From the scrappy soul of The Commitments to the noise-rock experimentalists The Soronprfbs of Frank, here's our list of cinema's 10 most compelling onscreen bands.
The transformational power of soul music wrangles a gobby scrabble of Dubliners into a super-tight band on a journey to one perfect, transcendent gig. A very funny, energetic film with vivid characters and amazing tunes, directed by Alan Parker and written by Paddy Doyle. Rednecks and Southsiders need not apply.
The Runaways explores the trashy LA underbelly that birthed this real-life group. In a stew of west-coast sunlight, 70’s haze, ambition, innocence, manipulation, sleaze, talent and timing, The Runaways charts the bumpy road to fifteen minutes of pop-punk fame. Written and directed by Floria Sigismondi, based on the book by real life Runaway Cherie Currie.
Spinal Tap in 'This is Spinal Tap'
The laughs come from skewering the pomposity and arrogance required to rock arena stages in spandex. The film’s big heart comes from its succinct portraits of the fragile, co-dependent souls that make up the band. A true classic, with sly performances and songs written and performed by (most of) the actors, the film captured the rock lifestyle so well that Eddie Van Halen found it too painfully real to be funny. Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner.
Is a duo a band? A covert musical that uses musical collaboration to express a longing between two characters who choose a fragile creative friendship over acknowledging their true feelings to one another. Tender, sweet and ragged, the film transcends its limited budget with a rare authenticity, gentle lead performances and a collection of great original songs. Written and directed by John Carney.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
This vivid musical suggests that rock n roll is the best home for society’s misfits. The film takes us on Hedwig's journey from childhood trauma to hard won self-acceptance, with a powerful central performance and excellent songs. Poignant, funny, and deeply moving, the film shows how rock n roll can strip you down to your essential self, and how music can not just save your life but help you understand it. Tune in on your midnight radio. Written and Directed by John Cameron Mitchell.
The Beatles in 'A Hard Day's Night'
The Beatles did so much right. In an adept fictionalization of the band, their debut feature captures raw charisma, spirit and talent, and gives us a glimpse of what Beatlemania might have looked like from the inside. Directed with a startling freshness, the film hinges around a number of verite-style vignettes that are still referenced in music videos and movies today. Directed by Richard Lester and written by Alun Owen.
The Ain't Rights in 'Green Room'
A movie that ends very far away from where it begins and not at all where you expect. The film juxtaposes the road grime and grind of indie touring with, in one wonderful scene, a gorgeous moment of transcendence where music, band and audience become more than the sum of the parts. After that, the film is a brutal, gruesome descent as the band have to outwit and outfight neo-Nazi skinheads. As we said, unexpected. Written and directed by Jeremy Sauliner.
Hard Core Logo
A great pairing with Green Room, this film is a grimy portrait of a punk band on a reunion tour ten years after its heyday. Jealousies, lies and ambitions all collide to tip the band into chaos. Full of piss and vinegar, the film's final coda is abrupt and chilling. Directed by Bruce McDonald, written by Noel Baker.
School of Rock
Jack Black cons his way into a teaching gig at a strict private school and brings some rock n roll carpe diem to a group of fourth graders. Truly funny, invigorating and moving, it’s a story of a man who puts his ego-driven dreams aside when he discovers his life’s purpose is inspiring a new generation to rock n roll. Directed by Richard Linklater and written by Mike White.
The Soronprfbs in 'Frank'
Told from an outsider’s perspective, this is a wryly funny film that illustrates the delicateness of band dynamics and how the introduction of a random element can tip a finely balanced organism into chaos. Exploring themes of art versus commerce and fame versus anti-celebrity, Frank also shows the important place mental illness can have in the creative process, and the healing power of art. Jon Ronson, the film's writer and former keyboardist in the real Frank Sidebottom’s band, described the film as “a fable... a tribute to people like Frank who were just too fantastically strange to make it in the mainstream”. Directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Jon Ronson.