Icons of Rock: the greatest rock biopics of all time

Whether you're a rock fan or not, these four films are sure to give you an adrenaline rush. Check out our list of the greatest rock biopics of all time!


4 legendary films that every music fan needs to see!

greatest rock biopics
What are the greatest rock biopics of our time? Source: Adobe Stock.

Rock biopics have become a staple in Hollywood, especially in the last decade. While not everyone will agree on what the greatest rock biopics are, their popularity amongst music fans is unquestionable. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a never-seen-before phenomenon, but it divided Queen fans as to its accuracy. The newest release of the kind is Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis”. The movie seems to have been embraced by the audience much more than the critics. 

What everyone can agree on is how much of a cherished form rock biopics are. Whether you’re a fan of these icons or not. When done properly, a great biopic can deliver a rush of excitement that makes it unique. While these movies are about the art and the artist, they’re also about fame. They’re about the pure form of rock, punk, funk, soul and hip-hop. 

The greatest rock biopics are much more than an actor playing an icon, but actually becoming them. In that sense, the audience can really understand the power music can have on someone. Kind of like in a save-your-soul type of religion. Below, you’ll see our picks for the four greatest rock biopics that deserve this kind of praise. 

Control, directed by Anton Corbijn

This rock biopic tells the story of Joy Division’s frontman, Ian Curtis. The singer took his own life when he was 23 years old in 1980. His suicide turned Joy Division into one of the most famous band in the world. Which created what is known today as postpunk and gothic rock. In Anton Corbijn’s acclaimed biopic, he manages to elevate while also undercut the image the audience has of Ian Curtis as the depressive voice of the 80’s English music scene. 

Sam Riley is responsible for portraying Curtis with an eerie similarity, especially in the concert scenes. Curtis’ trademark, which was him flinging his arms during live songs, were masterfully reproduced by Riley. Shot entirely in black and white, “Control” shows the audience another side of Curtis. Torn between his normal life at home and the temptations of becoming a rock star. 

Love & Mercy, directed by Bill Pohlad

greatest rock biopics
There are many worship-worthy biopics out there. Source: Adobe Stock.

One of the greatest rock biopics of recent times, Love & Mercy tells the story of Brian Wilson – the damaged wunderkind of the Beach Boys. For much of the movie, the audience is in the studio with Wilson as he creates what is his band’s most famous album: “Pet Sounds”.

The biopic does a wonderful job of engaging the viewer as Wilson works out his musical arrangements. From crafting his masterpiece with the Wrecking Crew to teaching his brothers how to bring to life the masterpiece he’s got in his own mind. 

During the movie’s first half, Paul Dano plays a young and spacey Brian Wilson with a delicate attention to Wilson’s desire for the perfect sounds. The biopic also explores the singer’s struggles with his mental-health issues and how intricate they are with his creative process. 

In the second half, John Cusack is responsible for playing Wilson two decades later. Then, the audience gets to witness how he’s become a mess under the “care” of Eugene Landy, played masterfully by Paul Giamatti. The story of how Wilson managed to free himself from Landy is as emotional as it is suspenseful. 

Ray, directed by Taylor Hackford

Undoubtedly one of the greatest rock biopics of our time, Jamie Foxx channels Ray Charles in a way you can almost confuse the two. The movie pays tribute to the pioneer of soul, blues and jazz while also exploring his flawed humanity.

Taylor Hackford creates a moving story in which Foxx is allowed to use Ray’s blindness as a pivotal factor for the way the singer was able to read people with laser-like abilities. The biopic does a great job in staying true to Ray Charles’ life story. While the audience gets to experience firsthand the runaway train to soul heaven, it also gets to witness Ray’s downfall. 

While Ray’s genius is undeniable, it becomes apparent that he’s become one of the most successful soul artists by controlling literally everything around him. His music, his women, his drugs and his business. Ray shows the viewer – with laser precision – how the artist’s unchecked ego was his undoing, even while forging a sound as big as the country he was born in. 

I’m Not There, directed by Todd Haynes

greatest rock biopics
Rock biopics became a staple in Hollywood. Source: Adobe Stock.

One of the greatest rock biopics of all time, Todd Hayne’s six-part movie with half a dozen Bob Dylan’s wasn’t much of a hit when it was announced. Many considered it an overreach for an Academy Award, but Haynes’ proved them wrong as he is one of the sensible deconstructionists of our generation. 

This movie has six different actors playing Bob Dylan in six different guises, and each segment is as if a movie of its own. Haynes does a masterful job in showing the audience the dirty little secrets of Dylan’s catalog. One, that it was never really folk music. And two, that his lyrics matter much less than the average music fan would like to admit. 

The biopic presents itself as a series of epiphanies. The viewer gets to see the 1965 celebrity enigma and stone hipster Dylan, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchett. There’s also Christian Bale embodying Dylan’s Christian phase in the 80’s by playing the gospel tune “Pressing On” in a very moving way. In another segment, you get to see late talent Heath Ledger engage the audiences while talking about Dylan’s well known marital issues. 

These many facets of Bob Dylan are as different from each other as they could possibly ever be. But what brings the movie altogether is Haynes’ passion for Dylan’s stories and his music. The biopic’s intention is to attract the audience into understanding that passion. Which it does, and which is why “I’m Not There” is truly one of the greatest rock biopics ever.

If you’re a film enthusiast, follow the link below. In it, you’ll see our picks for the best Amazon Prime Video original productions.

Amazon Prime Video

The best Amazon Prime Video original movies

Amazon Prime Video has produced some of the most artful and interesting films of the past few years. Check out our list of the best Amazon originals!

About the author  /  Aline Barbosa

Aline Barbosa is an editor, writer and learning-enthusiast. Passionate about music, books and human behavior. Curious about the unknown. Believer that learning is a life-long process.

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