SIFFRAFF Selects: Musical Biopics

SIFF Staff | Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Musical Biopic

It’s time to get all shook up for Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis! To prepare for the spectacle, SIFF staff pay tribute to the stories behind the songs and revist their favorite musical biopics. Rock n’ roll over to our Letterboxd for more lists like these.

8 Mile

8 Mile (2002)

- Picked by Beth

24 Hour Party People

24 Hour Party People (2002)

"Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson is a gem with some serious main character energy and magnificent one-liners."

- Picked by Betty


Aline (2020)

"The one I missed but wanted to see was Aline, based on the life of Celine Dion, where two-time César Award winner Valérie Lemercier plays her from ages 5 to 50!!!"

- Picked by Andy S.

All That Jazz

All That Jazz (1979)

"I recently watched All That Jazz for the first time and can't stop thinking about it—Bob Fosse's pseudo-autobiographical jaundiced-eye take on his own life (even predicting his own demise); however, Amadeus is also a work of genius that plays fast and loose with the biographical facts but is a supreme work of dramaturgy."

- Picked by Dan


Amadeus (1984)

"A portrait of competition and genius and the cost of being uncompromising. See also 8 Mile."

- Picked by Beth

"Miloš Forman’s epic. We can only wish to be so talented that someone makes it their life’s work to beat you. Your haters are your motivators."

- Picked by Milo H.

Behind the Candelabra

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

- Picked by Andy S.


Bird (1988)

"This is a very good one for the actor's performance!"

- Picked by Elodie

The Buddy Holly Story

The Buddy Holly Story (1978)

"In addition to those catchy early rockabilly songs that made Buddy Holly and the Crickets legendary, this film contains a Gary Busey performance that earned him an Oscar nomination as well as a few standout scenes which elevate it well above standard prescriptive biopic fare."

- Picked by Colleen

Coal Miner's Daughter

Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)

"Soft spot for Coal Miner's Daughter and Sissy Spacek."

- Picked by Beth


Control (2007)

"Joy Division is one of my favorite bands and the cinematography, soundtrack, and attention to detail, I think fully capture late 70s Manchester and Ian Curtis' struggles with depression."

- Picked by Carson

"Because - it’s Ian Curtis - ( the actor did a great job). Because we travel in the non-glamour but visceral England from the 70s. And last but not least: wonderful work on the black and white."

- Picked by Elodie

Purple Rain

Purple Rain (1984)

- Picked by Tom


Ray (2004)

"There are a lot of exceptional combinations of acting & musical performances out there (apologies to Angela Bassett, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Forest Whitaker, and the half-dozen Bob Dylan’s in I'm Not There - to name a few), but few have I enjoyed as much as Jamie Foxx’s slyly exuberant channeling of Ray Charles’ on and offstage vocals and mannerisms."

- Picked by Stan


Rocketman (2019)

"I love the telling of this story in such an Elton John-esque, sparkly, theatrical-musical way with the weaving in of the songs and dance numbers."

- Picked by Donna


Selena (1997)

- Picked by Jennifer

Sid & Nancy

Sid & Nancy (1986)

"When I first saw this in my youth, it exposed me to music that I was unfamiliar with and truly loved. Not just The Sex Pistols but other artists on the soundtrack including one of my all time favorite bands, The Pogues."

- Picked by Elizabeth

"Sid & Nancy is a sympathetic but unflinching portrayal of the addiction, abuse, and general dysfunction that so often comes hand in hand with 'rock star' status. Gary Oldman is a chameleon and Roger Deakins is obviously a master."

- Picked by Kimberly

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton (2015)

"Of the musical biopics from the last 10 years, Straight Outta Compton was the most inspiring to me despite (or because of?) it's Hollywood gloss. Runner up goes to Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra."

- Picked by Andy S.

That Thing You Do!

That Thing You Do! (1996)

I have a love/hate relationship with music biopics that play fast and loose with truth unless they fully push into fantasy/the unconventional, so let’s go with a true comfort film: the fully fictionalized That Thing You Do!, a better encapsulation of the '60s rock/pop music era than most of the films starring actual bands. (A Hard Day's Night, Herman Hermits’ Hold On!, and Go Go Mania are exceptions.) "Shame on me for kissing you with my eyes closed so tight."

Runners-Up: Words and Music, Till the Clouds Roll By, Night and Day, The Glenn Miller Story, Bound for Glory, Almost Famous, I'm Not There, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

- Picked by Marcus

This Is Spinal Tap

This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Nigel Tufnel: It's so black, it's like, how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.

- Picked by Patrick

Velvet Goldmine

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

“Loved the glam rock glory and tension and sweat and makeup and all the feels it provides.”

- Picked by Grace

"Not just a glittery fake David Bowie biopic, but an ode to self-mythology, fandom, and nostalgia."

- Picked by Caroline B.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

You're gonna have to give him a moment, son. Dewey Cox has to think about his entire life before he plays.

- Picked by Carson

Walk the Line

Walk the Line (2005)

"I watch Walk the Line on a quarterly basis to reconnect with the achy breaky heart country girl that I am at my core. Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon's rendition of 'Jackson' maaaaaaaaaaay be better than the original?!"

- Picked by Carley

"Johnny Cash is my number one, through and through. So when I saw this as a lassie, I fell head over heels for Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash. No better casting! This is also one of the few movies I have watched multiple times in a row in a single day."

- Picked by Shelby

  • Date: June 22, 2022
  • Share:
  • Tags: Cinema

Don't miss your future favorite film!

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest updates from the SIFF community delivered straight to your inbox.