Total Recall: Our Favorite Rock 'n' Roll Movies

RT staffers share our favorite movies that rock.

Ryan Fujitani, Community Manager

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Wayne's World

Say what you will about the goofy, sometimes inane antics of basement cable access stars Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, but they know a thing or two about rock music. What started as a popular recurring sketch on Saturday Night Live finally made the jump to the big screen in 1992, and the duo (played by SNL veterans Mike Myers and Dana Carvey) proved they could be just as funny (if not funnier) in movies as they were on TV. air this with the fact that they're diehard fans of quality music, not to mention the film is directed by Penelope Spheeris (The Decline of Western Civilization), and I think it's fairly obvious why I'd consider this one of my favorite rock and roll movies. From the hilarious Alice Cooper cameo to the "No Stairway to Heaven" rule to Garth's lustful freakout set to the tune of "Foxy Lady," the fingerprints of rock fandom can be found all over Wayne's World. And let's be honest: who among us doesn't picture the gang headbanging in Wayne's AMC Pacer every time they hear Bohemian Rhapsody now?




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Once

In 2007, a small Irish film came out of nowhere to grab the world's attention, earning high praise from critics and going on to win Best Original Song at the 2008 Academy Awards. Written and directed by John Carney, former bassist of the Irish band the Frames, the film stars the band's lead vocalist and guitarist, Glen Hansard, as a busker who forms a bond with a girl (Marketa Irglova, also a musician, from the Czech Republic) who sells flowers and happens to play the piano. The film is notable for its striking musical performances (all original pieces) and its powerful emotional core, but it also succeeds in portraying the struggles of an aspiring musician and the circumstances that shape his work. Once was one of my favorite films of that year, and featured a stunning soundtrack with performances by Hansard and Irglova that mirrored their onscreen chemistry.




Jeff Giles, Contributor

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Decline of Western Civilization Part 2

It's still a little hard for me to believe, but Penelope Spheeris, the woman who directed Wayne's World and Black Sheep was also responsible for two of the most important rockumentaries of the '80s: 1981's punk doc The Decline of Western Civilization and its 1988 sequel, which forsook critically respected acts like Circle Jerks and Black Flag for a look at the hard rock scene in late '80s L.A. Emphasizing the hair metal of the era, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II includes classic interviews with stars of the genre (such as Paul Stanley, Steven Tyler, and Ozzy) as well as less popular acts like London, Odin, and Seduce. It's packed with memorable moments that are as entertaining as they are terrifying -- most notably the footage of W.A.S.P.'s Chris Holmes dousing himself with epic quantities of vodka. More fun than Poison's entire discography, Decline Part II is 93 fascinating minutes, even if -- like me -- you were never a whole-hearted hesher.




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The Blues Brothers

Some people love it because it's funny. Some love it because of its insane climactic car chase. Some just love the sight of young Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. Me? I count The Blues Brothers among my favorite rock 'n' roll flicks because of the soundtrack -- and because of the incredible lineup of soul survivors Paul Shaffer recruited for the Brothers' backing band, including Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Willie Hall, and...well, you get the idea. Humorless purists criticized the Blues Brothers for trivializing the work of the genre's real artists, but that's nonsense; Aykroyd and Belushi's loving homage to Stax soul and Chicago blues helped usher in a revival -- and, more importantly, helped keep more than a few unjustly forgotten performers fed. They may not have been on a real mission from God, but they came close enough.




Sara Schieron, Contributor

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Quadrophenia

Franc Roddam's mod opus Quadrophenia would have been a light through the clouds to me -- if I'd seen it when I was 15. But I saw it late: years after my Doc Martens had been sent unceremoniously out to the trash, years after my last defense of Morrissey as a god-head whose name is not Mos and moons since I'd listened to The Jam. But then Roddam and the Who made it kind of late. Based on their 1973 rock opera, the film version (released in 1979) saw delays in exhibition after bandmember Keith Moon passed away. Perhaps as a result, the film has a sense of mourning to it that feeds into its tragic nostalgia for the era passed. It's a messily specific valentine to the era: an anti-coming of age story about kids as detached from their realities as they are itching to get a glimpse at a place darker and truer than their working class worlds. Sure, the Mod we think of today is the 1980s resurrection of the identity, but that stuff started somewhere, and knowing the history can sure give the maudlin skies a little more clarity.




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Linda Linda Linda

Nobuhiro Yamashita's Linda, Linda, Linda treats the process of starting a high school band like a team-building exercise -- and why not? Music doesn't have to be all identity-obsessed like High Fidelity, or drug-laden like Sid and Nancy. This super-cute, Japanese concert film is wholesome. That's right, I said wholesome. About a foursome of teens gearing up for a bandslam, Linda, Linda, Linda follows three Japanese schoolgirls and their South Korean exchange student singer as each of them learns something major: how to play drums, how to speak Japanese, and how to reject a boy -- all while they keep their grades up. The title song, which the girls cover and play for their Battle of the Bands, is a revival of a catchy little post-punk number by the Blue Hearts, and its just the thing to unleash all the energy these girls pack so tightly into their properly regimented scholastic endeavors. This performance is like their opportunity to break out -- in all kinds of memorable ways.




Gabi Jacobs, Creative Director

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Hedwig and the Angry Inch

This is the most sophisticated, edgy and unique musical I've ever seen. It tells the story of a boy who escapes a domineering mother and East Germany in search of stardom and love, embarking on a journey that finds him, or her, living in a Kansas trailer park and performing his music in strip-malls after a botched sex change...hence the name of her band, The Angry Inch. It doesn't get more original than that. John Cameron Mitchell, adapting the script from his own play, brings Hedwig to life in this very successful and memorable film.




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Purple Rain

Loosely based on events in Prince's life, this Academy and Grammy award-winning movie takes me back to a magical starry night at the drive-in during my teens. While perhaps not the best-acted movie I've seen, one thing's for sure: the music's great. Boasting a classic, hit-packed soundtrack, Purple Rain remains incomparable 25 years after its release. I miss the 1980s!




Take a look through the rest of our Total Recall archives, including our favorite fake bands from the movies. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Pirate Radio.

Comments

Brandon O.

Brandon Olaisen

No love for Almost Famous?

Oct 26 - 04:07 PM

Gridz21

Patrick Mullen

This list is missing Tommy, La Bamba, Pink Floyd The Wall, and A Hard Day's Night. Good call on Blues Brothers, Wayne's World, and Quadrophenia though.

Oct 30 - 03:37 PM

Mike F.

mike falconi

almost famous???????

Oct 26 - 04:10 PM

mufflermachinegun

stephen riddle

"Once" is about as rock n' roll as going to bed at a decent hour. Was hoping to see "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" on here, but glad "Dig!" got some props.

Oct 26 - 04:10 PM

Dr.Sabotage

nathaniel combs

Why is there no Almost Famous, Rock Star, or The Wall?

Oct 26 - 04:17 PM

Park M.

Park Mohler

The Wall and I'm Not There belong on this list, for certain.

Oct 26 - 04:22 PM

chille

doctor awesome

A Hard Day's Night?

Oct 26 - 04:24 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Stop Making Sense is one of my top 10 favorite films of all-time.

OF ALL TIMES

I've seen it, or had it on in the background, countless times. Only problem is when TOM TOM CLUB's annoying as hell song, GENIUS OF LOVE, is played, but I've grown adept at skipping it. . .

Oct 26 - 04:32 PM

josuepilk

Josue Pilk

Major props to Stop Making Sense, David Byrne was the leading man of the 80s. Tom Waits Jr., you may be the coolest guy I've never met. For anyone looking for an entirely different view of the Rock n' Roll lifestyle, I would recommend New York Doll.

Oct 26 - 04:44 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

josuepilk,

Thanks for the compliment! And yah, I have the movie NEW YORK DOLL in my instant viewing queue on NETFLIX, but as you point them out, I'll try to see it sooner rather than later.

I also sent you a private RT message.

Oct 26 - 05:36 PM

Dave J

Dave J

the last waltz

Oct 26 - 04:47 PM

amir m.

amir mishali

yes! where is the last waltz?

Oct 27 - 06:26 AM

Zak

Zak Lopopolo

No Almost Famous, A Hard Day's Night, or even This Is Spinal Tap?

Oct 26 - 05:02 PM

TheEmoPianist

Christopher Runyon

Almost Famous?
A Hard Day's Night?
This Is Spinal Tap?
The Wall?
NOT EVEN SCHOOL OF ROCK?!?!

Oct 26 - 05:04 PM

RT-Matchity

Matt Atchity

Keep in mind, we were picking our own personal faves this time around. I couldn't force anyone to pick one of those movies as their favorite.

Oct 26 - 05:26 PM

will s.

will stamp

oh MAAAN. I was gunna say spinal tap! ya'llssz STOLE it from me. ya JERKS.

Oct 26 - 05:20 PM

RT-Matchity

Matt Atchity

Keep in mind, we were picking our own personal faves this time around. I couldn't force anyone to pick one of those movies as their favorite.

Oct 26 - 05:26 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I'd have to go with This is Spinal Tap, but others worthy of note...

The Doors,
Tommy
Top Secret
Air Heads

Oct 26 - 05:28 PM

RT-Matchity

Matt Atchity

Air Heads? Really?

Oct 26 - 05:39 PM

Brandotalks

Dave Callaghan

AirHeads rocks!!! If you don't like it, "your all woohoo and sh*t!"
That dance Adam Sandler does when walks out and the cop is waiting cracks me up everytime! The late Chris Farley as the cop in the bar. Micheal McKean as the sleezy programing director. Micheal Richards pre-Sienfield, David Arquette as the stoner(and provider of the quote above), the person I didn't really like was Brendan Fraser.
It is most definately to taken with some nice skunkage.

Oct 27 - 01:13 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I know, but there's something just so wonderfully 80's hairband about it, plus a great cast for such a plainly unambitious movie.

Eddie and the Cruisers, it's a guilty pleasure as a crappy B movie.

Oct 27 - 05:39 AM

Jamie E.

Jamie Evans

The problem with these lists is everyone's top ten is different. Some of us saw a movie at a certain time, that no matter how crappy it is, it is still on of our favorites. I remember 'Eddie and the Cruisers' being one of those movies. I think I saw it when I was about 10.
'This is Spinal Tap' should definitely be on there as well as one or two Beatles movies. 'The Doors' was also a great movie.

Oct 29 - 09:42 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Oh and Anvil, the story of Anvil.

Oct 26 - 05:31 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

Great Balls of Fire...sorry last one.

Oct 26 - 05:34 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

josuepilk,

Thanks for the compliment! And yah, I have the movie NEW YORK DOLL in my instant viewing queue on NETFLIX, but as you point them out, I'll try to see it sooner rather than later.

I also sent you a private RT message.

Oct 26 - 05:36 PM

JohnnyJonJon

Jonathan Groen

This is going to sound really cheesy, but I would pick The Buddy Holly Story as one of my faves. Where else can you see Gary Busey rock it out and is actually....good? Also, props to Once, This is Spinal Tap, and School of Rock.

Oct 26 - 05:38 PM

RT-Matchity

Matt Atchity

Air Heads? Really?

Oct 26 - 05:39 PM

Brandotalks

Dave Callaghan

AirHeads rocks!!! If you don't like it, "your all woohoo and sh*t!"
That dance Adam Sandler does when walks out and the cop is waiting cracks me up everytime! The late Chris Farley as the cop in the bar. Micheal McKean as the sleezy programing director. Micheal Richards pre-Sienfield, David Arquette as the stoner(and provider of the quote above), the person I didn't really like was Brendan Fraser.
It is most definately to taken with some nice skunkage.

Oct 27 - 01:13 AM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I know, but there's something just so wonderfully 80's hairband about it, plus a great cast for such a plainly unambitious movie.

Eddie and the Cruisers, it's a guilty pleasure as a crappy B movie.

Oct 27 - 05:39 AM

Jamie E.

Jamie Evans

The problem with these lists is everyone's top ten is different. Some of us saw a movie at a certain time, that no matter how crappy it is, it is still on of our favorites. I remember 'Eddie and the Cruisers' being one of those movies. I think I saw it when I was about 10.
'This is Spinal Tap' should definitely be on there as well as one or two Beatles movies. 'The Doors' was also a great movie.

Oct 29 - 09:42 AM

David S.

David Schwartz

The Commitments? Maybe it's a Soul movie instead of a Rock n Roll movie...

Oct 26 - 05:53 PM

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