Who among us hasn’t wanted to be famous? There’s a reason that an actual Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp for adults has been in existence for over two decades!
But if you can’t BE a famous musician, the next best thing is watching a movie about one. Because then you might appreciate your own life a little more after realizing that fame and fortune aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Here are 5 of my favorite music biopics that relive the highs and lows of some of the industry’s biggest stars.
Bohemian Rhapsody – Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, you know that this hit-packed drama about the life of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury is racking up awards left and right. It just hit the Box and Redbox on Demand, so now you can see what all the fuss is about before Oscar night on February 24, where it’s up for both Best Picture and Best Actor (Rami Malek). While it plays a little fast and loose with timelines of what-happened-when for both the band and Mercury, anyone with a pulse is going to enjoy stomping and singing along to crowd-pleasers like “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust” and, of course, the title track.
Walk the Line – Feeling a little bit country? Then this is one of two movies on my list for you. It stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and his girlfriend (and eventual wife), fellow country star June Carter. Both leads earned Oscar nominations for their performances, with Witherspoon winning the gold on the big night in 2006. You’ll marvel at everything June had to put up with during Johnny’s tumultuous life and career, in addition to being amazed at just how much Phoenix sounds like Cash.
Love & Mercy – If you’re a Beach Boys fan, you can’t miss this film that focuses on two periods in co-founder and co-lead singer Brian Wilson’s almost-unbelievable life. Paul Dano plays a younger Wilson in the ‘60s at the height of the band’s popularity, and John Cusack plays Wilson in the ‘80s, as he is being horribly manipulated by psychotherapist Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). It’s a tragic story, but you’ll come out of it understanding why so many consider Wilson to be a musical genius.
La Bamba – Now we’re going back to the late ‘80s for a wonderful film about the life and career of Chicano rock star Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips), who died in a February 1959 plane crash while on tour with Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper, who also perished on that fateful flight. Roger Ebert described it as a “sweet and sentimental movie … about a kid who never really got to show his stuff.” But his legacy lives on through his hits “Donna” and the rollicking “La Bamba.”
Coal Miner’s Daughter – And now for the second country-music-focused biopic on my list. It was nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, and won Sissy Spacek the gold statue for Best Actress. Who was she portraying? None other than country legend Loretta Lynn, who spent her childhood in poverty, was the mother of four children by age 19, and whose music career didn’t even start until she was 25 — and then completely blasted off. It’s as inspiring of a rags-to-riches story as you’re ever going to get! Tommy Lee Jones and Beverly D’Angelo also co-star as Loretta’s husband Doolittle and country great Patsy Cline.
What are some of your favorite music biopics?