What Are Your Favourite Music Movies of All Time?

Music and movies had gone together since–well, since there were movies. Part of the reason for the development of long-playing album technology in the 1940s was to allow original cast recordings from movie musicals and Broadway plays. Later we started buying movie soundtracks, some with a clear rock’n’roll bent.

Question: What are your favourite music movies of all time?  Before you answer, let’s set down some rules for this list.

  1. No Sound of Music or Saturday Night Fever. Try to be cooler than that.
  2. It doesn’t have to be a musical.
  3. No concert films.
  4. No soundtracks that just feature disconnected songs in the background. I’m looking for movies where I music played an integral part in the story. You’ll see what I mean with these examples which I’ve listed in no particular order.

1. The Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Since I just attended Phantompalooza in Winnipeg, home of the biggest cult following of this 1974 Brian De Palma movie, I need to include it while it’s still fresh in my mind. This is a clip from Swan’s grand opening of The Paradise, his over-the-top rock theatre. This performance by the fictional band The Undead was filmed in 1974, five years before there was a Bauhaus or a goth movement. (BTW, I had dinner with lead singer Peter Elbling who, um, resurrected his singing role with the house band that night.)

Somebody Super Like You from schufu gatouleas on Vimeo.


2. Twenty Four Hour Party People (2002)

The lightly fictionalized story of Madchester (Joy Division, New Order, Factory Records, Happy Mondays, etc.)and the rave/club scene that followed. Whenever I pass by on my TV’s guide, I always finished it off.


3. High Fidelity (2000)

My wife’s review: “This isn’t a movie. It’s a documentary about you and your friends!” She’s not wrong.


4. Spinal Tap (1984)

Biting satire or a serious document of an era in rock? Both.


5. Cha-Cha (1979)

I have no reason to recommend this one other than back in university I was smitten with a girl who was smitten with this film.


6. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

It’s gotta be here. It just has to.


7. Tommy (1975)

Yeah, I know Ken Russell’s film adaptation of The Who’s classic rock opera is way over the top, but it speaks to me. Or maybe it’s because Ann Margaret was so damned MILFy.


Control (2007)

Anton Corbijn’s bleak black-and-white study of the crawsh of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis is filled with brilliant performances.

Care to weigh in?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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14 thoughts on “What Are Your Favourite Music Movies of All Time?

  • So Pink Floyd in Pompeii doesn’t count, despite having no audience present on camera?

    • Still basically a concert film, though, isn’t it? Good try…

  • Leningrad Cowboys Go America (1989)

  • The Legend Of 1900
    Great over the top piano scenes, entire story is told from a music shop, and a great scene showing the recording of a record live direct to platter.

  • High Fidelity was first that came to mind. How about Wayne’s World, or Sound City (sort of a sound track, but there’s a lot of story in there)

  • How about some Can Con? Hard Core Logo, great film.

  • The Commitments! Great Alan Parker film that gets no respect!

  • Moulin Rouge (musical but cool)
    About a Boy (because Nick Hornby)
    Begin Again (my new fave)
    I am Sam
    Breakfast at Tiffany’s
    Spike Island
    That Thing you Do

    Still have more 🙂

  • Almost Famous. No brainer there.

  • I cant believe The Blues Brothers isn’t on this list. Now let’s see who was in it……… James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, not to mention the stellar line up of the Blues Band itself ie. Steve Cropper, Matt Guitar Murphy etc…..
    What other film can boast these legends all performing in the same film together?

  • Crossroads! (Ralph Macchio not Britney Spears)

  • Great list, especially love Phantom, Rocky Horror, High Fidelity, This is Spinal Tap, Crossroads. Here are some that resonated with me.

    That Thing You Do. A perfectly executed story of a one hit wonder… none of it would work if the signature song wasn’t perfect… It’s amazing they repeat it 11 times in the movie (in-full or snippet).

    Sill Crazy. A silly little British film with an amazing cast. The music perfectly represents what a middling 70s classic rock band might sound like on a reunion tour (with help from Mick Jones of Foreigner). It’s too bad the “middling” band from Almost Famous weren’t this good.

    Inside Llewyn Davis, a great little Coen brothers film about a struggling folk singer in the 60s. Really merges the new Americana movement with some classics. Great end joke about Dylan.

    and speaking of the Coen brothers… O Brother, Where art Thou

    All of the great recent (ish) docs, Standing in the Shadows of Motown, Twenty Feet from Stardom, Muscle Shoals, The Wrecking Crew, etc.

    Oh and Peter Elbling was also in “Scum of the Earth” on WKRP in Cincinnati. How cool is that!

  • I’m with amber. Almost Famous for sure. It’s all happening.


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