Movies About Musicians: 25 Biopics to Watch Now
Taron Egerton, who portrays Sir Elton John in the “Rocketman” film, performs with the titular character at Cannes in 2019. / Mike Marsland/GettyImages
Bohemian Rhapsody’s stunning box office success made at least one point clear: Music biopics are far from relics of the past.
Through these riveting films, larger-than-life icons are humanized, criticized, idolized and even memorialized. Music biopics bring real stories to life, evoking nostalgic memories with unforgettable tunes and performances. Most recently, Elton John’s musical biopic Rocketman exceeded its projected opening and landed in the No. 3 spot in the U.S./Canada market.
Future biopics are already on the horizon for a number of artists, including Aretha Franklin, Judy Garland, Céline Dion, and David Bowie. But don’t forget about the amazing slate of music biopics already available. Take a look back at 25 of the best, featuring recent releases as well as beloved classics.
1. ‘Rocketman’ (2019)
Before Elton John became one of the most successful recording artists ever and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, among other accolades, he was a young piano prodigy living in London. Rocketman recounts the star’s struggles with addiction and coming to terms with his sexuality. The film also highlights the memorable music, energetic performances and theatrical costumes that secured John’s immutable greatness in pop rock history.
Available on: Amazon Prime
2. ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (2018)
Freddie Mercury’s tumultuous rise to fame is riddled with conflict, sex, drugs and, of course, Queen’s legendary rock music. Rami Malek’s Academy Award-winning performance as Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody presents the musician’s rise to fame and the personal toils that threatened his reputation. With spectacular music sequences to tunes you know by heart, the 2018 hit fully deserves a viewing.
Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime
3. ‘The Runaways’ (2010)
The Runaways chronicles the formation of the rock band of the same name and the turbulent relationship between bandmates Cherie Currie and Joan Jett. The two are united by an unshakable dream of rock stardom, but as the band attains more notability Currie’s drug addiction becomes increasingly afflicting. The film beautifully portrays the vulnerable moments and musical experiences that would eventually propel Jett to start her own band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.
Available to Watch on: Netflix
4. ‘Walk The Line’ (2005)
From humble beginnings on a cotton farm in Arkansas, Johnny Cash made an astonishing journey to become a country music icon. The 2005 film delves into many aspects of Cash’s life—his childhood trauma, Air Force service and troubling addictions—including his romance with June Carter, a role that won Reese Witherspoon an Academy Award.
Available to Watch on: HBO Max
5. ‘Selena’ (1997)
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez lived only 23 years, but her life story is immortalized in the 1997 film Selena. Jennifer Lopez scored her breakthrough role as the Queen of Tejano music. A young Selena starts singing with her father’s band to form Selena y Los Dinos and begins a romance with guitarist Chris Perez. She eventually evolves into an influential artist and icon in the Mexican-American community, remembered for her music, fashion and untimely death.
Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime
6. ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ (1993)
Tina Turner’s personal history is one of trials, tribulations and breakthroughs. What’s Love Got to Do With It? follows young Anna Mae Bullock’s early life coping with her unstable family. Turner finds eventual solace in Ike Turner’s band and she soon begins a romantic relationship with Turner, which descends into chaos after their marriage. Angela Bassett brings Turner’s remarkable story to life in the 1993 film.
Available to rent on: Prime Video
7. ‘The Doors’ (1991)
Jim Morrison’s legacy as the lead singer of The Doors is depicted in the 1991 film of the same name. Val Kilmer plays “The Lizard King” himself, emphasizes the problematic drug usage and alcohol addiction that led to his exit from the band. Morrison’s life epitomizes the sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll lifestyle that afflicted many of the genre’s most legendary musicians.
Available to watch on: Amazon Prime
8. ‘La Bamba’ (1987)
Before he was known as Ritchie Valens, Richard Steven Valenzuela led a normal life in Los Angeles, playing music and eventually finding fame. The film represents Valens relationships with his girlfriend Donna Ludwig and brother Bob Morales. The 1987 movie outlines the events that led to his appearance on American Bandstand and his fateful addition to the Winter Dance Party tour.
Available to Watch on: Hulu
9. ‘Sid and Nancy’ (1986)
Sex Pistols band member Sid Vicious enters into a chaotic relationship with groupie Nancy Spungen. Already heroin-addicted herself, Spungen engages in heroin use with Vicious, whose relationship with his bandmates eventually starts to decay. Vicious and Spungen’s relationship progresses from unstable to explosive over the course of this dramatic film.
Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime
10. ‘The Buddy Holly Story’ (1978)
Buddy Holly’s extraordinary story unfolds in the 1978 film The Buddy Holly Story starring Gary Busey. Jesse Charles, Ray Bob Simmons and Holly form a trio called The Crickets, quickly gaining traction in the rock ’n’ roll sphere. The film details the band’s evolution and Holly’s immeasurable influence on the music industry.
Available to Rent on: Amazon Prime
11. 'Jimi: All is By My Side'
Jimi Hendrix was an anomaly when it came to his uncanny ability to play the guitar. Andre 3000 of Outkast fame can also be considered a one of a kind artist whose music transcends conventional genre trappings. Jimi: All Is By My Side placed the lauded ATLien in its starring role and gave viewers an inside look at Jimi’s humble beginnings. Andre proved his acting chops were more than up to snuff as he portrayed Jimi to perfection and relived his earliest triumphs as a musician.
You can watch this film on Tubi and iTunes.
12. 'Get on Up'
The late Chadwick Boseman has appeared on the big screen as a Marvel Comics superhero, a Supreme Court Justice, and an African American baseball legend. He also played the role of one of the most prolific American soul singers of all time, James Brown. Boseman’s vocal delivery and mannerisms mimicked James Brown to near perfection in Get on Up. What makes this film so memorable is its fourth wall breaking sequences that saw James speak directly to the audience as he broke down his most monumental moments.
You can catch this film on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
13. 'Miles Ahead'
Don Cheadle made his feature-length film directorial debut with Miles Ahead, a strong biographical journey that took viewers on a wild ride through the life of jazz great Miles Davis. This cinematic experience bounced around different points of Davis’ life as it showed just how dedicated he was to get his musical career back to its most prominent state. Davis’ inner demons weren’t glossed over thankfully, which made his eventual redemption all the easier to root for.
This film can be seen via Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, and iTunes.
This next selection is definitely worth a watch or two simply because it was awarded an Oscar award for Best Actor (Jamie Foxx). It was also given high accolades and additional awards by the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Critics’ Choice institutions. Jamie Foxx’s moving performance as the iconic rhythm and blues musician Ray Charles was monumental at the time of this film’s release. And its inspirational story of making your way in this world despite one’s physical shortcomings is immensely effective.
Ray can be viewed on YouTube, iTunes, Google Play Movies & TV, and Vudu.
15. 'Jersey Boys'
If you’ve seen the Jersey Boys Broadway play, then you need to make sure you also watch the big-screen adaptation of the same name. Clint Eastwood directed and produced this touching biopic about the musical group by the name of The Four Seasons. It’s fascinating to witness what initially brought the group to unfathomable heights of fame, what ended up leading to their initial breakup and what it took to bring them back together.
Jersey Boys can be seen on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, and Netflix.
16. 'Nowhere Boy'
While Nowhere Boy doesn’t get into much of John Lennon’s most memorable years alongside The Beatles, it does offer a closer look at his teenage upbringing. This film follows Lennon’s fruitful (and sometimes stressful) relationships with his mother Julia Lennon and his aunt Mimi Smith. It also gives viewers a look at what led to Lennon’s infatuation with rock ‘n’ roll music in the first place and the earliest incarnation of The Beatles.
You can check out this film on iTunes and Vudu.
17. 'Roxanne Roxanne'
Roxanne Shante became hip-hop royalty once she grabbed the mic and gave the world “Roxanne’s Revenge.” This groundbreaking moment is just one of the many instances that will keep your eyes glued to the screen during a viewing of Roxanne Roxanne. Watching Roxanne’s tough home life unfold is an eye-opening experience, as is her hip-hop ascension and early interactions with a future MC by the name of Nas.
Roxanne Roxanne can be seen exclusively on Netflix.
18. '8 Mile'
While not a beat for beat biopic about Eminem’s life, it’s as close to one as we’re ever going to see. 8 Mile is a legendary film that’s easily quotable and recognizable by even non-rap fanatics. Eminem stars as Jimmy Smith Jr., an up and coming battle rapper who goes through hell and back in order to become something greater within his home city of Detroit. The closing rap battle contested between B-Rabbit and Papa Doc is replay worthy material.
8 Mile can be seen on YouTube, Google Play Moves & TV, Vudu, iTunes, Hulu, Sling TV, and Starz.
19. 'Straight Outta Compton'
NWA stands tall as one of music’s most impactful hip-hop acts. Their songs gave the rest of America a closer look at the many hardships that came with living in Southern Los Angeles. Straight Outta Compton provides a thorough look at what went into the formation of the group, how they dealt with all the controversy that came from their music, and what led to them coming apart at the seams. Straight Outta Compton was a box office smash at the time of its release and it’s easy to see why after just one complete viewing.
You can watch this film on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
20. 'The New Edition Story'
You can’t deny just how amazing New Edition’s catalog of hits is. Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant, and Johnny Gill were young heartthrobs that maintained their relevance for decades. BET’s biopic miniseries about the R&B group was a nationwide event during its debut and still makes fans out of viewers who were once clueless about them. The New Edition Story is a well-put-together biopic that perfectly encapsulates the reign of one of the best boy bands in American history.
You can check out this biopic miniseries on BET’s main website.
21. 'The Bobby Brown Story'
BET made sure to offer fans of the last entry on this list a worthy follow-up. And this time, it focused on R&B’s undisputed bad boy Bobby Brown. The Bobby Brown Story picks up right after the young singer gets kicked off the road tour due to his problematic behavior as a member of New Edition. This miniseries then gives us a look at the rise, fall, and subsequent redemption arc of Bobby Brown. To see a man like Bobby experience so much physical and mental anguish and still come out on the end of it all with his life still intact is amazing.
This biopic is a BET website exclusive.
22. 'CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story'
TLC has a special place in the heart of all those late 80s and early 90s babies. Their youth filled energy and mass appeal made them household names and one of music’s most likable R&B starlets. CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story summarizes the rise to superstardom the young trio experienced. But it also provides some insight into the many horrors of the music industry and how it takes advantage of the ones you’d least expect. But in the end, TLC’s legacy remains intact and is evidenced by the final sequence of events this biopic includes.
You can check out this film via BET+ on Amazon.
23. 'I’m Not There'
I’m Not There takes Bob Dylan fans on a journey through his life and breaks it down in an interesting manner. Six actors play the role of the iconic singer-songwriter and portray the many different facets of his varied personas. The film goes in and out of Dylan’s many personalities, but makes sure to offer a deep look at how each of them shaped Dylan into the legend he is today. To get a full understanding of the genius behind “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” I’m Not There is a must-see.
This film can be seen via iTunes, YouTube, and Google Play Movies & TV.
24. 'La Vie En Rose'
French singer Edith Piaf’s life ended prematurely. But before she left this world, she left an indelible mark on the world with her angelic voice. La Vie En Rose is a cinematic review of Piaf’s life and the career she built up during her reign of excellence. Her passing was connected to years of alcoholic abuse and drug addiction, which is touched upon in this biopic in full. But Piaf’s triumphs are detailed just as much as her inner demons, which makes this film the best look at the chanteuse’s life.
La Vie en Rose can be seen on iTunes, YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video.
25. 'The Pianist'
The Pianist is not only a biopic about a musical stalwart. It’s a war drama that delves into the horrors of the Holocaust. The main topic of this film is Polish-Jewish pianist and composer Wladyslaw Szpilman, a man known for his many recordings and contributions to polish radio. During his time spent in Warsaw alongside his family, Szpilman was forced to survive the many horrors of the Holocaust. This film details the hardships Szpilman experienced and the amazing music he produced in the midst of all that madness.
You can watch The Pianist on YouTube, Google Play Movies & TV, iTunes, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
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