The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Movies

I like movies, and I like rock ‘n’ roll.  You probably already knew (or assumed) that.  These are some of my favorite music-related films.  What are yours?

AirheadsAirheads – Such a great goofy film.  I feel that this one is underrated… maybe it has a “cult” sort of following.  The plot is ridiculous and it’s filled with all kinds of great actors.  It’s got some of the best quotes ever, and is why I will someday demand a football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur if ever given the chance to make crazy demands.  I could probably watch this movie over & over as much as I could watch the Star Wars films over & over.

The cover for Shark Sandwich, one of the band'...This is Spinal Tap – This is a no-brainer.  It goes to 11.  It’s the standard to which all other rock ‘n’ roll films are measured.  It has sustain.  Just let the DVD or Blu-ray or VHS tape or Laser Disc sit on the shelf and listen to it.

Music from the Motion Picture Josie and the Pu...Josie and the Pussycats – Laugh all you want, but this movie is super fun.  If you can’t enjoy this one, you have no soul.  I had no attachment to the cartoon in case there are purists out there that didn’t like it because fans of original things rarely like those things rehashed.  Orange is the new pink.  “3 Small Words” is a great pop song.

Empire RecordsEmpire Records – It’s not really about  band or musicians… but the chaos all over the store is all about rock ‘n’ roll, and it’s filled with great tracks from GWAR, AC/DC, Sponge, not quite Body Count’s “Hey Joe“, Coyote Shivers, and Rex Manning.  Ha ha.

Lemmy (film)Lemmy: 49% Motherf**ker, 51% Son Of A Bitch – If you haven’t seen this & you’re even a casual fan of metal, punk, rock docs in general, or even just heard “Ace of Spades” once, you need to see this.  That was a really long grammatically terrible sentence.  Lemmy would kick my ass for pointing that out.  Maybe not.  He seems like a really likeable dude to hang out with if you can get past the stink of cigarettes.

It Might Get LoudIt Might Get Loud – Not a huge fan of any of these dudes… except Jimmy Page is… well, Jimmy Page.  Led Zeppelin is amazing, I’m just not one of those dudes that has all the albums or knows all the riffs.  U2 actually kind or irks me, but the Edge seems like a cool dude & an effect wiz.  Jack White surprised me, but he’s kind of creepy.  Beyond all that, I still enjoyed this movie.  Guys talking about their love of music, the guitar, & playing… it’s incredible.

Walk the Line (soundtrack)Walk the Line – Probably one of the best biopics ever, if not the best.  Johnny Cash was a great man, and an asshole.  It’s all out there.  It’s a compelling story spanning many decades, and really a love story with Jone & Johnny.  The man in black went through a lot in life.

Ray (film)Ray – Ray & Johnny Cash had eerie similar back stories.  Jamie Foxx is a genius in this film.  It’s one hell of a great story.  Ray did it all, from R&B to pop to country.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (soundtrack)Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – This is hilarious. Watch Walk the Line & Ray first though.  Then laugh hard. (♫ Haaaaard! ♫)

Wayne's World (soundtrack)Wayne’s World – You’re hearing Queen in your head right now, aren’t you?  Well, either that or the theme song.  Excellent!

Detroit Rock City (film)Detroit Rock City – I’m not the biggest KISS fan, but this road-trip gone awry is all kinds of fun.  I have had many less interesting adventures on the way to gigs… just attending or playing.  And, KISS does have some catchy songs… and a great stage show.

Role ModelsRole Models – OK, not a rock movie… but the KISS theme throughout is just hilarious.

CrossroadsCrossroads – The Karate Kid does a guitar duel with Steve Vai.  It’s sort of like  “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” as a movie from the 80s.  Instead of Arnold from Happy Days, you have a Blues player, and instead of Karate you have the blues.

8 Mile8 Mile – The concept is weird… a biopic that isn’t quite.  It’s a great move though.  The struggle to make it as a musician/rapper is very compelling, and Eminem’s a pretty damn good actor… playing himself…  sort of.

Anvil! The Story of AnvilAnvil: The Story of Anvil – This movie makes me want to laugh & cry.  I feel the pain that these cats are going through.  It makes you want to punch Metallica for Some Kind of Monster.  After it all it’s all about friendship & the love of music.  Who can’t get behind that?

OnceOnce – Not really a rock movie, but a cool story intertwined with music, performing, songwriting, and even a love/friendship thing.

The Pick of DestinyThe Pick of Destiny – You can maybe skip this one.  Get the Complete Masterworks instead.  It’s slightly funnier.  These dudes are awesome rock ‘n’ rollers who capture the essence of the spirit of rock!  And they battle demons…

Purple Rain (album)Purple Rain – Musicians, watch this and learn how to own the stage from Morris Day.  Oh yeah, Prince is pretty badass too.  This is a weird 80s film, but it’s one you need to see.

Honeysuckle RoseHoneysuckle Rose – Willie Nelson is awesome.  This movie is about a traveling band that looks a lot like Willie’s… with the lead singer who looks a lot like Willie Nelson robbing his ex guitar player’s cradle to the chagrin of his wife. This soundtrack is excellent if you’re a Willie Nelson fan… highlight being a cover of Leon Russell’s “A Song For You”.

Bill & Ted's Excellent AdventureBill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure & Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey – Well, the first one was cool.  I can’t wait for #3 if it ever happens!  Be excellent to each other.

Other cool movies where the music is integral… Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Rocker, The Last Dragon, SLC Punk, Some Kind of Monster, Bubba Ho-Tep, High Fidelity, Blues Brothers, Rock Star, The Runaways, and many more I’m sure.

28 thoughts on “The Best Rock ‘n’ Roll Movies

    • Both of the Bill and Ted movies are probably in my top ten of all time. I recently commented about Jim Martin’s cameo in Bogus Journey on this very blog. Plus on my own, I recently wrote an album review in which I won a CD simply by thinking the band’s name reminded me of Chuck DeNomolos.

      More to the point, though, I am especially fond of pointing out – when people do hypocritical things in the name of religion – that basically Jesus’s entire message could be summarized as “be excellent to each other.”


  1. I agree with many of these. Some others not so much, but people are entitled to their opinions, even if they are wrong. :>

    I would also add “A Mighty Wind” — it’s a mockumentary about folk bands, not rock, but close enough. It’s hilarious. That was a Christopher Guest movie, all of his mockumentaries are in a very similar style at Spinal Tap (even though he only starred in that movie, didn’t write or direct it), so if you liked Spinal Tap you’d surely enjoy any of the movies he’s made.


      • I’d highly recommend it, along with “Best in Show” about dog owners at a dog show, and “Waiting for Guffman” about people staging a play in a small town theater. The only thing is, it’s very dry humor (my favorite kind usually) so you sort of have to pay close attention or you miss the jokes– in which case it would seem like a very slow and boring documentary. Because that’s what it’s supposed to seem like, I guess.

        As for the ones listed I don’t care for… I hated every second (that I saw) of Scott Pilgrim. (I’ve seen probably twenty minutes worth, altogether, at various times). The wife and daughter loved it, but they’re both video game nerds where I am not. Also the kid is all about the comic book movies and anime stuff, which the rest of us are *definitely* not. So I figure I am not that movie’s target demographic.

        Also, Rock star. Despite being told that I would love it, I found it to be very boring and difficult to get into. Can’t exactly put my finger on why. Oh but I did like Almost Famous, did you have that in your list? I don’t remember.


  2. All of the projects involving Christopher Guest are absolute keepers. As far as (specifically) rock films go, however, my personal recommendations are:

    Chuck Berry: Hail, Hail Rock ‘n’ Roll — Berry is incredibly candid for the most part and there are multiple revelations from figures like Keith Richards on the formative days of contemporary Rock. Numerous energetic and revealing performances.

    A Hard Days Night — Captures the youthful exuberance of the Beatles that was so pivotal in their international success. The soundtrack is obviously marvelous and their mostly naive attitudes make this film a unique lens on the mid-60’s, the most radical shift in Rock’s gravity.

    Gimme Shelter — Not only is this full of spectacular footage of the Stones, but it is a brilliant piece of directing work from D.A. Pennebaker. Chronicling the fated events at Altamont, Gimme Shelter is one of the most arresting and impressive concert films produced. The actual concert sequence is a profound examination of the 60’s counterculture in general.

    Don’t Look Back — Scorcese’s “No Direction Home” is a nice cohesive study of the singular most influential rocker in history, but Pennebaker strikes again, revealing the puzzling contradictions of Bob Dylan in a way that is so intimate and understanding.

    Monterey Pop — Also made by Pennebaker and contains some of the most legendary concert footage ever shot. Janis Joplin’s performance of “Ball & Chain” alone is worth the purchase price.

    Sorry this was so long, but they’re all very much worth watching if you are into Rock as a historically significant musical idiom!


  3. Spinal Tap makes me laughs, yet at the same time feel compassion for struggling musicians.
    Marty DiBergi: The review for “Shark Sandwich” was merely a two word review which simply read “Shit Sandwich”.


  4. Light of Day
    Decline of Western Civilization (Parts 1, 2, & 3)
    Six String Samurai
    Oh Brother Where Art Thou
    Blues Brothers
    Repo Man
    The Filth and the Fury
    Sid & Nancy
    Hedwig & The Angry Inch
    A Hard Day’s Night
    Cry Baby
    Almost Famous
    That Thing You Do
    Tougher Than Leather
    Fear of a Black Hat
    Krush Groove
    The Last Dragon (sort of?)
    High Fidelity


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