by / November 23rd, 2010 /

Best of Lists: Top Story: State’s Top 50 Music Movies

Last time round we brought you the pick of our favourite music books and for our latest State guide we have bring the best of music on the silver screen – dramatic, comedy, biography and documentary – as nominated by our editorial team. Feel free to pass comment below, but in the meantime we’ll start by looking back nineteen years….

1991: The Year Punk Broke
Talk about perfect timing. Dave Markey’s film, shot on grainy handheld 8mm, captures Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr and friends on a two-week European tour – mere months before Nirvana would explode into the mainstream with ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Nobody involved knew what was around the corner (with the title being a tongue-in-cheek joke that turned out to be prophetic), but you still get a sense of something in the air watching this. There’s some amazing live footage: J Mascis unleashing all manner of fretboard heroics during a blistering ‘Freak Scene’; Lee Ranaldo and Thurston Moore channeling pure magic through guitar and amp feedback (‘I Love Her All The Time’); an early version of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’, as well as performances from Gumball, Babes In Toyland and The Ramones. The non-performance footage is pretty fun too, featuring Courtney Love (‘the biggest star in this room’) hanging backstage, Kim Gordon dressing up Kurt Cobain, and Thurston discussing scooters with a gentleman in Dublin. A DVD release has long been delayed due to legal wrangles, but according to Markey it’s only a matter of time. (Daniel Harrison)

24 Hour Party People
Music biopics are often worthy affairs but not this one. Michael Winterbottom’s wild eyed, chaotic movie perfectly captured its subjects – Tony Wilson, Factory Records and the hedonistic heyday of Madchester. If you’re looking for a serious, respectful account of Joy Division’s traumatic transformation into New Order, watch Control. (Phil Udell)


About A Son
A large degree of artifice and legend surrounds the story of Kurt Donald Cobain – with an endless array of suspect films about Nirvana already made. Narrated by Cobain himself, About A Son is compiled from a series of meticulously detailed interviews he gave to Michael Azzerrad previous to his death. Rather than putting together clips of Nirvana, the film is shot predominantly with a birds-eye view of Cobain’s native Seattle. If you want a definitive account of Cobain’s life, watch this – an all together fascinating insight into much mythologized man. (Daniel Carroll)

A Hard Day’s Night
Richard Lester’s kinetic, breathless and prescient pseudo-documentary trailing John, Paul, George and Ringo not only forever framed the The Beatles in their beautiful, shambolic youth, but also permanently reinvented the way musicians and their performances would be captured on film. Wryly punctuated with pesky (and clean) grandfathers warbling “A Nation Once Again,” a farsighted Anna Quayle and frantic gallops down train corridors, A Hard Day’s Night was Lester’s brilliant vision, both freewheeling and exquisitely structured. Revisiting the film over the years, with that bittersweet perspective of hindsight, is not only a reminder of our own innocence – and their’s – but the start of the modern rock era as we know it. (Kara Manning)

American Hardcore
After the initial glory days of the punk scene in London a far more brutal, hands on approach to punk emerged across the pond in America. American Hardcore looks at the growth of the hardcore punk movement in the states from Minor Threat to Cro-Mags and the whole DIY scene, with interviews from Ian MacKaye, Henry Rollins, Greg Ginn, Mike Watt, Keith Morris and countless others. A beautifully documented look at an ugly scene. Great soundtrack too. (Patrick Fennelly)


Anvil! The Story Of Anvil
Anvil were one of heavy metal’s first stars that never got their big break. Encouraged by the documentary and a fan’s help, the band hits the road to tour and decide to record a new album, but nothing is ever that easy. Through their stumbling and their failures, Anvil! The Story Of Anvil reveals their real strength: two friends who would go to the ends of the earth for each other. And that’s pretty metal. (Matt Dupree)

It’s easy to forget the reggae soundsystem scene in early 1980s London was just as anarchic as punk and readied the bass bins for the rave culture that followed in its wake. After years in the cult movie wilderness, this stunning portrait of a young gang of second generation Jamaican immigrants was recently restored for DVD in all its red, gold and green glory. It follows toaster MC Blue and his Ital Lion crew through a crumbling Brixton captured perfectly by cinematographer Chris Menges and a rumbling soundtrack full of echo chamber cues. Blue has to deal with a dead-end job, racist cops and the National Front before the Lions’ clash with arch rivals Jah Shaka — a final showdown that’ll leave you with goosebumps long after the credits roll. (Conor McCaffery)

On the surface just another post-High School Musical teen movie (hello Vanessa Hudgens), Bandslam proved to be an unexpected gem. Referencing punk and new wave and with a soundtrack that featured the likes of Wilco, Shack and Nick Drake, it’s funny, moving and inspiring. Plus the actors all play their own instruments, always a bonus. (Phil Udell)


Beyond the Sea
Were proof ever needed that Kevin Spacey was indeed the man, he wrote, directed and sang the part of ’50s teen idol Bobby Darin in the biopic Beyond the Sea. Growing into a Sinatra-esque crooner, Darin married Sandra Dee and sang the definitive version of ‘Mack The Knife’ before dying at just 37 years old. (Dave Donnolly)

Comically dark and exhibiting a melancholy sense of beauty, Control follows the enigma that was Joy Division’s Ian Curtis through the growth of the band – who at the start of the film still perform in their original ‘Warsaw’ form – to the eventual downfall of the singer himself. Trapped between his neglected family and an affair with a fan, Curtis struggles with fame, emotions and illness before tragically ending it all at the age of only 23. In Control we’re given a depiction of what Curtis went through that’s arguably closer – and certainly more absorbing – than any other. (James Hendicott)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

  • Nicorigo

    The amp at the top of the page goes to 11!

  • Can’t believe how few of these I’ve seen. Christmas viewing sorted, cheers folks 🙂

  • Nice feature but slightly puzzled at omission of “Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll” from earlier this year and Ramones biopic from several years ago. Your reasons State????

  • Kim Deal is drinking non-alcoholic beer in loudQUIETloud & Frank Black said the makers twisted Dave’s apparent “breakdown” in the editing to make him look more fucked up than he was.