50 greatest music films ever



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(Milos Forman, 1984)Milos Forman opened out Peter Shaffer’s play with an all-American naturalism that left some spectators missing the original’s stylised gossips-cum-Greek chorus, the venticelli. The basic lack of historical empathy remains: Shaffer seems to regard young Mozart as a freak by the standards of... READ MOREWhat Time Out critics have said about the film


Rough Cut

(Hasan Shah & Dom Shaw, 1981)‘Best avoid until at least 1995 when it can be viewed by amnesiac sociologists with dewy-eyed nostalgia,’ wrote Time Out in 1981 of this post-punk doc, filmed by north London schoolkids (with help from their teacher and the BFI). It’s unlikely that anyone would get dewy eyed for the frankly dangerous London portrayed, where followers of punk’s myriad offshoots – mods, skins, 2-Tone types – hate one another’s guts. Scenes of mohican-ed punk throwbacks chugging cider are juxtaposed with proto-Pete Doherty Patrik Fitzgerald crooning ‘Island Of Lost Souls’, and even Sham 69 make a stab at profundity. Charles Sharr Murray, Tony Wilson and John Peel all pitch in with opinions, and you can thrill to the novelty of agreeing with a surprisingly sage-like Garry Bushell, back when he cared more for Joe Strummer than Joe Pasquale. Martin HorsfieldGreatest hit A Stiff Little Fingers anti-racism gig in Brockwell Park goes frighteningly tits-up.


The Last of the Blue Devils

(Bruce Ricker, 1980)Bruce Ricker’s documentary on the gathering, in 1974, of a group of Kansas City bluesmen – notably Count Basie, Jay McShann and Big Joe Turner – could be the most toe-tappingly infectious celebration in the jazz movie canon. Capturing the bitter-sweet spirit of reunion and with a sweet sensitivity to time and place, he beautifully syncopates a superbly prècis-ed archive history of their contribution to music (stretching back to the late ’20s and featuring Dizzy, Bird et al) with the assembled oldsters’ stompin’ live performances and their vivid, instructive and moving personal reminiscences. Wally Hammond Greatest hit The ‘goddamn’ lookaways and feinted dance stamps when the long-separated old devils first greet outside the Memorial Hall.What Time Out critics have said about the film

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(John Carpenter, 1979)While Elvis has had plenty of walk-on roles in other films – from the mystical (‘Mystery Train’) to the laughable (‘Walk the Line’) – he’s only ever been featured biographically in telemovies, including this surprisingly good effort by John Carpenter. ‘Elvis’ marked the first collaboration between Carpenter and Kurt Russell, who made his own debut in 1963 as a young boy who kicked Elvis in the shins in the King’s ‘It Happened at the World’s Fair’. The film ends in 1970 with Elvis preparing for his Vegas comeback; feel free to construct your own happy ending. Peter Watts Greatest hit Elvis’ heartbreak at the death of Ma Presley.What Time Out critics have said about the film

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'Sid and Nancy'


Sid and Nancy

(Alex Cox, 1986)On its release, many considered Alex Cox’s defiantly vulgar punk biopic, ‘Sid and Nancy’, as nothing more than a bunch of preening RADA grads rubbing dirt into their hair and gobbing over each other. Though the film takes notorious liberties with The Facts (most notably, the scenes with Vicious wearing a hammer and sickle T-shirt when the world and his wife knows it’s supposed to be a swastika), it’s also managed to pass the music biopic test of time, mainly due to Gary Oldman’s force-of-nature central performance, a great soundtrack by Joe Strummer and the Pogues and Cox’s satisfyingly non-rose-tinted recreation of the punk era. David Jenkins Greatest Hit Vicious blurts through a version of ‘My Way’, loses interest, pulls out a revolver and starts taking pot-shots at all the toffs in the crowd.What Time Out critics have said about the film


Jimi Hendrix

(Joe Boyd, 1973)Joe Boyd’s all-encompassing biography of Hendrix was made in 1973 as an ‘authorised’ tribute to the star, and features the best excerpts from pretty much every major performance Hendrix ever gave. There’s no narrative as such, just a smattering of fascinating recollections from overawed peers Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend et al. Derek AdamsGreatest hit Hendrix, cool on a stool against a stark white background, playing a gorgeous 12-string ‘Hear My Train A Comin’’. Matchless.What Time Out critics have said about the film


A Hard Day’s Night

(Richard Lester, 1964)A sanitised take on life on the road for the Fab Four, of course, but admirably energetic, irreverent and witty as it wryly celebrates Beatlemania. Richard Lester’s New Wave-y camera and cutting effects convey the heady freshness of a new dawn for British pop. The songs, played with typically unflashy expertise, are mostly timeless; now wouldn’t it have been great if they’d made a movie for ‘Sgt Pepper’, too? Geoff AndrewGreatest hit ‘I Should Have Known Better’ performed in a train baggage carriage.What Time Out critics have said about the film

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St Anger management: Metallica in session


Some Kind of Monster

(Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky, 2004)Compelling documentary surrounding the making of Metallica’s album ‘St Anger’. The band, dysfunctional but lacking in self-awareness, gave their full cooperation, and we see them battling alcoholism and each other’s egos while engaging in therapy with knitwear enthusiast and ‘performance coach’ Phil Towle. The film forgets to mention that the resulting LP was awful, but is alarmingly honest in every other way. Peter WattsGreatest hit Kirk Hammett’s head-slapping reaction as Ulrich and Hetfield launch into another row.What Time Out critics have said about the film



(Ondi Timoner, 2004)
Regardless of mythical (or not) tales about using fish as sex toys, touring is a boring, bloody and brutal nightmare. If you’re lucky enough to go on a tour like the one documented in ‘Festival Express’, in which The Band, Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin spend two weeks in the summer of 1970 on a train packed with friends, free booze, drugs and a... READ MOREWhat Time Out critics have said about the film


The Future is Unwritten

(Julien Temple, 2006)Julien Temple had already given us two wildly different Sex Pistols films – ‘The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle’ (1980) and ‘The Filth and the Fury’ (1999) – but this memorial to his friend, former Clash frontman, Joe Strummer, is his best. Temple made some good choices: using Strummer’s voice from his BBC World Service show as a form of narration; interviewing friends and colleagues around campfires; and digging up dynamic footage from his personal archive. Dave CalhounGreatest hit The use of clips from ‘If...’ and ‘Animal Farm’ to tell Strummer’s story.What Time Out critics have said about the filmTop 50 index | 50-41 | 40-31 | 30-21 | 20-11 | 10-6 | 5-1

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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