12 Best Music Movies On Tubi

Staff & contributors

This tender, autobiographical coming-of-age story about a working class family in post-war Liverpool is Terence Davies’ masterpiece—evoking memories through a series of loosely connected scenes that highlight the joys and woes of growing up. It is comprised of two films shot two years apart. The first details the tribulations of a young family surviving an abusive father in the ‘40s. The second part follows the kids grown up and finding their way in the ‘50s, and the influence of music and cinema on their lives. Davies uses a series of beautifully composed tableaux to tell the tale, which bring the setting and the characters intimately to life. Distant Voices, Still Lives is regarded as one of the greatest British films of all-time.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Andrew Schofield, Angela Walsh, Anne Dyson, Carl Chase, Freda Dowie, Ina Clough, Jean Boht, John Michie, Lorraine Ashbourne, Matthew Long, Michael Starke, Pauline Quirke, Pete Postlethwaite, Susan Flanagan

Director: Terence Davies

Whether graffiti is art or not is the question guiding this fascinating documentary about the spray can-wielding artists of ‘80s New York. Wherever you come down in the debate — though this presents compelling arguments that graffiti is a medium worthy of critical attention — you’ll undoubtedly come away with a reverence for the kids who went hard with the paint on NYC’s walls and subway cars. Candid interviews with these young pioneers (whose cultural contributions are now less in contention) reveal that they’re not simply rebelling for rebellion’s sake: they’re largely motivated by a desire to make their mark on their beloved city — to stand out and have their work seen by the millions riding the subway every day.

The doc largely embeds itself with the artists, but it also interviews the “other side”: then-mayor Ed Koch and police officers, who were ramping up their aggressive “war on graffiti” campaign during filming. It’s clear that these interviewees have little interest in understanding what drives the kids to create their murals — a lack of curiosity that Style Wars blessedly counters. Not just a thoughtful contribution to its period and a fascinating time capsule, but also a thought-provoking reminder that art is art, whether it's made outside of the system or not.

Genre: Documentary, Music, TV Movie

Actor: Cap, Daze, Dondi, Ed Koch, Eric Haze, Gene Anthony Ray, Irene Cara, Kase 2

Director: Tony Silver

This cult classic is the first hip-hop movie in cinema’s history — and, aptly, one of the most sampled movies in rap music. With a cast drawn exclusively from the NYC graffiti, breakdancing, and rap subcultures that it spotlights, Wild Style wisely doesn’t try too hard to construct a conventional drama. Instead, there are toe-tapping scenes in neon-lit, smoke-filled clubs that stretch far beyond usual cinematic limits because they’re following the dynamic pace and infectious rhythm of the battling emcees, not film’s rules.

In lieu of a plot, Wild Style captures the singular atmosphere of the period it was filmed in, when hip-hop culture was thriving and art curators had begun to look to graffiti artists to fill their galleries. That uneasy turning point in the culture is chronicled here through the perspective of Zoro (real graffiti “writer” Lee Quiñones), a young artist who looks on with disdain as his peers embrace the commercialization of their medium by NYC’s art world. (As he shrewdly puts it, risk is central to graffiti’s identity — made for subway cars and walls, not framed canvases.) Brilliantly capturing the freewheeling spirit of NYC’s hip-hop scene, this is a time capsule that never feels dusty thanks to the appropriately off-the-cuff filmmaking.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Daze, Dondi, Fab 5 Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, Nathan Ingram, Patti Astor, ZEPHYR

Director: Charlie Ahearn

Rating: R

I’m Not There is an unusual biopic in that it never refers to its subject, Bob Dylan, by name. Instead, Todd Haynes’ portrait of the singer mimics his constant reinvention by casting six separate actors to play as many reincarnations of the same soul. It’s an ingenious spin on a usually stale genre, one that liberates the film from the humdrum restrictions of a literal retelling of Dylan's life.

If there’s anyone who warrants such an inventive approach to biography, it’s Dylan, whose public and private personas are so numerous that it’s only by angling six different mirrors at him that Haynes can hope to catch some of his essence. Impressionistic editing toggles freely between these vignettes, each visually distinct: from the 11-year-old Woody Guthrie-obsessive (Marcus Carl Franklin) and the black-and-white Super 16mm-shot poet (Ben Whishaw) to the aging cowboy outlaw (Richard Gere), all by way of Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, and Cate Blanchett’s incarnations. To be sure, this is a somewhat challenging film, reflecting, in places, the enigmatic surrealism of Dylan’s lyrics and his refusal to be pinned down to one thing. But, as Blanchett’s embodiment says, “Mystery is a traditional fact,” and that’s no more true than of Dylan, making Haynes’ film a fascinatingly fitting spiritual biopic.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alison Folland, Andrew Shaver, Andrew Simms, Angela Galuppo, Arthur Holden, Ben Whishaw, Benz Antoine, Bill Croft, Bob Dylan, Brett Watson, Bruce Greenwood, Cate Blanchett, Catherine Colvey, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Christian Bale, Craig Thomas, Danny Blanco Hall, David Cross, David Gow, Dennis St John, Dominic James, Don Francks, Emmanuel Schwartz, Eric Newsome, Eugene Brotto, Fanny La Croix, Garth Gilker, Gordon Masten, Graham Cuthbertson, Greg Kramer, Heath Ledger, Holly Uloth, Ivan Freud, Jane Gilchrist, Jane Wheeler, Jason Cavalier, Jennifer Rae Westley, Jesse Todd, Jessica Kardos, Jim James, Jodie Resther, Joe Cobden, John Koensgen, Julianne Moore, Kathleen Fee, Kim Gordon, Kim Roberts, Kris Kristofferson, Kristen Hager, Kyle Gatehouse, Kyle Switzer, Larry Day, Leif Anderson, Leigh Ann Taylor, Lina Roessler, Lisa Bronwyn Moore, Lorne Brass, Maggie Castle, Marcus Carl Franklin, Marie-Julie Rivest, Mark Camacho, Matt Holland, Matthew Boylan, Matthew Harbour, Melantha Blackthorne, Michelle Williams, Nathalie Girard, Noel Burton, Patrick Costello, Paul Cagelet, Paul Johnston, Paul Spence, Pauline Little, Peter Friedman, Phyllis Gooden, Pier Paquette, Pierre Leblanc, Pierre-Alexandre Fortin, Richard Gere, Richard Jutras, Richard Robitaille, Richie Havens, Rob Burns, Roc LaFortune, Sharlene Royer, Shawn Baichoo, Steve Godin, Susan Glover, Terry Haig, Thiéry Dubé, Tim Post, Trevor Hayes, Tyrone Benskin, Vito DeFilippo, Wyatt Bowen, Yolonda Ross

Director: Todd Haynes

Rating: R

A sweet feel-good movie starring Nick Offerman as a dad who has to deal with his only daughter leaving for college and his record store struggling. The daughter is played by Kiersey Clemons who you might recognize from the show Easy. And Ted Danson has a great role too. This is a relatable and heartwarming movie, one of the best the so-called "indie" genre has known in a long time.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Family, Music

Actor: Alex Reznik, Andrea Morales, Blythe Danner, Harrison Chad, Jeff Tweedy, Kiersey Clemons, Kim Ramirez, Linda Lee McBride, Michael Abbott Jr., Nick Offerman, Quincy Dunn-Baker, Rafael Poueriet, Robert Reed Murphy, Sasha Lane, Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Will Rogers

Director: Brett Haley

Rating: PG-13

Similar in spirit and in subject matter to the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, The Wrecking Crew pulls back the curtain on the recording of many of the greatest American songs of the 1960s and '70s: that a single group of unassuming session musicians were responsible for bringing out the sound in these tracks. The film is a treasure trove for musicians and music fans, making you hear certain instrumental nuances in a different light and deepening your perception of music between what was written and what was recorded. Then inevitably and tragically, the realization sets in that few—if any—of these musicians have received the recognition they truly deserve, as essential but unfairly small parts of a music industry ecosystem that often cares more about image and entertainment than musicianship.

Genre: Documentary, Family, Music

Actor: Adam West, Al Casey, Al Jardine, Annette Funicello, Bones Howe, Brian Wilson, Bruce Johnston, Carl Wilson, Carol Kaye, Cher, Dean Martin, Dick Clark, Eva Gabor, Frank Sinatra, Frank Zappa, Frankie Avalon, Glen Campbell, Graham Nash, Hal Blaine, Herb Alpert, Jan Berry, Jimmy Webb, Jody McCrea, Lou Adler, Micky Dolenz, Mike Love, Nancy Sinatra, Peter Tork, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, Sammy Davis Jr., Sonny Bono, Tommy Kirk, Tommy Sands

Director: Denny Tedesco

, 2019

This drama is about two friends attempting to rave in 1994 Scotland, after a recent Thatcher-era law banned the act and all music “characterized by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats”.

Johnno and Spanner, one living in fear of his older brother and the other of his stepfather, want to turn things around by joining their first and probably last rave. They’re introduced to the world of illegal parties, a movement as influential as punk, that in the 1990s was born in reaction to the U.K.’s oppressive policies.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Music

Actor: Amy Manson, Anthony Anderson, Ashley Jackson, Brian Ferguson, Chris Robinson, Christian Ortega, Dave East, Emayatzy Corinealdi, Gemma McElhinney, Kevin Mains, Khalil Everage, Laura Fraser, Lorn Macdonald, Martin Donaghy, Megan Sousa, Neil Leiper, Paul Walter Hauser, Rachel Jackson, Ryan Fletcher, Seandrea Sledge, Stephen McCole, Uzo Aduba

Director: Brian Welsh, Chris Robinson

Rating: N/A

Though it's still very much a product of a time of certain jokes that haven't aged well, it's still remarkable how the humor and the satirical edge of this mockumentary has remained so current. As a very-low budget mockumentary of a still-young American hip hop scene, there's so much more effort that goes into these fake songs and music videos than you'd expect. But the film doesn't stop at simply poking fun at the rappers and hip hop artists of the era; the jokes always circle back around to the racism of the time and the self-seriousness of the culture in the music industry. It's a hilarious time capsule with some brutally incisive lines in practically every scene.

Genre: Comedy, Mockumentary, Music

Actor: Barry Shabaka Henley, Deezer D, Devin Kamin, Don Reed, Faizon Love, G. Smokey Campbell, Homeselle Joy, Kasi Lemmons, Larry B. Scott, LaVerne Anderson, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Monique Gabrielle, Penny Johnson Jerald, Rose Jackson, Rusty Cundieff

Director: Rusty Cundieff

We Are the Best! is one movie that may be overlooked largely by viewers, though it perfectly captures counterculture, and relates to the misfit young and old. The movie is an adaptation of Moodysson's wife Coco's graphic novel "Never Goodnight". Set in Stockholm, Sweden in 1982, Klara (Mira Grosin) and her best friend Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) are junior high teenage girls who believe in their heart that punk rock is alive and well. With both of their home lives not so pleasant, the girls spend their time at the local youth center while taking up the time slot in the band room to get revenge on the local metal band. That's when they find themselves starting a punk band without even knowing how to play an instrument. We Are the Best! is a fun and deeply sincere exploration of adventure, friendship, love, and betrayal in adolescence.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Ann-Sofie Rase, David Dencik, Emrik Ekholm, Felix Sandman, Johan Liljemark, Lena Carlsson, Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin, Peter Eriksson, Sofi Ahlström Helleday

Director: Lukas Moodysson

Rating: Not Rated

This documentary is about the life of New York rapper Nas around the time of the release of his first album, Illmatic.

It spans a quick and summarized 74 minutes and, while embellished by the direction of street artist One9, it remains a great snippet of recent American history. Nas’s album was a reflection of many realities that characterized his upbringing, while the movie serves to further explore those very realities.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Alicia Keys, Busta Rhymes, Cornel West, DJ Premier, Fab 5 Freddy, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., M.C. Serch, Marley Marl, Mrs. Braconi, Nas, Pete Rock, Pharrell Williams, Q-Tip, Skip Gates, Jr., Swizz Beatz

Director: One9

Rating: TV-14

This international comedy-drama in French, Greek, and Turkish is about a free-spirited Greek girl who travels to Istanbul on a mission to help her father. Once there, she meets Avril, a French woman whose plans to help Syrian refugees have backfired. Together, they embark on a music-inspired adventure to Lebos from Turkey.

Director Tony Gatlif, a Romani, Algerian-born French filmmaker, has a unique style that often verges on exaggerations. It borders on a madcap comedy and has perfect production value, although the story might be difficult to tolerate for non-fans.

Still, if you like travel dramas, or more specifically music-travel dramas, especially in a time where the countries in the film are completely inaccessible, this will do the trick.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Daphne Patakia, Eleftheria Komi, Kimon Kouris, Maryne Cayon, Seray Yalçin, Simon Abkarian, Yannis Bostantzoglou

Director: Tony Gatlif

, 2021

CODA has all the trappings of a predictable, feel-good family drama. You’ll recognize immediately the talented teen, the family pulling her back, the cute love interest, the do-gooder mentor, and the swirl of coincidences that blend them all together in one sweet story. But CODA is so irresistibly heartfelt, well-acted, and vital (all the deaf characters are actually played by deaf actors), that you can’t help but be won by its charms. 

Aside from its big heart, the film’s decision to express itself mostly through ASL and music is an impressive technical feat as well. Altogether, these elements make for a refreshing, enjoyable, and simply heartwarming watch. 

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Amy Forsyth, Armen Garo, Ayana Brown, Bryan Sabbag, Courtland Jones, Daniel Durant, David Newsom, Dominic Andersen, Dominic Cannarella-Andersen, Emilia Faucher, Emilia Jones, Erica McDermott, Eugenio Derbez, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Gary Galone, Jason Pugatch, John Fiore, Jose Guns Alves, Kayla Caulfield, Kevin Chapman, Kiara Pichardo, Kyana Fanene, Lance Norris, Lonnie Farmer, Marilyn Busch, Mark Pettograsso, Marlee Matlin, Mary Ann Schaub, Melissa McMeekin, Molly Beth Thomas, Owen Burke, Pamela Jayne Morgan, Rebecca Gibel, Rena Maliszewski, Sarah Clarke, Stone Martin, TJ Ciarametaro, Tony Viveiros, Troy Kotsur

Director: Sian Heder

Rating: R-16