Apollonia Kotero, Morris Day
Directed by Albert Magnoli
The grandaddy of them all, Purple Rain is pretty much the role model of the group. Here, Prince shows his unrivaled ability as a dynamic pop-rock god, part sweet-talking, bike-riding crooner, part electric-guitar-wielding badass. The barn-burning 1984 movie is like one long music video, drenched in purple and never easing off the gas. You will wish it was the ’80s and you had a motorcycle.

The Sound of Music (1965)

The Sound of Music
63 %
8.1/10
g 175m
Genre Drama, Family, Music, Romance
Stars Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker
Directed by Robert Wise
The iconic 1965 film is too vital not to include, even if it’s very obviously a musical. It raked in five Oscars and is typically included in every “best films of all time” shortlist, music-themed or otherwise. A triumph of singing over not, culture over Nazis, and Julie Andrews over anything, The Sound of Music makes you want to frolic through the countryside with reckless abandon. And the Rodgers and Hammerstein score is pure joy and one of the most successful soundtrack LPs ever.

High Fidelity (2000)

High Fidelity
79 %
7.4/10
113m
Genre Comedy, Drama, Romance, Music
Stars John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso
Directed by Stephen Frears
Released in 2000, High Fidelity is high on the list of the best John Cusack movies of all time. It’s a film with scenes that burrow deep into your psyche, and likely inspired millions of thoughtful mixtapes, assembled for love interests across the globe. Apparently, settling on a soundtrack was one of the hardest parts of production, which is unsurprising given that the film focuses on music snobs as its main characters. But the sonic backdrop does the film proud, featuring the likes of Bill Callahan, Roky Erickson, the Beta Band, Bob Dylan, and more. If you didn’t have a vinyl collection before watching this movie, you’ll surely start one after.

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Inside Llewyn Davis
93 %
7.4/10
r 104m
Genre Drama, Music
Stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Directed by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
There are countless films that deal with the plight of folk singer-songwriters, but this happens to be one of the best (and one of the best movies streaming on Amazon). Tempting as it was to include Crazy Heart, it was 2013’s Inside Llewyn Davis that made the cut. Maybe it’s the Coen brothers’ mystical effect, or maybe’s it’s the understated soundtrack. It’s a gorgeous take on the art scene of Greenwich Village circa 1961, led by up-and-coming Oscar Isaac (who performed many of the songs himself). With T. Bone Burnett as the executive music producer, the film always has a strong sound. The added layers and slight surrealism offered by the gifted directors make it a must-watch.

A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born
88 %
7.6/10
r 136m
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliott
Directed by Bradley Cooper
It’s not often that a film can prove that an actor can be a musician and vice versa. La La Land is a great example of the former, but A Star Is Born does both, swimmingly. Lady Gaga flexes her acting muscles, while Bradley Cooper shows that in another life, he could have just as easily been a drunken country-rock legend. Cooper’s downfall, in particular, is so gripping — and unfortunately so commonplace among great rock stars — that you just might contemplate setting down the beer for good. Better still, original tracks like Shallow and Maybe It’s Time would be hits even if they were written just for headphones and speakers. It’s not the first time this story has been filmed (and probably not the last), but the 2018 version is far and away the best.

Love & Mercy (2015)

Love & Mercy
80 %
7.4/10
pg-13 120m
Genre Drama, Music, History
Stars Erin Darke, John Cusack, Joanna Going
Directed by Bill Pohlad
In a masterful biopic of the great Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, John Cusack and Paul Dano team up to embody the early and late stages of his life, full of turmoil and mental overhaul. Switching between different times in Wilson’s life, we witness an adaptation of a younger Wilson (Dano also magnificently performs the songs himself) as he quits touring to produce the timeless album Pet Sounds, slipping slowly and steadily into psychosis. Cutting to the future, Cusack plays an older and broken Wilson, psychologically limited and trapped under controversial 24-hour therapy tactics from the infamous Dr. Eugene Landy. Beautiful and tragic, we witness the many shattered pieces of Wilson’s psyche as he single-handedly competes with the world-famous Beatles to discover new and experimental music. This is one of the best movies streaming on Hulu right now and should not be missed by any music lovers.

Whiplash (2014)

Whiplash
88 %
8.5/10
r 107m
Genre Drama, Music
Stars Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser
Directed by Damien Chazelle

This excellent 2014 film spotlights a percussionist, one of the least-featured musician types in all of cinema. Better, it shows just how ruthless elevating your craft can be. J.K. Simmons is at his best, playing a merciless, drill-sergeant-like instructor at a music academy. It’s intense, immensely dramatic, and filmed beautifully.

Coco (2017)

Coco
81 %
8.4/10
pg 105m
Genre Family, Animation, Fantasy, Music, Comedy, Adventure
Stars Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt
Directed by Lee Unkrich
This animated gem is family friendly and dazzles with gorgeous visuals and amazing color. The story itself is a love letter to music, specifically traditional Latin American folk. It’s a beautiful tale that dives into the bright side of mortality, by way of the El Dia de los Muertos. The soundtrack is spotless, the plot is heartwarming, and the dreamy feel of it all is hypnotic in the best of ways. If it doesn’t move you to pick up a guitar or nudge your young ones toward music lessons, nothing will.

Bird (1988)

Bird
78 %
7.1/10
r 161m
Genre Drama, Music
Stars Forest Whitaker, Diane Venora, Keith David
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Bird chronicles the incredible ways of Charlie Parker, arguably the greatest sax player of all time. It’s a Clint Eastwood joint, released in 1988 with Forest Whitaker playing the lead. Even if you’re not a jazz nut, you’ll adore the atmosphere of it all, with a backdrop of smoky lounges and Parker wowing the audience with his unmatched chops and improvisational wizardry.

Rocketman (2019)

Rocketman
69 %
7.3/10
r 121m
Genre Music, Drama, History
Stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
Directed by Dexter Fletcher
This biopic of epic proportions follows the extraordinary rise to fame of Elton John. There’s partying, drugs, wild performances, amazing wardrobe displays, and some truly incredible acting from Taron Egerton. It’s hard to imagine a time when Elton wasn’t an international sensation at the top of his game, but this movie reveals those early, raucous days in hyper-entertaining fashion.

The Doors (1991)

The Doors
62 %
7.2/10
r 140m
Genre Music, Drama
Stars Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan
Directed by Oliver Stone
There’s hardly a more captivating personality in music history than Jim Morrison, and that’s saying something. The Doors focuses on the poetic and eccentric frontman, played expertly by Val Kilmer. As an Oliver Stone flick, it feels very authentic, set in the heyday of psychedelic surf rock, AKA Venice, California in the ’60s. The movie unapologetically embraces all of the cliches associated with rock stardom, from the sex and drugs to the pompousness and anti-establishment leanings. And you’re even treated to a great role by Meg Ryan.

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