'Elvis' and other musical biopics: The good, the bad, and the dramatic

The drama of the musical biopic
'Rocketman' (2019) - Elton John
'I'm not there' (2007) - Bob Dylan
'Notorious' (2009) - Notorious B.I.G.
'The Doors' (1991) - Jim Morrison
'La Bamba' (1987) - Richie Valens
'What's Love Got to Do With It' (1993) - Tina Turner
'Ray' (2004) - Ray Charles
'Coal Miner’s Daughter' (1980) - Loretta Lynn 
'Walk the Line' (2005) - Johnny Cash
'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) - N.W.A.
'Amy' (2015) - Amy Winehouse
'Sid and Nancy' (1986) - Sid Vicious
'Respect' (2021) - Aretha Franklin
'Bohemian Rhapsody' (2018) - Freddie Mercury
'Stardust' (2020) - David Bowie
'Lady Sings the Blues' (1972) - Billie Holiday
'Judy' (2019) - Judy Garland
'The Greatest Showman' (2017) - P.T. Barnum
Madonna
The drama of the musical biopic

As we eagerly await Baz Luhrman's new movie about Elvis Presley, we take a look at other musical biopics in Hollywood history: the good, the bad, and the drama behind them.

'Rocketman' (2019) - Elton John

'Rocketman' is the biographical musical drama film based on the life and music of British musician Elton John. It starts with his humble beginnings and leaves us at the time Elton made his comeback after his struggle with addiction. Worth a look, if only for the wonderful music.

'I'm not there' (2007) - Bob Dylan

A film very cleverly made by splitting Dylan’s life into different eras and influences, then casting everyone from Cate Blanchett to Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Christian Bale to portray different pieces in Dylan's rich, confounding life.

(Yes, that's Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in the 2007 film by Paramount)

'Notorious' (2009) - Notorious B.I.G.

The tragic story of Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. Christopher Wallace), who came straight out of Brooklyn to take the world of rap music by storm only to be gunned down at the young age of 24.

'The Doors' (1991) - Jim Morrison

This film wonderfully captures the feeling of the sixties and Val Kilmer is perfect as The Doors' troubled frontman, Jim Morrison. Based on the book by keyboardist Ray Manzarek.

'La Bamba' (1987) - Richie Valens

The Story of Richie Valens, the singer who sadly died at the age of only 17 in a plane crash. The Big Bopper and the legendary Buddy Holly were with him on the plane. Dying so young makes it difficult to fill the film out but it mostly concentrates on the difficult relationship Valens had with his problematic brother.

'What's Love Got to Do With It' (1993) - Tina Turner

The film, based on Turner’s autobiography, follows the rise of the singer and the struggles she had with her ex-husband. Brilliantly told and wonderfully acted (starring Angela Bassett), with music that just makes you want to get up and dance.

'Ray' (2004) - Ray Charles

Jamie Foxx's brilliant, Oscar-winning performance of the late, great Ray Charles takes us back to the rhythm & blues pioneer's fifties and sixties heydays. He gets everything right about Charles, from the blind pianist's look and movements to his vocal intonations.

'Coal Miner’s Daughter' (1980) - Loretta Lynn 

The story of Loretta Webb begins with a poor coal miner's daughter who gets married at the age of 15. Her husband recognises her musical talent and encourages her to become a musician - with incredible results.

'Walk the Line' (2005) - Johnny Cash

The film follows Cash's early life, the romance with his childhood sweetheart, and his ascent in the country music scene. Johnny's musical career takes off, his marriage with Vivian starts falling apart and as Johnny’s fame grows, so do his addictions. The cast, including Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, give an astounding performance.

'Straight Outta Compton' (2015) - N.W.A.

This biopic was produced by the surviving members of N.W.A. themselves, so don’t expect a 'warts-an-all' film. Yet, it is a wonderful insight into the godfathers of Rap with fine performances and, of course, groundbreaking music.

'Amy' (2015) - Amy Winehouse

Archival footage and personal testimonials show an intimate portrait of the too-short life and career of singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse. The Brit was a confident young teen who became a troubled star. The Oscar-winning film depicts her life in a way you'd never seen it before.

'Sid and Nancy' (1986) - Sid Vicious

The film concentrates on Sid Vicious' descent into addiction, culminating with the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, and his fatal overdose. All actors give great performances, especially Gary Oldman as Sid.

'Respect' (2021) - Aretha Franklin

The film follows the rise of Aretha Franklin's career, from a small child singing in her father's church choir to an international superstar. It's an amazing true story and Jennifer Hudson's performance is nothing short of spectacular.

'Bohemian Rhapsody' (2018) - Freddie Mercury

It has some historical inaccuracies but is nevertheless a brilliant story about the life and struggles of Queen frontman and legend Freddie Mercury. Not only is the music wonderful and the performances on point, but there are also many interesting facts that fans will just love.

'Stardust' (2020) - David Bowie

Singer David Bowie reinvents himself as Ziggy Stardust while touring America to promote his new album 'The Man Who Sold the World.' But if you’re expecting classic Bowie tracks, you will be sadly disappointed as the Bowie estate denied the film makers access to his music.

'Lady Sings the Blues' (1972) - Billie Holiday

This movie follows follows the American jazz singer's difficult life until her gift of singing is discovered. Meanwhile, as her musical career takes off, addictions follow her. And, of course, it's also a story of fighting the system as a female African American in days of struggle.

'Judy' (2019) - Judy Garland

This film focuses on the later stage of Garland's life as she goes on a journey to England. She faces not only demons from her past but also battles addiction in the present. As always, Renée Zellweger is magnificent in the tragic tale of a Hollywood legend.

'The Greatest Showman' (2017) - P.T. Barnum

This musical (about a non-musician) is somewhat sugar-coated and has little truth about the cruelty that surrounded the innovative entertainment boss Barnum. Apart from that, it's a truly magnificent film filled with wonderful performances and incredible music. It was director Michael Gracey's debut and he made an impression.

Madonna

Madonna is co-writing and will co-direct her biopic which has been in the making since 2020. The singer has said she wants to be heavily involved because previous projects about her life have mostly been created by men. The question of who will play the leading lady has generated a lot of interest from the public.

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