Where words fail, music speaks.

– Hans Christian Andersen

Yet the lives of famous musicians and singers, brimming with talent have most often than not been troubled. These powerhouses of talent created music which went on to influence generations and in an effort to express themselves, often went over to the dark side. These movies delve into the mystery and aura surrounding musicians who made their mark over the ages. 

1. Love & Mercy (2015)

A gripping narrative on the co-founder of Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, his personal challenges and his salvation.

The movie shows Wilson in his vulnerable human form with the voices in his head and under his abusive therapist till his wife vows to save him. The film though grim mostly infuses life into it by its themes, love and mercy. 


2. Jersey Boys (2014) 

Clint Eastwood’s story of four young boys from New Jersey who came together to form the 60s rock band Four Seasons.

The movie flickers back and forth from a crime-ridden New Jersey in the 1950s to the music of the Four Seasons which lends the movie its musical appeal. Eastwood peppers the movie with the band’s hits which went on to influence subsequent generations.


3. Get On Up (2014)

Chadwick Boseman’s depiction of the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, his moods and his troubled life.

Chadwik Boseman’s excellent portrayal of James Brown makes his story come to life more so because of the stream of consciousness method of story-telling and the breaking of the fourth wall. Glimpses of his troubled childhood and the star’s ego and huge talent, make the movie an enjoyable watch about the inventor of the funk.


4. Cadillac Records (2008)

Biopic on Leonard Chess, a records executive who sold records off the back of his Cadillac and launched Muddy Waters, Etta James and Chuck Berry. 

This movie is an excellent watch for those who want an accurate description of the Blues scene in 1940s-50s Chicago. Seasoned with great music, the movie shows how Leonard Chess opens doors for talented African-American musicians.


5. Walk the Line (2005)

A biopic on the early years of American legend Johnny Cash which were riddled with turmoil.

The joyousness of Witherspoon as June Carter and the bleak persona of Johnny Cash combine together to create brilliant chemistry. Rife with drama and soul-stirring music, Walk The Line is a watch for rainy nights.


6. The Doors (1991)

The story closely follows the life and drug abuse of Jim Morrison who headed the 60s band, The Doors from humble beginnings.

The movie is a tribute to the cult figure of Jim Morrison and to the psychedelic rock scene which flourished in the 1960s. It offers an insight into the persona of Morrison as he is onstage and off it as a victim of his drug-fuelled addiction. 


7. I’m Not There (2007)

An enactment of the many personas of Bob Dylan.

The story flits among 6 characters each of who personifies the many lives of Bob Dylan as a poet, a prophet, an outlaw, fake, rock and roll icon, and star. A must watch for die-hard Dylan fans, it’s as crazy as the star and focuses on his influence on the musical landscape, his interaction and culture. 


8. Control (2007)

The life of Ian Curtis, singer of post-punk band Joy Division as he battles with epilepsy and failed love affairs ending in suicide.

Joy Division was a late 1970s English post punk band of which Ian was a part. Riddled with epilepsy and failed love affairs, he finally commits suicide. Though the movie was shot in colour, it was turned to black and white.


9. Amadeus (1984)

Fictionalised biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart told by his Italian contemporary who driven by jealousy, ruins the former’s life.

This larger than life movie earned historical acclaim and a slew of awards. With stunning shots and Mozart symphonies running throughout the narrative, it is an insight into two human personalities. One of an obnoxious musical prodigy and the second of a jealous human mind yearning for glory.


10. Ray (2004)

Musical biography on Ray Charles, pioneer of rhythm and blues who went blind at the age of seven.

With soul-soothing jazz and moments which pluck at your heart-strings, Jamie Foxx brings out the charisma around the pop icon. Intelligently shot and deeply inspirational, this one is for those who like thought-provoking movies.


11. The Pianist (2002)

Roman Polanski’s gritty narrative on the survival of Polish-Jewish pianist, Władysław Szpilman during World War 2.

A haunting movie which is counted as one of the best Holocaust movies ever made, it follows the journey of Szpilman who from an eminent pianist is stripped down to his most basic human form, seeking survival. 


12. La Vie en Rose (2007)

A tragic biopic on the life of French singer, Edith Plaf who is discovered for her talent at a street corner and loses her life to morphine addiction.

Marion Cotillard delivers a hard-hitting performance through her brilliant portrayal of the tragic phases in Plath’s life with occasional bursts of surreal music. The artistically shot, exhausting movie ends in Plaf’s death due to morphine addiction which leaves her barely mobile.


13. Beyond the Sea (2004)

An insight into legend Bobby Darin’s life who suffers heart ailment at a young age but makes music his life.

Everyone knew that Bobby Darin in spite of his heart condition, loved performing onstage, even if it meant collapsing offstage. As Bobby’s lilting voice floats through the movie, Kevin Spacey makes the character of Darin come alive.


A movie on John Lennon’s adolescence, his conflicting relations with his mother and aunt and the evolution of Beatles.

The movie is a fascinating glimpse into John Lennon’s discovery of his genius in rock and roll. Lennon fans will love this portrayal of the young man as a confused and hurt boy who finds his niche. 


A fast-paced biopic on late punk-rock icon Sid Vicious and his journey through sex, drugs and music and his love story with Nancy Spungen.

Going by the motto of ‘Live fast and die young’, this is another tragic story of drug abuse. The Nancy-Sid love story is raw and perverse at times, but is a love story nonetheless of two misguided junkies.


So curl up on the couch, get yourself a bowl of buttery popcorn and soak in the music and stories of these music legends.