The 15 Best Movies About Music and Musicians

The more we dig into a musical artist’s body of work, the more we want to know the people behind the music. What d0 they listen to? What are they like off-stage? Are they eccentric enigmas whenever cameras are rolling and modest introverts once they turn off, or is there no filter between their public and private personas?

Movies about music and musicians give us a chance to learn what these charismatic figures might be like, even though ultimately the stories we watch may be no more accurate than our imagination. Whether those movies get the official stamp of the artist depicted or they’re just the speculations of someone with cameras and a budget, for better or worse films about music help to make rock gods and hip-hop innovators more human, as well as helping to build their legends. With that in mind, here are the best movies about music and musicians currently streaming.

Not in the mood for movies about music? That’s OK, because we’ve also rounded up the best movies on Netflix, the best movies on Hulu, the best movies on Amazon Prime, and the best movies on Disney+.

Rocketman, best movies about music

Rocketman (2019)

While some might refer to Rocketman as a biopic, Taron Egerton — who plays Sir Elton John in the film — calls the movie a “fantasy musical,” and that gets a lot closer to the bullseye. The filmmakers shamelessly blur the lines between fact and fiction, because the point of the film isn’t to load up Elton John fans with new trivia. Through the lens of John’s decades worth of hits, Rocketman explores the highs and deep lows of its subject’s life. For example, we feel the crushing loneliness of the singer’s childhood home through the performance of I Want Love. Later, we feel his renewed energy as he emerges from a rehab facility belting out I’m Still Standing. Grand, powerful, and over-the-top with no apology, Rocketman is a wonderful tribute to one of our best living singer-songwriters. 

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Rating: R
Runtime: 121 minutes

John belushi and dan aykroyd in blues brothers

The Blues Brothers (1980)

A classic Saturday Night Live sketch turned full-length feature, The Blues Brothers follows comedians Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi as Jake and Elwood Blues, a pair of trouble makers who set out to raise money to save the orphanage they grew up in from foreclosure. Though the main characters are fictional, a who’s who of famous musicians from multiple generations are featured in the film, including guest appearances from greats like James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Chaka Khan.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd
Director: John Landis
Rating: R
Runtime: 133 minutes

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Reese witherspoon and joaquin phoenix in walk the line

Walk the Line (2005)

Johnny Cash’s early days are captured superbly in Walk the Line, a biopic about the life and times of one of country music’s most powerful voices. Starring Joaquin Phoenix as Cash and Reese Witherspoon (who won the Academy Award for Best Actress) as his wife and fellow musician June, the film largely centers on Cash’s rise to fame, providing an interesting insight into the Man in Black accompanied by many of his most classic songs.

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, Robert Patrick
Director: John Landis
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

Eminem in 8 mile

8 Mile (2002)

This film about a young white rapper from Detroit largely mirrors the real-life story of controversial musician Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers III), who also stars in the role. While the film is compelling, it’s the music in 8 Mile that really sells it, among the best to ever grace a soundtrack. Eminem nabbed the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the now-classic Lose Yourself, and the film’s soundtrack debuted at No.1 on the Billboard 200 upon release, eventually becoming the fifth best-selling album of the year.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Eminem, Brittany Murphy, Kim Basinger
Director: Curtis Hanson
Rating: R
Runtime: 110 minutes

Love & mercy, best movies about music

Love & Mercy (2015)

For fans of the Beach Boys’ musical mastermind Brian Wilson, this film is a must-watch. Following Wilson as a young man (played by Paul Dano) and middle-aged (John Cusack), with distinct segments set in the 1960s and 1980s, Love & Mercy shows the singer and songwriter’s mental breakdown and his recovery. The ’60s scenes closely re-create Wilson’s famed methods while recording Pet Sounds, showcasing the forward-thinking sensibility of one of pop music’s most intriguing geniuses.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks
Director: Bill Pohlad
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 121 minutes

John cusack and jack black in high fidelity

High Fidelity (2000)

Another Cusack classic, High Fidelity stars the gregarious actor as a music-obsessed record store owner in Chicago reliving his past love affairs. An excellent ensemble cast rounded out by actors such as Lisa Bonet and Jack Black is complemented by an equally enthralling soundtrack that features classic works by legendary songwriters such as The Kinks and Bob Dylan, but also highlights lesser-known (but critically beloved) bands like the 13th Floor Elevators and Beta Band.

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso
Director: Stephen Frears
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

Almost famous, best movies about music

Almost Famous (2000)

Director Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical story based on his time as a teenage Rolling Stone journalist embedded with an up-and-coming classic rock band, Almost Famous offers an interesting and comical glimpse into the chaotic ’70s rock scene. As expected, the soundtrack for the film — which includes a who’s who of classic artists, from Simon & Garfunkel to Led Zeppelin — is fantastic. In fact, the film won the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack in 2001.

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Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Billy Crudup, Patrick Fugit, Kate Hudson
Director: Cameron Crowe
Rating: R
Runtime: 122 minutes

This is spinal tap, best movies about music

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

Widely regarded as one of the best films of the mockumentary genre (if not the best), This is Spinal Tap provides a hilarious look inside the world of the fictional British heavy metal band. A full album of original material was written (and later performed) for the film, with such hits as Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight and Gimme Some Money — not-so-subtle digs at the generic state of big-label rock in the early ’80s.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer
Director: Rob Reiner
Rating: R
Runtime: 82 minutes

Bradley cooper and lady gaga in a star is born

A Star Is Born (2018)

A Star Is Born‘s plot isn’t new — this is the third remake of the 1937 romantic drama — but Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut proves that it’s not the story that matters. It’s how you tell it. As Ally, a young singer-songwriter who falls for a hard-drinking country musician, Lady Gaga proves that she can hang with veteran actors like Cooper and Sam Elliott, while the film’s breakout single, Shallow, topped music charts around the world, won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, and led to one of the steamiest musical performances in Oscar history.

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Sam Elliott
Director: Bradley Cooper
Rating: R
Runtime: 136 minutes

Amadeus, best movies about music

Amadeus (1984)

The story of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is given a heavy dose of drama in this adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s stage play of the same name. Highlighting the rivalry between Mozart (Tom Hulce) and older Italian composer Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), the critically acclaimed film won eight Academy Awards — and 32 other awards in other competitions, including the Grammys — upon its release. Amadeus features excellent performances of some of Mozart’s compositions, played to perfection by London’s Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Stars: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge
Director: Milos Forman
Rating: R
Runtime: 160 minutes

Straight outta compton, best movies about music

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Rapper Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., plays his father in this visceral portrayal of the formative years of West Coast gangsta rap pioneers NWA. The film was the inspiration for Dr. Dre’s third studio album, Compton, and features many of the group’s classic cuts. A compelling tell-all that follows the intriguing chemistry behind some of hip hop’s most iconic performers, the film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2015.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell
Director: F. Gary Gray
Rating: R
Runtime: 147 minutes

Once, best movies about music

Once (2007)

A romantic musical about a busking songwriter who works as a vacuum repairman, Once was the darling of both music and film critics when it hit screens, helping to launch the careers of real-life musicians/co-stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. Shot on a shoestring budget, the film earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2008 for Falling Slowly.

Rotten Tomatoes: 97%
Stars: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová, Hugh Walsh
Director: John Carney
Rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes

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Inside llewyn davis, best movies about music

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

Viewers praised the Coen brothers’ black comedy that told the story of a 1961 starving folk singer. This musical movie rose to fame with exceptional scripting, phenomenal acting, and impeccable live recordings of traditional folk songs. Oscar Issac is the star of the show, performing alongside popular musicians like Justin Timberlake, Chris Thile, and Marcus Mumford. This film (similar to all Coen brothers endeavors) amassed serious critic commendation, leading to Best Sound Mixing Oscar and Best Original Song Golden Globe nominations.

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman
Director: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

Eugene levy and catherine o'hara in a mighty wind

A Mighty Wind (2003)

This is Spinal Tap is just one of the multiple musical mockumentaries by Christopher Guest. Returning to the screen with 1996’s Waiting for Guffman, Guest went on to direct a hilarious mockumentary series, including 2003’s A Mighty Wind. The story introduces three separate folk artist groups and invites them on stage to honor a folk producer that had since passed away. The main group features Eugene Levy as Mitch and Catherine O’Hara as Mickey, the former lovebird duo. The movie is a parody of American folk music and pokes fun at its many hippie-like characteristics; however, what makes it stand out is the audience’s apparent appreciation and love for the genre. Viewers can see the truth in this statement in action during A Kiss’s performance at the End of the Rainbow in the film’s final scenes. It’s truly one of the sweetest moments on film.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy, Michael McKean, Catherine O’Hara
Director: Christopher Guest
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 91 minutes

Gary oldman and chloe webb in sid and nancy

Sid and Nancy (1986)

Sid and Nancy is among the first major motion pictures to take on the punk rock genre and offer Gary Oldman his first-ever leading role. This film takes viewers through the love story and deaths of legendary Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious (Oldman) and girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). We watch as Sid and Nancy meet for the first time in London, fall in love (and heroin), and embark on a United States tour. We also see Sid’s failed attempts to kick-start a solo music career (Oldman’s awe-inspiring rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way alone is worth the ticket price). Oldman and Web are a fantastic match in each of their specific roles throughout a tangled, cataclysmic, and fierce romance story.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman
Director: Alex Cox
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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