We know it’s only rock ‘n’ roll … but we like it! Especially when it’s captured on screen in some of the most memorable rock-music films in Hollywood’s history. Now that Adam Shankman’s Rock of Ages is ready to spray Aqua Net all over ‘80s rock fans, we figured this was the ideal time to celebrate our favorite rock movies. And thanks to Nigel Tufnel, legendary guitarist of Spinal Tap, this list goes to 11 …
11. Rock Star
Few of us could live up to the challenge of singing lead vocals for our favorite rock band. So when “Izzy” Cole (Mark Wahlberg) steps up to the mic to impress the members of his beloved group, Steel Dragon, the dopey Rock Star becomes more than just a tired cover of a rags-to-riches story. It becomes movie-music magic.
10. The Last Waltz
Martin Scorsese has directed numerous documentaries about key moments in rock history, from the early days of the Beatles to the later stages of the Rolling Stones. His best remains The Last Waltz, which captures the last performance of The Band, and is bursting at the seams with memorable guest performers such as Eric Clapton, Neil Young and … Neil Diamond?!
9. Rock & Roll High School
The Ramones didn’t care much about history, but they rocked their way through the groovy, gritty cult classic Rock & Roll High School. As punk and anti-system as the New York punk gods themselves, the fictional story basically pauses mid-movie for a short and sweet Ramones concert. No complaints on our end.
8. The Rocker
The Rocker was supposed to be The Office star Rainn Wilson’s breakout film, the comedy that showed he was capable of bigger things than Dwight Shrute. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. But The Rocker does get credit for casting the hot-off-Superbad Emma Stone, whose career is about to swing even higher courtesy of The Amazing Spider-Man.
7. Anvil: The Story of Anvil
What if Spinal Tap were true? That’s what Sacha Gervasi’s heartwrenching documentary Anvil asks (and answers), following two old metalheads as they continue to tour with their rock outfit years after their window of opportunity has closed. Equal parts inspiring and depressing, Anvil captures the reality of rock. Hint: It’s not all sex, drugs and superstardom.
More of a blues ode than a straight-up rock track, Walter Hill’s Crossroads featured young Ralph Macchio as a stubborn, budding guitarist eager to sell his soul to the devil (Robert Judd). But when Macchio has to face off against Satan’s top ax man (Steve Vai), Crossroads roars into the Stratocaster stratosphere, and becomes an instant music classic.
5. That Thing You Do!
Tom Hanks’ winning directorial debut maps out with pop-music giddiness what it feels like to rocket to superstardom as an overnight sensation … then come crashing back down to Earth once reality sets in. The title track has to be one of the catchiest songs written specifically for the silver screen, and Tom Everett Scott steals the show as Guy, the charming drummer (in a role Hanks would have played 20 years earlier).
4. A Hard Day’s Night
This time capsule of the Beatles’ earliest days would rank higher on our list if it had more performance footage. The camera adores the charismatic Fab Four, and their sense of humor proves they might have been stars even without their songs. Too bad director Richard Lester’s rockumentary fractures off into a dozen oddball subplots involving Paul McCartney’s grandfather and Ringo Starr’s imprisonment.
3. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Glam rock with a twist, as John Cameron Mitchell tells – with incredible flair – the story of an East German transvestite whose dreams of rock stardom are shattered again and again by love. A killer soundtrack and Mitchell’s fearless performance power Angry Inch to No. 3 on our list.
2. Almost Famous
Cameron Crowe’s love letter to backstage relationships and life on the road with a rock and roll band. Everyone remembers the tour-bus sing-along to Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” But our favorite has to be Stillwater’s first live performance … and Penny Lane (Kate Hudson) pulling the pen out of young William’s hand so he’ll stop taking notes and watch life happening right before his eyes.
1. This Is Spinal Tap
Rob Reiner’s movie was supposed to be a spoof, a comedy so broad it clearly states its intention of making fun of a rock band’s tour life. Yet Spinal Tap hit so many targets with pinpoint accuracy that it has become the quintessential rock ‘n’ roll movie, a must-see for anyone who has ever dreamed of being in a band … or ever listened to rock ‘n’ roll music, period.