We’ve all seen (or at least been yelled at to see) the classics of this genre: Almost Famous, This is Spinal Tap, Once and others. But we’ve compiled some fabulous music-related films that might have flown under your radar. This list has everything you could ask for: exceptional writing and acting, stunning visuals, and those warm fuzzies we crave at the end – all with the bonus of being inspired by music.
The Commitments (1991)
Dir. by Alan Parker
You might recognize Glen Hansard of The Frames from Once, but his music was actually featured in The Commitments first. The film follows a group of crude young Dubliners who start a soul band. Full of laughs and well-timed sentimentality, some consider The Commitments to be one of the best Irish films of all time.
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Dir. by Todd Haynes
Inspired by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character of the 70s, Velvet Goldmine takes a deliciously indulgent look at the rise and fall of a glam rock superstar. The costumes and soundtrack really stand out in this one, with contributions from Placebo, Shudder to Think, Lou Reed, and more. If that doesn’t convince you, the film stars youngster versions of Christian Bale, Ewan McGregor, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
Dir. by Joel & Ethan Coen
You might still be reeling from the Coen brothers’ most recent success Inside Llewyn Davis, but let’s not forget this wild, dusty ride of a dramedy. Set in 1937 and following three goons’ escape from prison, O Brother features a heart-stirring, boot-stomping bluegrass soundtrack like no other.
24 Hour Party People (2002)
Dir. by Michael Winterbottom
When thinking of the rise of Manchester’s music scene, 2007’s Ian Curtis biopic Control might come to mind – but 24 Hour Party People did it five years prior! Starring Steve Coogan as opportunistic Factory Records exec Tony Wilson, this cheeky flick embodies the spirit of the lively and influential period for music.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
Dir by Edgar Wright
Scott Pilgrim, based on the hit graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, is a staple in the Toronto comic book scene. Directed by Edgar Wright of the cult classics Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and filmed entirely in Toronto, the film feels like it’s half movie, half video game. Artists like Beck, Metric, and Broken Social Scene contributed to the film’s indie-inspired soundtrack.
I’m Not There (2007)
Dir. by Todd Haynes
I’m Not There might not be as well known as the Bob Dylan documentaries Don’t Look Back and No Direction Home, but this experimental bio-pic is not to miss. The narrative puts the shape-shifting personality of the ‘music man’ into physical terms, with six actors playing Dylan at various times in the film.
School of Rock (2003)
Dir. by Richard Linklater
Jack Black might be at his silliest here, but don’t write off this edgy, heartwarming flick. School of Rock has impeccable comedic timing and an impressively solid screenplay. You might just find yourself singing along by the time the epic closing scene rolls around.