Film and TV

15 Music Films to Revisit This Summer — Including Several With Arizona Ties

Angst invades young lives in Sing Street.
Angst invades young lives in Sing Street. Weinstein Company
You’re going to be stuck indoors at some point this summer. But that doesn’t mean you have to be bored out of your mind. Music films can get you through the down times, and help you enjoy a bit of summer escapism.  Here’s a look at 15 films to watch when heat waves and haboobs take you off the city streets – including several partially filmed right here in Arizona.

A Hard Day’s Night

Travel back to 1964, when the Beatles released their first film during the height of Beatlemania. The film follows two days in the life of the British boy band, as they try to keep mischievous band and family members in check while they prepare for an important TV appearance.

click to enlarge Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starred in the third remake of A Star is Born, partly filmed in Tempe and Tucson. - WARNER BROS.
Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson starred in the third remake of A Star is Born, partly filmed in Tempe and Tucson.
Warner Bros.

A Star Is Born

Before the Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga serenade that set tongues wagging, there was another remake of A Star Is Born. Filmed in 1976, it starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson as romantic partners with radically different career trajectories. Streisand plays the emerging singer whose star is rising, even as the older musician’s career plummets. Judy Garland and James Mason starred in the 1954 musical version, by the way, the first musical remake of the 1937 original starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March.


Adapted from a stage play and released in 1984, Amadeus fictionalizes the life of famed 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose later life in Vienna was consumed by his rivalry with composer Antonio Salieri,  played by F. Murray Abraham. Tom Hulce starred as Mozart.

American Graffiti

Directed and co-written by George Lucas, this 1973 coming-of-age comedy is set during the early '60s, during times of great social upheaval, when some teens' lives revolved around drive-in movie theaters and jukeboxes. The cast includes Harrison Ford, Ron Howard, Mackenzie Phillips, and Cindy Williams.

The Blues Brothers

Brothers played by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi reunite after one gets released from prison, eager to get their band back together so they can raise money to save the orphanage where they were raised. The 1980 film includes a cameo by famed soul singer Aretha Franklin.


Directed by John Waters, the 1988 film that inspired the hit Broadway musical starred Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, a teen battling the stigma of being overweight even as she fights to get a spot on her favorite dance show, and works with friends to end the segregation rampant in her Baltimore hometown during 1962.

click to enlarge Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in 1982. - MARCEL ANTONISSE/CC-BY-SA-3.0, VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones in 1982.
Marcel Antonisse/CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let’s Spend the Night Together

For their 1982 rock documentary, the Rolling Stones combined footage from concerts performed in 1981 at East Rutherford, New Jersey, and Tempe. Turns out, several renowned rock stars, including Bruce Springsteen, have done concerts at ASU.

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Richard Dreyfuss stars in this 1995 drama, portraying a composer and music teacher coming to grips with the fact that his young son lives with a hearing impairment. The cast also includes Olympia Dukakis and William H. Macy.


The 1955 film, which was based on a 1943 musical by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, imagines life for a young girl torn between two suitors, even as different groups in her community are at odds with each other. The cast includes Shirley Jones making her film debut.


This Irish romantic film written and directed by John Carney inspired a Broadway musical by the same name. It’s the tale of two struggling musicians dealing with the expectations of self, family, and society during tough times.

click to enlarge Scene from Prince's iconic Purple Rain. - WARNER BROS.
Scene from Prince's iconic Purple Rain.
Warner Bros.

Purple Rain

Prince stars in this semi-autobiographical film released in 1984. The rock musical, which also stars Apollonia Kotero and Morris Day, follows the life of a young musician trying to rise above hard times. The soundtrack includes some of Prince’s best-known songs, including "Let’s Go Crazy" and "When Doves Cry."


This 1996 biographical film stars Geoffrey Rush as David Helgott, a child prodigy who suffered a mental breakdown after living with years of criticism from his father and his teachers. Music helps the pianist recover, although critical acclaim eludes him.

click to enlarge Scene from the 2016 film Sing Street. - WEINSTEIN COMPANY
Scene from the 2016 film Sing Street.
Weinstein Company

Sing Street

Another coming-of-age comedy, this 2016 film set in Ireland imagines a boy starting a band to impress a girl during the 1980s. Turns out, music really can be a way to find yourself.

The Soloist

Robert Downey Jr. portrays a California journalist who meets a musician living on the streets, and hopes to help him by writing about his gifts and struggles. Jamie Foxx plays the cellist, who has to deal with both his own anxiety and the reporter’s misguided intentions.

U2: Rattle and Hum

Another rock documentary with Arizona ties, this U2 film released in 1988 features footage from an Arizona concert on the Irish band’s original Joshua Tree tour, plus footage of other stage performances as well.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble