We may no longer be living in the era of rock and roll, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a pantheon of great films to help us relive the glory days. Not all the films on this list will cover rock music specifically, but each brings out excitement and attitude that’s at the heart of any genre. Some real, some fictional, you’re likely to enjoy all of these films, even if some of them are unfamiliar.
DIG!: The Brian Jonestown Massacre isn’t a household name, but their story will stick in your memory forever. Fronted by tortured genius Anton Newcombe, the BJM pours out soulful rock recordings at a staggering rate, even as the personalities at the center threaten to unravel. Newcombe might benefit from a few lessons at Ken Tamplin Vocal Academy, but his unconventional talent is nonetheless the envy of more successful rivals The Dandy Warhols. Bizarre, hilarious and oh-so-90s, “DIG!” is a crowd pleaser and a treat for anyone who loves quotable docs.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: “Hedwig” might be the catchiest rock musical of the past 20 years, but it’s unconventional subject matter has kept it under the mainstream radar. On the surface, it’s a gay love and transcendence story, but its themes are truly universal. With an original earworm soundtrack that recalls Elton John and Meatloaf, you’ll be humming these tunes for days. It’s subversive, colorful and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
The Boyfriend: Director Ken Russell is more famous for “Tommy,” but he created a better, more charming musical in “The Boyfriend.” The simple story of a timid understudy (played by 70s it-girl Twiggy) playing opposite her crush, the tale is taken to unbelievable heights with Russell’s keen direction and vision. The costumes, sets and fantasy sequences are among the most colorful and kaleidoscopic as any captured on film. Truly a forgotten masterpiece.
24 Hour Party People: A partly fictionalized take on the very real Factory Records (Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays), “24 Hour Party People” is a record of one of the coolest music scenes of all-time. Following several beloved artists in their early development to the pinnacle of their success, we get to know one of the most idiosyncratic personalities of the entire movement: Shaun Ryder. Ryder might have benefited from vocal lessons from Ken Tamplin, but this doesn’t mean that he can’t engage an audience. “24HPP” is inspiring and incredible, a cultural movement that could never exist again in exactly the same way.
A Mighty Wind: When all is said and done, “A Mighty Wind” might just beat out “Spinal Tap” for the title of best Christopher Guest mockumentary. This time, the subject is folk music (the 60s and 70s variety). Guest and company skewer all of the goofiest tropes with a series of memorable characters and a score of songs you’ll remember forever.
Every day is a good day for a music movie. If you haven’t seen these, do yourself a favor and rent one. They’re all fun and, hopefully, new to you.