Music sets the tone in movies, no matter the genre. Love songs go with romantic flicks, rock for adventure, sinister for horror—the list goes on. A good movie is made even better if the soundtrack is spot on, and people are used to that. Yet music is rarely the central part of a movie.
That’s not always the case, though. Here are a few movies that focus on the music, great for the musically talented who want to kick back and relax over a tub of popcorn:
Across the Universe (2007)
The musically inclined will automatically tell you that this is the title of a The Beatles album, and Hollywood better not be ripping it off. It depends what ripping off means to you, though. The rock musical about a young British man from Liverpool in the 1960s is indeed driven by The Beatles’ album. In fact, it’s like they made a story based on the tracks of that album. The cast covered the songs pretty well too—some would even say that their renditions could rival the original.
8 Mile (2002)
This film is about the life of times of Marshall Mathers aka Eminem, as told through a factory worker who is down on his luck and tries to provide for his family by proving himself in underground rap battles. It features a lot of good rap songs from the 90s, including Eminem’s own “Lose Yourself.” If you’re wondering how good the film is, it was enough to catch the attention of the Academy. Eminem got an award for Best Original Song in 2003, making him the first ever hip-hop artist to win an Oscar.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Hedwig is a transsexual rocker from East Berlin who is touring the US. She talks about her story to the people who watch her shows, which incidentally, happens to coincide with concerts of a rock star and former lover who stole her songs. The tragic story is told with punk-rock music as Hedwig searches for love.
For those who like different avenues for entertainment, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which was originally an off-Broadway musical in 1998, was revived on Broadway in 2014, starring Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwig.
Amadeus who? Mozart, of course.
Definitely for classical music buffs, this film is about the lavish life of the gifted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—as told by his musical rival Antonio Salieri, from the confines of an insane asylum.
Chico & Rita (2010)
Planets aligned when an ambitious piano player in 1940s Cuba fell in love with a talented and gorgeous singer. They make beautiful music together until their careers took them to different paths, with a sprinkling of industry prejudice and jealous business partners that fueled the flames even more.
If you’re interested in music, this is one you should watch. It starts with Latin bolero music and jazz.
Pink Floyd the Wall (1982)
Based on Pink Floyd’s 1979 album, The Wall, the story revolves around a rock singer who is crumbling under the past that is catching up with him as well as his drug addiction and the pressure of fame—which he all struggles to cope with in the confines of his LA hotel room.
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
If you’re a fan of Simon & Garfunkel and Mumford & Sons, you’re going to love this one, especially considering that the latter did appear on the soundtrack. The story is about a disillusioned singer struggling to make it in the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961. Don’t take this as just another musical film, though as it is a black comedy drama that showed Oscar Isaac’s acting prowess. It was nominated for two Academy Awards and for three Golden Globe awards, which is enough to say that this is not a film to pass off.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
When it comes to groups that changed history, NWA changed the culture of hip-hop in the mid-1980s by their challenging lyrics, stories, and egos. The film has many NWA classic songs, but it also has a mix of the early tracks of notable hip-hop artists like Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube. Historically, however, the film is not too accurate, with DJ Alonzo Williams admitting that the film was “a great fusion of fantasy and reality.”