The 25 best movies about fictional musicians
Embassy Pictures

The 25 best movies about fictional musicians

Music is great. So are movies. They are also often two great tastes that taste great together. You know what is also fun? Movies about fictional musicians. Sure, a movie like “Walk the Line” is fine, but a well-made movie about a fake band is a whole different thing. Here are our 25 favorite movies about fictional musicians. Sorry to the Ramones and “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.”

 
1 of 25

“That Thing You Do!” (1996)

“That Thing You Do!” (1996)
20th Century Fox

What’s it like to be a one-hit wonder? At first, it’s probably pretty fun, but then you realize that you are indeed going to be stuck with only one hit. Part of what makes “That Thing You Do!” work so well is that the hit, which shares a title with the movie, is truly catchy and infectious. You believe it would be a big hit.

 
2 of 25

“A Star is Born” (2018)

“A Star is Born” (2018)
MGM

There have been several versions of “A Star is Born." but let’s be honest.: When you hear “A Star is Born” now, you immediate think of “Shallow.” The Bradley Cooper-and-Lady Gaga version is now the go-to take on the tale that has been told over and over. Of course, maybe that’s just recency bias.

 
3 of 25

“Josie and the Pussycats” (2001)

“Josie and the Pussycats” (2001)
MGM

“Josie and the Pussycats” is a truly underrated gem. It’s a silly comedy, but what else would you want for a movie set in the world of the Archie comics. This was before "Riverdale" came around and made Archie sexy. Also, do you know who worked on the music for both this film and “That Thing You Do!?” That would be Adam Schlesinger, who tragically died due to complications from COVID-19.

 
4 of 25

“This is Spinal Tap” (1984)

“This is Spinal Tap” (1984)
Embassy Pictures

The mockumentary that started the movement, “This is Spinal Tap” is still considered one of the best comedies ever. This is also a movie that a lot of actual musicians seem to love, claiming that it hits a little bit too close to home. After this, Christopher Guest was on his way to mockumentary stardom.

 
5 of 25

“Dreamgirls” (2006)

“Dreamgirls” (2006)
Dreamworks/Paramount

This girl group drama based, at least loosely, on Diana Ross and the Supremes is maybe best remembered for featuring Beyonce. However, let’s not forget that Jennifer Hudson, new to acting, won an Oscar for this film. Also, Eddie Murphy didn’t, maybe because “Norbit” came out the same year.

 
6 of 25

“Almost Famous” (2000)

“Almost Famous” (2000)
Columbia Pictures/Dreamworks

They say never meet your heroes, and “Almost Famous” is sort of about that. A teenage boy gets a chance to join a band he loves on tour and realizes that these artists are flawed, often very flawed, human beings. This was also one of the first times we saw Kate Hudson in a film.

 
7 of 25

“Once” (2007)

“Once” (2007)
Summit Entertainment

The main characters in this Irish musical don’t have names. They are merely “Guy” and “Girl.” It’s a tale as old as time, but “Once” is also the movie that gave us “Falling Slowly,” which ended up winning Best Song at the Academy Awards.

 
8 of 25

“The Blues Brothers” (1980)

“The Blues Brothers” (1980)
Universal

The Blues Brothers did tour like they were a band, but they weren’t really. Jake and Elwood Blues aren’t real people, even if John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd are. They played those characters on stage and in this movie, which does feature a ton of actual musicians, including James Brown, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin.

 
9 of 25

“Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)

“Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)
CBS Films

Why isn’t Llewyn Davis a success? Has the business been harsh to him? Or is he his own worst enemy? Oscar Isaac is excellent as the struggling folk musician. The Coen Brothers are never afraid of showcasing unlikable characters, and Llewyn is no different.

 
10 of 25

“A Mighty Wind” (2003)

“A Mighty Wind” (2003)
Warner Bros.

Yes, we have two Christopher Guest mockementaries on this list. However, “This is Spinal Tap” was directed by Rob Reiner. Guest was totally in control of “A Mighty Wind,” which is also about folk music. It’s a silly comedy, though some of the scenes between Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are quite sweet.

 
11 of 25

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)

“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (2010)
Universal

When Scott Pilgrim isn’t fighting the exes of Ramona Flowers, he’s playing in his band Sex Bob-omb. A lot of his fights happen to take place at concerts or battles of the bands as well. Edgar Wright’s movie is slick and shiny, as per usual, with a lot of cultural references included.

 
12 of 25

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (2016)

“Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” (2016)
Universal

Andy Samberg and The Lonely Island never cracked the film industry. “Hot Rod” was kind of a bust, and so was “Popstar.” Samberg has found great success starring on the sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” but his movies are a bit overlooked. “Popstar” is pretty funny, and worth a watch if you like raunchy comedies.

 
13 of 25

“Some Like It Hot” (1959)

“Some Like It Hot” (1959)
United Artists

When Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis see a mob hit, they have to both run and hide. The best way to do that? Pretending to be women and joining a traveling all-female band. Hilarity ensues. No, really. The AFI named “Some Like It Hot” the best comedy movie ever.

 
14 of 25

“Top Secret!” (1984)

“Top Secret!” (1984)
Paramount

From the makers of “Airplane!” comes this comedy that is both a parody of spy movies and Elvis movies. Val Kilmer stars as Nick Rivers, a musician and movie star who gets mixed up in espionage. It’s not as funny as “Airplane!” but it is still quite good and has a lot of laughs.

 
15 of 25

“Velvet Goldmine” (1998)

“Velvet Goldmine” (1998)
Miramax

Todd Haynes made an excellent movie about Bob Dylan, but Dylan is a real person. Years before that, though, he directed “Velvet Goldmine,” which is about the ‘70s glam rock scene. It has quite the cast too, headlined by Ewan McGregor and a not-yet-super-famous Christian Bale.

 
16 of 25

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains” (1982)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains” (1982)
Paramount

You may have seen Lou Adler back in the day sitting next to Jack Nicholson at Lakers games. He was in the director’s chair for this largely forgotten, but cultishly adored, movie. The Stains are a teenage punk band in the vein of The Runaways, and two of the members are women who have gone on to have great careers. Laura Dern is in the band, and the Stains are fronted by Diane Lane.

 
17 of 25

“School of Rock” (2003)

“School of Rock” (2003)
Paramount

We don’t necessarily condone fraudulently taking over as a music teacher. It’s not a great idea to lie your way into spending time with teenagers, even if your goal is just to get some cash. Of course, Jack Black’s ersatz substitute does more than that. He turns his students into a rock band, and “School of Rock” was turned into a successful movie and a successful musical.

 
18 of 25

“Purple Rain” (1984)

“Purple Rain” (1984)
Warner Bros.

We understand if you quibble. “Purple Rain” is basically a Prince movie. It’s all Prince songs and Prince stars. Still, he isn’t technically playing Prince. He’s playing “The Kid,” and there is a narrative to the movie. We figure it counts. Plus, this way we get to shout out a movie with one of the best soundtracks ever.

 
19 of 25

“Eddie and the Cruisers” (1983)

“Eddie and the Cruisers” (1983)
Embassy Pictures

What happened to Eddie Wilson, the famed rock star who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. That’s where “Eddie and the Cruisers” begins. The story is an investigation but is told heavily in flashbacks. You know, like “Citizen Kane.” This is the only way in which “Eddie and the Cruisers” is like “Citizen Kane,” by the way, which is not to knock the movie.

 
20 of 25

“Whiplash” (2014)

“Whiplash” (2014)
Sony Pictures Classics

What’s the price of perfection? How far are you willing to go? This piercing drama has those questions in mind. A promising young drummer joined a prestigious clash led by a dictatorial jazz instructor. J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his work in the movie, and it was Damien Chazelle’s springboard to bigger films like “La La Land.”

 
21 of 25

“Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991)

“Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey” (1991)
Orion Pictures

Why not go with the first movie “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?” It’s probably the better one of the two. However, Bill and Ted’s band, Wyld Stallyns, is barely involved in that one. There is a lot more of the band in “Bogus Journey.” Also, the band features two aliens and the Grim Reaper in the sequel. Wyld Stallyns!

 
22 of 25

“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (2007)

“Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” (2007)
Columbia Pictures

If you’ve ever seen a musician biopic, you need to see “Walk Hard.” It’s a pitch-perfect parody of the by-the-numbers musician movie. All the tropes are here getting skewered. John C. Reilly is great, and honestly the songs, which often are jokey, are really well done. That’s part of what makes the parody hit so hard.

 
23 of 25

“The Commitments” (1991)

“The Commitments” (1991)
20th Century Fox

In the United States, “The Commitments,” a movie about a working-class soul band, was a mild success. In the United Kingdom, where it is set and filmed, it was a huge hit. That includes critically. “The Commitments” won four BAFTAs, including Best Film.

 
24 of 25

“Frank” (2014)

“Frank” (2014)
Magnolia Pictures

Frank is a talented musician. He also wears a giant papier-mache head of his own head at all times. A young struggling musician meets him and begins to worship at the feet of his genius. However, is Frank’s mental illness the key to his success, or does it hold him back? Michael Fassbender spends almost the entire movie wearing a giant head over his face, but he’s still great in the movie.

 
25 of 25

“CB4” (1993)

“CB4” (1993)
Universal

We know that hip-hop is underrepresented in this list. We could have included “8 Mile,” although that movie is even more of a de fact0 biopic than even “Purple Rain.” There aren’t as many movies about fictional rap artists. At least there is “CB4” a solid parody of early ‘90s gangster rap. Chris Rock stars, and if you remember the ‘90s rap scene there should be a few laughs to be had.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

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