The Top 10 Films About Music and Musicians

By May 5, 2015December 27th, 2017Top 10 Lists

1. THIS IS SPINAL TAP

(1984, Directed by Rob Reiner, Written by Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Rob Reiner)

It may seem perverse to vote Spinal Tap as the greatest movie about music and musicians (what other spoof movie would be chosen as the best example of the genre it spoofs?) but it is also entirely justified, because more than any other music film Tap shows the inherent ludicrousness of music itself, which, after all, is ultimately nothing more than human beings imitating songbirds – and failing.

Tap is revered by musicians themselves, particularly rock musicians, because it shows their solipsism and self-absorption, endlessly agonising over absurd song titles and album covers. However, it also shows that such solipsism and self-absorption is probably absolutely necessary if music is to be created at all. David St Hubbins and Nigel Tufnell may be silly, even downright stupid, but they are also utterly devoted to the whole idea of music and its transformative power.

Ultimately, Tap is the definitive music film because the music created for it is so much better than most of the genre of music it satirises, namely metal. Songs like “Big Bottoms” and “Stonehenge” are at least the equal of most metal tracks, and in many cases better. Of course, most metal-heads would argue that Tap aren’t metal at all, or at least not heavy metal, and they have a point. Their “soft metal,” or even “hair metal,” was arguably the starting point of that genre, which went on to dominate much of the second half of the 1980s with bands such as Bon Jovi and Motley Crue.

Finally, Tap is funny – truly, eye-wateringly funny, as so few “comedy” films are. The great “laugh-out-loud for an hour-and-a-half (or more)” movies are tragically rare: among the best are The Life of Brian, Woody Allen classics such as Annie Hall and Manhattan, and Anchorman. In combining great pastiches of music with great pastiches of musicians, Tap is “the hidden eleven” on the dial of great music movies.

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Martin Keady

Author Martin Keady

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