Love musicians? Love learning about the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of their lives? Then you, my friend, would love to watch a bio-pic or two.

Biographical dramas, based on the lives of musicians and bands, are great ways to discover more details about the industry. From stories about fame and fortune, to tales of triumph and tragedy, musical bio-pics are fascinating films, which throw the spotlight on some remarkable icons.

In this post, I am providing a list of the 18 best musical bio-pics you must watch. From Rocketman and The Doors, to Nowhere Boy and Elvis, these are the films to seek out.

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What’s Love Got To Do With It? (1993)

Image: ©Buena Vista Pictures

First up is a superb biographical picture based on the life of Tina Turner. The movie – directed by Brian Gibson – details Turner’s career, with a specific focus on the time she spent with abusive ex-husband, Ike Turner.

Raw, emotional, and incredibly powerful, What’s Love Got To Do With It? is a compelling piece of film which exposes the dark heart of domestic abuse. The movie stars Laurence Fishburne as Ike, with a stellar performance from Angela Bassett as Tina.

Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)

Image: ©20th Century

Next up is a film about Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of British rock group, Queen. The movie stars Raimi Malek, covers various points in Mercury’s life (including the creation of the film’s title track), and showcases Queen’s legendary performance at Live Aid.

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Rocketman (2019)

Image: ©Paramount Pictures

The life of British musician Elton John is the subject of this next movie – the musical drama, Rocketman. Taron Egerton takes on the role of the legendary singer, while Jamie Bell plays long-term friend and songwriter, Bernie Taupin.

Rocketman features a huge collection of songs from Elton’s back catalogue, with the film leaning heavily into the musical genre. Dexter Fletcher directs this over-the-top musical romp.

Dreamgirls (2006)

Image: ©Paramount Pictures

A slight cheat here, as Dreamgirls is not based on a real-life artist/group, but is instead influenced by one. The film is a musical drama, which follows a fictional girl group and their rise to fame.

Loosely inspired by Diana Ross and The Supremes, Dreamgirls stars Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, and Danny Glover. The movie looks at the evolution of R&B music in America, with Bill Condon on writing and directing duties.

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Elvis (2022)

Image: ©Warner Bros. Pictures

Onto this next movie, and this spot is reserved for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll himself, Mr. Elvis Presley. Elvis is a bio-pic detailing the life and times of the rock icon, with Austin Butler taking on the title role.

Baz Luhrmann is in the director’s chair, while the supporting cast includes Richard Roxburgh, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Olivia DeJonge. Tom Hanks takes on the role of Elvis’ notorious manager, Colonel Tom Parker.

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The Doors (1991)

Image: ©Tri-Star Pictures

Directed by Oliver Stone and starring Val Kilmer, The Doors is a biographical musical drama about rock musician, Jim Morrison. The movie focuses on various elements of Morrison’s life, from his drug use to his alcoholism, and includes Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan, and Billy Idol amongst the cast.

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Ray (2004)

Image: ©Universal Pictures

Starring Jamie Foxx in the title role, Ray is a bio-pic which follows the story of rhythm and blues musician, Ray Charles. Taylor Hackford directs, while the supporting cast includes Terrence Howard, Regina King, and Kerry Washington.

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Behind the Candelabra (2013)

Image: ©HBO Films

Famously flamboyant pianist, Liberace, is the subject of this next movie – a dramatization of the final ten years of Liberace’s life. Behind the Candelabra lifts the lid on the pianist’s romance with Scott Thorson, and showcases the highs and lows of this turbulent relationship.  

Michael Douglas and Matt Damon star as Liberace and Thorson, respectively. Steven Soderbergh directs.

Whitney (2018)

Image: ©Miramax

Next up is Whitney, a docu-film which looks at the life of celebrated singer, Whitney Houston. Released six years after Houston’s death, the movie charts the singer’s rise to fame, as well as her tragic passing.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, Whitney is a touching and revealing account of Houston’s life, covering the good and the bad. The movie includes insights from friends and family members, and is a fascinating must-watch for fans.

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Walk the Line (2005)

Image: ©20th Century

Director James Mangold calls the shots in this next movie, which centres around American singer-songwriter, Johnny Cash. The critically acclaimed movie stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, and recounts key details from Cash’s life.

And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story (1999)

Image: ©Hamdon Entertainment

In this television movie from director David Burton Morris, legendary singing duo, Sony and Cher, are given the bio-pic treatment, with a story that highlights their relationship both on and off camera. Jay Underwood takes on the role of Sonny Bono, while Renee Faia steals the show as Cher.

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Nowhere Boy (2009)

Image: ©Icon Film Distribution

Next up is Nowhere Boy, a movie which centres its story around Liverpudlian singer-songwriter and ex-Beatle, John Lennon. Aaron Johnson takes on the role of Lennon, while Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays Paul McCartney, in this British film from director Sam Taylor-Wood.

The Rose (1979)

Image: ©20th Century

Bette Midler shines in this late ‘70s drama, loosely based on the life of Janis Joplin. The Rose follows Joplin’s story as she struggles with career pressures and issues related to her manager.

Alan Bates, Frederic Forrest, and Harry Dean Stanton co-star. Mark Rydell directs.

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Get on Up (2014)

Image: ©Universal Pictures

In Get On Up, Chadwick Boseman takes on the role of James Brown, for a story about the late singer’s life. Tate Taylor directs, while Viola Davis, Dan Aykroyd, and Octavia Spencer feature amongst the cast of this hit movie.

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Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

Image: ©Universal Pictures

Based on the life and times of country music singer Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter is a fabulous biographical drama from director Michael Apted. The film features a superb turn from Sissy Spacek as Lynn, and follows the singer’s life from her early years through to becoming one of the most influential country musicians of all time.

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Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Image: ©Paramount Pictures

Diana Ross steps away from the studio to make her feature film debut, playing the role of jazz singer Billie Holiday in Lady Sings the Blues. The film – directed by Sidney J. Furie – is loosely based on Holiday’s autobiography, and features Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor, and Scatman Crothers amongst the cast.

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Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)

Image: ©Netflix

Based on a stage musical of the same name, Andrew Garfield takes on the lead role for this semi-autobiographical story about the American composer, lyricist, and playwright, Jonathan Larson. The movie looks at Larson’s tragically short life, with Lin-Manuel Miranda on directing duties.

La Bamba (1987)

Image: ©Columbia Pictures

And finally, written and directed by Luis Valdez, La Bamba is bio-pic which follows the short-lived career of Mexican-American rock and roll star, Ritchie Valens. The movie covers Valens’ rise to fame, his relationship with his half-brother, and his untimely death.

Lou Diamond Phillips takes on the role of Valens in a scene-stealing performance, while the support cast includes Esai Morales, Danielle von Zerneck, and Joe Pantoliano.

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Recap

Image: ©Paramount Pictures

So, those are the music biographical movies you should take a look at. To save you having to scroll back up the page, here is the list for your convenience.

  • What’s Love Got To Do With It? (1993)
  • Bohemian Rhapsody (2018)
  • Rocketman (2019)
  • Dreamgirls (2006)
  • Elvis (2022)
  • The Doors (1991)
  • Ray (2004)
  • Behind the Candelabra (2013)
  • Whitney (2018)
  • Walk the Line (2005)
  • And The Beat Goes On: The Sonny and Cher Story (1999)
  • Nowhere Boy (2009)
  • The Rose (1979)
  • Get On Up (2014)
  • Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
  • Lady Sings the Blues (1972)
  • Tick, Tick… Boom! (2021)
  • La Bamba (1987)
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Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about the best music bio-pics to watch. For more posts, be sure to check out the recommended reads below.

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