top of page
  • Justice Petersen

Underrated Music Movies You Need to Add to Your Watchlist

In the past few years, cinema has seen a spark in musical biopics. With films such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018), “Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (2022) and “Rocketman” (2019) all coming out in the past six years, movies telling the stories of famous musicians and their timeless art have been topical in the last decade.

While music biopics can be wonderful and impactful films, not all movies with music as a central theme have to focus on a band or artist. Several music movies, such as Netflix’s “Metal Lords” (2022), have also come out in recent years that have the same inspirational tones of a biopic but tend to be a bit more fun, quotable and vibey. There are many underrated films, most of them from the past, that are centrally about music and portray the power of music as a core theme, but they don’t follow the routine structure that a biopic film does. Below is a list of heavily underrated music movies that you should add to your movie bucket list immediately - especially if you’re an old school music lover.

1. Empire Records (1995)

Anyone who celebrates Rex Manning Day every year knows about the cult classic from which it came from. Depicting a day in the life of the staff at a record store, Empire Records is a perfect comfort film - once you’ve seen it, you’ll want to put it on every time you’re having an off day. This film is honestly perfect in so many ways: very replicable and iconic outfits, one of the best soundtracks of all time, insanely quotable, and a cast of characters you’ll fall in love with. For lovers of music, vinyl, and the 90s aesthetic, this film is the one for you.

2. Singles (1992)

Another 90s classic, “Singles,” is the quintessential “grunge” film. Depicting the stories of four young adults who live in the same Seattle apartment building, this movie truly captures the early 90’s rock era. Along with a killer soundtrack featuring music from Alice in Chains, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees, the movie also features acting cameos from members of Soundgarden and Pearl Jam! Watch this movie if you’re looking for a film that flawlessly captures the vibe of the Seattle Sound.

3. Detroit Rock City (1999)

You don’t have to be a diehard KISS fan to enjoy this film (but maybe it’s better if you are). “Detroit Rock City”, although released in the late 90’s, takes place in Detroit in the 70’s when KISS was truly the hottest band in the world. This movie is about four high school boys who try to sneak their way into a KISS concert after one of the boy’s strict Christian mothers destroys their front row tickets. This movie’s chaotic humor is paired perfectly with a soundtrack full of KISS, AC/DC, and more. Also, this movie deserves praise for capturing the 1970’s attitudes, wardrobe, and culture without coming off as cheesy or stereotypical.

4. Rock and Roll High School (1979)

This movie may or may not stand the test of time, but it certainly is the definition of a cult classic. Starring scream queen P.J. Soles, this film is about a teenage punk rocker, played by Soles, who is a diehard fan of the Ramones and dreams of being a songwriter for them. After her high school gets a new principal who hates all things rock and roll (and fun), Soles decides to retaliate against her and the school - with the help of the Ramones themselves, obviously. This movie is super fun and it helps viewers to live out their dreams of fighting back against school authority with the help of their favorite band. Haven’t we all wanted to do that at some point? Also, this movie does feature some acting cameos from the Ramones themselves. (We don’t have to talk about Dee Dee’s.)

5. Wayne’s World (1992)

Last but not least, Wayne’s World has to make this list. Once again, the soundtrack to this movie is iconic. Featuring tracks from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, -Jimi Hendrix, Cinderella and Queen, this movie is rock and roll. Derived from the SNL skit of the same name, “Wayne’s World” follows the story of two local tv show hosts and best friends Wayne and Garth as they run their show out of Aurora, IL. Wayne falls in love with Cassandra, the singer and bassist of the new up and coming band Crucial Taunt. Although this movie may not be considered a “music film” (perhaps more of an SNL movie like “Airheads” or “Superstar”), this film features so many elements that make it a music movie: a stunning soundtrack, all the characters are music lovers, and we all wanted those backstage Alice Cooper passes. Also, the Bohemian Rhapsody scene is still reenacted by friends in their cars to this day.

Whether it focuses on physical forms of music, listening to or playing music, concerts, or an obsession with musicians, these films are so amazing because they all portray the power of and love for music in their own unique and edgy ways. Whether you want to sneak into a rock show or chill with the staff of a record store, these films will fulfill your passion for music in whatever way you like.


bottom of page