I’m not talking about musicals here, though Singing in the Rain would certainly be there if I were (perhaps the greatest musical of all time, topped only by The Sound of Music for its kitsch-cult factor). I’m talking about capturing the zeitgeist of when you were young. Is it nostalgia, that somewhat dirty yet deceptively sweet and bitter feeling that brings me back to my idealistic and stupid younger self? Does that give my age away? Yikes! But no, I wasn’t even alive for Beatlemania, too young to remember the beginnings of punk. No matter your age, thanks to these music movies, our collective consciousness remembers.
1. A Hard Day’s Night (1964) – Richard Lester’s groundbreaking Beatles film! Sweeeeeet…
2. Syd and Nancy (1986) – Alex Cox, who also gave us Repo Man, directs the brilliant Gary Oldman in the morbid punk bio of The Sex Pistols’ Syd Vicious, accused of murdering his girfriend Nancy Spungeon.
3. Stop Making Sense (1984) –Perhaps the greatest concert film of all time, Jonathan Demme film of The Talking Heads leaves me with two words: Big Suit!
4. Gimme Shelter (1970) – This is not so much a concert film of the Rolling Stones’ 1969 tour, as a document of the death of the Sixties at Altamont.
5. Big Time (1988) – I was eighteen when I saw this and fell in love with Tom Waits forever.
6. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980) – One of the best biographical music films out there, starring Sissy Spacek in an uncanny performance as Loretta Lynn. And what a life she had!
7. The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) – Penelope Spheeris, who later gave us Wayne’s World, first made her mark with this excellent documentary on the 1980s LA punk scene.
8. ‘Round Midnight (1986) – Bertrand Tavernier gives us legendary jazz musician Dexter Gordon as the fictional tenor sax player Dale Turner in a film that captures the 1950s jazz world.
9. 24 Hour Party People (2002) – I’m a fan of both director Michael Winterbottom and Joy Division (though the movie focuses more on the band’s label), so that’s why this movie makes the list.
10. This is Spinal Tap (1984) – Rob Reiner’s eminently quotable rock mockumentary that turns it up to 11! Co-writer Christopher Guest would go on to make A Mighty Wind, also worthy of mention, but Spinal Tap defined the genre.