Rock and Roll movies


* Recommended Titles

Includes musicals, concert films, documentaries, biographies and fictional subject matter (where singers and groups appear as musical interludes.)

* Nowhere Boy (2010)… Aaron Johnson, Kristan Scott-Thomas, Ann-Marie Duff, David Threlfall, Josh Bolt, Ophelia Lovibond. The story of John Lennon’s youth in the mid-1950s and his struggles to find himself amidst the two women who raised him, his aunt Mimi and mother Julia. The film also touches on the creation of his first band, The Quarrymen, and how they developed into the Beatles triggered by the historic meeting with Paul McCartney. The film ends as they were off to Hamburg which was a few years before making it big. Great performances all around.

* The Runaways (2010)… Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Riley Keough. The Runaways, starring Joan Jett, were the first all-girl rock-band to make it big. This movie follows the teenage rock band from 1975-1977; formed by underage girls living near Hollywood, CA. The film delves into the manipulations by their manager Kim Fowley and also sends an anti-drug message to the kids in the audience.

Stones in Exile (2010)… Documentary about the recording of the Rolling Stones 1972 album Exile on Main St. marked by the re-release of the album.

* George Harrison: Living in a Material World (2011)… Martin Scorsece’s documentary on the life of George Harrison. Directed by Richard Lester. John, Paul, Ringo, Dhani Harrison (his son), Olivia Harrison (second wife), George Martin, Patti Boyd (first wife), Eric Clapton, Yoko Ono, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Jackie Stewart (race car driver), et al. Olivia, as co-producer, made available all the archival material, photos, film and video. Also featured are Astrid Kirchherr and Klaus Voormann, close friends of the band during their early days in Germany, and Tom Petty, who was in The Traveling Wilburys with Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. Hi-lights include: rare concert footage and photos, George’s letters to home, Ringo’s interviews, HBO two-parter.

Some Girls Live in Texas '78 (2011)… Documentary of the Rolling Stones 1978 USA tour following the release of the Some Girls album.

* Marley (2012)… Bob Marley, Ziggy Marley, Rita Marley, Jimmy Cliff, The Wailers. A documentary on the life and music of reggae star Bob Marley told through his family and friends. An honest biography, its touches on his blessings and his faults. Great soundtrack of over 60 songs.

Rock of Ages (2012)… Tom Cruise, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Malin Akerman, Catherine Zeta Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Mary J. Blige. Story takes place on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood in 1987. Young lovers Sherrie (Hough) and struggling musician Drew (Boneta) meet with aging rock star Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and others complicating things along the way. If you like 80s hair bands and the TV Show “Glee,” you’ll like this movie. Based on the Broadway musical.

* Neil Young Journeys (2012)… Documentary of Young’s solo tour at Toronto's Massey Hall. He played his new album “Le Noise” along with some of his older hits. Also shown is him driving a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria through Ontario as he visits the rural town of Omemee where he grew up.

* Searching For Sugar Man (2012)… True story of the search for 1970s Detroit folksinger Sixto Rodriguez. He was well known in South Africa but unknown virtually anywhere else. A few fans in the 1990s set out to find out if he was still alive. Documentary.

The Last Ride (2012)… Henry Thomas, Jesse James, Fred Thompson Dalton. The film chronicles Hank Williams’ final days at the end of 1952. He and his driver travel through Appalachia on the way to a pair of New Year Eve shows in West Virginia and Ohio. We don’t see him in conceit; just stoned in the back seat of his Cadillac trying to relate to the newly hired driver who is trying to get him to his destination in one piece. More of a character study than anything.

The Sapphires (2012)… Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell. Four Australian singers are taken to Vietnam by a would-be promoter to perform for the troops in 1968. Based on a true story.

Paul Williams Still Alive (2012)… A documentary about 70's singer-songwriter Paul Williams with loads of celebrities included.

Crossfire Hurricane (2012)… HBO documentary celebrating 50 years of the Rolling Stones although it really only covers the first 15 or so. That’s ok as that would be their most creative period anyway. Includes archive footage and interviews with the surviving members. Not a bad effort; some before unseen footage; others taken from previous films; could’ve been better.

My Music: Doo-Wop Discoveries (2012)… From pivotal R&B and pop vocal groups of the late fifties and sixties through never-before-broadcast archival and new live performances of their most loved hits. Pop music icons Smokey Robinson, Mike Stoller (of the writing team Lieber & Stoller), Aaron Neville, Neil Sedaka, George Clinton and more share their favorite Doo Wop styles and songs of the genre. Hosted by Jon "Bowzer" Bauman, formerly of Sha Na Na, this new special includes interviews and appearances by guest DJs Cousin Brucie, Don K. Reed, Bobby Jay, Jerry Blavat, Harvey Holiday, Art LaBoe and TJ Lubinsky.

Sound City (2013)… David Grohl’s documentary on the famous recording studio in Van Nuys, California. James Brown, Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, John Fogerty, Barry Manilow, Stevie Nicks, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Rick Springfield et all. Neil Young, Dr. John, Spirit, Crazy Horse, Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band originally recorded there in the 1970s. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Rick Springfield and Foreigner recorded there in the 80s. Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Johnny Cash in the 90s.

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)… The true story of Freda Kelly, who was the Beatles secretary and head of their fan club in the 1960s. Kelly saw many Beatles shows at the Cavern Club before the band’s manager, Brian Epstein, hired her. She also worked with John Lennon’s future wife Cynthia Powell at a store on Penny Lane. From the official web site: “One of few documentaries with the support of the living Beatles and featuring original Beatles music, the film offers an insider perspective on the beloved band that changed the world of music.”

Phil Spector (2013)… Al Pacino, Helen Mirren, Jeffery Tambor, Chiwetel Wijofor, Clara Mamet, James Tolkan. Famous music producer stands trial for Lana Clarkson’s murder defended by attorney Linda Kenney Baden. Based on the true story but partially fictionalized. Pacino and Mirren save the film but it’s not for all tastes.

Ring of Fire (2013)… Jewel, Matt Ross, John Doe. The story of June Carter and Johnny Cash, and how she coped with Johnny's addiction to drugs. Jewel and Ross were not very believable as casting errors.

CBGB (2013)… Alan Rickman, Ashley Greene, Josh Zuckerman. Tells the story of the New York City punk-rock scene and Hilly Kristal’s nightclub CBGB’s which was the center of its universe. Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys and The Police all played there in the early days. Recommended for fans of the genre.

Muscle Shoals (2013)… A documentary that follows the story Rick Hall, the founder of FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and the sound he developed. His first hit was "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Jimmy Cliff, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Winwood, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others are interviewed.

* All Is By My Side (2013)… André Benjamin, Imogen Poots, Hayley Atwell, Burn Gorman, Ashley Charles, Robbie Jarvis, Andrew Buckley. True story of Jimi Hendrix pre-rock star fame while performing as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Linda Keith, Keith Richard’s then girlfriend, saw Hendrix at the clubs in New York and tried to get the Rolling Stones manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, to sign him. Oldham wasn’t interested so she took Chas Chandler of the Animals to see him and the rest is history. Director John Ridley said he was inspired by the Hendrix song, “Send My Love to Linda." Ridley could not acquire the rights to any Hendrix originals so he had to use cover songs such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," "Wild Thing," "Mannish Boy," "Bleeding Heart" and "Hound Dog."

* Hear My Train A Comin' (2013)… Jimi Hendrix PBS documentary features interviews with family, bandmates, friends and lovers and shows previously unseen footage of Hendrix at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. It also features home movies shot by Hendrix and drummer Mitch Mitchell, plus photographs, drawings, family letters and more. The expanded DVD features footage of the July 1970 New York Pop Festival and the September 6, 1970, Love & Peace Festival at the Isle of Fehmarn in Germany, the last performance by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

* Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)… Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver, F. Murray Abraham. Davis is a talented folk singer, struggling to make it, and seems be on the verge of success except that Bob Dylan is set to arrive on the scene. Then groups like Peter, Paul and Mary push him farther to the background and it’s all downhill from there. Another Cohen brothers winner that successfully captures the depressed yet romantic feel of 1961 Greenwich Village in the winter. Loosely based on the life of the Dave Van Ronk and the Gerde's Folk City club.

Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)… A concert inspired by the movie. Performers include the Avett Brothers, Joan Baez, Dave Rawlings Machine, Rhiannon Giddens, Lake Street Dive, Colin Meloy, The Milk Carton Kids, Marcus Mumford, Punch Brothers, Patti Smith, Willie Watson, Gillian Welch, and Jack White, as well as the star of the film Oscar Isaac.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer (2013)… Documentary of the court trial and impressment of a female rock band -- a feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow. They were arrested for performing at the cathedral in Moscow. The film features footage of the court proceedings and interviews with the families of the girls, but just a few interviews with the band members.

Rubber Soul (2013)… Joseph Bearor, Andrew Perez, Dillon Porter, Denice Lee. Recreation of two John Lennon interviews – one by Rolling Stone’s Jan Wenner (1970) and the other from Playboy magazine (1980).

* Jersey Boys (2014)… John Lloyd Young, Christopher Walken. Erich Bergen. A musical biography of the Four Seasons.

* Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2014)… The story of the beloved Shep Gordon, legendary music manager, who began his career by befriending Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. He went on to manage Pink Floyd, Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass and Alice Cooper, among others, as well as famous TV chefs including Emeril Lagasse. Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone and other Hollywood stars also appear. Directorial debut of Mike Myers.

* Get On Up (2014)… Chadwick Boseman, David Andrew Nash, Nelsan Ellis, Viola Davis, Dan Aykroyd. The story of the legendary James Brown beginning with the extreme poverty of his childhood.

The Seeds: Pushin' Too Hard (2014)… Feature-length documentary about the Seeds directed by Neil Norman with interviews and concert footage. The Seeds were formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and morphed into an explosive live group. They are considered a prototype for garage punk rock bands. Keyboardist Daryl Hooper was a major factor in their unique sound with lead singer Sky Saxon the driving force onstage. The title comes from their biggest hit record. A must for fans.

 Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (2014)… Documentary of the life of James Brown, from his poor childhood in South Carolina to his efforts during the Civil Rights movement. Contains interviews with many of his former band mates as well as Mick Jagger and others. Worth seeing and a must for fans.

I Fought The Law (2014)… Michael C. Hall, Malin Akerman, Giovanni Ribisi. From A writer finds a link between his fiancé's suicide and the unsolved death of Bobby Fuller, a one-hit wonder from the '60s. His investigation into their deaths leads him to a conspiracy involving the music industry and the LAPD. [Fuller made a top 10 hit out of the song "I Fought the Law" but a few months later was found dead in an automobile parked outside his Hollywood apartment.]

Imagine (2014)… Al Pacino, Jennifer Garner, Katarina Cas. From An old letter written to him by John Lennon and Yoko Ono inspires an aging musician to live life differently, and he sets out to reconnect with his biological son.

One Day Two Legends (2014)… Documentary of the day The Beatles met Elvis Presley. No pictures or video exists of the meeting so the film relies on the accounts from the people who were there at Presley's house in Los Angeles on August 27, 1965. The problem is, nobody, even the Beatles themselves, seems to agree on what happened. But Joe Esposito tries to set the record straight here. "Joe was not only there, but he picked The Beatles up and drove them to Elvis' home in Bel Air and was in the room the whole time," producer Tom Jikomes said. "Joe never elaborated on that night as deeply as he does with our film." Also appearing are Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Barry Gibb of The Bee Gees, Louise Harrison (George's sister) and some Elvis Tribute Artists.

We Are The Best (2014)… Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Liv LeMoyne. From Three girls in 1980s Stockholm decide to form a punk band -- despite not having any instruments and being told by everyone that punk is dead.

Lambert & Stamp (2014)… A documentary about two aspiring underground filmmakers (Chris Stamp and Kit Lambert) who discovered The High Numbers and turned them into The Who. The film also touches on post-WWII England, the Mod movement and Jimi Hendrix’s rise to fame in 1960s London. Lambert & Stamp also worked with Arthur Brown and John Lennon and founded the first UK independent record label "Track Records". Lambert was the son of the composer Constant Lambert and Stamp’s brother is actor Terrence Stamp. Worth seeing and a must for fans.

* Miracles Out of Nowhere (2015)… Tells the story of the band Kansas including promoter Don Kirshner and touring with Queen. The movie ends at their peak with the release of the “Point of No Return” album that featured the hit song “Dust in the Wind” written by band founder Kerry Livgren. Brian May and Garth Brooks are also featured. Livgren left the band in 1983 to concentrate further on Christian rock music. He does appear with them on some of their tours though.

* Love & Mercy (2015)… John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Giamatti. The story of Brian Wilson’s rise and fall and rise again as the leader of the Beach Boys. In the 1980s, he worked exclusively with therapist Dr. Eugene Landy who turned out to be a bad influence on him by controlling him with drugs. His girlfriend at the time got him away from him and he got his life back. Both Dano (as the young Wilson) and Cusack (as the older version) do a great job.

* Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)… Documentary of Janis Joplin narrated by musician Cat Power. Director Amy Berg interviewed many people still alive that knew her and also referenced letters that Joplin wrote to her friends, family and collaborators.

Rock the Kasbah (2015)… Bill Murray, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschenel, Bruce Willis, Leem Lubany. A washed-up American music manager discovers a talented teenage singer while on a USO tour in Afghanistan.

* The Beatles: Eight Days A Week (2016)… Ron Howard’s documentary of the Beatles touring years 1963-1966 with rare footage. Includes interviews with the Beatles and several celebrities.

* The Lennon Report (2016)… Richard Kind, Evan Jonigkeit, Stef Dawson, David Zayas, Walter Vincent, Stephen Spinella, Ashley Atkinson, Adrienne C. Moore, Karen Tsen Lee. This movie traces the events from the night of December 8th, 1980. That evening John Lennon was shot outside of the Dakota apartment building in New York City upon returning from a recording session. What followed was a race to save his life and to keep it from the public during that process.

Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words (2016)… Documentary on the life of Frank Zappa. Well done but not much new stuff for the big fan. Featured are interviews mostly with Zappa himself as well as a little concert footage and TV appearances (Steve Allen, Mike Douglas, What's My Line? and the Today Show). He was always ready to give an honest opinion about any topic and was down on drugs, the music business, the media and politics in general as shown here in his Senate battles versus censorship. He also discusses his love for Stravinsky, Varèse and Ravel even though he was raised on doo-wop and R&B. As one reviewer put it: “Politically he was a libertarian who wanted the government out of his life, philosophically a secular humanist who wanted the church out of his government.”

Rock and Roll: the Movie (2016)… Darren Dowlern, Clark Koelsch, Vince Corazza. College grad David moves to LA and makes a bet with his agent that he can make a new success out of an old rock star.

Radio Dreams (2016)… Lars Ulrich, Boshra Dastournezhad, Larry Laverty. An Iranian writer wants to bring together Metallica and Kabul Dreams, Afghanistan's first rock band, through a Farsi-speaking Iranian radio station in San Francisco.

The Fifth Beatle (2017)… This is the true story of Brian Epstein, a Jewish homosexual, who discovered the Beatles in Liverpool and groomed them to stardom, but died at the age of 32. It then was a felony to be gay and also a time of anti-Semitism. It is also the story of his personal struggles and loneliness. Produced by Simon Crowell. Screenplay by Vivek J. Tiwary based on his graphic novel.

England is Mine (2017)… Jessica Brown Findlay, Jodie Comer, Jack Lowden. The story of Morissey and his early life in 1970s Manchester before he went on to become the lead singer of the rock band The Smiths.

* Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)… Rami Malek, Joseph Mazzello, Aiden Gillen, Mike Myers. Biography of Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury. The film follows the rise of the band and through Mercury’s solo career. He then reunites with them for the classic Live Aid performance following his AIDS diagnosis.

Bad Reputation (2018)… Documentary about rock star Joan Jett. She is best known for her band, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and previously founding and performing with the Runaways.

* Echo in the Canyon (2018)… Documentary of the Laurel Canyon music scene in the 60s featuring the Byrds, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and The Mamas & the Papas. Also interviews with Tom Petty, Beck, Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, Michelle Phillips, Steven Stills, David Crosby, John Sebastian, Jakob Dylan, Norah Jones and Lou Adler.

Yesterday (2019)… Himesh Patel Lily James, Kate McKinnon, Ed Sheeran. After a bus accident during a mysterious global blackout, Jack Malec, a struggling singer/songwriter, finds himself in a world where he is the only person who remembers The Beatles. He then becomes famous for taking credit and performing their songs.

* Rocketman (2019)… Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden, Bryce Dallas Howard. The story of Elton John’s rise to fame.

Rolling Thunder Review (2019)… Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Roger McGuinn, Martin Scorsese documentary of Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour.




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