Total Recall: Our Favorite Rock 'n' Roll Movies
RT staffers share our favorite movies that rock.
Ryan Fujitani, Community Manager
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!