In what must be some of the best casting of all time, musician André 3000 will hopefully help us forget all about Four Brothers with his return to acting as legendary guitar player Jimi Hendrix in the upcoming biopic, All Is By My Side.
The film, which documents the life and times of the iconic, trailblazing shredder screened at this year’s South by Southwest music festival in Austin, and has already garnered buzz not only for its screenwriter—recent Oscar winner for 12 Years a Slave, John Ridley—but for the production’s odd and disappointing inability to actually feature Hendrix-written tunes (thanks for nothing, Hendrix estate!)
Anyway…All Is By My Side may be gathering momentum, but the musician biopic formula is hardly new. After all, people are into musicians like fuck and, more often than not, these people have pretty messed up lives which, let’s face it, is awesome to watch. Can we use any more commas in a single sentence? We’ll see, friends. We’ll see.
ANYWAY…Here’s a list of musician-based movies ranging from great to just god-awful in no particular order with “memorable” quotes from the films. Enjoy, nerds!
The Buddy Holly Story (1978)
All that can be said is the following: Gary Busey fucking played Buddy Holly? Man, the 70s were weird.
Memorable quote: “I don’t even know where Puerto Rico is!”
La Bamba (1987)
The story of the rise and then super-fast fall (too soon?) of Ricardo Valenzuela, who y’all probably know better as Ritchie Valens. Oh sure, the movie skyrocketed Lou Diamond Phillips’ into the hearts of anyone who felt feelings, but what people generally tend to forget is that Esai Morales’ turn as Valens’ brother, Bob, is one of the worst performances ever. Who can forget that awesome moment when Bob storms into one of Ritchie’s shows and is mad because…well, he’s just mad! Oh sure, “Donna” is a decent song, but is anyone else weirded out that Valens had like, four songs most of which weren’t his own, but still has a movie about him? You’ve probably written more songs in your shower.
Memorable quote: “RITCHIEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!”
Great Balls of Fire (1989)
People will go to great lengths to tell you why they don’t like such and such musician or artist because they are homophobic or racist or once killed a man for no reason beyond they just like doing stuff like that, but nobody much seems to care that Jerry Lee Lewis took his teenage cousin to the Deep South to marry her. It’s weird. The only thing that is, in fact, weirder than that is how weird Great Balls of Fire is itself. Lewis himself came out against the film (presumably because Dennis Quaid plays him like a goddamn maniac), and most scenes are a jumbled mess of oddball music numbers and Winona Ryder doing that klepto thing to her onscreen cousin’s heart. Jerry Lee Lewis was a monstrous pianist for sure, but Great Balls of Fire sort of seems to present this fully insane guy who then makes up for his sins in the end, kind of.
Memorable quote: “I don’t know how to be a wife—I’m only 13.”
What’s Love Got to Do With It (1993)
If you haven’t seen this movie but have been thinking you need a reason to hate Ike Turner’s guts, then rent it immediately. Providing an inside look into Ike and Tina’s troubled marriage and rise to fame, What’s Love Got to Do With It is an emotionally charged docu-drama that taught us all a thing or two about domestic violence. Both Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne bring their A game to the film, and Tina’s eventual escape from Ike’s mind-blowingly awful reign of terror is inspirational and moving to say the least. Oh yeah, and the music is so good you might die! OK, you won’t die, but it is to die for.
Memorable quote: “Go Straight to hell, Ike!”
The Texas-born singer went from a no-name Tejano artist to just like, the hugest thing ever. This would eventually lead to her murder at the hands of her obsessive employee and fan club president Yolanda Saldívar. It’s a tragic tale, but it did bring us a pretty great performances from Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos long before nobody gave a shit about them. According to a girl I know, this is a super-important movie. And according to me, Selena hated full-length shirts.
Memorable Quote: “Bustiquela?! Es un bra!”
If, like a lot of people, you thought that Jamie Foxx was like some sort of poor-man’s Wayans Brother, you were probably delightfully surprised when the comedian and star of weak-ass movies like the totally precious and totally shitty Valentine’s Day fully killed in the story of Ray Charles’ life. Man, that Ray Charles couldn’t catch a break as, Pepsi commercials notwithstanding, he endured death, blindness, racism and drug addiction. Movies like this usually amount to little more than Oscar-bait responsible for no small amount of sated white guilt. Foxx, however, delivered the performance of a lifetime and was instantly skyrocketed to A-list stature.
Memorable quote: “I might be blind, but I ain’t stupid!”
Alternate quote: “Don’t jive me now, I ain’t for sale.”
Walk the Line (2005)
Did y’all know that Johnny Cash was in on his brother’s death? Yikes. But that’s OK, because the guy who launched a love of country in the hearts of a thousand hipsters would go on to be one of the most prolific and talented songwriters of all time. Even his covers are so good they make the originals sound like crap, so when the über-talented Joaquin Phoenix took on the role of the man in black for the 2005 film, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Walk the Line would even earn a Best Actess Oscar for Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash despite Legally Blonde having been a thing, and Phoenix was celebrated for performing the vocals on the soundtrack himself.
Memorable quote: “You can’t wear black. It looks like you’re going to a funeral.”
Nowhere Boy (2009)
Through Nowhere Boy we learn that John Lennon was kind of an asshole in his younger years. It was all pompadours and rockabilly and silly little knives. That said, we also learn that his insatiable love for music and super-depressing personal life (his relationship with his mom sure wasn’t great) drove him to become the incredible and innovative musician we all know and love today. Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Kick-Ass nails the Liverpool accent and portrays a character who is brash and impulsive, but also flawed and human. If nothing else, that adorable little ginger from Love Actually popping up as a young Paul McCartney makes you go, “Awwwww!”, and Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance as his aunt Mimi—far more of a mother to Lennon than Julia ever was—shows a deep understanding of the difficulties of parenting and the boundless yet occasionally devastating love of family. Totally underrated movie.
Memorable quote: “Why couldn’t God make me Elvis?” / “-Because he was saving you for John Lennon!”
And there you have it. Did we miss any? Sound off in the comments section.