Film and TV

Nine Great Films About Music for Your Quarantine Viewing

A scene from the concert film Stop Making Sense.
A scene from the concert film Stop Making Sense. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
We hate to keep bringing it up, but we miss going to concerts right now.

We do have television, though, so we can pull up a movie that allows us to see the songs we hear in new and unusual ways. Phoenix New Times staffers offered up some recommendations for when you're jonesing for a flick with some melody. There are also some amazing stories about how a song can change people's lives, overcome incredible odds, or just make you laugh.

Heavy Metal (1981)

This sensual animated anthology film takes its stories from the illustrated magazine it shares its name with. It also boasts one of the best soundtracks of the '80s, featuring contributions by Steely Dan's Donald Fagen, Devo, Cheap Trick, and Black Sabbath.

Stop Making Sense (1984)

It seems obvious to pick this documentary of Talking Heads in their critical and commercial peak, but it's more than a concert film. Johnathan Demme's collaboration with lead singer David Byrne is a musical art project complete with eye-popping visuals.

Whiplash (2014)

There are band teachers, and then there's Terence Fletcher, played with subtle menace by J.K. Simmons. He emotionally and physically abuses a young drummer with aspirations of being the next Buddy Rich in an effort to push him to his limit. When you're not cringing after every slap Fletcher plants on the face of his student, the jazzy soundtrack will soothe your ears.

Amadeus (1984)

For the record, composers Mozart and Salieri weren't the rivals depicted in this award-winning film, but this period piece uses this fiction to show how true genius is created. It probably would have won the Oscar for best score if the titular composer were eligible for the award, as winner Maurice Jarre joked when he accepted the prize in 1985.

Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006)

Did Jack Black and Kyle Gass, who make up the duo Tenacious D, use Satan's guitar pick to become the greatest rockers of all time? The answer to that question drives the plot of this hilarious cult classic, which features appearances Dave Grohl (as the Prince of Darkness), Meat Loaf, and Ronnie James Dio.

Impromptu (1991)

While this is a film is about another composer (Chopin), it's more comedic in tone than Amadeus. It follows Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupin (Judy Davis), who writes under the name George Sand, and her attempts to woo the musical genius, played by Hugh Grant.

Freaky Friday (2003)

Maybe it's because Lindsey Lohan announced she was coming out with new music after a 12-year absence, but this Disney remake has a special place in people's hearts for its soundtrack, on which the actress is featured. Plus, you get to see Jamie Lee Curtis play guitar, proving once again that the actress can do anything

The Red Violin (1998)

Music can tell a story, but its the mysterious titular instrument that tells five tales across several centuries and numerous owners. You also have a chance to see Samuel L. Jackson in a role that doesn't involve him screaming expletives (much).

Electrick Children (2012)

A teenage fundamentalist Mormon hears a song on a cassette and believes it is responsible for her pregnancy. Rather than get married, she leaves her community and heads to Las Vegas and befriends a band. This quirky independent film is for those people who believe music can change your entire outlook on life.
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Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil