Movies hold a lot more meaning and emotional value when they have a good soundtrack. Music and movies go hand in hand. So, it’s no surprise that movies about music are at an advantage of hooking me. I should be clear that I’m not referring to musicals but movies where music is a central point of the plot. I love to watch people follow their musical dreams. I love seeing the atmosphere, the vision, the failures and triumphs, and of course, the performances. If I were to make a list of movies about music, the length would get out of hand. To avoid that, I decided to narrow it down to 10 of my favorites from the last 21 years.
Almost Famous (2000)
This movie struck me immediately when it began. It was recommended to me because the main character wants to be a music journalist. And of course, I loved it.
Set in the 70s, 15-year-old William is assigned by Rolling Stone magazine to do a profile of a rising rock band. They aren’t aware of his age when they assign it to him. When he attends a concert in town, he isn’t taken seriously because of his age but he catches the attention of the guitarist of the band Stillwater, and he’s let backstage. From there, he meets Penny Lane, a groupie for the band, who becomes a sort of guardian to him. As he’s exposed to this new world, he finds himself following the band on their tour, looking for opportunities to finally get an interview with the band who keeps putting it off. Through it all, he sees the rock world through a personalized lens.
The story is about the world of rock, but it’s also a compelling coming-of-age film. You get to watch what it’s like being in the music world but also a story of a kid seeing the harsh realities of life and the world he grew up idolizing. Yet still, finds much room for hope. He finds beauty in the world with all the beauty and the ugly.
The character William and the entire story are based on the life of Cameron Crowe, the film's writer-director, who was lucky enough to be a teenage Rolling Stone writer. This movie is a must-watch for anyone who loves music and compelling characters. And for any fans of Kate Hudson.
You can watch the trailer.
Raise Your Voice (2004)
I always loved Hilary Duff growing up. So, when my mom purchased Raise Your Voice, I was excited to watch it! I soon learned how devastating elements of the film truly are. I don’t want to give any of it away in case any readers would like to watch it. That said, a general spoiler-free summary would be that this movie tells a coming-of-age story centered around a small-town singer who ends up going to a performing arts academy in Los Angeles against her father’s wishes. In the performing arts academy, she experiences a whole new way of life in the big city, far from the small-town lifestyle she's used to. It also focuses on her coming into her own and working to fulfill her singing dreams.
It’s so emotionally gripping and powerful, and it’s a movie that may hold some early 2000s cringe, but it’s still a beautiful movie. Watch the trailer.
Walk the Line (2005)
Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash, need I say more? Walk the Line is a biopic about the success and struggles of Johnny Cash. It follows the direction of many biopics—brief background, music beginnings, obscurity, rise to fame, addiction, or another form of hardship, and then beating it. The music industry can be a toxic place where musicians are exposed to parts of life they’d never known before. Walk the Line shows the degradation Cash faces as he struggles with addictions to booze and pills. What elevated the movie for me was Reese Witherspoon portraying June Carter, Cash’s second wife, and charismatic singer. The chemistry between Witherspoon and Phoenix was electric, and I loved that both actors worked hard to emulate the singing styles of the roles they were playing.
I learned a lot about Johnny Cash’s life from this movie, and I really enjoyed it from start to finish. It’s worth a watch for Johnny Cash fans (although remember it’s only based on his life, so some creative liberties were taken). Honestly, it’s a good watch for anyone, whether you knew and liked Johnny Cash or not. Check out the trailer.
8 Mile (2002)
As someone who grew up loving Eminem, this movie was always interesting to me. You learn a lot about Eminem through the lyrics of his songs but to see it played out on-screen gave fans a better understanding of his upbringing. Although the movie is loosely based on his life with some details changed, it still gives you a perspective on his experience getting into the rap scene. Plus, we got the legendary track “Lose Yourself” because of this movie, so that alone makes it great to me.
The movie follows the character Jimmy (B-Rabbit) as he tri