The Best Music Biopics

Above: Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix, in 'Walk The Line'.

F. Gary Gray’s biopic Straight Outta Compton had its wide release over the weekend, and surprised many by dominating the box office. The film is already projected to be more of a financial success than previously thought. Critically speaking, the film isn’t doing too shabby either. Along with our own review earlier today, Gray’s opus is raking in the positive feedback. The film currently has an 88% fresh rating on tastemaker, Rotten Tomatoes, and holds a user score of 7.7 on Metacritic. All in all, it’s become one of Hollywood’s best underdog stories this year.

The movie itself follows the legendary and equally controversial hip-hop group N.W.A, through their formative years in the violence-ridden city of Compton. Chronicling their rise to success, the biopic is one of hundreds of biopics that dramatize the story of a musical act and receive critical acclaim.

In honour of Straight Outta Compton, here are some of the best music biopics you can watch right now.

8 Mile (2002)

When Eminem’s 8 Mile was released way back in 2002, many were skeptical of Marshall Mathers’ acting chops. To everyone’s surprise, the dude acted his way through this come up tale with ease. Perhaps it was easy to do so, given that he was playing a fictionalized version of himself. Regardless, the movie is a must-watch for any Slim Shady fan, and is one of the truest and rawest rap stories told on screen to date.

Sid and Nancy (1986)

Long before Gary Oldman was Batman’s butler, he played the gnarly Sex Pistols bassist, Sid Vicious. The love affair between he and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (played by Chloe Webb) is incredibly tragic. Legendary critic, Roger Ebert, even called it the punk rock “Romeo and Juliet”. We’re not saying this movie is light, but it’s certainly moving.

24 Hour Party People (2002) 

Factory Records was one of Britain’s most influential labels, and along with its roster, championed the “Madchester” sound. Told through the POV of its eccentric Tony Wilson (played by Steve Coogan) we get a behind the scenes take of some of the crazy business deals behind musicians like Joy Division. Wilson frequently breaks the fourth wall, which adds an extra edge to all of its weirdness.

La Vie En Rose (2007)

Marion Cotillard may have been a household name in her native France, but in 2007, she finally broke through overseas. Olivier Dahan’s take on the life of the cabaret icon, shone the spotlight on an artist that many young generations may have not been familiar with. And just like with any era’s rockstars, Piaf’s life was full of drama. Her ups are as memorable as her downs, and Cotillard is as magnetic as ever. It remains some of her greatest work, and one of the best foreign language biopics ever made.

Walk The Line (2005)

It’s hard to make Johnny Cash anything less than the coolest dude in country. But just as much as it is Johnny’s story, Reese Witherspoon proves a powerful counterpart to Joaquin Phoenix’s man in black. The Carter-Cash marriage was just as tumultuous as it was romantic, and the entire film presents a complex picture when it could’ve just as easily painted Johnny Cash as the culturally mythic hero that he is to many.

Ray (2004)

By now, everyone knows the talent that Jamie Foxx possesses. But until the Ray Charles biopic was released, he had his doubters. Sure he could deliver the laughs, but could he hold the narrative of an entire dramatic movie by himself? Foxx wowed audiences across the globe and took home the award for best actor. Ray is a fascinating tale, and it definitely proved that the In Living Color alum, could act his butt off.

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