What are the best films about being in a band?

Music and Art

Most of us have dreamed about it at some point. Whether it’s for the adoring fans, constant parties or love of music itself, we all had a point in our lives where we wanted to be in a band. Our fascination with the ins and outs of rock stardom is the reason why so many band members end up becoming pseudo-celebrities. It is also why so many films are made about being in a band.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6jc2gHpNbyc

This week saw the release of the trailer for Stuart Murdoch’s upcoming film ‘God Help The Girl’. The film is part of a long time project carried out by the lead singer of Belle and Sebastian which saw the release of a 2009 album of the same name. It centres around three teens who decide they want to form a pop band and got us thinking, what are the best cinematic attempts at portraying the holy grail of musical stardom that so many aspire to? Whilst This Is Spinal Tap might be an obvious choice, we came up with a few alternatives.

1. Control

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7c2_B_cWK_M

Anton Corbijn’s black and white masterpiece could almost masquerade as a documentary about Ian Curtis and the formation of Joy Division. Sam Riley’s masterful performance as Curtis, made possible by his somewhat eerie resemblance, allows the watcher to feel the desperate feeling of watching everything come together while you are simultaneously falling apart. Despite the bleak subject matter, Control still manages to capture the playful freedom that comes from forming a band as well as depicting the late 70’s Mancunian music scene in an understated manner. It’s this contrast of light and dark: the light humour of being in a band with the dark undertones of looking back at their history, that makes Control such a special piece of film. It sums up something Kevin Cummins said about when he photographed Joy Division. The band kept making Ian Curtis laugh and Cummins was annoyed because he didn’t have long to get the shots he needed. “Looking back, I wish I had taken more of him smiling.” Control provides the smiles even though when it ends, you’ll be in tears.

2. Nowhere Boy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Ow3w5x21U

Jumping a decade or two back, Nowhere Boy follows the life of a young John Lennon, focusing on his relationship with his mother and his guardian aunt. In a similar way to Control, Nowhere Boy also shows the formation of what is to become The Beatles, taking in Lennon’s meeting of McCartney. However, unlike Control, Nowhere Boy leaves the story incomplete as the narrative ends with The Quarrymen recording together for the first time, leaving the viewer to fill in the gaps about the resulting history. Whilst this film may have become known as being the meeting place between cinematic power couple Sam Taylor (director) and Aaron Johnson (star), Johnson’s magnificent quiff should also be acknowledged as something truly worthy of awards.

aaron johnson

Beyond all that, Nowhere Boy shows a teenager falling in love with playing the guitar, a story that has been repeated in life many times over the years. Although not always with the same success. We couldn’t all have grown up to be John Lennon.

3. Scott Pilgrim

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esFO34xs22Q

Adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series of graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is primarily focused on Scott’s attempt to defeat love interest Ramona’s seven evil exes. However, much of this takes place in the context of Scott’s band ‘Sex Bob-omb’ entering a battle of the bands competition. The living room rehearsals with tired looking instruments sum up perfectly the reality of anyone who has ever tried to start a band.  At the same time, the energy of their performances even when they are fighting evil exes at shows, is infectious. Michael Cera’s impressive performance at Scott demonstrates how a shy and awkward boy can take on a different persona on stage. Even though everyone in the band seems to hate each other and hate that they’re in a band and hate that they’re playing shows, it somehow still makes you want to get up and form a band straight away.

4. Freaky Friday

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCMfL2ycFeo

This film isn’t short of different adaptations and versions, not least because it started off as a book by Mary Rodgers. However, in this case we are talking about the 2003 classic featuring Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. As with all films made in the early noughties, this feels impossibly dated only eleven years after it was first released, mainly due to Lindsay Lohan’s outfit choices. Also centred around a battle of the bands competition, Freaky Friday shows how a mother can come to appreciate her daughter’s choice of hobby’s after they switch bodies. As who appears to be Anna Coleman (Lindsay Lohan) stands on stage, unable to play guitar because she is in fact her mother, her mother (Jamie Lee Curtis) saves the day by secretly playing the guitar solo back stage. Full of hilariously silly moments and things that will make you cringe when you realise what you were like as a teenager, Freaky Friday is the epitome of the difficulties you can face being in a band when you are 16. And also when you swap bodies with your mother.

What are your favourite films about being in a band? Are you excited to see God Help The Girl? Let us know in the comment section!