Musicians are often some of the most interesting, unique, scrutinised and debated over figures in popular culture, which has led to a plethora of music biopics over the years. While many simply follow the same well trodden narratives that biopics often get bogged down by, others have managed to truly capture the spirit of the figures and the time that they lived. To celebrate the release of All Eyez On Me, which follows of the most iconic and adored celebrities to ever exist, Tupac Shakur; Movies In Focus thought it would round up some of the best music biopics.
Sid & Nancy (1986)
In a career stacked full of tremendous performances, one of Gary Oldman’s most definitive is as Sex Pistols bassist, Sid Vicious. It is a towering and magnetic portrayal that puts most other depictions of real life figures to shame. Beyond that, Alex Cox’s account of the relationship between Vicious and Nancy Spungen is successful at capturing the manic and anti-authoritarian mood of punk music and he smartly sidesteps an overall account of the band’s history that would have contradicted their style and purpose.
Walk The Line (2005)
This is an example of biopic that often falls into the familiar plot points discussed before but is distinguished by an energy and vitality that runs throughout as well as exceptional performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. As Johnny Cash and June Carter respectively, they both bring a richness, authenticity and gravitas to their roles that makes for a truly great watching experience.
I’m Not There (2007)
I’m Not There is easily one of the boldest and most unique depictions of a musician to ever be put on screen. In trying to fittingly depict of one of rock’s greatest shape shifters, Bob Dylan, Todd Haynes decided to cast several actors; each played characters loosely based on the various facets of Dylan’s personality. This to led to a fractured but endlessly fascinating film that turned the traditional music biopic on its head. While each actor was great, from Heath Ledger to Richard Gere, the person that truly brought a performance for the ages was Cate Blanchett.
The feature debut of legendary photographer Anton Corbijn followed the tragically short life of Joy Division frontman, Ian Curtis, who died at 23. Shot in a visually stunning black-and-white, this biopic once again transcends the cliches of rock biopics by presenting an achingly believable tale of loneliness and isolation. Performances are outstanding across the board, most prominently Sam Riley as Curtis in his first on-screen role.
Straight Outta Compton (2015)
Straight Outta Compton is essential viewing for so many reasons, including the incredible story behind it and the vibrancy of the film throughout. It is also extremely timely, exploring issues of police brutality/repression, free speech and the immense power of Hip Hop just when those issues were increasingly coming to the forefront of public consciousness. Beyond that, Straight Outta Compton is so successful because it is able to perfectly capture the drive, anger and passion of the individuals at the centre of the film.
All Eyez On Me (2017)
Creating a film about Tupac was always going to be a difficult task; he was a singularly charismatic and compelling figure who possessed a wide variety of often contradictory traits. Luckily for the countless Tupac fans waiting to see how this film will do, All Eyez On Me is an energetic and exhilarating film that manages to capture the unique mindspace that Tupac operated in.
In Cinemas Friday 30th June 2017