50 greatest music films ever



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50 greatest music films ever
'Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story' tops our list of the 50 greatest music films ever

From Wagner to Elvis, Cliff to Cobain, and Walker to Ryder, a multitude of musicians have stepped out of the studio and on to the big screen – often, it must be said, to disastrous effect. But sometimes the union of sound and vision produces magical movies and, to prove it, our film and music teams join forces to find the 50 best ever.

First off, an apology. Nowhere in this list of fantastic films about musicians will you find ‘This is Spinal Tap’. As much as we love Christopher Guest’s mockumentary, the band never actually existed (sorry to break it to you, Tap fans). Instead we’re celebrating great films – dramas and documentaries – about real musicians. We’ve polled our film and music writers for their personal favourites and looked beyond the obvious to include films about jazz, films about opera, films about Finnish polka rock and films about Gilbert and Sullivan.

Why? Partly to coincide with the release of ‘Control’, Anton Corbijn’s new film about Joy Division, and partly because we recently saw ‘I’m Not There’, Todd Haynes’ movie about Bob Dylan, which reminded us just how superb films about musicians can be. Here we offer you 50 excellent cinematic creations and guarantee that the one we’ve picked for the Number One spot may not be to everyone’s taste. We, however, think it’s a work of genius. But if you disagree, we want to hear from you. Have your say.


Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story (Todd Haynes, 1987)


Don't Look Back (DA Pennebaker, 1967)


Gimme Shelter (David Maysles/Albert Maysles/Charlotte Zwerin, 1970)


24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)


Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, 1999)


Monterey Pop (DA Pennebaker, 1968)


Be Here to Love Me (Margaret Brown, 2004)


Thirty Two Short Films about Glenn Gould (Francois Girard, 1993)


Cocksucker Blues (Robert Frank, 1972)


Bird (Clint Eastwood, 1988)


The Last Waltz

(Martin Scorsese, 1978)


Rude Boy (Jack Hazan, David Mingay, 1980)


Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijak, 2006)


Bound for Glory

(Hal Ashby, 1976)


The Decline of Western Civilization Parts I & II (Penelope Spheeris, 1981, 1988)


The Devil and Daniel Johnston (Jeff Feuerzeig, 2005)


Sweet Dreams (Karel Reisz, 1982)


Notes from a Jazz Survivor

(Don McGlynn, 1982)


Elgar (Ken Russell, 1962)


Rust Never Sleeps

(Neil Young, 1979)


The Future is Unwritten (Julien Temple, 2006)


'DiG!' (Ondi Timoner, 2004)


Some Kind Of Monster

(Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)


A Hard Day's Night

(Richard Lester, 1964)


Jimi Hendrix (Joe Boyd, 1973)


Sid and Nancy

(Alex Cox, 1986)



(John Carpenter, 1979)


The Last of the Blue Devils (Bruce Ricker, 1980)


Rough Cut & Ready Dubbed

(Hasan Shah & Dom Shaw, 1981)



(Milos Forman, 1984)


Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984)


Charlie is My Darling

(Peter Whitehead, 1966)


Magic Fire (William Dieterle, 1955)


A Joyful Noise

(Robert Mugge, 1980)


Coal Miner’s Daughter

(Michael Apted, 1980)


Last Days

(Gus Van Sant, 2006)


Wonderful Life

(Sidney J Furie, 1964)


'Round Midnight

(Bertrand Tavernier, 1986)


Watch the K Foundation Burn a Million Quid (Gimpo, 1995)


The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (Danièle Huillet & Jean-Marie Straub, 1968)


Buena Vista Social Club (Wim Wenders, 1999)


Soul to Soul (Dennis Sanders, 1971)


Hilary and Jackie (Anand Tucker, 1998)


Made in Sheffield (Eve Wood, 2001)


Jazz on a Summer’s Day (Bert Stern, 1959)


So You Wanna Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star?

(Mark Kidel, 1976)


Leningrad Cowboys Go America (Aki Kaurismäki, 1989)


MC5: A True Testimonial (David C Thomas, 2002)


Sign O’ The Times (Prince, 1988)


Catch Us If You Can (John Boorman, 1965)

Author: Dave Calhoun. Written by Derek Adams, Geoff Andrew, Dave Calhoun, Wally Hammond, Michael Hodges, Martin Horsfield, Martin Hoyle, David Jenkins, Trevor Johnston, Eddy Lawrence, Sharon O'Connell, Chris Parkin, Graeme Thomson, Peter Watts

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