For decades, Hollywood has created movies depicting the lives of our favorite artists, singers and musicians. Many of these biopics didn't quite get it right, but some were pure magic, winning accolades and inspiring new fans worldwide. To celebrate the May 31, 2019, release of the "true fantasy" biopic "Rocketman" starring Taron Egerton as Elton John, Wonderwall.com is looking at the best movies about real-life music stars. Keep reading for more…
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The 2007 drama "I'm Not There," which is inspired by the life and music of Bob Dylan, stands out for its creativity and storytelling. It stars multiple actors including the late Heath Ledger (pictured), Richard Gere, Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett as Dylan in different phases of life. The film, which earned Cate an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, emphasizes the ways in which the music star reinvented himself throughout his career.
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"What's Love Got to Do With It"
The 1993 Tina Turner biopic "What's Love Got to Do With It," which is based on Tina's bestselling autobiography, earned critical acclaim for its phenomenal acting and no-holds-barred depiction of domestic violence. Angela Bassett, who played the "Proud Mary" singer, and Laurence Fishburne, who starred as Ike Turner, both earned Academy Award nominations for their portrayals.
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"Walk the Line"
This 2005 biopic depicted not only the life of Johnny Cash but also his relationship with wife June Carter. "Walk the Line," starring Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny and Reese Witherspoon as June, featured sizzling chemistry between its two leads and a detailed look at Johnny's iconic career. The film went on to earn five Academy Award nominations (Reese won a best actress Oscar for her performance) and gross more than $186 million worldwide.
Rami Malek transformed into Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in 2018's "Bohemian Rhapsody," a performance that won him a best actor Oscar. The film, which also took home three other Academy Awards and a best picture Golden Globe, explores the band's early years through their memorable performance at 1985's "Live Aid" benefit concert, which took place six years before Freddie died from AIDS-related pneumonia. "Bohemian Rhapsody" grossed more than $903 million at the worldwide box office.
"Straight Outta Compton"
This biopic was a surprisingly huge success in 2015, making more than $200 million against its $50 million budget and scoring an Academy Award nod for best original screenplay. "Straight Outta Compton" depicts the rise and fall of iconic hip-hop group N.W.A. Starring newcomers Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell, as well as Ice Cube's lookalike son, O'Shea Jackson Jr., the movie has laughs, tears, electric rap performances and more.
"The Sound of Music"
This biopic is definitely one of our favorite things! "The Sound of Music" starring legend Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp and Christopher Plummer as Captain Von Trapp tells the story of the real-life Trapp Family Singers. The 1965 movie earned five Academy Awards, including best picture, and by 1966 had become the highest grossing film of all-time — a distinction it held for five years. Now considered a true classic, "The Sound of Music" was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2001.
"Selena," which was released just two years after the shooting death of its subject, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, is a portrayal of the Queen of Tejano's rise to stardom. Jennifer Lopez, who was then a little-known actress and dancer, starred as the "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" singer in what many consider to be her breakout role. The 1997 film went on to cement Selena's status as a celebrated music icon that we lost too soon.
This 2009 biopic also tells the story of a music legend whose life was taken too soon. Produced by Bad Boy mogul Diddy, "Notorious" depicts the life of Brooklyn rapper and Bad Boy artist Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. (real name: Christopher Wallace). The movie stars acting phenom Angela Bassett as Voletta Wallace and newcomer Jamal Woolard as Biggie in a widely praised performance. "The movie's a mother's story," Diddy told MTV News before the film's release. "[Biggie's] mother is the driving force of the movie getting done. I wanted the movie to speak for itself, so I haven't been out there overhyping it. But truth be told, I was blown away by the movie."
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star in this music biopic that chronicles the early days of all-female rock band The Runaways. The eponymous 2010 film features a dynamic performance from Kristen as Joan Jett and encompasses the female empowerment of the 1970s. Based on lead vocalist Cherie Currie's book "Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway," "The Runaways" is a movie that can't be missed.
"Ray," a 2004 film starring Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles, is considered by many to be the best biopic of all time. The independently produced movie earned Jamie an Academy Award for best actor as well as Golden Globe, BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and Critics' Choice awards. Jamie is only the second actor to win all five major lead actor awards for the same performance. The real-life Ray was scheduled to attend the film's premiere but passed away from liver disease a few months before its debut.
This 2014 musical biopic, which tells the story of singing group The Four Seasons, grossed more than $67 million worldwide. Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, "Jersey Boys" stars acting legend Christopher Walken and Broadway star John Lloyd Young. In a surprising twist, the film's actors recorded all the music live. "While keeping the stage-show feel, having live vocals and music also raises the emotional performances in the scenes," re-recording mixer John Reitz told The Hollywood Reporter. "'Jersey Boys' is a story about four guys, and the songs are a part of their journey. The live performances only added to the realism."
This 2002 biopic is widely considered to be one of the most heart-wrenching, tragic and powerful films of all time. "The Pianist" stars Adrien Brody as Polish musician Władysław Szpilman, a composer and pianist who survived the Holocaust. The film won Oscars for best director (Roman Polanski) and best adapted screenplay and was nominated for four other awards including best picture. The biopic also garnered Adrien a best actor Oscar at 29, making him the youngest actor to win in that category.
Val Kilmer gave one of his most memorable performances ever as rock icon Jim Morrison in the 1991 film "The Doors." Perfectly showcasing the wild, free-loving, drug-using world of a 1960s rock superstar, this biopic shows all the ups and downs of Jim's short life. Meg Ryan also shines as Jim's girlfriend, Pamela Courson. The movie faced criticism and some of Jim's family and friends did not like the depiction of the music legend. Nevertheless, it remains as one of the most entertaining biopics of all time.
The majority of celebrated music biopics are about present-day artists, but this excellent biopic tells the story of an 18th century composer… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! "Amadeus," released in 1984, chronicles Mozart's life through the words of his rival, Antonio Salieri. The movie was nominated for 53 awards and won 40, including eight Academy Awards (one of which was for best picture), four BAFTAs, four Golden Globes and a Directors Guild of America prize.
"CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story"
This music biopic only graced the small screen, but that doesn't make it any less entertaining. "CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story" depicts the lives of TLC, one of the most popular and successful girl groups in history. Airing on VH1, the 2013 film cast Keke Palmer as Rozonda "Chilli" Thomas, Drew Sidora as Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins and Lil Mama as Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. "CrazySexyCool" rides an emotional rollercoaster as the women rise to fame and is remembered for its solid acting performances.
"Great Balls of Fire!"
This 1989 film shows a young Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis in the heyday of his career and his eventual downfall after marrying his 13-year-old cousin, Myra Gale Brown. "Great Balls of Fire!" is celebrated for depicting the classic, 1950s rock 'n' roll scene and for Dennis's eccentric yet fun-loving performance. The movie also stars Winona Ryder as Myra and Alec Baldwin as Jimmy Swaggart, a Christian evangelist.
"Get On Up"
This James Brown biopic helped to solidify Chadwick Boseman's status as an acting powerhouse. "Get On Up" was released in 2014 and also stars Viola Davis as James' mother, Susie Brown, and the late Nelsan Ellis as singer Bobby Byrd. Chadwick didn't initially want to the play the Godfather of Soul because James was too legendary, but he eventually changed his tune. "I knew that everybody that was involved was going to be at the top of their game, so why not try?" he told The Hollywood Reporter.
"Coal Miner's Daughter"
This 1980 biopic stars Sissy Spacek as country music singer Loretta Lynn. It was a role that earned her an Academy Award for best actress. "Coal Miner's Daughter" was adapted from Loretta's 1976 autobiography and also stars Tommy Lee Jones as Loretta's husband, Mooney Lynn. The film showcases all the ups and downs of Loretta's life, from being a married mother of four at age 19 to the release of her first hit, "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl."
"Bird," produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, chronicles the life of jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker. The 1988 film stars a young Forest Whitaker as Charlie and focuses on his relationship with common-law wife Chan Parker, his childhood, career and early death at age 34. Dream-like scenes and sequences dominate the film, making it one of the most creative music biopics on the list.
"8 Mile," which was released in 2002, is heavily based on Eminem's life growing up in Detroit and stars the rapper in the lead role. The hip-hop icon plays Jimmy "B-Rabbit" Smith Jr. as he juggles a dysfunctional family, pursues his rap ambitions and escapes his trailer park upbringing (sound familiar?). The gritty film was an unexpected hit, earning critical acclaim and winning an Academy Award for best original song for "Lose Yourself."
"The Buddy Holly Story"
Rounding out the list is the 1978 film "The Buddy Holly Story" starring Gary Busey in the titular role. The film depicts the life of the 1950s musician who was best known for helping establish the classic rock 'n' roll sound and for his hit "That'll Be the Day." Gary sang all of Buddy's songs live during filming, earning him universal praise and an Academy Award nomination.