The best films about music to stream right now
From 'The Doors' to 'Walk The Line,' these Hollywood hits hit all the right notes.
If the thought of watching a horror movie gives you the creeps, or counting down to the return of your favorite TV drama makes you anxious, it may be time to kick back with something a bit more musical.
Below are just a handful of exceptional films that have managed to capture everything from the lives of famous musicians to the iconic decades that defined them.
Helmed by American director Oliver Stone and produced by Sasha Harari, an Israeli filmmaker whose credits include the new "Space Between Us" romantic comedy, "The Doors" follows the rise of the singer Jim Morrison and the classic rock band that came to define 1960s rock 'n' roll culture.
''There was nothing that wasn't attractive about it, really,'' actor Val Kilmer told the Orlando Sentinel about taking on the role of Morrison. ''I was fascinated even about the things that were repulsive. ... You shouldn't be afraid.''
After proving his vocal chops with an eight-minute audition reel of The Doors' greatest hits, Kilmer spent six months studying Morrison's performances and perfecting his mannerisms. Despite learning over 50 songs, only 15 were used in the film. Nonetheless, Kilmer says the notes are all his. "As it turned out, everything live in the film is me,' he added.
The film is considered one of the best rock movies of all time. "The whole movie is white hot, lapped in honeyed golds, evilly blue and black or drenched in those swoony, fiery reds," gushed LA Times critic Michael Wilmington. "'The Doors' blasts your ears and scorches your eyes."
'Walk the Line'
Directed by American filmmaker James Mangold, "Walk the Line" is a biographical film about the rise and career of country music icon Johnny Cash.
To transform his voice into something recognizable to Cash's fans, American actor Joaquin Phoenix spent months practicing guitar and singing the late musician's greatest hits.
"From previous experience with things, I know you put in enough work and enough time, you get to a level of comfort with something," Phoenix told the AP. "But nevertheless, each time you go into it, it's new. You don't feel it's possible, or at least I don't. When I picked up that guitar, it felt so foreign to me, I just thought, 'How's this going to work?'"
According to Mangold, it wasn't just Phoenix's physical similarities to Cash that made him want the actor for the project. "There was just something in Joaquin's eyes," he said in an interview. "He just had that same sense of searching for something. Joaquin has the honesty that is so much a part of who John was."
Reviews for "Walk the Line" were overwhelmingly positive, with the film earning five Academy Award nominations. Reese Witherspoon, who played singer June Carter, eventually took home the Oscar for Best Actress.
The first meeting between American actor Jamie Foxx and Ray Charles, the blind rhythm and blues icon he was slated to play in the film "Ray," did not start out on the best of notes. Foxx had some training in jazz piano, but Charles decided to see what he could do with some more complicated pieces from Thelonious Monk. Foxx initially stumbled, but after a few minutes of awkward adjustment, eventually caught on.
"Ray's not just testing him as a piano player, he's testing him as a man," director Taylor Hackford recalled to the New York Times. "And finally Jamie gets it. Ray stands up and hugs himself – he had a way of doing that when he got excited – and said, 'The kid's got it!'"
Besides embracing Charles' voice and piano playing style, Foxx dropped 30 pounds from his frame and even went so far as to glue his eyes shut while on set. "Once I got down to that weight, and when we got the hair together, and I put those shades on, and I listened to that music, I said, 'Watch out. Something is about to happen,'" Foxx shared in an interview with CBS.
Following the box office success of "Ray," Foxx went on to win a Best Actor Oscar for the role at the 77th Academy Awards. Critics widely regard his performance as one of the most accurate in Hollywood music history. "Foxx does the impossible – radiates something approaching the charisma of the artist he's portraying," wrote music critic Robert Christgau. "That's the only time an actor has ever brought a pop icon fully to life on-screen."
'I'm Not There'
Directed by American filmmaker Todd Haynes, "I'm Not There" is a musical biopic inspired by moments in musician Bob Dylan's life. The film, employing an unusual non-linear narrative, depicts the recent Nobel Prize-winning artist over six separate storylines played by six different actors.
"He wasn't trying to categorize him in any way," the late Australian actor Heath Ledger, who took on one of Dylan's personas, said about Haynes' filmmaking mission. "He wasn't assuming to know everything about him. And that was really refreshing. Biopics kind of annoy me sometimes. It's really hard not to defame someone when you're doing a biopic. I got the sense that Todd was really trying to preserve Dylan's mystique."
In addition to Ledger, the various other "Dylans" were played by Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw and Cate Blanchett. "Casting a woman in this role reveals a dimension to the acerbic Dylan of this era that has rarely been noted," praised critic Anthony DeCurtis. "Blanchett's translucent skin, delicate fingers, slight build and pleading eyes all suggest the previously invisible vulnerability and fear that fueled Dylan's lacerating anger."
While "I'm Not There" was not a box office juggernaut, it did receive plenty of awards attention, including a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Blanchett. In a September 2012 interview, Dylan commented that he liked the movie and its cast. "I thought it looked good," he told Rolling Stone, "and those actors were incredible."
Directed by Canadian Allan Moyle and produced by Arnon Milchan, a prolific Israeli filmmaker, "Empire Records" revolves around a group of young employees determined to prevent their beloved record store from being sold to a giant music chain. The film starred iconic young 1990s actors such as Ethan Embry, Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger and Rory Cochrane.
According to Embry, Moyle nurtured the chemistry seen on screen between the cast by first setting them up in a beach house in North Carolina. "The way that Allan Moyle set that whole situation up for us… we went out and had 30 days of rehearsal," he told The Wrap. "We weren’t actually rehearsing the scenes, we were just hanging out and spending time together in that environment. The houses we stayed in were on Wrightsville Beach and it was like summer camp."
While the film was both a critical and box office flop, it transitioned in later years to cult classic status as a time capsule of '90s culture. The soundtrack in particular, featuring such bands as Better Than Ezra, Cracker, the Cranberries and Gin Blossoms, is widely regarded as one of the best of the decade.
'That Thing You Do!'
Written and directed by American actor Tom Hanks, "That Thing You Do!" offers an entertaining ride covering the fictional dramatic rise and fall of a 1960s one-hit-wonder pop band. According to Hanks, the film was inspired by his own childhood and the innocent nature of mid-20th century America.
"I was 8 years old in 1964, and I was the youngest in my family," he recalled in an interview. "I remember the house being full of teenagers all the time, and the radio played every minute. The girls all argued about who was their favorite Beatle. As for me, I thought the Dave Clark Five was way better."
In order to pull off the illusion that they could actually play instruments, the four lead actors practiced guitar and drums five hours a day for six weeks. Hanks, reticent to use old standards from the '60s, also helped compose all of the film's original music.
"We've all heard Del Shannon's `Runaway' one or two times too many," he said. "I was determined to have new songs."
In a rare instance of life imitating art, the film's hit single "That Thing You Do" actually ended up becoming a real-world smash, peaking at No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1996.
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