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musical biopics

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The best 100% true musical biopics

Just the facts, ma’am.

The recent release of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is the latest musical biopic to take an uncompromising look at it subject. Theater audiences tend to love stories of meteoric rises and dramatic falls, so the genre tends to be a popular one. Where many of these films tend to fail is in there decision to bend the truth or just outright lie. There are some out there that are willing to be 100% honest no matter how controversial or silly. Here are some of the best.

Fear of a Black Hat (1993)

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This criminally overlooked film looks at the band N.W.H. and the evolution of American hip-hop. Fear of a Black Hat touches on themes such as slavery, rebellion, and symbolism. Image is also a big part of the documentary as the group tries to explain the over top lyrics of their songs carry a deeper meaning that is lost on some. Like many musical biopics, a cautionary tale. A must-watch fan any hip-hop head.

Purple Rain (1984)

Is the story of The Kid (the legendary Prince) the greatest concert film ever? The actual portions of Purple Rain that are not about the music are comically bad at times. The undeniable charisma of Prince and its classic soundtrack carry the rest of the movie. Morris Day has some standout moments and it is hard not to wonder why The Time never made it bigger. The ending may be cheesy, but the title track is so beautiful, it overcomes any negative feelings.

This is Spinal Tap (1984)

The musical biopic by which all others are judged. There are a number of classic moments including “these go to eleven”, ‘Lick My Love Pump’, and the entire Stonehenge scene. The documentary follows the 1982 United States tour of an English rock group that is promoting their latest album. Along they way, the band has to deal with industry backlash, public apathy, and exploding drummers.

Velvet Goldmine (1998)

Arthur Stuart (Christian Bale, Thor: Love and Thunder) is a British journalist who is writing an article about a glam rock star who has disappeared from the public eye after faking his own murder on stage. A visually stunning look at the glam rock era of the 1970s that looks and sounds amazing. Its treatment of bisexuality and androgyny is ahead of its time.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)

Underappreciated at the time, Walk Hard is as close to perfect as the musical biopic can be. The story of Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly, Ralph Breaks the Internet) is filled with laughs, but the real stand out here may be the surprising amount of emotion. Reilly is great as a rock star trying to deal with the trappings of fame. Never has the a poster saying “it will make you laugh and cry” been more true.

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