Great films where music is a central theme.

I'm a film lover for as long as I can remember. There's nothing like a film that combines my passion for music and film. I'm going to leave out concert films from this, as there are plenty of threads on that. Lets stick to other films - dramas or documentaries - that use music as a central theme, or have it as a key element in the narrative. Here are a few of my own favorites to get the ball rolling.

As it is in Heaven
The Bands Visit
Schultze Gets the Blues
Troubled Water (the Erik Poppe film)
Sweet and Lowdown
'Round Midnight
I'm Not Here


Throw Down Your Heart
The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Lets Get Close (Bruce Weber)
Buena Vista Social Club
Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back
Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man

So it's really could be split into two threads; Narative films and Documentaries. But lets try leaving it open to both, just no concert films. What are some of your favorites?
Thought of a few more...


Tous Les Matins Du Monde
The Doors


Shine a Light
This is Going to Get Loud
Hi Marco,

My favorite film having music "as a key element in the narrative" would have to be "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg". All of its narrative is, in fact, music -- every word in the film is sung, rather than spoken. It is a visual tour de force as well, in addition to being a very touching love story.

Best regards,
-- Al
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Al - I have that soundtrack, but never did see the film. I'm going to have to put in on my queue!

Zman - Oh Brother, why didn't I remember that one!? Great call. Another one in a similar genre of music:


I confess, I don't get Harry Met Sally though - you mean the one set in Seattle, or is there another one?

Viridian - Loved that film (especially Jack Black and that other guy behind the counter)! I love all of Nick Hornby's books actually. About a Boy, is also quite good , though music has only a tiny roll in it.

Shardone - it's going on my queue. I don't think I've seen it.

Here's two more:


This is going to do my waning Netflix queue some good I can tell.

PS The Bruce Weber film on Chet Baker should have been, "Lets Get Lost" = Brain fart on my part.
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Well, not so great film but fun. XXX (with Vin Diesel) soundtrack. I play it loud on the way home from work on a Friday like today.
Ah, now great soundtracks are the subject for a whole other thread and that's not what I was getting at. Sorry if that wasn't clear. What I'm looking for are either narative films (dramas) where music is a central theme of the narative, or plays a central roll in the actual story itself. Or documentary films about music/musicmakers.

So films like When Harry Met Sally, and the Vin Diesel film, might have a great soundtrack, but it is not what I'm asking for here because music does not have any substantial part of the story (actually I haven't seen the Vin Diesel film, but going on a hunch). Whereas a film like, The Commitments, is a story around the theme of music making, and your other great suggestion, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, has the central characters playing in a band, and where that genre of music has a big roll throughout that film.

I think there's a "Great Soundtracks" thread somewhere in the archives where those suggestions would be appropriate. Again, sorry If my OP was not clear.


Dazed and Confused

The Big Chill

Five Easy Pieces

Almost Famous (or most any Cameron Crowe film, going all the way back to Fast Times at Ridgemont High)

Note: I don't know if any of these except Five Easy Pieces and Goodfellas qualify as "great films," but the music is certainly central to them all.
With me it is no contest. Schindler's list.

Huh?!?! Did you mean to say, The Pianist? I cannot recall music playing a roll in Schindler's List but maybe it's been too long since I've seen it.

Then there's, The Piano.
Hillary and Jackie:

Great moment early on, about the difference between good and great.

Odd feature of the movie: including some actual facts that make it *less* believable.

Again, hoping not to become a broken record and wish I could explain it somewhat better, but I'm not interested in films with great soundtracks, or where the story happens to be driven along with music with a very specific theme like Pulp Fiction (that would NOT be what I'm after). It's not at all that the film has a great soundtrack, or a director that has amazing musical's not about Hans Zimmer scores or the strong support of 70's music to create a period piece. None of that. You good people get an "F"....OK, you get a "E" for contributing and making an effort, but really it's not what I'm after. Music must have a place in the actual story of the film, that is beyond someone turning on the radio, or Jack Nicholson having McIntosh gear in As Good as it Gets. Maybe someone plays in a band, or there is an orchestra or an instrument that has a central roll (and, " time at band camp..." would not qualify here). And yes, I am looking for films you'd actually recommend that others see, not something mediocre. Greatness does not need to be the qualifying descriptor though. So based on my premise, Five Easy Pieces, Goodfellas and Fast Times at Ridgemont High are DQ'd and outta here. Music is not part of any of those stories (at least not that I remember). Almost Famous, absolutely has music as a central theme to the story. Brilliant!

Here are just a few more to keep this on the right track:


Good Morning Vietnam
Topsy Turvy
Flawless (this is a real sleeper, and a great movie in my book - Deniro and Phillip Seymore Hoffman)


Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037

OK, now don't make me get the steel ruler out, or start sending folks to the principal's office. Lets get this thread on track boys and girls!

Alright, now we're talking! Between my two posts - all great suggestions!! That's exactly what I meant! Thank you!
Of course there is always Alex and Ludwig van in Clockwork Orange. And Blues Brothers. And it that vein, there is also Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with his great Danke Schoen cover in downtown Chicago.

Great thread.
What about A Mighty Wind? And/or This is Spinal Tap? And, as an aside, I realize that it's not a movie, the HBO series Treme, for sure. Close Encounters is close. I'm sure there are more...
Great calls, all, Bikecommuter! Right on. I meant to post Treme but I got to busy setting the thread on course. HBO is putting out some very fine films and series, for sure. Not sure I get the Close Encounters connection though.

Sid & Nancy
Black Swan
A Carter Burwell music score with guitarist
David Torn, a percussionist and orchestra.
A little known but great soundtrack.
My brother in all things musical, Richard! I knew where there was music, you'd come a callin'! How's the power tools and football working for you? Pop open a Pabst for me, my friend.

Once - I really loved that film, but Afranta did mention it already. It bears repeating as it's wonderful. Great soundtrack to boot (now don't anyone latch onto that statement and start giving me soundtracks again or I'm going to have Richard come by with his impact driver). NO soundtracks please. Richard, I just know you're going to come up with something brilliant that I've missed though.

Here's one more:

The Lisbon Story (Wim Wenders beautiful quiet film - one of the few I actually own)

Great movies? Well, certainly entertaining:
The Legend of 1900
Mr. Holland's Opus
School of Rock (Jack Black)
The Country Bears (don't laugh--lots of great cameos and performances)
The Rocker
Does Help clear the bar? I also want to add Trainspotting, but I can't say that music is a theme within the movie; music does, however, move the narrative thematically. Your call...
"New York,New York" and the original..."The man i love" with Ida Lupino.To keep this thread legit i think that music has to be the axis of the story.So movies with music that don't fuel the plot are well meaning but may be the sound of one hand clapping.
The cotton club -great album....crazy-hank garland story.Ray...american grafitti-another great album...especially the song the stroll WOW...

Ah, I gotcha. Yep, most of my picks would be disqualified by that criteria, though I would argue that Five Easy Pieces still qualifies.
Nebin and Erndog, Richard is on his way to your homes with his impact driver and rotohammer. He won't be doing any home repair either.

OK, now everyone repeat after me: This is NOT a soundtrack thread!

There are numerous soundtracks thread out there and this is NOT one of them. Please, no more soundtracks. Music as actual story content. Unless James Spader is actually playing a drum kit in Storyville (or if you are referring to the Storyville that is about the first legal red light district in America), or Russel Crowe is conducting a symphony of Gladiators, those films are not what I'm after.

OK, now I AM sounding like a broken record. What do I need to do to make it any more clear?
How about Clyde? I guess it wasn't the central theme but the scenes where he was making his electronic music in the living room were priceless.

Yea Marco, I've been building footers all day and my Carharts are just soaked. Gonna crack open a 40 and kick back to some Nascar. Yup.

Is it just my house or do your wives get all freaked to watch shark week on the Discovery channel? Must be something seriously phallic about those big ass fish.
Walter - it's been way too long since I've seen Five Easy Pieces but I'll take your word and offer my apologies for that one.

"Clyde", Richard? You makin' this up? I haven't heard of it and couldn't find what you are talkin' 'bout on IMDB. You're chuggin' down those Mickey's Big Mouth's a bit quickly. Shark Week will do that. Did you get the addresses for Erndog and Nebin yet. When you're done with them head on over to ChetAtkins place - oh, wait Cotton Club neutralizes his mention of Full Metal Jacket. I guess we'll hold off there. Though he did put some stress on the soundtrack...yeah, get the address and I'll mull that one over.

NO SOUNDTRACKS!!!!!! I am not interested in great soundtracks here. Movies that are compelling enough for you to recommend that include music as part of the actual story content of the movie. I don't care about the soundtrack - it could suck, or it could have none at all.
Ummm... that's no impact driver big boy.

As long as you know how to use it when you get to their homes. I hope you're keeping a list now.
Ha! I am spaced. I meant Cyrus.

Speaking of soundtracks, I just remembered a whole list of great soundtracks! Great thread Marco! I love soundtracks!

Wait...a great white is breaching on a seal...gotta run...
Risking the wrath:

To Live and Die in LA (Wang-Chung)
Bonnie and Clyde (Flats and Scrugs)
Blade Runner (Vangelis)
U.S. Marshalls

Yeah, I can understand how one might confuse Clyde with Cyrus. The two are so similar. Yeah, Cyrus was a pretty amusing film and yes, it qualifies in my thread, which is NOT ABOUT &(*$((*((#*&%)&)(*)#&%#$* SOUNDTRACKS! Oh man, I think I busted a vein in my neck.

Crazy Heart
La Bamba
The Importance of Being Morrissey
Pirate Radio
Velvet Goldmine
Kill Your Idols
Coal Miner's Daughter

It's been fun, thanks.
+1 Standing in the Shadows of Motown!


It Might Get Loud (documentary)
The Wall
The Blues Brothers
Buena Vista Social Club