The Top 10 Best Music Biopics

From SF Weekly:

The news that Alan Rickman will be portraying Hilly Kristal in a new CBGB biopic half excited us, then half scared us yesterday. He’ll be good, but Lordy, who is going to play Debbie Harry? And The Ramones? Those are big shoes to fill… So we comforted ourselves with this — a list of our top 10 favorite music biopics. There are quite a remarkable number of good ones, too. We feel kinda bad for not including La Bamba here, but, take our word for it… We re-watched that movie recently and it’s kinda terrible. So, let the countdown begin!

10. The Buddy Holly Story

Before Gary Busey was a raving lunatic, he made some great movies, like, um, Point Break, and, when he was super young, The Buddy Holly Story, in which he somewhat convincingly portrayed Buddy Holly. Whether you’ve seen this or not, you already know how it ends — duh: tragedy — but we wish to emphasize that this movie is unintentionally hilarious throughout and, therefore, thoroughly enjoyable. Also, it’s a nice reminder that Buddy Holly wrote some damn fine tunes.

9. Backbeat

When Backbeat came out in 1994, it was a bit like stumbling across your mom’s old journals and finding out she had a sordid secret history that she’d never bothered to tell you about. The Beatles? A quintet? Hanging around German docks all dressed in leather? What the…? It all happened folks, and it’s all here and largely focused on tragic original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe. We’re glad he finally got a bit of credit here.

8. The Doors

The Doors remain extremely polarizing with music nerds — you either love ’em or hate ’em — largely because of flouncy, pretentious, and often-annoying frontman, Jim Morrison. Who better to play him then, than Val Kilmer? Seriously though, the casting for this movie is stellar across the board, and Oliver Stone brings the Los Angeles of the late ’60s and early ’70s, as well as the music of The Doors, to life vividly in this movie.

7. Cadillac Records

Speaking of stellar casting, Beyonce Knowles’ portrayal of Etta James in this movie is a revelation! Absolutely stunning. There have been some quibbles that the representation of her relationship with Chess Records founder Leonard Chess, isn’t portrayed entirely accurately here, but this movie is nothing but engrossing from start to finish. It’s basically six biopics for the price of one. And the soundtrack is incredible.

6. Ray

Watching Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in this movie was the next best thing to having a time machine — which is why he won the Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for it. The content, too, was stunning. Everybody and their aunt knows that Kurt Cobain was a drug addict, but Ray Charles? Now, that was a surprise.

5. Walk The Line

Well, it was far from a complete picture of Johnny Cash’s life, but the level of detail put into his childhood, first marriage, and early romance with June Carter in Walk The Line made it a must-see movie for everyone — Cash fan or not. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon do such amazing jobs in the lead roles that we’ve honestly been hoping for them to return in Walk The Line sequels to cover June and Johnny’s later adventures together. C’mon studios, you know there’s money there…

4. What’s Love Got To Do With It

If you don’t come away from watching this movie in absolute awe of Tina Turner, there is something very wrong with you. We’ll summarize for your convenience: crappy childhood, naive youth, the joy of a successful career… and then having to deal with repeated physical abuse by your bastard of a husband over a number of years, as well as having to rebuild your career from the ground up, penniless, 20 years after you started. What a woman.

3. Sid & Nancy

Gary Oldman is Sid Vicious here, and his chemistry with Chloe Webb’s Nancy is electric and incredibly believable. The movie is as chaotic, comedic, and tragic as you’d expect, with some surreal elements thrown in (because no junkie movie would be complete without those). Oh, and Courtney Love makes an appearance, and anytime we get a glimpse of old school Courtney Love, it’s enjoyable. Especially, when it’s all the way from 1986.

2. Control

Nothing has ever quite captured the complexities of Ian Curtis like this stark, harrowing and unflinching portrayal of the Joy Division frontman. Sam Riley is the image of Curtis and is so submerged in the role, it’s easy, at times, to forget we’re not watching the real Curtis, grappling with his band, his lover, and his young family. Is this movie a good time? Hell no. But it is ultimately a very, very beautiful one.

1. 24 Hour Party People

The North of England is not a glamorous place. It’s not a sunny place, or an affluent place, and in many parts, it’s not a pretty place. Steve Coogan is a British comedian who didn’t have much of a profile in the U.S. when he made this movie. And yet, in 24 Hour Party People, the combination of these two things — plus an accurate and neatly summarized 20-year history of the Manchester music scene — makes this our favorite music biopic. We particularly love the portrayal of The Happy Mondays here as pigeon-poisoning, money-wasting, opportunistic bastards. We’re sure that’s just what they would’ve wanted.