From the amphetamine-fueled dancing of the Northern soul scene, to the more recent loose-fitting Madchester craze of the early '90s, each decade has its own definitive music scene that helps shape the contemporary musical landscape as we know it today. Many of these crazes have since been immortalized in film, allowing today's youth to experience the culture of their parents and grandparents. Here are eight examples of movies based on iconic music scenes:
8. Sing Street
Set in '80s Dublin, Sing Street blends coming-of-age drama with contextual music history and makes for feel-good viewing and listening — with a stellar soundtrack to accompany it. Directed by John Carney, the plot follows the young Conor Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in his pursuit to woo an older girl by assembling his own band.
Members of the pop/rock groups Danny Wilson and Relish composed most of the original music featured in the film. Popular music from the era also played a significant role, with the likes of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and The Cure all helping to carve the fictional Sing Street band’s sound.
7. The Commitments
Also set in Dublin, when it comes to The Commitments, it is clear to see where Sing Street got some of its influence. The 1991 Alan Parker musical comedy-drama is based on the 1987 Roddy Doyle novel of the same name. It has since been considered the best Irish film ever made.
Robert Arkins plays the music mad Jimmy Rabbitte who is swept up in the rising popularity of his self-assembled, working-class soul band. The soundtrack — which featured covers of legendary songs such as "In the Midnight Hour" and "Try a Little Tenderness" — ended up selling 12 million copies, seeing that the star’s success continued to flourish outside the world of film.
6. Northern Soul
The 1970s Northern soul craze — which saw followers combine American soul music with excessive amphetamine-fueled dancing — was revived in 2014 with the release of Elaine Constantine’s aptly named film Northern Soul.
Full of historical context, the film follows the friendship of Lancashire teens Matt and John as they lose themselves in the scene. The film adopts a serrated edge, exploring the darker elements of Northern soul that contrast highly with the sense of optimism conjured by the feel-good music it showcases.
5. Sid And Nancy
Many films were birthed from the punk scene of the late 1970s, most having been made by the pioneers of the movement as part of their artistic vision, such as Jubilee or The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle. However, Alex Cox’s biopic Sid and Nancy (a.k.a. Sid and Nancy: Love Kills) came a decade after the scene had fizzled out.
The somewhat controversial film depicts the turbulent relationship between the notorious Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Although it has since been regarded as a cult classic, at the time of release it managed to stir negative reactions among the individuals whose lives it portrayed, including that of John Lydon, who expressed his disgust in a 1987 interview:
"Vile, awful, what a non-truth of a movie. An Oxford graduate... making this silly non-realistic film... we are still alive most of us and here we are being misrepresented in a grotesque way."
Sam Riley stars as the late Joy Division front man Ian Curtis in the 2007 Anton Corbijn biopic Control. Based on the Deborah Curtis biography Touching from a Distance, the film focuses on the couple’s marriage, with significant reference to Ian Curtis’s role in the British post-punk scene.
Originally shot in color and then printed to black and white, the film’s aesthetic is a very sombre one, which perfectly reflects the mood of its content. Taking its name from the Joy Division song "She’s Lost Control," the film offers an unflinching account of Curtis’s personal life as he struggled to keep control of the internal and external events leading up to his untimely passing.
3. 24 Hour Party People
Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 comedy-drama 24 Hour Party People provides all the pills ‘n’ thrills and bellyaches you could ask for. Steve Coogan stars as Mr. Manchester himself, Tony Wilson, and takes the viewer on a journey through the city’s fast evolving climate from the late 1970s to the early '90s, frequently breaking the fourth wall in the process.
From the legendary Sex Pistols gig that kicked it all off and the fast-paced days of The Factory, to the hazy Hacienda nights and the raving Madchester scene it birthed, 24 Hour Party People fuses fact with fiction, making for a part history lesson, part playground rumor kind of vibe. Cameos from real icons of the era such as Mark E. Smith and Howard Devoto help to further cement the film as a pinnacle of counterculture.
2. A Hard Day’s Night
Beatlemania was a beautiful thing that gives us all nostalgic feelings, despite whether or not we were alive when it hit its peak. Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night — having been filmed at the height of the craze in 1964 and starring the Fab Four themselves — quenches our nostalgia as well as perfectly encapsulates an era so that those who missed out the first time around can experience it for themselves.
As an audience, we get to share several days with The Beatles as they balance boisterous boyhood with a seriously rigid schedule. Unsurprisingly, given the popularity of the band, the film was a huge success and was even declared one of the all-time great 100 films by Time magazine. Its followup, 1965’s Help! was not received with the same level of enthusiasm, but has since been credited with having influenced the introduction of music videos.
1. Rude Boy
The Clash’s 1980 pseudo-documentary Rude Boy follows the very real band and their fictional band antics, while also featuring real footage from real historical events such as the Rock Against Racism concert at Victoria Park. However, the main focus of the film is the fictional Clash fan Ray Grange, who ditches his job in a Soho sex shop to become a roadie for his favorite band.
By the film’s release in 1980, The Clash had detached themselves from it entirely, ceased contact with the directors, and were subsequently never paid for their role. Front man Joe Strummer explained their very valid reasoning to Melody Maker in the same year:
"We didn't like what they were doing with the black people, because they were showing them dipping into pockets and then they were shown being done for something and that was their only role in the film ... Who wants to propagate that? That's what the right wing use, 'all blacks are muggers' which is a load of rubbish. After that rough showing I've never seen it since and nor have any of the Clash."
Musically historical movies are the best when it comes to reliving some of our favorite musical moments of the past. They help bridge generation gaps and open up a whole new audience to music that they might have regrettably missed out otherwise. One can only wonder what the next iconic music scene to be immortalized in film might be.
Your favorite not on the list? Tell us about it in the comments!