Some of the best pieces of cinema have been defined by music - whether they be biopics focusing on musical stars, movies starring musicians branching out or simply films with a totally killer soundtrack. There are a whole host of ways that music can make the difference between a killer or a filler film in your collection and here we celebrate them in all their glory. Remotes at the ready...
Controversial Ondi Timoner documentary Dig! tracks the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols over seven years.
Labelled by Newcombe as unfair and “at best a series of punch-ups and mishaps taken out of context”, the film charts the pair's fascinating rivalry - starting from similar backgrounds, the two musicians diverge further and further, Newcombe fading into anguished obscurity while Taylor finds fame and fortune. The resulting tension makes for compelling - yet often painful - viewing, while ultimately Newcombe has the last laugh: BJM are still going strong as a cult favorite while the Dandys are merely a sideline thought.
Best music moment: Courtney's 'Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth' and Anton's 'Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth' - what better way to argue than by the medium of song?
Those of us who’d loved Nick Hornby’s book, set in London, initially bridled at the all-American film version, transposed to Chicago. But the characters, especially John Cusack’s list-making lead, lost none of their essential warmth in the adaptation.
After all, geography is unimportant – this is a film that speaks to anyone who’s ever obsessed over music to the detriment of actual, y'know, human relationships.
Best music moment: Bruce Springsteen’s brief cameo is pretty cool, but Jack Black’s climactic rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get It On’ provides the film’s killer scene.
What can we say that hasn’t already been said? Scenes from …Tap get quoted so many times, yet somehow the spoof rock doc never gets stale, perhaps because it’s so true to life: Eddie Van Halen once confessed, "Everything in that movie [has] happened to me."
The sharpness of the performances – especially Christopher Guest’s dim-but-lovable Nigel Tufnel – is even more impressive when you consider that much of the dialogue was improvised. Now, if only they hadn’t done that awful reunion tour…
Best music moment: Too many to choose from, but we’ll go with ‘Lick My Love Pump’ – in D Minor, the saddest of all keys.
More than a tour documentary, this film finds Dylan inventing the modern idea of the mercurial rock star: combative, awkward, refusing to be caged by critics or fans.
It’s full of mesmerising scenes – Dylan taunting the Time Magazine journalist, Dylan playing ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ to a hotel room full of awestruck onlookers. Has any musician ever oozed charisma like the man born Robert Zimmerman does in Don’t Look Back?
Best music moment: The ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ opening sequence has become instantly recognizable – but it’s the spotlit live performances that pack the greatest emotional punch.
Bursting with violence, drugs, sexual longing and despair, Quadrophenia - loosely based on The Who's 1973 rock opera - is often dismissed as a mod film, but its appeal is universal.
The character of Jimmy Cooper speaks across generations to anyone who's ever felt young, lost, and hungry for self-definition. The fact it's accompanied by the best music Pete Townshend ever wrote only magnifies the film's deathless power.
Best music moment: Jimmy's climactic, cliff-top Lambretta ride, soundtracked by 'Love Reign O'er Me' .
Released in 1996, the height of Britpop, Danny Boyle’s breathtakingly distinctive film caught a unique moment in British culture: youthful, confident, alive with possibility.
Wisely, though, the Britpop bands on the soundtrack – Sleeper, Pulp etc – were played down in the film itself, and it was two veteran US acts (Iggy Pop, Lou Reed) who accompanied the film’s most vividly memorable scenes.
Best music moment: When Underworld’s ‘Born Slippy’ kicks in as Renton abandons his mates to go straight. Instant goosebumps.
The greatest puzzle about Metallica’s in-the-studio documentary is that they allowed it to be released at all, since it’s more ‘warts-and-all’ than Motorhead’s Lemmy – a startling, wince-inducing insight into the band’s ego-driven petty rivalries.
There’s more to it than mere psychodrama, though. The film also raises some awkward questions about creativity. What happens when the songs dry up, and what used to come so easily, is suddenly agonizingly difficult?
Best music moment: ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ and ‘Frantic’ are pretty bracing, but really this is a film about a band failing to write good music.
Former Rolling Stone writer Cameron Crowe based the script on his on experiences, and while you could argue it offers a sterilized version of ‘70s rock’n’roll, the film doesn’t shy away from portraying guys in bands as deeply flawed (Stillwater guitarist Russell Hammond bellowing “I am a golden god!” – originally a Robert Plant quote - is one scene that sticks in the mind).
But it’s the soundtrack that makes it truly shine, a hazily elegant collection of tracks (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who) that evokes an almost impossibly glamorous moment in time. A certain vision of on-the-road, debaucherous glamour will still be forever aligned with this film.
Best music moment: The tourbus scene, where they all sing Elton John’s ‘Tiny Dancer’ – it’s cheesy as hell, but you can’t fail to be moved.
Erstwhile NME photographer Anton Corbijn swaps his stills camera for video, to produce one of the finest music biopics to grace the screen.
Stunningly shot in black and white, the modern classic focusses on Joy Division and the band's enigmatic frontman Ian Curtis, who commited suicide aged just 23.
Based on Deborah Curtis's biography Touching from a Distance, the film explores Curtis' life from his school days in the 1973 up until his death on the brink of the band's breakthrough American tour in 1980. The pressures of success, troubled romance and the torments of epilepsy are all portrayed as factors in his untimely demise.
Best music moment: The live show scenes, actually performed by the actors who learnt to play the bands' songs. Newcomer Sam Riley is electrifying as the ill-fated frontman.
You don’t need to be a gumby old-school metal fan to appreciate the desperate poignancy of this award-winning documentary, which follows the exploits of a has-been rock band as they endure repeated humiliations – empty gigs, missed trains - before finally achieving vindication, of a sort.
Much like The Wrestler, which came out the same year, the message is an unexpectedly nuanced one: follow the dreams of youth into middle-age, sure – but be aware that there’s a heavy price to pay.
Best music moment: The uplifting finale, when the band walk out on stage in Japan to find… well, won’t spoil it for you.