There is nothing an absolute music freak loves more than a film that perfectly encapsulates the feeling of burning passion that they experience through music.
Whether it’s a film about characters that we immediately share that passion with, about a band struggling in the face of fame, or a simple story about a musician and their craft. These are the movies that us music nuts can watch over and over again (for the life of me, I have no idea how many times I’ve seen Almost Famous).
We take a dig through seven of Australia + New Zealand’s most iconic music films and they’re pretty darn inspirational!
Hollywood has given us a smorgasbord of movies like this, as have the rest of the world, but there are many little gems from our own backyard that perhaps you might not have seen. Here are seven of our favourite Australian (and New Zealand) films about music.
The first film on our list the true inspirational story of Australian concert pianist David Helfgott, Shine. The film is your standard bio-pic retelling of Helfgott’s early life, growth as a musician and life into an older man, which is how most bio-pics seem to go.
But this film is a must watch for a couple of reasons; firstly due to the complete uniqueness of David Helfgott’s story of mental illness and sheer determination as an artist showing that no matter what conditions someone can find themselves in, if you never give up on your talent you can shine (see what I did there?).
The second reason you have to watch this film is to witness the performance given by one of Australia’s greatest acting talents, and all-round cool guy Geoffrey Rush, a role for which he received all of the big three and super serious awards for best actor that awards season, the Academy Award, Golden Globe & BAFTA. Now, that is mighty impressive.
The next film on our list is another bio-pic centred on true inspirational story of the Aboriginal girl-group The Sapphires and follows their inception as a band to their historical performance in 1968 in Vietnam for Australian troops.
While you could easily look at the poster for this and say “this is a complete mum movie”, I’d say firstly that yeah, I guess it is, but secondly, what’s wrong with that?! It’s a movie with plenty of heart, fun music throughout it and strong performances, especially by I.T Crowd’s Chris O’Dowd. Like Shine, it tells a great story that everybody, not just music fanatics should know and celebrate.
Now like The Sapphires you can judge this movies by it’s cover, a road trip comedy about AC/DC, it screams dad more than Bunnings and Friday Night Footy, but again I ask what the bloody hell is wrong with that?!
The film follows a group of friends who as teenagers swore an oath that the first one of them to die would be buried next to Bon Scott of AC/DC in Perth. As their road trip across the Nullarbor goes on, so does their misadventures.
Now this movies does have its flaws admittedly, but as far as a family movie about the fandom of rock music it ticks all the boxes, laughs will be had (as well as dad noises).
The first film on this list to come from our awesome, albeit sometimes confusing neighbours New Zealand, The Piano is the film I recommend above all others on this list. It’s simply incredible. It follows a mute Scottish woman sold by her father into marriage to a New Zealand frontiersman, along with her young daughter who acts as her interpreter.
I could run through more elements of the plot for this film, but plainly, this film is about a woman and her piano, a woman who relies on her love of music to get her through her troubled and disadvantaged life.
There are many great elements in this film, the score by Michael Nyman is great, the direction by Jane Campion is brilliant to the level where the film received the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival (that’s a big flippin’ deal) and to round it out the acting performances are all absolutely incredible including the then 11 year old Anna Paquin who received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the second youngest Oscar winner ever.
A word of advice before you watch this, have a box of Kleenex at the ready!
From the critically acclaimed, to the practically unknown, Garage Days is a 2003 movie about a group of misfit musicians led by Freddy, played by Kick Gurry, who wants his band to make it big whilst the relationships in his life become more and more complicated.
Set to the backdrop of hipster paradise Newtown in Sydney and a downright cool soundtrack, this is the perfect lightweight, date night rom-com that’s full of laughs and quirky characters. One major perk of the film is that being a Sydneysider one rarely gets to watch movies where they can point and loudly scream at the screen “omg I know where that is, I’ve been to that place”, but with this you’ll find yourself doing it more than once.
The most recent film released on this list and the second on this list from the land of bungee-jumping and Hobbits, DEATHGASM is a film made for a very specific type of music and film fan. The film centres on our main character, misfit Brodie, who moves to a new high school and in with his strict religious uncle and aunty following his mother being institutionalised into a mental facility, and basically from there forms a death metal band and summons a demon that brings on the apocalypse. It’s seriously great.
Now, if you are not a fan of gory and ridiculous horror movies and metal music then this might not be for you. The movie is kinda like death metal, it’s not made for most people. But like me, if these are two of your favourite things then chances are you’ll be throwing horns to this.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
The seventh and final film on this list is a downright Australian classic. If, for some reason, you are unfamiliar with this movie (firstly, change that…right now) it is about two drag queens, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, and a transgender woman, Terrence Stamp, who travel from Sydney to Alice Springs to perform at a resort run by Weaving’s character’s estranged wife, travelling in their bus which they’ve named Priscilla.
This film encompasses many themes including Australian life both city and rural, the characters intense love of music as well their experience battling homophobia and transphobia across the country. It’s a simple story, but it’s the most fun you’ll have with your clothes on…or in a sequin dress and has a great soundtrack to boot.