From Rhapsody to Ring of Fire
Our top seven music biopics
Country music’s most iconic outlaw, Johnny Cash left us 15 years ago today and, with the new foot-stomping celebration of Queen just around the corner, here are seven blinding biopics to fanfare some similarly mighty musical greats.
Walk The Line
“If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people”. James Mangold’s searing biopic of the man in black stars Golden Globe winners Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash himself to tell the story of his grand passion falling most famously on June Carter, played by Reese Witherspoon.
Much like his name would suggest, Notorious B.I.G (the ball-busting moniker for Christopher George Latore Wallace) took the world of rap music by storm. This brashly entertaining blockbuster, produced by Biggie’s Mum and his managers and overseen by his former mentor, Sean “P Diddy” Combs, walks through his life as a gangster rap superstar to his death on the night of 9 March 1997 he was shot dead by an unnamed assassin on the streets of Los Angeles.
“People told us we were a bad influence but who were they to tell us that. We were about to make rock n roll history”. Shirking their teen-movie Twilight guises, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning team up again to play out the tumultuous on-the-road rise and fall of 70s rock giants, The Runaways. Hoodwinked by an industry impresario Kim Fowley, the band becomes a globe-trotting success but the pair’s stormy relationship threatens the band’s future which peaks in a backstage brawl somewhere in fanatic Japan.
Jimi: All Is By My Side
“The gig doesn’t pay that much and we’re broke but we’re cool. Might as well hang out with us and be broke and cool”. What is cool about All Is By My Side is seeing one-half of hip-hop duo Outkast, Andre Benjamin reimagined as the 60s guitar great, Jimi Hendrix. Turns out Benjamin captures the speech, stance and guitar-wielding mannerisms of the rock icon to a tee. Flashback to London 1966, after Linda Keith discovers Hendrix in New York and brings him across the pond, and we find ourselves immersed in director John Ridley Scott’s woozy soundtrack and jump-cut visuals giving this feature-length a hallucinogenic glow that isn’t a far cry from reality.
24 HourParty People
From acclaimed filmmaker, Ridley-Scott to British funny sort and Shaun of the Dead star, Simon Pegg’s 2002 British comedy-drama film about Manchester’s music scene from 1976 to 1972. Similarly amusing, Steve Coogan plays a blinder as frustrated TV news reporter, Tony Wilson who badgers his station to play out one of the Sex Pistols shows live on air. With the heightened hype following the broadcast, Wilson is batting off punk bands looking for management and we follow him and his mates (with excellent cameos from Christopher Eccleston, Marsha Thomason and Simon Pegg himself) who go on to set up the legendary Factory Records label and The Hacienda club. We met Tony Wilson once. Bit of a t**t to be honest. But he was responsible for some pioneering records. So we’ll let it go…
Telstar: The Joe Meek Story
Shambolic but no less entertaining, dive head-first into the story of record producer, Joe Meek the songwriter-producer behind the 1960s hits “Have I the Right?”, “Just Like Eddie” and “Johnny Remember Me”. An enormously talented but quirky maverick, Meek epitomises our shared focus on using technology to innovate musical recordings – but with less of the debt, depression and ultimate shooting of his landlady which is obviously not so much our bag.
“Is this the real-life? Is this just fantasy?” In fact, this is the chronicle of the years leading up to Queen’s legendary appearance at the Live Aid concert in 1985. With an exceptional realisation from Emmy Award winner Rami Malek (although we’ll admit we were rooting for Sacha Baron Cohen too) this upcoming biopic follows the meteoric rise of the band alongside the turbulence of a recent AIDs diagnosis to the lure of a shiny solo career. Thankfully, they get the band back together just in time for Bob and Midge’s bonanza benefit concert at the modest grounds of Wembley Stadium. Be prepared to headbang violently like you’re in the back seat of some beaten up AMC Pacer. Excellent.