10 films about famous musicians


By Pau
Published October 7, 2020, 12:00 am CDT

It shouldn’t be easy to summarize someone's entire artistic career in one single movie, yet that’s what a biopic is: a film genre that consists of dramatizing the biography of a real person or group of real people.

While there have been many unsuccessful attempts, others know how to breathe life into our favorite musicians’ works and eccentricities. Some have been so nicely done, they’ve earned prizes and catapulted the actors’ and directors’ cinema careers thanks to some big names in the music industry. In this article, we’ll talk about 10 movies inspired by famous musical artists. They’ll be listed in chronological order.


Bird (1988)



This film dramatizes the life of Charlie Parker, one of the most outstanding jazzmen responsible for completely revolutionizing the genre as one of the main promoters of the bebop style.

This film was directed by actor Clint Eastwood, who at the age of 16 had the opportunity to listen to Charlie Parker live and was captivated by his saxophone performance, and continued to follow his musical career throughout the years.

This work is considered more than a biopic because it not only tells us the biography of Charlie Parker, but also pays tribute to his musical career. The overall film introduces the viewer into the world of jazz and allows the audience to experience the magic of jazz firsthand.


The Doors (1991)



Though it’s named after the band, this film focuses on the life and work of Jim Morrison, from his early years to The Doors and his final days.

The film was directed by Oliver Stone, who focused on relating how the suggestive lyrics of his songs revolutionized the American youth of the 60s, and how a lifestyle full of excess led him to the abrupt end of his life.

Though the biggest fans have noticed, the series of chronological inconsistencies and wrong details in iconic scenes isn’t an impediment for both moviegoers and music lovers to enjoy this film.


What’s love got to do with it (1993)



This feature film was inspired by Tina Turner’s career, which started by earning a place in Ike Turner's band at a very young age, after being invited by him to sing on a stage performance. She’d later become his wife and co-star until people began to prefer her over him.

From director Brian Gibson, this movie is defined as the true story of the singer's rise to stardom and how she mustered up the courage to break free from her abusive husband. Gibson contacted real Tina Turner to get as close as possible to the truth, but production felt the public didn’t believe everything in the film. Despite this, Tina has said, “…it should have contained more of the truth".

Actor Laurence Fishburne rejected the role of Ike Turner five times and only changed his mind after learning Angela Basset would play Tina Turner.

This film contains tragic scenes from Tina's life and in turn, shows her motivation that helped her make her dream of becoming a singer come true. It is full of emotional roller coasters accompanied by iconic songs, and an ending that satisfies the viewer.


Selena (1997)



This film was inspired by the singer Selena Quintanilla, the queen of Tex-Mex music. She had an early start in the music industry with her brothers and later became a soloist with a promising career, until cut short by her murder at the hands of her fan club president. (This wouldn’t be considered a spoiler, since we all know the story in real life.)

This film was directed by Gregory Nava, but the most remarkable thing about the production is that Selena’s character was Jennifer Lopez’s first leading role. In addition to a good performance and great characterization, she also lip-synched the songs in the film.

This movie contains an outline of Tex-Mex culture and Selena's popularity in the Hispanic community in the United States with emotional roller coasters and a really touching ending.


8 mile (2002)



This story is about a boy named Jimmy Smith, aka "Rabbit", who lives in a black neighborhood in Detroit. His financial problems and constant arguing with his mother and his girlfriend have made his life difficult; his only escape is the hip-hop music that he loves so much. He then becomes a rapper and vents his problems through his verses.

Despite talking about a fictional character, this film is considered to be Eminem’s biopic. Both of them share a lot of similarities and Eminem stars as the main character.

Directed by Curtis Hanson, it won an Oscar and a Critics' Choice Awards for Best Song and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the Best Original Song category. Eminem was nominated in the Chicago Critics Association award for the Best New Performer category.

While this film tells the story of a rap star, it also shows the most human and sensitive part of the protagonist which allows the viewer to empathize with him and root for him on his path to fame.


Ray (2004)



Ray Charles's life contains both great triumphs and personal failures during his career in show business. He had a great gift for music and was able to effectively combine the most diverse musical styles: jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, gospel, and country, which made him go down in history as one of the wonders of modern music.

On the other hand, his unstoppable rise to fame also brought illegal substance abuse and an endless string of lovers who led him further to addiction. This left a mark in his music and his life, not to mention overcoming his childhood traumas, dealing with his brother George’s death, and his irreversible blindless at age five. 

Directed by Taylor Hackford and starring Jamie Foxx as Ray, this feature film won several awards both in the United States and other countries for its history, cast, and the musical selection that surrounds each of Ray’s life's events.


La vie en rose (2007)



This is the biopic of the famous French singer Edith Piaf, who constantly struggled to survive and love someone. The movie covers everything from her childhood in the Parisian slums to her success as a singer in New York City. 

This film lets you experience Edith Piaf’s sensitivity, her great appreciation for music, and her deepest emotions, captured in each song. It’s a story of faith and perseverance in the face of life’s biggest obstacles, accompanied by an unmatched singing talent. 

From director Olivier Dahan and played by Marion Cotillard, who was undoubtedly the best choice to take on the leading role, this film provides a fabulous performance that easily takes the viewer to another era.


Love & Mercy (2014)



Here you’ll find the life of Brian Wilson, a famous singer and songwriter from the Beach Boys. This film covers his career from the 60s all the way to the 90s. He went from musical success to therapy and seclusion in order to fight against drugs, and even accused his therapist of medical negligence.  

There are two interesting aspects to this movie:

The first is the importance of creating and prioritizing art over personal problems. The common story of “an artist takes drugs and lets himself be carried away” isn’t told here; Brian’s work ethic never faltered despite a spiral of problems. Instead, the film chose to focus on his artistic development, not his personal problems. 

The second is the point of view. This isn’t a subjectively narrative film, so the audience can choose and make their own judgment through the events based on the characters’ views. 

It’s the first film by director Bill Pohlad, and got him several nominations for state film awards in the United States. Anyone who enjoys art, detail, and precision within music will enjoy this film.


The music of silence (2017)


Based on the memories of the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, this feature film tells how his family supported his musical talent from a young age and how he managed to become a world-famous opera star, despite glaucoma that would lead to blindness years later.

Music is one of the key aspects of this film, painting the events and supporting the storyline, even though the movie was panned by critics for its narrative thread. 

From director Michael Radford who was inspired by the eponymous novel written by the tenor in the late 90s, it also features unpublished songs composed by Bocelli. This is a biopic all opera fans will like.


Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)



This biopic is about the band Queen, focusing on its main vocalist Freddie Mercury. It tells the story from how their members met in college, their path to success thanks to their musical singularity, their style, and the craziest ideas that led them to be famous. It also dives into Freddie Mercury’s separation and later return to the band caused by some personal problems which he overcame to perform in one of the largest rock concerts in music history.

The movie was directed by Bryan Singer, who also had the support of the band’s members to help him show the events throughout the film. Here, music directs the storytelling, making this movie a favorite for every rock enthusiast. It's also perfect to showcase a band’s legacy to newer generations.

Besides being an industry hit, Queen was also a pillar for contemporary pop culture thanks to its iconic songs, revolutionary sound, and a philosophy that made them not just a band but a family. To this day, Queen keeps inspiring music lovers.


Which of these movies is your favorite? Are there any movies that we should add to the list? Tell us about it!



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