As the highly anticipated movie, Elvis, hits theaters tomorrow, you may feel the urge to revisit some other epic music biopics. In recent years, musicians of all genres are being celebrated in film, giving viewers the chance to learn more about their favorite artists and actors the chance to take home a golden statue.
With Academy Award-winning performances from Jamie Foxx, Reese Witherspoon, Rami Malek, and Renée Zellweger, the genre of film seems to be a bona fide ticket to critical acclaim.
Filled with glitz, glam, pomp and circumstance, Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic transforms Austin Butler into the King of Rock and Roll. Documenting Elvis Presley’s meteoric rise to fame in the mid-century, Luhrmann’s film follows Presley’s young life in the segregated South.
Giving credit where credit is due, Elvis highlights the enormous impact Black musicians had on the hip-swinging showman. From Big Mama Thornton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe to Fats Domino and B.B. King, Presley’s love for the blues and gospel is evident.
Showcasing the complicated relationship between Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker, (portrayed by Tom Hanks), his music, and his relationship with his wife Priscilla (played by newcomer Olivia DeJonge), there are also plenty of bedazzled fashion moments (thanks to Prada, Miu Miu, and Manolo Blahnik)
To keep the music rocking after viewing Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (hitting theaters June 24), GRAZIA USA has compiled a list of our favorite music biopics.
La Bamba, 1987
Directed by Luis Valdez, La Bamba follows the a young Ritchie Valens portrayed by Lou Diamond Phillips, who becomes an overnight sensation after his love song, “Donna” becomes a hit. As he navigates his frenetic rise, a conflict with his jealous brother, Valens begins having a recurring nightmare of a plane crash while he prepares for his tour with Buddy Holly. (Both he and Holly later died in a plane crash in 1958.)
Launching Jennifer Lopez into her iconic career, the superstar portrays the late and beloved Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla. The Gregory Nava film honors a life cut too short and chronicles the “Dreaming of You” performer’s musical upbringing, her love story with guitarist Chris Perez (played by Jon Seda), and the beginning of the making of her English-language album.
Snagging the Academy Award for Best Actor, Jamie Foxx delivers a poignant portrayal of the inimitable musician, “Hit the Road Jack” singer Ray Charles. Following the songwriter from his tumultuous youth, losing his brother and losing his sight, into his rise to fame. The star-studded cast is rounded out by Kerry Washington, Regina King, Clifton Powell, Terrence Howard and Aunjanue Ellis.
Walk the Line, 2005
From the director who will soon be bringing us the Bob Dylan biopic Going Electric starring Timothée Chalamet, James Mangold’s Walk the Line tells the story of Johnny Cash’s rural childhood, the trauma of losing his brother at a young age, his swift stardom, substance abuse, and the legendary love story between himself and June Carter Cash. Expertly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon the 2005 film garnered Phoenix an Academy Award nomination while Witherspoon took home the Oscar for Best Actress.
Cadillac Records, 2008
Cadillac Records follows the music executive Leonard Chess (played by Adrien Brody) as he begins to work with music icons Muddy Waters (portrayed by Jeffrey Wright), Little Walter (Columbus Short), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker) and “At Last” songstress Etta James, played by none-other than Beyoncé Knowles. The 2008 film chronicles the conflicts that arise when business and personal lives blend.
The Runaways, 2010
With Kristen Stewart as the rebellious rocker Joan Jett, and Dakota Fanning as the Cherie Currie, The Runaways details their journey as they become the frontwomen for their band of the same name. Paving the way for female rock musicians, the film details the highs and lows of stardom.
Get On Up, 2014
Hailed for his riveting performance, Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal of James Brown sings as Get On Up bounces between eras, documenting Brown’s childhood, his electric performances, and rise to fame.
Bohemian Rhapsody, 2018
Directed by Bryan Singer and Rocketman auteur Dexter Fletcher, Bohemian Rhapsody follows the band Queen’s frenetic rise, highlighting frontman Freddie Mercury’s transformative journey. Winning the Academy Award as Best Actor, Rami Malek morphs into Mercury for the film, which follows the brand’s climatic journey to their legendary reunion performance at Live Aid.
The Dirt, 2019
Based on the band’s autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, the 2019 Netflix feature The Dirt follows glam metal band Mötley Crüe on their various escapades. With Douglas Booth playing Nikki Sixx, Machine Gun Kelly portrays Tommy Lee, Iwan Rheon stars as Mick Mars, and Daniel Webber as Vince Neil.
Unrecognizable as the legendary Judy Garland, Renée Zellweger portrays the starlet some 30 years after her groundbreaking role in The Wizard of Oz. Arriving in London for a set of shows, Garland reminisces with friends and fans, and begins a romance with her fifth husband Mickey Deans in 2019’s Judy.
From Reginald Dwight to Elton John, Rocketman follows one of the greatest songwriters and showmen to take the stage (played by Taron Egerton) amid his rise to stardom.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, 2020
Earning both Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman Academy Award nominations, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom finds the unsung blues singer Ma Rainey and her band in a tense situation at a Chicago recording studio in 1927.
The United States vs. Billie Holiday, 2021
Starring Golden Globe-winner Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday reexamines singer Billie Holiday‘s legacy, following the U.S. government’s various conspiracies to stop her from singing “Strange Fruit,” a song confronting the realities of lynching in the South during the early 20th century. The Hulu original charts the Federal Bureau of Narcotics sting operation against the inimitable jazz singer.
EGOT winner Jennifer Hudson transforms into the powerhouse songstress Aretha Franklin in the 2021 Liesl Tommy film, Respect. The biopic follows Franklin’s youth apart of the church choir to her meteoric rise to international stardom.