(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!

#50

Immortal Beloved (1994)
56%

#50
Adjusted Score: 59.188%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This biography of Ludwig von Beethoven (played here by Gary Oldman) builds its narrative around an actual letter found after... [More]
Directed By: Bernard Rose

#49
#49
Adjusted Score: 64.175%
Critics Consensus: Great Balls of Fire romanticizes the more disturbing elements of Jerry Lee Lewis' controversial life story, but Dennis Quaid's crackerjack performance and a soundtrack stuffed with classic songs gives this flawed biopic some smolder.
Synopsis: Until its last ten minutes or so, this filmed biography of controversial recording star Jerry Lee Lewis plays like a... [More]
Directed By:

#48

One Chance (2014)
63%

#48
Adjusted Score: 64.593%
Critics Consensus: Predictable and sentimental, yet thoroughly agreeable, One Chance is an unapologetic crowd-pleaser that achieves its admittedly modest goals.
Synopsis: From the director of The Devil Wears Prada, ONE CHANCE is the remarkable and inspirational true story of Paul Potts,... [More]
Directed By: David Frankel

#47

Selena (1997)
65%

#47
Adjusted Score: 67.436%
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: Selena Quintanilla was a major figure in Tejano music, a Grammy-winning recording artist, a beloved star in the American Southwest... [More]
Directed By: Gregory Nava

#46
#46
Adjusted Score: 70.692%
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: OutKast's André Benjamin stars as Jimi Hendrix in this revealing biopic from Academy Award-winning writer-director John Ridley (12 Years A... [More]
Directed By: John Ridley

#45
#45
Adjusted Score: 66.404%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Diana Ross plays the magnificent, tragic song stylist Billie Holiday, who while writhing in a strait jacket in a prison... [More]
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie

#44

Backbeat (1994)
69%

#44
Adjusted Score: 70.969%
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: The Beatles' early days as a struggling bar band are depicted in this fact-based drama, which tells the little-known story... [More]
Directed By: Iain Softley

#43

Cadillac Records (2008)
66%

#43
Adjusted Score: 70.296%
Critics Consensus: What Cadillac Records may lack in originality, it more than makes up for in strong performances and soul-stirring music.
Synopsis: "Cadillac Records" is about the rise and fall of Chess Records, which launched the careers of Muddy Waters, Etta James... [More]
Directed By: Darnell Martin

#42

Song Without End (1960)
83%

#42
Adjusted Score: 70.165%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: This is the film biography of the gifted classical composer Franz Liszt. He loves a bevy of women as his... [More]

#41
Adjusted Score: 72.382%
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: In 1991, a young musician named Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley, "Gossip Girl," MARGIN CALL) rehearses for his public singing debut... [More]
Directed By: Dan Algrant

#40
#40
Adjusted Score: 67.031%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The life of the popular songwriter Gus Kahn (Danny Thomas) is the subject of this tune-filled Michael Curtiz film.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Curtiz

#39

The Runaways (2010)
69%

#39
Adjusted Score: 74.677%
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: The film follows two friends, Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, as they rise from rebellious Southern California kids to rock... [More]
Directed By: Floria Sigismondi

#38
#38
Adjusted Score: 74.974%
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: Comic book artist Joann Sfar interprets the life of '60s pop star Serge Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino),1921-1991, beginning with his childhood... [More]
Directed By: Joann Sfar

#37
#37
Adjusted Score: 77.741%
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: Bohemian Rhapsody is a foot-stomping celebration of Queen, their music and their extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury, who defied stereotypes... [More]
Directed By: Bryan Singer

#36
#36
Adjusted Score: 73.764%
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: Andy Serkis stars as volatile British new wave icon Ian Dury in this biopic from BAFTA-nominated director Mat Whitecross (The... [More]
Directed By: Mat Whitecross

#35
#35
Adjusted Score: 78.87%
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: Writer/director Olivier Dahan (Crimson Rivers II) helmed La Vie en Rose, the screen biopic of tragic French songstress Edith Piaf.... [More]

#34

Miles Ahead (2016)
74%

#34
Adjusted Score: 80.693%
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: MILES AHEAD is not just about the music. It's about what we all face at one time or another in... [More]
Directed By: Don Cheadle

#33

8 Mile (2002)
75%

#33
Adjusted Score: 81.13%
Critics Consensus: Even though the story is overly familiar, there's enough here for an engaging ride.
Synopsis: No matter whom we are, no matter where we live, we're all bound by borders. Many of us are content... [More]
Directed By: Curtis Hanson

#32

I'm Not There (2007)
77%

#32
Adjusted Score: 82.215%
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: This re-enactment of the life of musician, Bob Dylan, features multiple actors embodying different stages in the singer's life.... [More]
Directed By: Todd Haynes

#31

Bird (1988)
83%

#31
Adjusted Score: 84.004%
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: Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood ("Letters from Iwo Jima," "Flags of Our Fathers"), a well-known, long-standing jazz aficionado, delivers a... [More]
Directed By: Clint Eastwood

#30

Nowhere Boy (2010)
80%

#30
Adjusted Score: 84.12%
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: John Lennon's childhood. Liverpool 1955: a smart and troubled 15-year-old is hungry for experience. In a family full of secrets,... [More]
Directed By: Sam Taylor-Johnson

#29

Get On Up (2014)
80%

#29
Adjusted Score: 86.561%
Critics Consensus: With an unforgettable Chadwick Boseman in the starring role, Get On Up offers the Godfather of Soul a fittingly dynamic homage.
Synopsis: In his follow-up to the four-time Academy Award (R)-nominated blockbuster The Help, Tate Taylor directs 42's Chadwick Boseman as James... [More]
Directed By: Tate Taylor

#28

Ray (2004)
79%

#28
Adjusted Score: 84.855%
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: Born in a poor town in Georgia, Ray Charles went blind at the age of seven shortly after witnessing his... [More]
Directed By: Taylor Hackford

#27

Bound for Glory (1976)
83%

#27
Adjusted Score: 84.813%
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: Based on the autobiography of iconic folk singer Woody Guthrie, who wrote "This Land Is Your Land." Unable to find... [More]
Directed By: Hal Ashby

#26
#26
Adjusted Score: 88.347%
Critics Consensus: The colorful, chaotic 24 Hour Party People nimbly captures the spirit of the Manchester music scene.
Synopsis: Spanning from the 1970's to early 1990's, this is the story of the Manchester music scene... Tony Wilson is an... [More]
Directed By: Michael Winterbottom

#25
#25
Adjusted Score: 88.232%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Not only was The Glenn Miller Story one of the most profitable biopics ever filmed, but it also was one... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Mann

#24

Walk the Line (2005)
82%

#24
Adjusted Score: 89.108%
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: "Walk the Line" follows the early years in the career of American music legend Johnny Cash. The young Cash sets... [More]
Directed By: James Mangold

#23
#23
Adjusted Score: 87.281%
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: Loretta Lynn was one of the first female superstars in country music and remains a defining presence within the genre;... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

#22
#22
Adjusted Score: 90.721%
Critics Consensus: Brilliant performances, lush cinematography, and complex storytelling deserve audience's attention.
Synopsis: The touching and incredible true story of Jacqueline and Hilary du Pre, the gifted musical sisters who grew up in... [More]
Directed By: Anand Tucker

#21

Sweet Dreams (1985)
90%

#21
Adjusted Score: 90.741%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Jessica Lange stunningly portrays Patsy Cline, the velvet-voiced country music singer who died in a tragic plane crash at the... [More]
Directed By: Karel Reisz

#20

Control (2007)
88%

#20
Adjusted Score: 91.451%
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: Ian Curtis has aspirations beyond the trappings of small town life in 1970s England. Wanting to emulate his musical heroes,... [More]
Directed By: Anton Corbijn

#19

Born To Be Blue (2016)
88%

#19
Adjusted Score: 92.086%
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: Ethan Hawke lights up the screen as jazz legend Chet Baker, whose tumultuous life is thrillingly reimagined with wit, verve,... [More]
Directed By: Robert Budreau

#18

Shine (1996)
91%

#18
Adjusted Score: 92.96%
Critics Consensus: Featuring a strong performance from Geoffrey Rush, Shine succeeds in telling a compelling, inspirational story without resorting to cheap sentimentality.
Synopsis: This wrenching true story chronicles the tumultuous life of Australian concert pianist David Helfgott, whose domineering, over-protective father drove him... [More]
Directed By: Scott Hicks

#17
Adjusted Score: 93.255%
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: The highly acclaimed and famously eccentric classical pianist Glenn Gould is the subject of this idiosyncratic film portrait. As the... [More]
Directed By: François Girard

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 92.272%
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: One of the most popular movie musicals of all time, The Sound of Music is based on the true story... [More]
Directed By: Robert Wise

#15

Sid and Nancy (1986)
88%

#15
Adjusted Score: 94.008%
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: Punk rock's first great embodiment of the motto "live fast and die young," Sid Vicious joined The Sex Pistols when... [More]
Directed By: Alex Cox

#14
#14
Adjusted Score: 93.659%
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: The life of the renowned musical composer, playwright, actor, dancer, and singer George M. Cohan.... [More]

#13
#13
Adjusted Score: 98.423%
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 the mid-1980s, the streets of Compton, California, were some of the most dangerous in the country. When five young... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#12

Funny Girl (1968)
93%

#12
Adjusted Score: 97.315%
Critics Consensus: Barbara Streisand elevates this otherwise rote melodramatic musical with her ultra-memorable star turn as Fanny Brice.
Synopsis: "Hello, gorgeous!" was Barbra Streisand's first comment to the Oscar statuette which she won for her performance in this biopic... [More]
Directed By: William Wyler

#11

Love & Mercy (2015)
89%

#11
Adjusted Score: 97.114%
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: LOVE & MERCY presents an unconventional portrait of Brian Wilson, the mercurial singer, songwriter and leader of The Beach Boys.... [More]
Directed By: Bill Pohlad

#10

Blaze (2018)
95%

#10
Adjusted Score: 98.19%
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: BLAZE is inspired by the life of Blaze Foley, the unsung songwriting legend of the Texas outlaw music movement that... [More]
Directed By: Ethan Hawke

#9
#9
Adjusted Score: 97.621%
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: Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of... [More]
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh

#8

La Bamba (1987)
91%

#8
Adjusted Score: 94.004%
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: La Bamba is the story of 1950s rock 'n' roll rage Ritchie Valens (born Ricardo Valenzuela), played herein with gusto... [More]
Directed By: Luis Valdez

#7
Adjusted Score: 101.232%
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: What's Love Got to Do With It? is the filmed biography of R&B/pop singer Tina Turner (Angela Bassett), documenting her... [More]
Directed By: Brian Gibson

#6

The Pianist (2002)
95%

#6
Adjusted Score: 100.126%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted and dramatically moving, The Pianist is Polanski's best work in years.
Synopsis: An adaptation based on the autobiography of the acclaimed Polish composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, who detailed his survival during World War... [More]
Directed By: Roman Polanski

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 100.138%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: MGM's Till the Clouds Roll By is the musicalized, and highly fictionalized, life story of beloved composer Jerome Kern, who... [More]
Directed By: Richard Whorf

#4

Amadeus (1984)
93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 101.137%
Critics Consensus: A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture's great artists.
Synopsis: For this film adaptation of Peter Shaffer's Broadway hit, director Milos Forman returned to the city of Prague that he'd... [More]
Directed By: Milos Forman

#3

'Round Midnight (1986)
100%

#3
Adjusted Score: 101.092%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A French music lover befriends a once-great American jazz artist and attempts to save him from self-destruction in this moody... [More]
Directed By: Bertrand Tavernier

#2
#2
Adjusted Score: 102.582%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Gary Busey's sterling performance as Buddy Holly graces this entertaining film biography of this pioneering rock and roll performer. The... [More]
Directed By: Steve Rash

#1

Rocketman (2019)
89%

#1
Adjusted Score: 105.753%
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: ROCKETMAN is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John's breakthrough years. The film follows the... [More]
Directed By: Dexter Fletcher

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