The success of Straight Outta Compton, which was No. 1 at the box office for the third straight week, has reminded Hollywood that people are suckers for movies about the music they love. And while there is no shortage of biopics about individual singers – Ray Charles in Ray, Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It, Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, Ritchie Valens in La Bamba, just to name a few – there’s a surprising dearth of movies that tell the real life stories of bands. There’s Oliver Stone’s The Doors and Spice World?
Here are some of our picks for bands whose stories weave together enough drama, heartbreak and triumph to make a great film. Hollywood, we leave this list in your hands.
Even just starting in 1975, when Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined the group, there would be easily enough love, longing and strife through the production of Rumours to fill up a two-hour feature. Fleetwood Mac: The Movie could tell the story about how the band overcame drug use, affairs and more to put out some of the best rock albums ever – and against all odds, ended up reuniting decades later.
2. Milli Vanilli
No, not every band on this list will be an enduring favorite. What makes Milli Vanilli’s story so remarkable is how short it is – and how quickly the duo crashed after meteoric success with 1988’s “Girl You Know It’s True,” which turned out to have an ironic title when the world found out Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus hadn’t actually sung the tracks they claimed they had. Think of it as a modern-day fable – that is, late-’80s-era “modern” – about sacrificing integrity in the pursuit of fame.
Titled Waterfalls, of course, the TLC movie would tell the story of three female singers who were assembled by a studio but who nonetheless formed a real bond that resonated with fans through the late ’90s and early 2000s. The group’s song “Waterfalls” could be a refrain throughout the film and a constant reminder of the risks associated with chasing your dreams: It can pay off, but sometimes at a great personal cost.
You’ve Never Heard Elevator Music like This Before!
A movie about this Southern rock band, which would naturally be titled Free Bird, wouldn’t just be the story of the creation of the song “Sweet Home Alabama.” It would also be a story about overcoming tragedy: A 1977 plane crash killed the band’s founder, Ronnie Van Zant, as well as guitarist Steve Gaines and singer Cassie Gaines, in addition to three others. Ultimately, the band reformed in 1987.
The success of the recent documentary Montage of Heck indicates that love for the band still burns bright, 21 years after its breakup following Kurt Cobain’s suicide. Nirvana: The Movie wouldn’t even necessarily need to dwell on Cobain’s death so much as profile how he, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic navigated the sudden and monumental mainstream fame that followed 1991’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Honestly, this film seems inevitable, and some Hollywood type is doubtlessly already wondering who could play Cobain and Courtney Love onscreen.
6. Thin Lizzy
It would pretty much have to be titled The Boys Are Back in Town, but whatever the title, a movie focusing on the rock band Thin Lizzy could be a great way to tell the story of Phil Lynott, the band’s Irish-Guyanese lead singer who remains one of the greatest but most unheralded black rock stars of all time. Lynott died in 1985, just two years after Thin Lizzy disbanded. Many people familiar with the band’s greatest hits don’t know the story behind the guys who created those songs.
7. The Go-Go’s
Before his death in 2002, director Ted Demme had considered making a movie about the popular ’80s band. Someone should: The Go-Go’s are the first and only all-female band to produce a No. 1 album for which they wrote all their songs and played all their own instruments. That alone is kind of mind-blowing. That alone makes their story worth telling.
8. Beastie Boys
Who would have predicted that the guys behind “Fight for Your Right (to Party!)” and “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” would have endured long past the ’80s and matured into the elder statesmen of not just hip-hop but the music industry in general? A movie that profiles their three-decade-long career could show how much Ad-Rock, MCA and Mike D evolved and matured while continuing to pump out hits. It could remind longtime fans that they grew up alongside the Beastie Boys.
9. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five
As long as we’re talking about iconic hip-hop groups, there’s a great story to be told about how the group not only introduced the genre to its widest-ever audience at the time but also helped create what it means to be a hip-hop star. Potential titles: The Message, They Said It Couldn’t Be Done and Flash to the Beat.
10. Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath: The Movie wouldn’t just be Ozzy Osbourne snorting ants and biting the head off that bat. That would be part of it, of course, but there’s so many tales of rock star debauchery in the band’s history – and, you know, stories about creating music too – that a completely based-on-real-events biopic would be shocking on the big screen. And can you imagine being a fly on the wall during the casting call for actors who want to play Ozzy?
11. The Carpenters
Before Todd Haynes directed Far from Heaven and the Bob Dylan film I’m Not There, he directed Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, an experimental 1987 film that told the tale of Karen Carpenter with Barbie dolls. The film has since been withdrawn from circulation yet has become a cult hit. A 1989 TV movie starring Cynthia Gibb as Carpenter was made with Richard Carpenter’s cooperation, but the story behind the brother-sister band could be done again on the big screen. It’s a tragic tale about how an eating disorder can destroy a life, but also one about how a brother and sister combined their talents to make beautiful music together.
The Latino pop band rolled on for more than 20 years and had literally dozens of members, the most famous of whom was Ricky Martin during the years before his solo career. If some screenwriter can’t find a good handful of stories to tell in the endlessly shifting roster of teen crooners, there’s something wrong. The Menudo Story could easily employ most of the young Latino actors working today.
13. Bob Marley and the Wailers
Bob Marley has been the subject of a few documentaries, and there has been talk of No Woman No Cry, a feature film profiling Bob Marley and the Wailers’ rise to fame. It hasn’t happened yet, but this should be a slam-dunk. Marley’s music, with the Wailers and otherwise, is among the most popular in the world, and telling the story behind these songs would help those only superficially familiar to understand how intertwined they are with Jamaican history and Marley’s spirituality. This could be a powerful movie.
14. The Spice Girls
Sure, this article started off with a joke about Spice World being something less than the tell-all band biopic than we all deserved, but hey what if someone made that movie? What if a feature film gave the ’90s pop band the Behind the Music treatment and we got to see all the behind-the-scenes bits that led up to Geri Halliwell’s split from the group in 1998? You’d already have your touching final scene written for you: all five Spice Girls reuniting in spectacular fashion at the 2012 London Olympics.
15. One Direction
You know all those teenage girls who took to social media to bawl about Zayn Malik’s departure from the band? In 25 or 30 years, those girls will be all grown up, possibly even taking their daughters to see the cinematic take on the boy band that meant oh-so-much to them before its members ended up going in five directions. Mark our words: This movie will happen one day.
What bands do you think should have their stories told on the big screen?