From The Doors to Behind the Candelabra: which classic biopic is best?

From left: Behind the Candelabra; Liberace; Tina Turner; What’s Love Got to Do With It? Composite: Moviestore Collection; Alamy
From left: Behind the Candelabra; Liberace; Tina Turner; What’s Love Got to Do With It? Composite: Moviestore Collection; Alamy

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY JOEL GOLBY AND PUBLISHED BY THE GUARDIAN ON OCTOBER 26, 2018.

Regardless of genre or the individuals in question, music biopics generally follow the same narrative. There’s an early scene where the lead actor does something myth-making before they’re even out of school uniform. Then there’s their first nervous performance, eyes darting around the room as the crowd slowly erupt into an electric cheer; a scene where someone casually offers them their first line of cocaine; a “three years later” fast forward and a pulsating slow-zoom on Madison Square Garden, which is rocking; them, wearing sunglasses indoors, wild-haired and inhaling violently off a mirror.

Then it’s either redemption or death, and for some reason this film always takes 15 years to make, and always—despite a cosmic performance by the lead actor, who has normally gone so far into the character that they now embody them to an eerie degree that takes psychological assistance to get them out of it again—it’s always just a bit, well, crap.

With Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody in cinemas, and Amy Winehouse’s family recently signing a deal to make a biopic of the late singer’s life, here are some of the good—and bad—films about musicians, ranked according to the metrics that matter…

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