IF you love movies and you love music, then there’s nothing better than movies about music. The world of rock ‘n’ roll is an ideal breeding ground for film. Where there’s rock, there’s often passion, drama and tension – all key ingredients in great cinema. Here are five excellent narrative films about rock and pop. The list doesn’t include any documentaries and concert films. We’ve saved them for another list at a later date.A Hard Day’s Night (1964)IN 1964, The Beatles were everwhere – on the radio, on TV, on your lunchbox and, with the release of A Hard Day’s Night, in cinemas. Richard Lester’s film captures the manic spirit of Beatlemania wonderfully, especially in the opening scenes where the band find themselves chased through the streets. It also captured the Fab Four as four likeable Liverpudlian’s perplexed by the mayhem around them. Heavy with humour, particular courtesy of Paul’s “grandfather” (Wilfrid Brambell), the movie not only summed up their hectic lifestyle, but it was also hugely influential on rock movies. And then there are the songs – the title track, Can’t Buy Me Love, I Wanna Be Your Man, All My Loving, She Loves You and many more. Here’s the first seven minutes of the film:
Almost Famous (2000)CAMERON Crowe recalled his days as a 15-year-old writing for Rolling Stone magazine in this charming coming-of-age tale. Through the eyes of writer and rock fan William (Patrick Fugit), we get an outsider’s insight into the world of ’60s rock ‘n’ roll. He tags along on the tour bus of fictional band Stillwater (a mish-mash of Crowe’s time on the road with The Eagles, The Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin and Lynyrd Skynyrd). All the cliches are here – the groupies, the drugs, the creative differences – and they’re shown with humour and heart. But it’s William’s passion for the music and “Band-Aide” Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) that drives this quintessential snapshot of a long-gone era of rock.Here’s one of the sweetest moments in the film – a tribute to how music can lift you when you’re down, as the whole tour bus joins in on Elton John’s Tiny Dancer.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)THERE has never been a funnier movie about music than this mockumentary which skewered the pomposity, ridiculousness and inflated self-worth of musicians and their rock ‘n’ roll excess. Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest not only improvised much of the hilarious dialogue, but also wrote and performed the many humourous faux-metal tunes, including Big Bottom, Stonehenge, Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight and Sex Farm. Many of the moments were inspired by real happenings – including the band getting lost backstage and their stage props being the wrong size – but the movie is best known for its exploding drummers, the amps going to 11 and the age-old question of “how much more black could this album cover be?”. The answer is none. None more black.
“These Go To Eleven” – one of the film’s funniest scenes.
Get Ready To Be Boyzvoiced (2000)WHAT Spinal Tap did to hard rock, Boyzvoice did to boy bands. This hilarious Norwegian mockumentary has developed a cult following in Australia courtesy of annual screenings on SBS around Eurovision time. As the film-makers trail three-piece Boyzvoice on their rise to fame, they capture the band and their insane manager in a series of blunders and scandals, including bashing a Salvation Army member, getting busted lip-syncing and finding out the frontman’s 16-year-old girlfriend is actually 12. This hard-to-find film is a gem that’s worth digging up.
Boyzvoice perform 12-Year-Old Girl
High Fidelity (2000)THE beauty of this rock film is that it’s not about the musicians- it’s about the fans. It’s about those music obsessives, who live and breathe music and love making lists of their top five Stones albums or five favourite records for a Monday morning or top five rock movies…. Anyway, not only is this a great rock movie, it’s also one of the few romantic-comedies geared towards men, as record store owner Rob Gordon (John Cusack) details his top five break-ups. Nick Hornby’s novel is treated with great reverence, the soundtrack rocks and Cusack is hilarious.
Did I mention it’s got Jack Black in it? Here’s one scene (warning: this contains a bad word in it!)
Control (2008)*The mythic Bob Dylan vignettes of I’m Not There (2008)*The downfall of punk in Sid & Nancy (1986)*Pink Floyd’s absurd The Wall (1982)*The Who’s equally absurd rock-opera Tommy (1974)*Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991)*Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line (2005)*The hiliarous music bio-pic send-up Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2008)*The summary of Manchester’s mad music contributions in 24 Hour Party People (2002)*Eminem playing Eminem in the excellent 8 Mile (2002).
This article first appeared in Hangzhou Night Net.