Music Movies To Watch Tonight If You Didn’t Get Coachella Tickets

Photo: Neal Preston/Dreamworks Llc/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock
Take note of the Instagram stories of your favorite influencers, because a mass exodus to Indio, California, is taking place, and they’re probably a part of it. For two weekends in April, people flock to the Coachella Music Festival to bask in music, flash tats, and the latest trends. Those lucky enough to attend 2018's festival will see performances by Beyonce, Cardi B, SZA, St. Vincent, Haim, and over 160 more.
And what are the rest of us to do? Seek out trendy food places nearby and take pictures of ourselves as if to say: “We’re still fun, even though we’re not at Coachella!” Seems like a lot of effort. I, for one, would rather watch a movie.
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If you can't attend Coachella and listen to the music, you can watch movies about bands. Movies that capture a slice of the backstage dynamics going on, perhaps, at Coachella. Movies that mimic the thrill of live music performances, and leave you buzzing. Movies you can sing along to. Here are our favorite movies about bands and artists, and the best songs from each.
So don't sulk about not going to Coachella. Go buy some fancy popcorn, and relax.
1 of 13
A Hard Day's Night (1964)

It's hard to imagine just how famous the Beatles were. But watching A Hard Day's Night gives you a good sense of it. In this very meta film, the four members of the Beatles star in this scripted movie about their life on the road. They mess with nosy reporters, run away from crowds, and enjoy spending time with each other (ah, the good old days).

Standout Song: Watching the Beatles preform "If I Fell" is a delight. But the best part of A Hard Day's Night isn't the concert that comes at the movie's end. It's everything before: Seeing the Beatles interact like jocular kids, not completely changed by fame.
2 of 13
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

Rob Reiner’s This Is Spinal Tap may be 34 years old, but its searing satire on rock band documentaries has held up. The mockumentary purports to follow Spinal Tap, a once-iconic British heavy metal rock band, on their slightly disappointing tour of America. The band members are shown as petulant, self-serious man-children, and assuredly not the gods that most real rock documentaries make their subjects out to be.

Standout Song: “Stonehenge” by Spinal Tap. This Is Spinal Tap features a good chunk of Spinal Tap’s discography, and it's convincingly realistic. If you didn’t listen to the lyrics, you might almost think “Stonehenge” was a real song. And then, the lyrics arise: “We'll go back in time / To that mystic land / Where the dewdrops cry / And the cats meow.” The verse is followed by flute music. Overall, “Stonehenge” gives the impression of being a the product of a lofty '70s-era concept album, and it’s perfect.
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3 of 13
Almost Famous (2000)

If you were a sheltered 15-year old aspiring rock journalist in the ‘70s, and Rolling Stone magazine offered you the chance to go on the road with band, would you take it? Of course you would. Almost Famous is the story of what happens when William Miller (Patrick Fugit) breaks out from his strict mother’s house and travels with the free-wheeling, dysfunctional band Stillwater. The music in Almost Famous is good, but the adventures are better: William is deflowered by groupies and sees a lead guitarist jump from a rooftop after shouting, famously, “I am a golden god!” The action in Almost Famous is closer to reality than you might initially think — it's all based on director Cameron Crowe’s experiences traveling with rock bands when he was William’s age.

Standout Song: “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. In a car, there are no worries of stage fright or questions of whether you can actually sing. In a car, it’s time to belt. Almost Famous’ ecstatic rendering of “Tiny Dancer” is probably responsible for many passionate sing-a-longs.
4 of 13
School of Rock (2003)

If the premise of School of Rock happened in real life, we'd probably be horrified. Some strange man pretends to be a teacher, and decides to form a band with elementary schoolers? Not so great. But in the movie — well, it’s sublime. Jack Black plays Ned Schneebly, a hyperactive imposter substitute teacher who teaches his class of uptight, academically inclined fifth graders to unlock their inner music potential, and their outer fashion sense.

Standout Song: “Zach’s Song” by School of Rock. That chorus – ”If you want to be a teacher’s pet / Baby you just better forget it / Rock got no reason, rock got no rhyme / You better get me to school on time” — will be stuck in your head for days.
5 of 13
The Cheetah Girls (2003)

The Cheetah Girls is a relic from the early aughts which we ought to treasure forever. Never again will we get a movie about a girl group who, in an act of rebellion against their music studio, perform their song wearing what they want: Monochromatic sweat suits and headbands. Girl groups have made a resurgence, but there will never be a group like Galleria (Raven-Symone), Chanel (Adienne Bailon), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan), and Aquanetta (Kiely Williams).

Standout Song: Undeniably, “Cheetah Sisters.” The song functions as the perfectly cheesy classic for every girl group — including friend group.
6 of 13
Ray (2004)

When Ray Charles Robinson is 9 years old, his eyesight begins to deteriorate with no hope of recovery. His mother, who grew up on a sharecropping plantation, is determined to make sure her son can make his way in the world. Ray – played by Jamie Foxx in the biopic — does more than just that. He becomes a renowned pianist and singer, responsible for some of culture's most enduring soul and R&B songs. In Ray, Foxx brought this (often troubled) legend to life, and got an Oscar in the process.

Standout Song: In the context of the movie, "Mess Around" is exceptional. It shows Ray's ability to infuse a simple song with life and feeling.
7 of 13
Walk the Line (2005)

Walk the Line, which centers on the early life of Johnny Cash, is an exceptional musical biopic. Johnny Cash was born on an Arkansas cotton farm, and eventually became one of the most influential country singers ever. But Walk the Line isn’t just about Johnny Cash’s life – it’s about the love of his life. Walk the Line is made by the electric chemistry between Joaquin Phoenix, who plays Cash, and Reese Witherspoon, who plays June Carter, Cash’s great love and future wife. Part of the fun is watching their duets in the movie, and then seeing the real duets.

Standout Song: “Time’s A Wastin," because the song holds a special place in the movie's narrative. It's the first duet between Johnny and June, and it captures their musical and personal connection.
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8 of 13
Dreamgirls (2006)

In 1981, the musical Dreamgirls landed on Broadway. It followed an all-woman R&B act called the Dreamettes, inspired by the real-life group the Supremes. Most of us, however, probably know Dreamgirls from the 2006 movie starring Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, and Jamie Foxx.

Standout Song: Do you need to ask? “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” sung by Effie White (Jennifer Hudson in the movie). At this point in the story, Effie has just been pushed out of the band. She begs her ex-lover, Curtis (Jamie Foxx), a Berry Gordy-figure, to go back to loving her, to stay with her. When Curtis rejects her, the loss is twofold: Effie has lost her livelihood, and her love. A close second is “Listen,” a moving (and catchy) self-awakening anthem, which is performed by Beyoncé in the movie. The lyrics are a beacon: "I followed the voice you think you gave to me / But now I got to find my own."
9 of 13
Music and Lyrics (2007)

In the ‘80s, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) was a pop star on par with the members of Wham! and Duran Duran. But in the 2000s, he’s a washed up has-been — a reality that he’s trying to change by writing a song for current popstar Cora Corman (Haley Bennett). Music and Lyrics is a solid rom-com, featuring a romance between Hugh Grant’s Alex and Drew Barrymore’s Sophie, a skilled songwriter, that plays out in each charged songwriting session. But the highlights are Hugh Grant in ‘80s garb.

Standout Song: “PoP! Goes My Heart” by PoP! This is the band’s most famous song. Were it not for Hugh Grant's presence, you could convince yourself it's a real song from the '80s.
10 of 13
Get Him to the Greek (2010)

If Spinal Tap was a spoof on British bands of the '70s, then Get Him to the Greek lampoons more contemporary British musicians in the vein of Blur and Oasis. In the movie, a hapless record company intern, Aaron Green (Jonah Hill), has three days to bring British rock star Aldous Huxley (Russell Brand) to the Greek theater in L.A. for a concert. Sounds easy, right? Of course it’s not. Aldous is an irresponsible party maniac, and Aaron is pulled into the madness.

Standout Song: As someone who once regularly and seriously listened to Infant Sorrow’s music (it’s good, okay?), it’s hard to choose a favorite. “Bangers, Beans & Mash” is a 4 a.m. “u up?” text in song form; “Going Up” is a hilariously shallow song of rebirth. “African Child” encapsulates Aldous Huxley's complete disconnect from the real world. Ultimately, though, the best song aren’t one of Infant Sorrow’s Oasis-esque spoofs. It’s Jackie Q’s “Ring Around the Rosie.” Rose Byrne, who plays Jackie Q, is the last person you'd expect to see singing a song about anal foreplay — and that's why it works.
11 of 13
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

If there were justice in the recording industry, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) would have achieved more success in the folk scene of the ‘60s. The movie, however, is about what happens when success – or success as you’d imagined it — doesn’t come. Llewyn Davis is a well-respected, but struggling, folk singer. Inside Llewyn Davis is a week in his life as he wanders around New York's Greenwich Village, guitar in hand. Though not much happens in terms of plot, you'll come away with an understanding of New York, as it once was.

Standout Song: “Five Hundred Miles," a folk classic sung by Jean (Carey Mulligan), Troy (Stark Sands), and Jim (Justin Timberlake) in the movie.
12 of 13
Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street is a lovely, funny, honest coming-of-age story that also happens to contain some downright jammers. It’s Dublin of the 1980s, and Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) will do anything to escape his broken home life and confinginly strict Catholic high school. Like many soulful young men before him, Conor decides to recruit his classmates to form a rock band. They name the band Sing Street as a cheeky reference to their school, Synge Street Christian Brothers Academy. The songs in Sing Street are all fueled by the spirit of earnest, righteous teenage rebellion. The movie will make you want to stick it to the man.

Standout Song: The best of Sing Street's many music videos is undeniably “The Riddle of the Model.” For their first video, the band members wear Bowie-esque makeup and ruffles. But the greatest song is “Up,” a love song that, if you heard on the radio, would make you say: "This is a great song. "
13 of 13
Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

This bittersweet story of a father-daughter duo who find healing through music — albeit in different ways — will bring more than a few tears to your eyes. Nick Offerman stars as Frank Fisher, a record store owner who lost his wife in a random accident. When the song that he and his daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons) goes viral on Spotify, Frank attempts to get Sam to go all-in on their new "band." Yet Sam has dreams of her own, and a life out west she wants to pursue. At least they'll always have their first single.

Standout Song: The titular track, "Hearts Beat Loud."
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