Musicians, like many artists, have lives that are often fraught with tragedy. Their stories are therefore perfectly suited to a big screen adaptation.
Their highs and lows, loves and losses, successes and failures, all set to a soundtrack of their greatest hits – it’s a formula that has given us many memorable movies.
To celebrate the release of Nowhere Boy, the story of John Lennon’s younger years released in cinemas December 26th, we are taking a look at the 10 greatest musical biopics ever made.
- Musician: Ray Charles
- Played by: Jamie Foxx
Blind from a young age, Ray Charles struggled from a poor background to become one of the most legendary performers in US music history.
In Ray, Jamie Foxx finally broke free of his comedy background to win an Oscar for his unforgettable performance in this 2004 drama. Foxx’s musical prowess meant that he played the piano himself in all of the scenes.
Walk the Line
- Musician: Johnny Cash
- Played by: Joaquin Phoenix
Fighting through alcoholism, drugs and a tough childhood, Johnny Cash was helped by his wife, singer June Carter, to become one of the most famous country singers of all time.
This time, it was Reese Witherspoon that won the Oscar for playing the long-suffering spouse. Both actors were reportedly chosen by their real-life counterparts to play them.
La Vie En Rose
- Musician: Edith Piaf
- Played by: Marion Cotillard
Edith Piaf’s life was never easy. Born to an alcoholic street singer and a circus performer, her life is full of heartache. A tragic love affair and the death of her child never stop her from becoming an iconic French singer.
Marion Cotillard won an Oscar for her heartbreaking performance. When playing the singer at an older age, it would often take her five hours to get into make-up.
What’s Love Got To Do With It?
- Musician: Tina Turner
- Played by: Angela Bassett
As a teenager, Anna Mae Bullock meets the intoxicating Ike Turner and soon finds herself on tour and part of the band.
After getting married and their careers rising, their lives turn into a nightmare as Ike becomes violent and the newly named Tina Turner must break free. Angela Bassett won the role against competition from Halle Berry and Whitney Houston.
- Musician: Jim Morrison
- Played by: Val Kilmer
Jim Morrison’s life was a haze of drugs, booze and, of course, rock ‘n’ roll. As he become a superstar, his reliance was heavier on alcohol and he died at the young age of 27.
Val Kilmer’s singing voice was so eerily close to Jim Morrison’s that surviving band members were unable to distinguish between the two.
I’m Not There
- Musician: Bob Dylan
- Played by: Cate Blanchett, Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Christian Bale, Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin
One of the more inventive biopics of late, Bob Dylan’s life was divided into six different incarnations. Unconventional, like the man himself, the film takes his music and elements of his life and comes up with something wildly original. Director Todd Haynes wrote to Bob Dylan but has never met him.
Coal Miner’s Daughter
- Musician: Loretta Lynn
- Played by: Sissy Spacek
Married at 13 and bearing four children by the time she was 20, Loretta Lynn’s life seemed to have started and ended too soon.
But once her husband hears her talent, a journey begins for her to become a country superstar. Sissy Spacek won an Oscar for her performance as well as a Grammy nomination for her rendition of the title song.
Sid and Nancy
- Musician: Sid Vicious
- Played by: Gary Oldman
One of the most shocking musical biopics, the story of Sid Vicious saw him rise to fame as member of The Sex Pistols but his destructive relationship with a groupie Nancy Spungen. Later charged with her murder, Sid overdosed 4 months after. Gary Oldman lost so much weight to play Sid Vicious that he ended up in hospital.
- Musician: Ian Curtis
- Played by: Sam Riley
Ian Curtis was a quiet, melancholic teenager who became the lead singer of the cult 70s band Joy Division.
Based on his wife’s memoir, the film tells of their troubled marriage and his eventual suicide at the age of 23. All of the actors playing the band learned how to play the songs so the performances in the film are all live.
- Musician: Charlie Parker
- Played by: Forest Whitaker
The famed saxophone player Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker was addicted to drugs from a young age. He managed to become a pioneer of modern jazz, even while his addiction continued to plague him.
Director Clint Eastwood claims that the film only cost $9.1 million but earned star Forest Whitaker awards at The Cannes Film Festival and The Golden Globes.
Nowhere Boy is released 26th December.
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