The Best Rock Movies of All Time

todayApril 26, 2023 48 9 4

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By Lane Dent

Music Journalist


I have a unique addiction to rock movies – biopics, comedies, fictional dramas. There exists a combined love for these films, how they mesh together a rare collection of my favorite topics: heavy music and cinema. After about a year of religiously devouring every rock and metal movie I came across, I have found a stellar handful of origin-telling, guitar-shredding and chaos-creating rock movies.


Lords of Chaos (2018)

A comedic retelling of staple black metal band Mayhem, this movie doesn’t take itself too seriously and highlights the trivial playfulness of a genre that sounds so… the opposite. Staying close to the main facts of Mayhem’s criminal story, the macabre humor makes this film stand out in a long list of biopictures. Church burnings, stalking and murder all entangle to show the wild, truthful reality of this truly deranged Norwegian black metal band.

Empire Records (1995)

Taking place during the peak of 90s grunge, this film follows different employees of an independent record store. The gritty, fun feeling of the music tags along as they deal with their store selling out to a chain, a visit from an outdated 80s singer and their angsty teen relations with each other. Even though it may be somewhat cookie-cutter, with an impromptu band performance at the climax, this movie for sure captures a love of rock music.

Sid & Nancy (1986)

The Criterion Channel-certified biopicture features accurate performances of Sid & Nancy, prominent figures in the British punk wave. With an aura of grime, destruction, drugs, complaining and instability, this film nails down the reality of the unhealthy couple and how punk interlaced between the threads of the Sex Pistols and themselves.

Metalhead (2013)

An underground, poignant gem of a movie, the Icelandic Málmhaus, or Metalhead portrays a woman’s life story of how metal saved her from grief. After watching her brother get plowed over by a tractor, she finds solace in the genre that her brother loved. Songs from the soundtrack include various classic metal songs from Megadeth, Dio and Iron Maiden, despite being in 1990s Scandinavia (you’d think something heavier would emerge) but it was strong enough to deliver a heart-crushing drama of loss and how music can be a savior.

Almost Famous (2000)

Questionably the most recognizable, I couldn’t not include the mainstream 2000s take on 1970s rock and roll culture. With a director’s cut of almost 3 hours, this movie immerses you into the all-fun-and-games stereotype of 1970s soft rock bands. Parties, drugs, youth, it was almost enough for me to feel famous too. Movies about rock journalists… something’s inspiring me about that one.

Heavy Trip (2018)

Like one big comforting inside joke, the unique exclusivity of Hevi Reissu, or Heavy Trip, has me actually laughing out loud at every stupid thing that the band Impaled Rektum does. Playing with Finnish themes like Vikings, reindeer and death all wrap full circle in this movie to make fun of metal and honor metal and just do everything metal. If symphonic, post-apocalyptic, reindeer grinding, Christ abusing, extreme war pagan, Fennoscandic metal sounds interesting, this is the movie for you.

Singles (1992)

Set during the birth of the grunge scene, in the city of Seattle, this movie perfectly encapsulates the time period’s music, style and attitude. What other movie has Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam casually playing live at a club?! Focusing a little more on the unromantic drama aspect of the film, it follows a middle-aged couple and a teenage pairing as they both realistically attempt to find love. The younger storyline includes a boy trying to become famous in his new grunge band but is upstaged by the film’s stellar soundtrack. The grunge lineup includes deep cuts from Soundgarden and Mudhoney, as well as essentials from Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam and Screaming Trees.

Metal Lords (2022)

Endlessly foolish and lovable, Metal Lords is Netflix’s attempt at a high schooler’s elitist dream of dominating the cliched Battle of the Bands with metal. The aspect that really roped me into this movie was the female band member. Not only is there finally a woman who’s actually in a metal band, she plays the unconventional electric cello. I realized after a rewatch that I revere this too-supporting character.

Sound of Metal (2019)

When a drummer ruptures his eardrums from lack of protection, he becomes permanently deaf, and can’t hear the heavy music he makes anymore. I’m going to be candid; this movie destroyed me. Watching someone’s music-centered life become uprooted hit too close to home. Growing up with a sister who is a self-taught drummer that often plays with little to no hearing protection amplifies the relatability – the anguish and helplessness.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

An essential film in the LGBTQ+ community, this musical about a German trans immigrant is one of identity pride, gender exploration, drag and glam rock. Easily becoming a cult classic, the music takes up around half of the story. With songs like “Wig in a Box” and “Origin of Love,” the soundtrack became important to the transgender community, as well as one of discussion, as it has its flaws. This film is cathartic, transformative and an exceptional rockin’ ride.

The Dirt (2019)

Although it has its flaws, this is the only movie I’ve seen that felt impeccably glam metal to me. I’ve seen other Motley Crue media like Pam & Tommy, and have even read (half) of the book The Dirt itself, but I can’t help but come back to this biopic. It’s outrageous. It’s arrogant. It’s whiny and dramatic and disgusting. But that’s what makes it entertaining. Every five minutes some famous rockstar shocks you with something you didn’t think was allowed to be filmed in Hollywood. That hair alone is enough to keep your gaze on the screen for the entire duration.


Feeling an urge to form a band yet? From idiotic black metal comedies to late 20th century spoofs to touching looks at how music can heal, these movies hold a special weight in any rock lover’s heart.


Featured Image by Ridley Dent. 

Written by: Preethi Mangadu

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