Our Top 5: Music Biopics

You always run the risk of upsetting large amounts of people when you create a music biopic. If the artist is inaccurately presented or the music used is minimal, then people will notice and people will get mad in return. Music fan-bases are some of the most volatile communities on the web when upset, so it probably isn’t the best idea to piss these people off. With that in mind, to truly judge a music biopic, you have to hear the reception from the fan-base it’s aimed at. If the reception is good, usually the movie is a critical and commercial success because people will flock to see it. So in this list we are going to concentrate on that bracket, and show you ‘Our Top 5: Music Biopics’. Remember that this is based on the opinions expressed by the editing team here at String Buzz, it is a subjective list so don’t get ya knickers in a twist!

5. The Temptations (1998)

Now I’m already sort of cheating here since The Temptations movie, isn’t a movie. Technically it is a two part mini-series with each half being over two hours long… But then doesn’t that really count as two movies? Meh, I’m not fussed on the technicalities anyway, this movie/s is outstanding. Incredibly well acted, full of unbelievable music and it contains perhaps one of the most interesting group narratives of all time. When you consider how the act has changed lineup over 10 times, had over 15 members associated with the original act and had a career spanning over 40 years, there is a lot to talk about. Despite the long run-time, you’re never bored once since there are so many twists and turns that are almost unconcievable from an audience perspective. However, as unbelievable as these moments are, they are all true, as this movie is incredibly accurate and balances the source material very well, never idolising any member over another in the movement but still showing the negative sides to their persona (a difficult task given the people in the group). This is a must-watch.

4. The Doors (1991)

Now this movie follows the story of the influential 1960’s experimental-rock band and its lead singer, Jim Morrison, from his days as a UCLA film student in Los Angeles, to his untimely death in Paris, France at age 27 in 1971. It would of been easy to bait this movie with cliche scenes, losing the sincerity of the subject matter altogether, but to our luck it isn’t that way. With Van Kilmer putting in a role of a lifetime here, seamlessly taking on the persona of Jim Morrison, this film has some of the best character studies in cinema. The Doors is easily the best film of the rock n’ roll genre and at least one of the most important films of its era (which is saying something considering the quality of movie during this time). The genius of this film is that it is visual-audio as opposed to audio-visual and is more concerned with expressing something than simply impressing the audience. Whether you are a dedicated Morrison fan or have never followed him, this movie is entertaining from the word go.

3. Ray (2004)

My goodness Jamie Foxx is one talented fellow. He literally became Ray Charles for this movie; from the physical tendencies to the point-perfect accent. Foxx received an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance as well as the Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and Critics’ Choice awards, becoming the second actor to win all five major lead actor awards for the same performance, and the only one to win the Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy (rather than the Drama) category. If that doesn’t prove to you how good Jamie Foxx was, then I don’t know what more you could possibly need to ee this film. This movie is excellently directed, shows dimensions to Ray that no-one expected to see on screen and really captivated me from a musicians point of view. I was not a Ray Charles aficionado before ‘Ray’ but the amazing thing about this movie is that this picture functions as both an old-fashioned crowd pleaser and a dark investigation of a brilliant/troubled man. You HAVE to see this film.

2. Walk the Line (2005)

I think this movie was a safe guess for number one, but it has been pipped to the point ever so narrowly. That doesn’t subtract from the movie however because, well, this movie is ruddy marvellous. Not only is it a cinematic jewel, it is also an example of perfect casting. Who expected Joaquin Phoenix to knock this one out the park quite like he did eh? What makes the performances in this movie even more remarkable is that Phoenix and Witherspoon sang the songs themselves, that takes real natural talent, that’s what makes this as a music biopic feel so real and hence making it so sincere. Now if the musical performances and the score are what drag you in, then what hits you is the love story between these two, the way that June and her family helped him back from his drug addiction really gives this film heart. I would recommend this film to anyone, Johnny Cash fan or not. If you don’t like him now, you will when the movie is over. If a film can make you love an artist and his music just by the portrayal from the actor/actress playing them, then that makes the film worthwhile.

1. What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993)

Now this might be an unpopular choice for number one, but personally this film effected me the most. Although the film is admittedly a bit on the obvious side, it is well-crafted and the two leads offer powerhouse performances. Angela Bassett is simply astonishing as Tina Turner; where most other actresses might have simply imitated or impersonated, Bassett accomplishes the impossible: she makes you believe that she is Tina Turner, capturing both Tina’s famous on-stage performing style (the concert scenes are really exciting) and giving a completely believable interpretation of her off-stage personality as well. Now this was particularly difficult to portray since Tina has so many dimensions to her abused, conflicted character, but Bassett pulls off each side with ease. Bassett is matched by Laurence Fishburne’s terrifying performance as Ike. Fishburne seethes with manipulation and anger, even in scenes where he’s being ‘sweet’ or attempting to be composed. When Ike loses his temper, you feel it as an audience member; it makes you uncomfortable and physically scared. I loved this film, it is a timeless classic and it’s one of the most emotional true stories ever put to screen.

So did you guys agree? If not, then put your suggestions in the comments down below!


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