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50 AWESOME MUSIC MOVIES

 

To celebrate the launch of NME.COM/movies we've put together our pick of the greatest music films ever made.

And we're not just talking about rockumentaries and biopics – this list also encompasses any movie that is defined by its soundtrack. These are films for music fans to love.

Hence you'll find Trainspotting rubbing shoulders with Control, Almost Famous celebrated alongside Meeting People Is Easy.

So please, take your seat and grab an oversize tub of popcorn as we count down the 50 best music movies ever to grace the big screen.

What have we missed? Should 8 Mile be higher than 30 Century Man? Have your say now here.

 
 
 

A modern American classic. And all the more resonant when you consider that L.A's infamous 'Rodney King riots' took place in the same city just one year later.

Ice Cube and Cube Gooding Jr. (back when he was cool) star in a powerful coming-of-age film that inspired a host of brash, "inner-city gang wars" copycat movies; but none of them were as smart or memorable as director John Singleton's masterpiece.

Ice Cube's crossover from music to film was a resounding success, as he played his character 'Dough Boy' with impressive grit and restraint. This was a film that acted as a further loud 'n' proud voice for hip-hop, exploding some of the complex issues - gun violence, education, disenfranchisement - at black America's core.

Best music moment: Soundtrack highlights include screen-shaking tracks from Ice Cube, 2 Live Crew, Monie Love and Run DMC.

David Moynihan

 
 
 

Sure, Jake and Elwood’s soul covers (most famously, of Solomon Burke’s ‘Everybody Needs Somebody To Love’) are karaoke-esque at times - but this John Landis-directed comedy caper is propelled by a genuine reverence for black America’s musical past; hence the cameos from Cab Calloway, James Brown and Ray Charles.

But crucially that reverence never gets in the way of the comedy, and ultimately it’s the film’s sheer energy and escalating exuberance – the bazookas, SWAT teams, stacks of totaled cars - that make it irresistible.

Best music moment: Aretha Franklin’s thunderous, finger-wagging rendition of ‘Think’ in the soul food diner.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

With a title inspired by a howlingly neurotic Daily Mirror headline, this is where the Sex Pistols get to tell their side of the story.

Julien Temple's 1979 debut The Great Rock And Roll Swindle caught the punk zeitgeist's tail end and offered a ramshackle glimpse into the Pistols' lives, albeit from a skewed Malcolm McLaren perspective.

This second documentary on the band set out years later to get their take on events and - although punks would balk at the word - contextualise their influence in a broken Britain.

Best music moment: A toss-up between 'God Save The Queen' and 'Anarchy In The UK'.

Tim Chester

 
 
 

Although not strictly a music film per se, this - like all John Hughes' movies - brought indie music to the mainstream.

From the ubiquitous "chick-a-chick-aahs" to the gratuitous use of The Beat, The Flowerpot Men, Sigue Sigue Sputnik and of course The Smiths' 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' in the museum scene, 'FB's Day Off' seamlessly weaves iconic music into its goofy plot.

Weirdly, John Hughes refused to release the soundtrack as a seperate entity, thinking no-one would be interested in hearing Yello and Wayne Newston on the same CD. Which just means you have to watch the thing, and hear them all in the context they were intended.

Best music monent: The mass singalong to The Beatles' 'Twist And Shout'.

Tim Chester

 
 
 

Released five years after Joe Strummer's death, Julien Temple's nuanced tribute to the much-loved Clash man featured some unexpected talking-head contributions (Johnny Depp, John Cusack) as well as some all-too expected ones (Bobby Gillespie, Bono).

Admirably, Temple makes no attempt to sugar-coat Strummer's various contradictions and hypocrisies - this is an affectionate documentary, but not an uncritical one.
Best music moment: There's some great archive footage early on, of Strummer laying down vocals, a capella, for 'White Riot'.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

The precursor to the more famous Woodstock film caught the essence of the 1967 festival – and the summer of love - and set the bar high for concert documentaries to come.

The film boasts an enviable cast including The Mamas & The Papas, Otis Redding, Canned Heat, The Who and The Animals , but not The Grateful Dead, who deemed it too commercial a project.

Best music moment: Hendrix burning and smashing his guitar at the end of ‘Wild Thing’, of course.

Tim Chester

 
 
 

Richard and Karen Carpenter were the ultimate clean-cut, brother and sister act responsible for buckets of pleasant MOR, but behind the scenes lay a dark story of depression and anorexia. This film tells that story.

Or at least it did, until Richard filed a lawsuit banning its distribution, which may have been down to the use of Barbie dolls to depict Karen’s illness, or the accusations of homosexuality. Either way, it’s a short but not-so-sweet document as doomed as its subject.

Best music moment: Karen singing along to Dionne Warwick’s ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’.

Tim Chester

 
 
 

We’re still waiting for the definitive Britpop film (though No Distance Left To Run comes close) – but Live Forever is a solid love-note to the era, even if it relies too heavily on Liam Gallagher’s show-stealing quotes, playing it for laughs rather as opposed to examining the true cultural impact, and never dwelling on the darker side (the rampant heroin use, for example).

Best music moment: You’ve heard all these songs a thousand times before, but the Oasis and Blur tunes still set the pulse racing.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

Directors Tina Flintoff and Ricky Kelehar corralled an impressive cast of talking heads for this fawning celebration of the cantankerous Smiths legend – Bono, Noel Gallagher, playwright Alan Bennett and (weirdly) Harry Potter author JK Rowling were all on hand to sing Moz’s praises.

Obviously your attitude to the film will depend on your tolerance for Morrissey’s own sour world view – Tony Blair and the Royals come in for a kicking – but there are illuminating insights into the great man's life and work.

Best music moment: There’s some good, sweaty live footage of ‘Suedehead’ early on.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

Planned and filmed while the man in black was still fresh in his grave, Walk The Line nevertheless does a near-perfect job of capturing his tumultuous life.

Joaquin Phoenix captures a man wrestling his demons and knocking out a legendary career simultaneously while Reese Witherspoon won an Oscar for long-suffering wife June. Just don’t blame them for Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Best music moment: Halfway through ‘Jackson’ when Cash stops and asks June to marry him.

Tim Chester

 
 
 
 
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