We love our musical icons and superstars. In the past 20 years, the biopic trend of putting our favorite artist on the big screen and telling their story has become increasingly popular. It seems like there is a new one every year. Below is a list of some of the biopics viewers loved the most.
1. The Doors (1991)
When the movie was released, it didn’t do very well at the box office; in fact, it bombed. The only bright spot was Val Kilkmer’s performance as the aloof and often strange Jim Morrison. I urge you to give this film a second chance and take it for what it is. Maybe the film is a psychedelic mess that feels like it was written by a drunk because Moriisson was a reckless drunk himself. Kilmer embodies the Lizard King and everything about sex, drugs, and rock and roll of the 1960s.
2. Get On Up (2014)
Much like the previous movie, this film also bombed at the box office, but I am here to defend it. I dare you not to tap your toes whenever Chadwick Bozeman is on the screen. Bozeman completely transforms into James Brown and delivers with all the electricity and charisma of the man himself. Add the superb acting of Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, which makes this movie worthy of a second or third watch.
3. The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
One of the pioneers of rock and roll, Buddy Holly, tragically died in a plane crash that also took the lives of Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. It wasn’t until 1978, when Gary Busey delivered an Academy Award-winning performance, that Holly’s music made a resurgence on the charts. Busey’s portrayal of Holly is legendary, and the actor went as far as to perform the artist’s songs himself. The film is also iconic because, like Holly, Busey’s career was also short-lived.
4. Selena (1997)
Just two short years after the Mexican-American singer’s death, Jennifer Lopez took the big screen to portray and continue her legacy. The movie helps to continue the young artist’s success, which she would no longer be able to enjoy. Jennifer Lopez shines in her first leading role, leading to a Golden Globe nomination. Critics call the film a brilliant memorial to a soul lost too soon.
5. 8 Mile (2002)
More of a loosely based story than a true biopic, this film follows Marshall Mathers as a fictionalized version of himself. Playing the role of B-Rabbit, Mathers manages his drug-addicted mother, neglected sister, dead-end job, and ambitions to be a rapper. Mathers is remarkable as a struggling artist in the inner city of Detroit, pulling out all the stops to overcome his fears and follow his dreams. Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” went on to win an Oscar for Best Original Song.
6. Ray (2004)
Very few actors have been able to nail the appearance and sounds of an artist in a biopic, as well as Jamie Foxx. You might have to take a second look at watching this movie because you will think Ray Charles is singing on your TV. Jamie nails the mannerisms and vocals of the late R&B singer. Watch Foxx sing ” Georgia on my Mind,” and try not to get emotional. This film cemented Foxx as a legit A-lister that can do more than just comedy.
7. Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Follow Easy E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre as they make their way out of the rough streets of Compton, CA, to the top of the charts as they pioneer the early days of gangsta rap. Perfect casting, including Ice Cube’s son playing himself, will give you an understanding of racial tension and a new genre of music emerging in the late 80s and early 90s.
8. Walk the Line (2005)
Leading actor Joaquin Phoenix and actress Reese Witherspoon both won Oscars for their performances of Johhny Cash and June Carter. Following the careers of the two country stars and their complicated relationships, the two deliver a great musical performance. Cash passed away before the movie was released, but it is said he gave Phoenix and Witherspoon his blessings and even approved of the early script.
9. What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)
Follow the rise of Tina Turner as she goes from a background singer to one of the most famous voices in music history. Laurence Fishburne and Angela Basset star as Ike Turner and Tina Turner, and it follows their tumultuous affair. Both earned Oscar nominations for their performances as flawed lovers trying to own the spotlight.
10. Sid and Nancy (1986)
Chloe Webb and Gary Oldman are beyond convincing as troubled, drug-addicted lovers Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. You will feel like you emerge in the 70s punk rock scene as you watch these two spiral down a drugged frenzy that ends up in a violent murder. Leave it to Gary Oldman to give an incredible performance in this rollercoaster of film.
11. La Bamba (1987)
Chicano singer Ritchie Valens was making his rise as a star before he tragically perished in the same plane crash that took Buddy Holly. The movie showcased the late singer’s childhood and rise to fame. The lead actor, Lou Diamond Phillips, rocks the big screen as he belts out the title song, “La Bamba,” in his famous flashy jacket and slicked-back hair.
12. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
Sissy Spacek portrays country singer Loretta Lynn as she goes from a poor country girl to a country singing star. Spacek shows off her singing chops, and her album actually charted on the country music charts. Take a step back in time and relive the honky tonks of the 50s and 60s in this fun musical ride.
13. Amadeus (1984)
This hilarious film follows the rumored rivalry between composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri. Tom Hulce stars as a famous composer and delivers as an actor and a musician. The play it was based on was also a hit, winning multiple Tonys, as the film went on to earn eight Oscars, including Best Film.
14. Elvis (2022)
Hollywood darling Austin Butler delivers an awesome performance as a young Elvis, making his name as an artist all the way through his stardom and demise. Tom Hanks plays his troubled and creepy manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Watch the performance Butler gives singing “Trouble” and then “Unchained Melody” as Elvis nears the end of his life, and you will understand how powerful his performance is.
15. Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
In my opinion, his might be the best biopic ever made. Rami Malek fully encompasses the charisma of the Queen’s iconic frontman. The movie follows the different styles and genres the band dabbled in throughout their career. The final epic scene fully re-enacts their performance at Live Aid. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it and consider yourself a music fan.
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