In honor of Prince's "Purple Rain" turning 30, here are the best rock films

(Phil Sandlin / AP)

30 years ago today, a certain sexually-explicit rock star named Prince released his musical movie masterpiece "Purple Rain." Campy and eclectic, the film has become a cult classic in recent decades, proving that rock stars can hold their own on the silver screen. In honor of "Purple Rain's" 30th anniversary, here are the best Rock and Roll movies of all time.

A Hard Day's Night

We knew the Beatles could rock by 1964, but who knew they were so hilarious as well? "A Hard Day's Night" doubles as the perfect rock musical comedy, a satirical take on Beatlemania while giving each member of the Fab Four plenty of screen time to find their comedic voice. Even as the group would progress to much more complex musical stylings in later years, it's always refreshing to watch when they didn't take themselves so seriously. Simply put, "A Hard Day's Night" is the best Rock movie ever made.

Almost Famous

Based on Cameron Crowe's true experience as a teenage journalist for Rolling Stone, this coming-of-age story of one young music writer's journey covering an up and coming rock band is one of the 21st century's early classics. Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand give top notch performances, but it's Patrick Fugit as the young, rock-loving journalist William Miller who steals the show.

This Is Spinal Tap

An early installment of the now cherished mockumentary genre, Rob Reiner's satire about a fictional Heavy Metal band is equally hilarious to hard rockers and regular moviegoers alike. Many audience members were dismayed to find out that Spinal Tap wasn't a real band, even though they did perform on a real episode of "Saturday Night Live." That just goes to show you how well done the film is.

American Graffiti

One of George Lucas's pre-"Star Wars" hits, "American Graffiti" explored that strange phenomenon brewing in the 1960s of teenagers driving around, listening to music, with no particular place to go. "American Graffiti" has one of the best movie soundtracks too in its glovebox, with hits from Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys and Chuck Berry.

20 Feet from Stardom

They sing on all of your favorite songs, they've performed with the most iconic rock artists, and you don't even know their name. "20 Feet from Stardom" shined a spotlight onto the lesser known but equally talented backup singers in Rock groups. A true delight for any music lover, or for anyone who loves hearing Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)."


The phenomenon of the 1969 Woodstock Festival is one of the most cited events of the 1960's, a radical display of peace, love and music that echoed the mantra of the flower power generation. And director Michael Wadleigh captured it all with his seminal documentary "Woodstock." Highlights include Jimmy Hendrix's Star Spangled Banner, and the wily, out-of-control solo of an up and coming guitar player named Carlos Santana.

The Last Waltz

Martin Scorsese has always shown a strong affinity for the music of the 1960s and 1970s. And his chronicling of The Band's last concert is often considered to be one of the best rock docs ever made. Bringing Hollywood level production values to a concert setting, Scorsese gave The Band a fond farewell.

Yellow Submarine

"A Hard Day's Night" wasn't the only cinematic venture the Fab Four would take on screen. "Yellow Submarine" was a pop psychedelic journey, featuring dazzling visual images and iconic Beatles music. Does the title track get obnoxious after a while? Sure, but "Yellow Submarine" is still another fun movie venture into Beatlemania.

Gimme Shelter

The violent disaster that was the 1969 Altamont Free Concert symbolized the end of the 60's, a travesty where four deaths were reported amongst a scene of concert-going chaos. Scorsese's document on the Rolling Stones performance echoes the destructive and harrowing nature of the concert, a stunning display of the dark side of music, and humanity.

Searching for Sugar Man

How does one brilliant musician and songwriter just disappear off the face of the earth, only to randomly become a sensation in South Africa? That's what "Searching for Sugar Man" answers, an incredible true story about Sixto Rodriguez, genius and prophetic musician on the level of Bob Dylan who fell off the map and had fame rise across the world. This documentary brilliantly displays how fandom can bloom in every corner of the world, and how a musician can still find solace in his art, rather than the fame that comes from it.

Saturday Night Fever

Baby boomers know this flick by heart, a story of Disco, dreams and bell-bottom jeans. "Saturday Night Fever" was seminal in making Disco popular during the 1970s. And it made lesser known actor John Travolta into a household name. Decades later, and this flick is still stayin' alive in moviegoers' hearts.

Pink Floyd - The Wall

In conjunction with their masterful album "The Wall," Pink Floyd's music was translated to the big screen in this hard rocking, psychedelic epic. Inspired by the increasing isolation he felt on stage while performing big gigs, this film is a harrowing, mind-melting trip into the dangers of loneliness. Roger Waters wrote the screenplay, but it's the striking animation that serves as "The Wall's" greatest hit.

That Thing You Do!

Many rock movies depict the legends whose names have been permanently enshrined into music history. But what about the countless one-hit wonders who get a taste of fame only to have it immediately ripped away? "That Thing You Do!" gave some much needed love to the failed one-hit wonders of the world, depicting the quick rise and even faster fall of the fictional The Wonders and their catchy hit "That Thing You Do!" It has Tom Hanks in it, but its the young band members who truly make this film harmonious.


Based off of The Who's rock opera of the same name, "Tommy" was instrumental in pushing rock artists to adapt their albums to film. And with the natural story progression of the "Tommy" album, this flick was an easy hit. "Tommy" has resurged in many formats over the years, including a Broadway production, but the film is probably your best bet if The Who aren't playing nearby.
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