The best music biopics to watch on repeat (part 2)


Mis à jour le 25 October 2022.

Ray Charles, Dalida, The Doors, John Lennon, Mötley Crüe, Aretha Franklin, Claude François, Joy Division, Elton John and Liberace… Many artists have inspired directors and movie producers. Whether it’s their private lives, the challenges they have faced or simply their talent, these movies offer a fresh look at musical virtuouses. For this second installment, discover 10 of the best music biopics to watch on repeat on your TV or projector and HD Blu-ray player or AV network player.

best music biopics
Ray Charles, Dalida, The Doors, John Lennon, Mötley Crüe, Aretha Franklin, Claude François, Joy Division, Elton John and Liberace… Discover the artists that made a mark on their generation in this selection of the best music biopics.

Let’s take a look back at some of the greatest music biopics that explore the lives of famous artists and bands.

Ray, by Taylor Hackford (2004)

Ray movie poster: one of the best music biopics
Directed by Taylor Hackford, Ray is a poignant biopic about the life of Ray Charles, portrayed by the excellent Jamie Foxx.

Ray is a touching biopic about the life of the iconic American singer, composer and pianist Ray Charles. Director Taylor Hackford provides a look at the man’s personal life, before his career as an artist. We meet Raymond Charles Robinson, a child struck by two tragedies at the age of seven: the loss of his brother–for which he feels guilty–and of his sight. Before these events, his happy childhood is cleverly interwoven with insightful flashbacks, thereby avoiding a monotonous, chronological narrative. This biopic reveals the different stages of his legendary career, but also his personal life.

Ray snippet
Ray highlights every aspect of the singer’s life, from his musical talent to his love for women and his heroin addiction.

Unlike many biopics, Ray stands out by the fact it highlights the prodigy’s weaknesses. It describes how “The Genius” quickly became addicted to hard drugs, especially heroin. We then see the ups and downs of his addiction until his rehab. Naturally, Ray Charles’ musical talents are also portrayed. Ray reveals the growing success of the artist in spite of the difficulties related to his handicap, his heroin addiction and his love for women. 

Jamie Foxx delivers an incredible performance as Ray Charles. More than a simple portrayal, the actor fully embodies the singer and plunges the viewer in his world. This role earned him the Oscar for best actor in 2005. Although it is impossible to condense the entirety of his exceptional life into a film of 2 hours and 30 minutes, the director was able to astutely summarize the experiences of one of the most famous jazzmen of his generation.

AlloCiné: 4.1/5
IMDb: 7.7/10

Available on Blu-ray and Canal VOD, Amazon Prime Video and YouTube
16:9 (4:3 compatible), 1.85 cinema ratio
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Son-Vidé selection: Jazz

Dalida, by Lisa Azuelos (2016)

Poster for Dalida by Lisa Azuelos (best music biopics)
Childhood, success, marriage, tragedies, joy… Liza Azuelos accurately retells the story of Dalida.

Another artist born in the 1930s with an inspiring career: Iolanda Gigliotti, otherwise known as Dalida. This singer from an Italian family is the subject of an eponymous biopic by Lisa Azuelos. This movie covers every stage in her life, from her birth in Cairo to her death in 1987, not forgetting her first steps on the stage or the dazzling success of Gigi l’Amoroso in 1974. The director also looks back at her love story with Lucien Morrisse.

Dalida on stage, movie clip
Liza Azuelos has created a very personal portrait of the singer. The soundtrack takes us back to this icon’s greatest hits.

Attractive, modern and talented, Dalida was a true 80s icon. Sveva Alvita manages to accurately convey the emotions of the artist. The result is a moving film that unfortunately culminates in the singer’s suicide. She wrote these words before she passed away: “Life is unbearable for me. Forgive me”. It is a portrait that highlights the dramas of her private life in stark contrast to her success in the spotlight. 

Bonus: the movie features many of Dalida’s hits. It is a real pleasure to hear these timeless songs, which become all the more moving when learning about the life of this captivating and endearing artist.

AlloCiné: 3.9/5
IMDb: 6.9/10

Available on Blu-ray and Canal VOD, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video
16:9 (4:3 compatible), 2.40 cinema ratio, BD-50 format
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0

The Doors, by Oliver Stone (1991)

Poster for The Doors by Oliver Stone
The trajectory of the legendary Jim Morrision and his band The Doors is retold in this 1991 biopic directed by Oliver Stone.

Rebel, poet, genius, legend… Fans, journalists and artists all agree: Jim Morrison, the frontman of The Doors, made a huge impact on the 1970s. Oliver Stone, along with co writer Randall Johnson, directed what would become one of his best movies in 1991: The Doors. This biopic retraces the story of the band, from when they met to the death of the singer. 

The Doors starts with happy memories from Jim’s childhood. The movie then jumps to 1965, when Jim Morrison, brilliantly portrayed by Val Kilmer, is studying at UCLA and writing poems. His relationship with girlfriend Pamela Courson is soon highlighted, before a life-changing encounter with Ray Manzarek, co-founder of the illustrious band The Doors, which is later completed with Robby Krieger and John Densmore.

The Doors (clip)
The Doors music biopic illustrates Jim Morrison’s encounters with Pamela Courson and Ray Manzarek.

The band’s beginnings are cleverly portrayed. The first shows at the Whisky a Go Go nightclub, the first fans, but also the first experiments with psychedelics. Together, the band releases a number of excellent albums, including Morrison Hotel, Strange Days, The Doors, The Soft Parade (50th Anniversary) and Waiting for the Sun

Their success grows rapidly, but so do Jim Morrison’s narcissistic tendencies, as he names himself The Lizard King. The biopic reveals the artist’s many demons, notably his drug and alcohol use, his regular absences and his disrespect towards his audiences. Before seeing the band perform L.A. Woman to close the film, the screen reads “Jim Morrison died of a heart attack. He was 27 years old. Pam joined him three years later.”

Best music biopics: The Doors
From the first concerts to the death of frontman Jim Morrison, The Doors biopic shows the highs and lows of the band.

The Doors is the first movie shot in 35mm to have used Cinema Digital Sound (CDS). This technique developed by Kodak is characterized by the presence of six digital tracks. In June 2019, a 4K Dolby Atmos version of the film was shown in movie theaters.

AlloCiné: 3.9/5
IMDb: 6.9/10

Available on Blu-ray and on Canal VOD, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video
16:9 (4:3 compatible), 2.40 cinema ratio, BD-50 format
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0

Son-Vidé selection: Rock / Pop

Nowhere Boy, by Sam Taylor-Wood (2009)

Poster for Nowhere Boy by Sam Taylor-Wood
Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, Nowhere Boy is based on the life of John Lennon.

Founder of what is quite possibly the most influential rock band of all time, John Lennon is the basis for the biopic Nowhere Boy. Directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, the film was released thirty years after the death of the Beatles’ leader. For the title, the director was inspired by the song “Nowhere Man” from the 1965 album Rubber Soul. It is considered to be an autobiographical song by John Lennon. 

Focusing on J. Lennon’s youth, Nowhere Boy depicts his relationships with his family and friends, especially with “Mimi”, his aunt who raised him, and his absent mother Julia, whom he meets a little later. Both in love with music, Julia teaches him to play his first instrument, the banjo. A few months later, the guitar enters his life and quickly becomes a passion. We then witness the beginnings of the band, notably when the first meeting of Paul McCartney and George Harrison. The viewer also discovers the composition of their first songs, which were initially only poems, until their first studio recording. The birth of an outstanding band.

Best music biopics: Nowhere Boy
The biopic Nowhere Boy depicts the rise of a talented artist who created one of the most innovative bands of the last century.

The script written by Matt Greenhalgh accurately retells the artist’s story. However, “some liberties are taken with the timeline” in the final scenes. This biopic received several awards in 2010 at the Festival international des jeunes réalisateurs (International Festival of Young Directors) in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. The film won the Best Director, Best Actress (for Anne-Marie Duff as Julia Lennon) and the Audience Award.

AlloCiné: 3.7/5
IMDb: 7.1/10
SensCritique: 6.4/10

Available on Blu-ray, DVD, Canal VOD, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video
16:9 (4:3 compatible), 2.35 cinema ratio, 1080p
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

The Dirt, by Jeff Tremaine (2019)

Poster for The Dirt by Jeff Tremaine
The Dirt is a biopic about the rock band Mötley Crüe. It is adapted from the book The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band.

“Their music made them famous, their lives made them infamous” can be read in the trailer for The Dirt. This music biopic focuses on the story of Mötley Crüe, the famous American glam metal band that includes Tommy Lee, portrayed by the rapper Machine Gun Kelly, Mick Mars (Iwan Rheon), Vince Neil (Daniel Webber) and Nickki Sixx (Douglas Booth). The Dirt looks back at their concerts in the bars of Los Angeles and parties that were punctuated by alcohol, drugs and sex, as well as good and bad decisions. The viewer is easily transported into the band’s world where the members’ crazy yet endearing personalities are revealed. This movie also features catchy tracks and brings the “sex, drugs & rock’n’roll” lifestyle to the living room screen.

Best music biopics: The Dirt
Amidst music and scandals, the members of the band Mötley Crüe reflect on their turbulent past with the film The Dirt.

The Dirt is directed by Jeff Tremaine, who is well known for being a founding member of Jackass. This biopic is based on The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band, a biography about the four musicians that was written in collaboration with Neil Strauss. After 12 years, the rights to the book were bought by Netflix in 2017 and the movie was released on the streaming platform in 2019. 

AlloCiné: 3.9/5
SensCritique: 6.4/10
CinéSéries: 3.5/5

Available on Netflix
16:9, 2.35 cinema ratio, 4K UHD
Dolby Atmos

Respect, by Liesl Tommy (2021)

Poster for Respect by Liesl Tommy
The first feature film by director Liesl Tommy, Respect is a flattering yet poignant biopic about the Queen of Soul.

The first feature film by director Liesl Tommy, Respect focuses on the life of singer Aretha Franklin over a 20-year period. We learn about the life of the young Aretha (Skye Dakota), who has to deal with the dramas of her childhood in Detroit, but also her rise to worldwide fame in the 1960s and 1970s. 

At ten years old, Aretha is a musical prodigy who has to sing for guests during late-night parties held by her father, pastor C.L. Franklin (Forest Whitaker). After episodes of infidelity and violence, Aretha’s parents separate. The young girl’s visits to her mother Barbara (Audra McDonald) are marked by music and give her a sense of growing independence, which leads to friction between her and her father. This conflict continues when Aretha begins her musical career and while she struggles to produce a hit. She then falls under the influence of the violent and jealous Ted White (Marlon Wayans), her husband and manager, and must find allies in her quest for dignity and respect.

Respect clip
After reconnecting with her family, Aretha takes her career in hand and makes her sisters Carolyn (Hailey Kilgore) and Erma (Saycon Sengbloh) her new backup singers.

The biopic Respect was stuck in development for years, mainly due to the difficulty in finding the perfect actress. The role of Franklin ultimately went to Jennifier Hudson, chosen by the singer herself. Hudson captivates not only with her acting, but also with her incredible singing. She truly becomes the Queen of Soul on screen. Respect features hit after hit, from Think to Amazing Grace, and of course the title track. This flattering biopic is a real success and will make fans and curious viewers want to rediscover Aretha Franklin’s exceptional discography.

Allociné: 3.7/5
IMDb: 6.5/10

Available on Blu-ray and DVD
Native 16:9
Dolby Atmos selection: Soul

My Way, by Florent-Emilio Siri (2012)

Poster for My Way by Florent-Emilio Siri
Florent-Emilio’s My Way paints the portrait of an obsessive, manic man determined to achieve fame.

Released in 2012, My Way tells the story of Claude François, a French pop star who met a tragic end. Florent-Emilio Siri’s biopic shows every stage of the singer-songwriter’s life, from his idyllic childhood in Egypt and his difficult move to France with his family, to his stardom, achieved through hard work and persistence. 

Far from a simple eulogy, My Way also reveals the star and business man’s darker side. Incredibly well portrayed by Jérémie Renier, Claude François is a complex, tormented person who is terrified of failure. He is jealous in both his personal and professional relationships, and must control everything obsessively to achieve fame. This movie also provides a look at the “cloclo-mania” phenomenon, with the hordes of groupies and teenage fans ready to do anything for a little attention from their yéyé icon. Renier’s resemblance with Claude François is so striking that My Way almost seems like a documentary. This is also due in part to how Siri has managed to perfectly recreate scenes from the 1960s.

Best music biopics: My Way
In order to provide a realistic portrayal of the singer, Jérémie Renier took singing and dancing lessons for six months.

For My Way’s music, Florent-Emilio Siri worked with frequent collaborator and composer Alexandre Desplat. In addition to the latter’s original music, the soundtrack features Claude François’ songs, but also Otis Redding’s Respect and the famous My Way, the English version of the song Comme d’habitude written by François and Jacques Reveaux. 

My Way offers an intimate portrait of Claude François, whose career was tragically cut short after only 15 years. This biopic, where both the singer’s good and bad character traits are highlighted, is a way to share his fascinating story with younger generations.

Allociné: 4/5
Télérama: 3/5
IMDb: 6.9/10

Available on Blu-ray and DVD
16:9 anamorphic
DD 5.1 (French)

Control, by Anton Corbijn (2007)

Poster for Control by Anton Corbijn
Control looks at the life of Ian Curtis, a post-punk singer torn between his family life and the burgeoning success of his band in the 1970s.

Directed by Dutch photographer Anton Corbjin and released in 2007, Control is a biopic about Ian Curtis, singer of the legendary post-punk band Joy Division. Sim Riley and Samantha Morton were cast as Ian and his wife Deborah Curtis. The movie looks back on events from the couples’ lives that took place between 1973 and 1980, focusing on their marriage and Ian’s affair with Belgian journalist Annik Honoré (Alexandra Maria Lara), as well as the formation and evolution of Joy Division. A lot of the plot revolves around the idea that Curtis was trying to maintain a grip on his life, but had no control over his epilepsy or the side effects of his medication, which would lead to his suicide on May 18, 1980 just before the band’s first American tour.

Muis Biopics 2: Control
Directed by renowned photographer Anton Corbijn, Control’s black-and-white shots are striking  and emphasize Sam Riley’s excellent performance.

Taking its title from Joy Division’s song She’s Losing Control, this music biopic is the first feature film directed by Anton Corbjon, who has been a huge Joy Division fan since the band was created in the late 1970s. After moving to England, he became friends with the band members and took several photos of them for NME magazine, some of which are used in this movie. This visually striking biopic was partially filmed in neighborhoods where Curtis lived in England, and was shot in color before being converted to black and white to better reflect the aura surrounding Joy Division and the atmosphere of the time. 

This intimate and nostalgic biopic is based on a biography written by Curtis’ widow, Deborah, who helped make the film as a co-producer. As a result, some narrative compromises had to be made, but the film remains an excellent, relatively even-handed portrayal of the singer, the band and the era, with incredibly realistic concert re-enactments and excellent acting. Control shows Curtis as he was: ill, lost and a bad husband, but also as a kind and sensitive person who shaped the future of rock music, without ever knowing it.

AlloCiné: 4.1/5 
Télérama: 4/5 
IMDb: 7.6/10

Available on DVD and Blu-ray
16:9 anamorphic
DTS 5.1 and DD 5.1

Rocketman, by Dexter Fletcher (2019)

Poster for Rocketman by Dexter Fletcher
Rocketman is a flamboyant biopic about Elton John that seems to come straight off the Broadway or West End stage.

Directed by Dexter Fletcher and approved by the artist himself, Rocketman is a music biopic inspired by the life and career of British musician Elton John, played with passion and conviction by Taron Egerton. The movie looks at the artist’s extraordinary life, beginning with his early days in England as a musical prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music, and is named after his 1972 song Rocket Man

The story takes us into the world of Reg Dwight, a bright, shy child who lives with his mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) and uptight father. His grandmother encourages him to pursue music, and Reginald meets lyricist Bernie Taupin, surly promoter Dick James and finally his lover and manager John Reid (Richard Madden). Rocketman then takes us through the glory days of the 1970s, with astronomical record sales, drugs and alcohol, which inevitably ends with a stint in rehab.

Best music biopics: Rocketman (clip)
Behind the flamboyant costumes, Elton John falls prey to manipulative people and substance abuse.

Elton John and his husband Davish Furnish had been trying to make a biopic for many years. Their first efforts date from the 2000s, with David LaChapelle set to direct and Justin Timberlake as Elton. However, the project didn’t advance for almost two decades until Dexter Fletcher took over in 2018. Despite the difficult development, Rocketman was a hit and was warmly received by critics, who named it one of the best movies of 2019 and praised Egerton’s performance, the costumes, the soundtrack and the musical scenes.

Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman manages to capture the meaning of the title song: a lonely rocket pilot for whom the awe of space travel has become part of a simple routine. It’s an honest and heartfelt tribute to Elton John’s music and public image that manages to bridge the gap between the artist’s imagined fantasy and his real world. A film mixing drama and musical comedy, as dazzling as Elton John himself.

AlloCiné: 4/5 
IMDb: 7.3/10

Available on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, YouTube, Apple TV and Rakuten TV.
Dolby Atmos

Behind the Candelabra, by Steven Soderbergh (2013)

Poster for Behind the Candelabra by Steven Soderbergh
With the Oscar-winning Michael Douglas and the talented Matt Damon, Behind the Candelabra retells the final years of the flamboyant pianist.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra covers the last 10 years of virtuoso pianist, scandalous artist and flamboyant TV and theater star Liberace’s (Michael Douglas) life, as seen through the eyes of his assistant and lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon). During the summer of 1977, Thorson enters the artist’s dressing room and despite their age difference and the fact that they hail from completely different worlds, they begin a five-year secret love affair. 

Based on Thorson’s autobiography Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace (1988), this biopic offers a fascinating look into the glamor of celebrity, but also the complex reality behind it, exploring the ups and downs of the characters.

Music biopics 2: Behind the Candelabra
Certain scenes of Behind the Candelabra were shot in Liberace’s West Hollywood penthouse, which had become an office after his death, as well as The Hilton in Las Vegas.

Michael Douglas is incredible as Liberace, offering a larger-than-life portrayal of the pianist that doesn’t become a caricature. He manages to express the inner vulnerability and solitude of this person who, at first glance, seems extraverted. Matt Damon’s performance is also excellent, showing the aspiring vet move from being naive to cynical as his life begins to fall apart. The film also explores how empty Liberace’s lifestyle is, with both men becoming dissatisfied with themselves and their relationship. 

Under the Candelabra is a stirring film that portrays the protagonists with empathy and without disdain, giving the film more depth than classic biopics.

AlloCiné: 3.7/5
IMDb: 7/10

Available on DVD, Blu-ray and Apple TV
16:9 anamorphic
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Son-Vidé audiophile records

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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

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