“There was a way to stick it to the man. It was called Rock’n’Roll. But guess what. Oh no. ‘The Man’ ruined that too. With a little thing called MTV. – Dewey Finn (Rock school)
Although it may have been uttered in a savage rant by Jack Black in the Richard Linklater comedy Rock school, the sentiment of the monologue is, unfortunately, true, with the genre of rock and roll marketed as a commodity of 21st century capitalism. With its own liberal philosophy demanding an end to global greed, while emphasizing a love for all of humanity, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.
Maintaining such a philosophy along with exploring alternative and experimental music characterizes the best rock bands of all time, including Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Joy Division and Prince. Similar rules apply when considering the best films that portray the world of rock and roll, with an appreciation for the genre’s wit, style and attitude a must to be considered among the greats.
Showcasing stylistic interpretations of musical masterpieces, along with bio-photos and comedies, let’s take a look at the best rock and roll films, each included under strict counter-cultural criteria.
The top 10 best rock and roll movies:
ten. Hedwig and the angry thumb (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
Contextualizing the struggle for LGBTQ rights in a historical text while simultaneously forging a unique creative path in rock, John Cameron Mitchell’s adaptation of his own musical is a classic of modern cinema.
The musical follows a genderqueer East German rock singer who falls in love with a younger man, the handsome and elegant Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt) only to steal his music from him. Shaped by Cameron Mitchell as an exploration of his own feelings of sexuality, the writer and director creates a truly touching story that radiates love and individualism. Later, commenting: “Labels should be about freedom rather than binding people to another set of rules”, Hedwig and the angry thumb speaks to the very essence of rock.
9. Tommy (Ken Russell, 1975)
The Who’s fourth studio album, Tommy, was unique for a variety of reasons, none more compelling than the fact that it was the very first album credited as a “rock opera,” meaning it tells a distinct story told in song.
His story is shared with the eccentric 1975 Ken Russell film, following Tommy, a deaf, dumb, and blind boy who has exceptional skills at playing pinball. As his fame reaches huge levels, his senses return and he becomes an evangelical figure of hope and self-discovery. Posted in a totally over-the-top style Devils director Ken Russell, Tommy is a powerful psychedelic experience that examines religion and contemporary society with wit and a mad passion for pinball.
8. Pink Floyd – The Wall (Alan Parker, 1982)
Reestablishing the group’s connection with their true fans, while simultaneously carving out their own identity, that of Alan Parker, The wall is a feast for the retinas, a feature film of lively psychedelia and live drama.
Representing walking hammers, monstrous creatures, and apocalyptic visions each working to metaphorically represent existential concepts of war and fascism, Bob Geldof plays the role of a rock star building an internal and physical wall to block the outside world. As Alan Parker said, “It was like nothing anyone had seen before – a strange fusion of live action, storytelling and surrealism.”
7. Party people 24 hours a day (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)
By creating Factory Records in 1976, Tony Wilson’s impact on the history of the Manchester music scene was set in stone, although he didn’t know it at the time.
Michael winterbottom Party people 24 hours a day tells the story of this journey and is bursting with electric power as well as a sense of humor that uniquely belongs to the North of England and the rock and roll genre. Steve Coogan plays a fake Alan Partridge, to adopt the role of Tony Wilson, alongside a host of English comedy talent, in this very enjoyable musical escapade that happily details the origins of Joy Division, New Order and Happy. Mondays.
6. Rock school (Richard Linklater, 2003)
With his own alternative philosophy closely tied to the essence of rock, Richard Linklater amplifies a generational message in Rock school, embrace individuality and reject the status quo.
Protagonist Dewey Finn (Jack Black) is representative of these ideals, a slacker living on the couch in his best friend’s apartment who still has a moving passion for his youthful love of rock. Jack Black’s frenzied electricity permeates the film, creating an ode to the passion and joy of making music, no matter what your age. Responsible for classic genre groups such as The Clash, The Doors and The Velvet Underground, Rock school is an exciting movie that will make you want to pick up the guitar and stick it to “the man”.
5. Purple rain (Albert Magnoli, 1984)
One of music’s greatest performers, Prince, sets Albert Magnoli’s 1984 film on fire Purple rain, an emotional musical based on the life of the singer himself.
Depicting the struggles of a young rocker named ‘The Kid’ living under the weight of his manipulative parents as he finds success with his band The Revolution, Purple rain is a surprisingly sincere film driven by sensational score and style. Captured by cinematographer Donald Thorin, known for Midnight race and Head of state, the film manages to easily capture Prince’s charisma alongside his immaculate sartorial sense.
4. Almost known (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Cult classic and ode to the spontaneity of youth, Cameron Crowe’s Almost known stars Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel and Jason Lee, telling a culturally resonant story that remains relevant today.
A powerful coming of age story, Crowe’s film follows William Miller, a high school student who had the opportunity to tour with a rock band and report on their growing success. What he witnesses is less musical history than the disintegration of a band through drugs, sex and general disagreement. Penetrating themes of young love, greed and naivety, Almost known is a relevant story published at the dawn of the new millennium, when the genre was being passed on from true creatives to business-minded businessmen.
3. Control (Anton Corbijn, 2007)
Anton Corbijn does not only come Control as a seasoned feature film director, he has instead earned his salt in the industry by directing several music videos for groups such as Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and Nirvana. Although, more importantly, he was also the original photographer for Joy Division.
As such, Corbijn is able to paint a striking portrayal of the troubled leader Ian Curtis, perfectly captured in gritty monochrome glory as the tragedy of his short life is beautifully explored. An ode to the power and grace of Curtis’ writing and performance, Control also takes a look at the leader’s private life torments and presents a critical opinion on the industry that both made it and helped break it.
2. Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970)
There’s a reason the Rolling Stones Give me shelter or the talking heads’ Stop making sense are not on this list of great rock and roll classics because these movies are not about rock, they are are Rock. So why the Oscar winning film by Michael Wadleigh Woodstock on this list? Well, it’s a film as interested in sharing the genre experience as it portrays the historic significance of Woodstock itself, reflecting the style and feeling of the iconic ’60s festival.
“It feels like kind of a biblical, epic, incredible scene,” Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia says of the celebration of the euphoric escape fueled by drugs, music and free love. Wadleigh’s sprawling documentary captures a moment in time when, for a moment, the greatest rock performers of all time gathered in one place, including Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Nash & Young, The Who and Jimi Hendrix. The excitement and thrill of the event and rock history permeates the film.
1. This is the spinal puncture (Rob Reiner, 1984)
Rob Reiner’s comedy This is the spinal puncture balancing on a satirical edge, drawing on in-depth knowledge of the music industry, something writers Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer undoubtedly shared.
Infinitely quotable, This is the spinal puncture follows a fictional ’70s band on tour in America as they experience serious commercial decline and is as hilarious as it is captivating. With original songs, “Sex Farm,” Big Bottom “and” Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight, “each performed by the fictional band, Rob Reiner creates a vibrant organic environment driven by improvisation and a cinema-verite style. .
They so ingeniously follow the line of satire and embrace the world of rock and roll with so much love that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Spinal Tap was a real band, even if it was utter nonsense; but then what rock band is not.