Non-documentary or concert films are tough to pull off (those are, too) but when a movie gets it right -- with enough drama and plot to hold things together, the marriage of flick and pop can rule. Here are seven movies that hit just the right notes, and why.
I'm Not There, 2007
This wasn't a move designed for the casual film-goer. But the performances from Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw, all playing mythic versions of Bob Dylan, were top-notch. The soundtrack didn't hurt, either. Just listen to My Morning Jacket's Yim Yames do this Dylan number with Tucson's excellent Calexico backing him up.
La Bamba, 1987
That scene, with Rosanna DeSoto and Esai Morales, where she's screaming "Not my Ritchie" over Santo and Johnny's "Sleepwalk." It gets you every time.
Walk Hard, 2007
Though based on a Johnny Cash-like character, Dewey Cox contains elements of just about every musician who ever "lost it." There's some Brian Wilson, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and more in Cox, and the film brilliantly plays the character off "real life" rockstars like Jack White as Elvis Presley, and Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Justin Long, and Jason Schwartzmann as The Beatles. As funny as it is, the film's soundtrack is masterfully put together by Dan Bern, Mike Viola, Marshall Crenshaw, Van Dyke Parks, and Charlie Wadhams, hitting all the musical marks the film gently pokes fun at.
The Buddy Holly Story, 1978
Historical accuracy aside, let's all take a moment and remember when Gary Busey wasn't just a reality show nutter-butter. His portrayal of Buddy Holly remains his career high-mark.
Space is the Place, 1974
Part blaxploitation flick, part sci-fi odyssey, and all strange, brilliant genius; You don't have to like free-jazz to dig Space is the Place, but it certainly helps.
Yellow Submarine, 1968
Though the Beatles didn't voice the film's characters (they only appear at the end of the film), this psychedelic romp includes some of the Fab Four's best tunes ("Only a Northern Song" and "Hey Bulldog") and features beautiful animation and trippy visuals. Kids got into the bright colors and fantasy plot, and adults took drugs and spaced out. Everyone wins.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Phoenix New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Phoenix's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Kiss Meets The Phantom of the Park, 1978
Kiss always paraded around like cartoon characters come to life, so it makes sense that Hanna-Barbera Productions, known for Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, and The Jetsons, would handle the duty of bringing Kiss to the silver screen. The result, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, is a goofball classic. Filmed at Magic Mountain, it finds Kiss fighting robotic versions of Kiss, employing their super-powers, and occasionally, in the case of Ace Frehley, changing race (Frehley frequently walked out of the filming, so he was replaced with his African American stunt double).
It's not good good, but bad good -- in fact, after years of refusing to talk about the project, Gene Simmons acquiesced on VH1's When Kiss Ruled the World special: "It's a classic movie...classic movie if you're on drugs."