Some top films depicting the highs and lows of being in a band
Jersey Boys, directed by Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood, charts the rise to stardom of four young boys from the rough end of town who went on to become the 1960s rock group sensation The Four Seasons. Bands that we know and love often make for great film fodder – the internal conflict, management issues, meltdowns and crazy fans give us more drama and tears than an episode of X-Factor. In this list of our favourite music films you’ll find some biopics based on real groups and some fictional bands, but most of all plenty of great music.
The Doors (1991) Starring: Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan. To prepare for the role as Jim Morrison, iconic lead singer of The Doors, Val Kilmer apparently totally immersed himself in the star’s world for a year before shooting the film – wearing his clothes and hanging out in his old haunts to fully embody the rock legend. The biography shows Morrison’s life from his time as film student in UCLA, writing his popular hit ‘Light My Fire’ through to his premature death at 27, in Paris.
Dreamgirls (2006) Starring: Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose. This musical drama set in the 1960s is based on the rise of Motown and one of its biggest acts, The Supremes. Dreamgirls was adapted from a stage play and is full of great music numbers such as ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ and ‘Listen’ which were released by Jennifer Hudson and Beyoncé Knowles respectively. This is a full-on musical. Expect fabulously feathered costumes and elaborate wigs, which all go some way towards touching on the sacrifices required to ‘make it’ in showbiz.
The Blues Brothers (1980) Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Cab Calloway. Aside the great acting talents of the film’s stars Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, who give iconic performances in this film – the artist cameos are top drawer, too. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown all make an appearance adding soul gravitas to this comedy. Belushi plays Jake Blues, who has just been released from prison, when he decides to get his old band back together to raise money to save the home him and his brother Elwood (Aykroyd) grew up in.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Starring: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest. A clever comedy mockumentary that hilariously portrays the exploits of a fading British heavy metal band attempting a comeback tour. The movie, which was director Rob Reiner’s debut (you might recognise him as Max Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street) remains one of the best and most critically acclaimed entries in the mockumentary genre. The film expertly highlights many of the clichés, conventions and car crashes associated with the music business.
The Commitments (1991) Starring: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball. Barrytown, Dublin in the 1990s may not seem the most obvious breeding ground for soul music but this film shows the genre knows no boundaries. Jimmy Rabbitte (Arkins) puts together a rag-tag group of singers and musicians and despite the odds the band gets its groove on with each passing gig. The film has an insanely catchy score and covers of classics such as ‘Mustang Sally’.
Almost Famous (2000) Starring: Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson. Fifteen-year-old William Miller gets the summer job of a lifetime when he’s asked to follow up-and-coming US rock and roll band, Stillwater, on their concert tour. As much about coming of age as it is about music, Almost Famous reminds us all how much music shapes the way we grow up and forms the soundtrack of our lives.
Dig! (2004) Starring: Anton Newcombe, Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Joel Gion. A documentary about American rock bands The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, their feuds and fame. You don’t need to be a fan of either band, or even know who they are to enjoy this film. The movie highlights the rivalry between the two groups and is made from seven years’ worth of footage edited by Ondi Timoner. The result is a ‘rock-umentary’ that aptly illustrates the fickle nature of the music industry.
The School of Rock (2003) Starring: Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack. Jack Black plays Dewey Finn, the kind of music teacher you wish you had, the type who would have made you keep up those guitar lessons had you had this affable and energetic rock-loving dude teaching you to appreciate the finer workings of Jimi Hendrix. The film follows the endearing Finn, a wannabe rock star down on his luck forced to take on a job as a supply teacher. Jersey Boys is in cinemas across Dubai now.