18 great music movies and I don’t mean The Muppets Take Manhattan

Although, as far as Muppet movies go, it wasn’t bad. My taste leans toward comedy, country, classic rock and folk. You too? Read on. Here are my favorites, in alphabetical order because really, who can even compare “This is Spinal Tap” to “Standing in the Shadows of Motown?”

(Some of the videos wouldn’t embed and you have to follow the link to YouTube. Use your back button to return to the blog.)

 A Mighty Wind

 See it just for Mitch and Mickey and don’t miss Jane Lynch’s great character.

Coal Miner’s Daughter

I love me some Loretta Lynn and Sissy Spacek does a great job as Loretta. In “Story of My Life” from her Van Lear Rose album she mentions the movie and sings, “…what happened to the cash?” I certainly hope that problem’s been rectified and she’s been paid all she was due.

Fame (1980)

I must admit to owning the soundtrack and playing the title cut over and over again, singing at the top of my lungs and scaring the cats; I don’t know why, I sound just like Irene Cara. A few years ago her all-woman band won a TV contest and donated all their winnings to Women in the Arts, the organization that puts on the National Women’s Music Festival. How cool is that?

Oh! And there’s Paul McCrane’s lovely “Is It Okay if I Call you Mine?” Not only did his character sing the song but Paul actually wrote it. He went on to star as the egotistical Dr. Romano on ER and later, as Josh Peyton, the attorney who goes a little bonkers on Harry’s Law. Here he is on Harry’s Law, singing the song:

 High Fidelity

I love Jack Black and his character’s lists of great music.  “There’s no way she could like that song! Ooh … is she in a coma?”

Janis

This 1974 documentary is a must for any classic rock fan. It’s edited well with great clips of her, from interviews to her appearance at the Monterey Festival.

Life in a Box

The duo “Y’all,” a self-described “lowbrow, southern-fried, trailer park Simon & Garfunkel,” made this really tender documentary about their life on tour. I heard that they weren’t able to release the movie to wide distribution but you can see clips on YouTube. I’ve seen the whole thing because someone lent me a copy. Maybe the movie will be released some day. I hope so.

O Brother, Where Art Thou

This campy romp through traditional folk and bluegrass is awesome. Any movie that includes water tight harmonies from Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch and Allison Krause can’t be bad. Here’s a live clip of them singing the song:

The soundtrack won a Grammy. I think the movie was nominated for an Academy Award or two.

 Radical Harmonies

This well-done documentary is about some of my favorite performers including Meg Christian and Margie Adam. I couldn’t find a clip but if you click on the title you can find out more about it.

 Rocky Horror Picture Show

I will always remember how to do the time warp. “It’s just a jump to the left …”

 School of Rock

Have I mentioned that I love Jack Black? I wish more of the musicians were girls though. Maybe there should be another movie with June Millington in Black’s role. The boys would be the back-up singers and the girls would be the shredders.

Shut Up and Sing

Who knew 12 words could anger so many people? I’ve always loved the Dixie Chicks and I loved them more after this.

Standing in the Shadows of Motown

I had no idea that there was the same groove-makin’ band behind most of the early Motown hits until I saw this thoughtful and moving film. If it wasn’t for the Funk Brothers, there would be no Motown.

This is Spinal Tap

Crank it to eleven.

Tommy

Tina Turner as the Acid Queen?! I can’t believe my parents let me see this one.

Walk the Line

I’m not even a fan of the man in black and still, this story about Johnny Cash is awesome. You see him as a real man, not an airbrushed Hollywood version. The love story between June and Johnny is heartbreaking. You can’t make this stuff up.

I heard that the guys they hired to play the band really did play their instruments. When there was a break in filming, they’d jam.

What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Speaking of the great Tina Turner, you’ve gotta see this biography. Very well-done and Angela Bassett does an incredible job in the lead role. The book is awesome too.

Wizard of Oz

I was in my 20’s before I realized this movie was partly in color. Even viewing it on a black and white TV all those years didn’t mar my enjoyment. “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is one of the greatest songs ever written; unfortunately, the same movie has that damn song about following the yellow brick road. Here’s the truly cheesetastic original trailer:

Woodstock

Of course I recommend this. I’m an old hippie girl. The festival started with Richie Havens and ended with Jimi Hendrix. It included Janis Joplin, Joan Baez and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It did not, however, include Joni Mitchell, in spite of her song “Woodstock.” She wrote the song while watching the festival on TV. Here’s a clip of her talking about that and then singing a beautiful solo version:

What’s your favorite music movie?

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About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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8 Responses to 18 great music movies and I don’t mean The Muppets Take Manhattan

  1. I like many, many of these. I’ll try to check out the Y’all movie. Don’t forget “Once”, “The Commitments”, and “That Thing You Do”.

  2. Amz says:

    “Ray” was great too. And definitely “Once.” And if you’re a Beatles fan, it doesn’t get better than “Across the Universe,” but maybe you didn’t want to stray into musicals too much, cause that list would go on for days.

  3. Halley says:

    “Ray” was great too. And definitely “Once.” And if you’re a Beatles fan, it doesn’t get better than “Across the Universe,” but maybe you didn’t want to stray into musicals too much, cause that list would go on for days.
    +1

  4. Chris says:

    jamie-i’d be remiss (IHMO) if I didn’t mention “Breaking Glass” starring the fantastic Hazel O’Connor. This is the closing musical number (which she wrote/sang all the music) 8th Day: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBkvcQEGq9k
    The story of the movie is a little shopworn (rags to riches/careful what you wish for you may get it)…but it’s a great watch (again, IHMO). Great post-thanks!

    chris

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