(Photo by Lions Gate/courtesy Everett Collection)

The 50 Best Music Biopic Movies

Get ready for a Fresh new sound with tonight’s headliner: Rotten Tomatoes’ best music biopics ever!

Music has been a crucial component of the movies since the beginning, back even when they were supposedly ‘silent.’ So naturally we started making movies about those makers of melodies. And actors love playing them: They get to show off an expanded range of talent, and so many musicians’ lives are filled with drama and passion. As the term implies, the biopics on this list are all based on real people across an expanse of styles: rock (Sid & Nancy, Control), country (Coal Miner’s Daughter, Walk the Line), hip-hop (Straight Outta Compton), pop (Selena, Love & Mercy), classical (Amadeus), and beyond. The only exception we made was for 8 Mile: Though the names were changed, the fact that the main character – a Marshall Mathers stand-in – was played by the original Marshall Mathers demanded its inclusion. After that, every movie with a Fresh rating is sorted by Adjusted Tomatometer to give us the definitive ranking of the best movies made about musicians.

Let’s take it from the top, and this time with feeling: Play on for the best-reviewed music biopic movies! Alex Vo

#1
Adjusted Score: 100258%
Critics Consensus: With a fascinating real-life story and powerhouse performances from Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne, What's Love Got to Do With It? is a can't miss biopic.
Synopsis: Based on the life of the legendary soul singer, Tina Turner (Angela Bassett) -- born Anna Mae Bullock -- discovers... [More]
Directed By: Brian Gibson

#2

The Pianist (2002)
95%

#2
Adjusted Score: 100429%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and dramatically moving, The Pianist is Polanski's best work in years.
Synopsis: In this adaptation of the autobiography "The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man's Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945," Wladyslaw... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#3

Blaze (2018)
95%

#3
Adjusted Score: 99078%
Critics Consensus: As lyrical and bittersweet as the music its subject left behind, Blaze takes a decidedly unconventional -- yet richly rewarding -- approach to the musical biopic.
Synopsis: A reimagining of the life and times of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas Outlaw Music movement.... [More]
Directed By: Ethan Hawke

#4
#4
Adjusted Score: 97987%
Critics Consensus: Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh.
Synopsis: World-famous pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) takes much-younger Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) as a lover, but the relationship deteriorates when Liberace... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#5

Amadeus (1984)
89%

#5
Adjusted Score: 99776%
Critics Consensus: Amadeus' liberties with history may rankle some, but the creative marriage of Miloš Forman and Peter Shaffer yields a divinely diabolical myth of genius and mediocrity, buoyed by inspired casting and Mozart's rapturous music.
Synopsis: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) is a remarkably talented young Viennese composer who unwittingly finds a fierce rival in the... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#6

Funny Girl (1968)
94%

#6
Adjusted Score: 97999%
Critics Consensus: Barbara Streisand elevates this otherwise rote melodramatic musical with her ultra-memorable star turn as Fanny Brice.
Synopsis: In this bittersweet, classic musical drama, the vibrant and beautiful young Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand) starts out as a bit... [More]
Directed By: William Wyler

#7

Shine (1996)
91%

#7
Adjusted Score: 92087%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a strong performance from Geoffrey Rush, Shine succeeds in telling a compelling, inspirational story without resorting to cheap sentimentality.
Synopsis: As a child piano prodigy, David Helfgott's (Geoffrey Rush) musical ambitions generate friction with his overbearing father, Peter (Armin Mueller-Stahl).... [More]
Directed By: Scott Hicks

#8

Rocketman (2019)
89%

#8
Adjusted Score: 113295%
Critics Consensus: It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman.
Synopsis: Young Reginald Dwight changes his name to Elton John and collaborates with singer-songwriter Bernie Taupin to become one of the... [More]
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 98315%
Critics Consensus: Straight Outta Compton is a biopic that's built to last, thanks to F. Gary Gray's confident direction and engaging performances from a solid cast.
Synopsis: In 1988, a groundbreaking new group revolutionizes music and pop culture, changing and influencing hip-hop forever. N.W.A's first studio album,... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#10

Love & Mercy (2014)
90%

#10
Adjusted Score: 98037%
Critics Consensus: As unconventional and unwieldy as the life and legacy it honors, Love & Mercy should prove moving for Brian Wilson fans while still satisfying neophytes.
Synopsis: In the late 1960s, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson stops touring, produces "Pet Sounds" and begins to lose his grip... [More]
Directed By: Bill Pohlad

#11

Born to Be Blue (2015)
88%

#11
Adjusted Score: 95093%
Critics Consensus: Born to Be Blue benefits from a highlight-reel performance from Ethan Hawke and an impressionistic, non-hagiographic approach to Chet Baker's life and times.
Synopsis: In the late 1960s, jazz trumpeter Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) begins a romance with an actress (Carmen Ejogo) while trying... [More]
Directed By: Robert Budreau

#12

Control (2007)
88%

#12
Adjusted Score: 92483%
Critics Consensus: Control is a work of art, thanks to its evocative black and white cinematography and sensational performances from Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Even those not familiar with Joy Division can still appreciate the beauty of the film.
Synopsis: In 1970s England, troubled musician Ian Curtis (Sam Riley) rises to fame as lead singer of the band Joy Division.... [More]
Directed By: Anton Corbijn

#13

Sid & Nancy (1986)
88%

#13
Adjusted Score: 94373%
Critics Consensus: Visceral, energetic, and often very sad, Sid and Nancy is also a surprisingly touching love story, and Gary Oldman is outstanding as the late punk rock icon Sid Vicious.
Synopsis: Following their breakout success in England, flagship punk rock band the Sex Pistols venture out on their first U.S. tour.... [More]
Directed By: Alex Cox

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 89520%
Critics Consensus: Brilliant performances, lush cinematography, and complex storytelling deserve audience's attention.
Synopsis: Iris Du Pré (Celia Imrie) inspires a love of music -- and a healthy rivalry -- in her daughters, Hilary... [More]
Directed By: Anand Tucker

#15
#15
Adjusted Score: 90880%
Critics Consensus: Like a classic traditional country song, Coal Miner's Daughter draws on time-tested formula -- and undeniable talent -- to tell a solidly affecting story.
Synopsis: Raised in rural Kentucky poverty and married at the age of 13, Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek) begins writing and singing... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 88912%
Critics Consensus: The colorful, chaotic 24 Hour Party People nimbly captures the spirit of the Manchester music scene.
Synopsis: Manchester, 1976. Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) is an ambitious but frustrated local TV news reporter looking for a way to... [More]
Directed By: Michael Winterbottom

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 93211%
Critics Consensus: Unapologetically sweet and maybe even a little corny, The Sound of Music will win over all but the most cynical filmgoers with its classic songs and irresistible warmth.
Synopsis: A tuneful, heartwarming story, it is based on the real life story of the Von Trapp Family singers, one of... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#18

Walk the Line (2005)
82%

#18
Adjusted Score: 91071%
Critics Consensus: Superior acting and authentic crooning capture the emotional subtleties of the legend of Johnny Cash with a freshness that is a pleasure to watch.
Synopsis: The rise of country music legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) begins with his days as a boy growing up on... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#19

La Bamba (1987)
83%

#19
Adjusted Score: 87533%
Critics Consensus: Elevated by a perceptive performance by a perfectly cast Lou Diamond Phillips, La Bamba distills its subject's creative energy -- and reflects his music's enduring appeal.
Synopsis: Los Angeles teenager Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) becomes an overnight rock 'n' roll success in 1958, thanks to a... [More]
Directed By: Luis Valdez

#20

Get On Up (2014)
80%

#20
Adjusted Score: 87275%
Critics Consensus: With an unforgettable Chadwick Boseman in the starring role, Get On Up offers the Godfather of Soul a fittingly dynamic homage.
Synopsis: James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) was born in extreme poverty in 1933 South Carolina and survived abandonment, abuse and jail to... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#21

Nowhere Boy (2009)
80%

#21
Adjusted Score: 84665%
Critics Consensus: Don't expect any musical insights, but this look at John Lennon's early life benefits from its restrained, low-key approach and some fine acting from Aaron Johnson.
Synopsis: A rebellious teenager, future Beatle John Lennon (Aaron Johnson) lives with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas) in working-class Liverpool,... [More]
Directed By: Sam Taylor-Wood

#22

Elvis (2022)
77%

#22
Adjusted Score: 97077%
Critics Consensus: The standard rock biopic formula gets all shook up in Elvis, with Baz Luhrmann's dazzling energy and style perfectly complemented by Austin Butler's outstanding lead performance.
Synopsis: The film explores the life and music of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler), seen through the prism of his complicated relationship... [More]
Directed By: Baz Luhrmann

#23

Ray (2004)
79%

#23
Adjusted Score: 87406%
Critics Consensus: An engrossing and energetic portrait of a great musician's achievements and foibles, Ray is anchored by Jamie Foxx's stunning performance as Ray Charles.
Synopsis: Legendary soul musician Ray Charles is portrayed by Jamie Foxx in this Oscar-winning biopic. Young Ray watches his 7-year-old brother... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

#24

I'm Not There (2007)
77%

#24
Adjusted Score: 83542%
Critics Consensus: I'm Not There's unique editing, visuals, and multiple talented actors portraying Bob Dylan make for a deliciously unconventional experience. Each segment brings a new and fresh take on Dylan's life.
Synopsis: Several actors portray legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan at different stages in his personal life and career. In 1959 a guitar-strumming... [More]
Directed By: Todd Haynes

#25

8 Mile (2002)
75%

#25
Adjusted Score: 82337%
Critics Consensus: Even though the story is overly familiar, there's enough here for an engaging ride.
Synopsis: The people of Detroit know 8 Mile as the city limit, a border, a boundary. It is also a psychological... [More]
Directed By: Curtis Hanson

#26

La môme (2007)
74%

#26
Adjusted Score: 80626%
Critics Consensus: The set design and cinematography are impressive, but the real achievement of La Vie en Rose is Marion Cotillard's mesmerizing, wholly convincing performance as Edith Piaf.
Synopsis: Born into poverty and raised in a brothel, Édith Piaf (Marion Cotillard) manages to achieve worldwide fame. Though her extraordinary... [More]
Directed By: Olivier Dahan

#27

Gainsbourg (2010)
73%

#27
Adjusted Score: 75668%
Critics Consensus: It might be thinly written and messily made, but Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life is also appropriately glamorous and intense -- and powerfully led by a gripping performance from Erik Elmosnino.
Synopsis: The life of French singer Serge Gainsbourg.... [More]
Directed By: Joann Sfar

#28
#28
Adjusted Score: 73265%
Critics Consensus: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll pays appropriately uninhibited tribute to a pioneering artist -- and proves Andy Serkis can be every bit as compelling in a non-motion-capture role.
Synopsis: Stricken with polio as a child, Ian Dury (Andy Serkis) finds success as a British punk rocker in the 1970s.... [More]
Directed By: Mat Whitecross

#29
#29
Adjusted Score: 102423%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A chronicle of the rise and brief career of rock 'n' roll star Buddy Holly (Gary Busey), who aspires to... [More]
Directed By: Steve Rash

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 75061%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On opening night of his new Broadway musical, "Show Boat," composer Jerome Kern (Robert Walker) reflects on his long career.... [More]
Directed By: Richard Whorf

#31

Round Midnight (1986)
96%

#31
Adjusted Score: 97672%
Critics Consensus: Brought brilliantly to life by Dexter Gordon's outstanding performance, Round Midnight is the rare jazz-inflected drama that matches the power of the music.
Synopsis: In the 1950s, Dale Turner (Dexter Gordon), a gifted black saxophonist with a drinking problem, leaves behind New York and... [More]
Directed By: Bertrand Tavernier

#32
Adjusted Score: 93306%
Critics Consensus: Befitting its singularly brilliant subject, Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould captures the essence of a life and legacy while flouting biopic conventions.
Synopsis: In this episodic fusion of documentary and biographical drama, director François Girard explores the life of 20th-century pianist Glenn Gould... [More]
Directed By: François Girard

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 93035%
Critics Consensus: James Cagney deploys his musical gifts to galvanizing effect in Yankee Doodle Dandy, a celebration of patriotic fervor as much as it is a biopic of George M. Cohan.
Synopsis: Brought to the White House to receive a Congressional Gold Medal from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Broadway legend George M.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#34

Sweet Dreams (1985)
90%

#34
Adjusted Score: 90843%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Aspiring country singer Patsy Cline (Jessica Lange) is resigned to both her thankless gigs and her unhappy marriage, until she... [More]
Directed By: Karel Reisz

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 88079%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Glenn Miller (James Stewart) is a poor trombone player with dreams of fame. Eventually, through years of hard work and... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Mann

#36

Bird (1988)
83%

#36
Adjusted Score: 83883%
Critics Consensus: Forest Whitaker inhabits Charlie Parker with aplomb in this moving love letter to the music icon, told by director Clint Eastwood with a moody style that visually evokes the wistful rhythm of jazz.
Synopsis: Director Clint Eastwood, a noted jazz aficionado, directs this heartfelt study of pioneering bop saxophonist Charlie Parker (Forest Whitaker). Moving... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#37

Bound for Glory (1976)
83%

#37
Adjusted Score: 84628%
Critics Consensus: Bound for Glory brings the Dust Bowl era to authentic life thanks to Haskell Wexler's opulent cinematography and Woody Guthrie's resonant music, capturing the American mood at the time as much as it does the folk singer's life.
Synopsis: The Dust Bowl overtakes his native Oklahoma in the early 1930s, and struggling young musician Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) leaves... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#38

Song Without End (1960)
83%

#38
Adjusted Score: 62010%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Famous pianist Franz Liszt (Dirk Bogarde) is unhappily married to Countess Marie D'Agoult (Genevieve Page) and considers quitting performing in... [More]

#39

Miles Ahead (2016)
74%

#39
Adjusted Score: 85580%
Critics Consensus: Miles Ahead is worth watching for Don Cheadle's strong work on both sides of the camera, even if this unconventional biopic doesn't quite capture its subject's timeless appeal.
Synopsis: In the 1970s, down-and-out jazz trumpeter Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) tries to recover his new session tape from music producers.... [More]
Directed By: Don Cheadle

#40
Adjusted Score: 71531%
Critics Consensus: Slight yet resonant, Greetings from Tim Buckley honors a family's musical legacy while offering Penn Badgley a remarkable opportunity to display his dramatic gifts.
Synopsis: Musician Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) prepares for a 1991 tribute concert for his father, late folk singer Tim Buckley. As... [More]
Directed By: Daniel Algrant

#41

The Runaways (2010)
69%

#41
Adjusted Score: 75632%
Critics Consensus: Viewers expecting an in-depth biopic will be disappointed, but The Runaways is as electric as the band's music, largely thanks to strong performances from Michael Shannon, Dakota Fanning, and Kristen Stewart.
Synopsis: Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning), two rebellious teenagers from Southern California, become the frontwomen for the... [More]
Directed By: Floria Sigismondi

#42

Respect (2021)
68%

#42
Adjusted Score: 76922%
Critics Consensus: This standard-issue biopic falls shy of its subject's transcendent brilliance, but Jennifer Hudson's starring performance absolutely commands Respect.
Synopsis: Following the rise of Aretha Franklin's career from a child singing in her father's church's choir to her international superstardom,... [More]
Directed By: Liesl Tommy

#43

Backbeat (1994)
68%

#43
Adjusted Score: 68976%
Critics Consensus: Its overly pretentious and melodramatic leanings notwithstanding, Backbeat explores the beginnings of the Fab Four with striking authenticity, soaring rock 'n' roll verve, and a strong admiration for its subjects.
Synopsis: In 1960, close friends Stuart Sutcliffe (Stephen Dorff) and John Lennon (Ian Hart), along with bandmates Paul McCartney (Gary Bakewell),... [More]
Directed By: Iain Softley

#44
#44
Adjusted Score: 67924%
Critics Consensus: It's uneven -- and it lacks the primal power of its subject's classic recordings -- but Jimi: All Is By My Side offers a well-acted alternative take on the Hendrix myth.
Synopsis: In 1966, an unknown guitarist named James Hendrix (André Benjamin) leaves New York for London, changes his name to Jimi... [More]
Directed By: John Ridley

#45

Selena (1997)
67%

#45
Adjusted Score: 68380%
Critics Consensus: Selena occasionally struggles to tell its subject's story with depth or perspective, but those flaws are rendered largely irrelevant by Jennifer Lopez in the title role.
Synopsis: In this biographical drama, Selena Quintanilla (Jennifer Lopez) is born into a musical Mexican-American family in Texas. Her father, Abraham... [More]
Directed By: Gregory Nava

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 67148%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Pop star Diana Ross portrays legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday in this biographical drama. Beginning with Holiday's traumatic youth, the... [More]
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

#47
#47
Adjusted Score: 18574%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Gus Kahn (Danny Thomas), an aspiring lyricist, takes the advice of co-worker Grace LeBoy (Doris Day) in developing a new... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#48

Cadillac Records (2008)
66%

#48
Adjusted Score: 70809%
Critics Consensus: What Cadillac Records may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in strong performances and soul-stirring music.
Synopsis: In 1947 Chicago, Polish emigrant and bar owner Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) hires a blues combo that includes guitarist Muddy... [More]
Directed By: Darnell Martin

#49

One Chance (2013)
63%

#49
Adjusted Score: 63692%
Critics Consensus: Predictable and sentimental, yet thoroughly agreeable, One Chance is an unapologetic crowd-pleaser that achieves its admittedly modest goals.
Synopsis: Tenor Paul Potts (James Corden) becomes a singing sensation after appearing on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent" in 2007.... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 86231%
Critics Consensus: Bohemian Rhapsody hits a handful of high notes, but as an in-depth look at a beloved band, it offers more of a medley than a true greatest hits collection.
Synopsis: Freddie Mercury -- the lead singer of Queen -- defies stereotypes and convention to become one of history's most beloved... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer