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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.

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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' .

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

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.

David Moynihan

 
 
 

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.

Luke Lewis

 
 
 

As celebratory as it is comical, 24 Hour Party People bows at the altar of Manchester’s legendary, pioneering indie scene – while never being afraid to add a mischievous dash of the surreal to liven up proceedings.

It’s this irrepressible comedy charm that carries the movie as it tracks the rise and fall of Factory Records, taking in the birth of punk and the explosion of club culture. It’s genuinely funny: Steve Coogan’s hilarious turn as Tony Wilson sees him crash a hang-glider and talk to God; Happy Mondays giddily poison 3,000 pigeons; Joy Division’s drummer is dispatched to play on the studio roof by their irascible producer.

Add to those cartoon-esque capers some of the most spine-tinglingly great music ever made, complimented by cameos from the artists involved, and Director Michael Winterbottom’s masterpiece is a thoroughly British piece of perfection.

Best music moment: "The Gig That Changed The World": Sex...

 
 
 
 
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