What is the best music biopic performance of the past 20 years?

Poll choices
Posted 7 months.


  • tom - 6 months ago

    I assume you chose "the last 20 years" because Val Kilmer runs away with it in Oliver Stone's The Doors..1991
    Otherwise, Andy Serkis in 24 Hour Party People as producer Martin Hannett "Faster, but slower"

  • Tom Morris - 6 months ago

    Reese Witherspoon WON for playing June Carter! How did she not get on this list? Do you guys have it in for Witherspoon?

  • Corey Craft - 7 months ago

    If it’s not Paul Dano (the Filmspotting poll woes continue!), it should be Ethan Hawke. More people really need to see that movie.

  • Shocked to see Ethan Hawke so low! I loved Born to Be Blue, and it ignited for me an absolute obsession with Chet Baker’s music, but I couldn’t get past how poorly Hawke fake-played the trumpet. I’m a trumpet player, which might make it unfair, but it was so obvious to me from the beginning that he wasn’t doing the playing, and it completely took me out of the movie. That’s why I went with Joaquin. It’s almost a guilty pick for me but I can’t deny it, I enjoy the movie, and he’s so good.

  • Chris Massa - Pittsburgh, PA - 7 months ago

    If only this poll went back 25 years instead of 20... The clear winner would have been (or at least should have been) Colm Feore as Glenn Gould in "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould," which is the best biopic I've ever seen and one of the most original biopics ever made until "I'm Not There" came along. Alas, it doesn't qualify.

    Of the options here, I'm going with John Cusack in "Love & Mercy." I'm not sure if it's the best on this list — and I agree with all the praise for Paul Dano — but it's the one I was the most surprised by. Not only does he look nothing like Brian Wilson, but Cusack has never struck me as the most versatile or chameleonic actor. (Cate Blanchett could literally play anyone, but other than "Being John Malkovich," Cusack often seems to end up playing some version of himself.) The fact that he disappeared into the role was a pleasant surprise for me, and it was a movie and a performance that I genuinely loved. So yeah, for better or worse, Cusack it is.

  • Eric Bolin - 7 months ago

    The answer I wanted to choose was Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, but he isn't in it enough and the movie is so otherwise terrible I could not do it. Ironic, then, I went with Foxx as Ray. It isn't a great movie; it's only average, really. He makes what does work work, though. Also hurts my heart not to pick either Cusack or Hawke, my two favorite actors ever (I'm not kidding, which, I know is, well, different).

  • Nick Nahat - 7 months ago

    Eminem in 8 Mile is an underappreciated, naturalistic performance. Zola would have approved.

  • Lisa Nelson - 7 months ago

    With both Love & Mercy and Walk the Line, it's hard to pick one actor in each film over the other cast members. Paul Dano and to a lesser extent, Elizabeth Banks are just as great (if not better) than John Cusack, while Reese Witherspoon is an equal part of what makes Walk the Line such a moving biopic. In many ways, we are watching the story of the rise and fall (and the rise again) of Johnny and Brian through June's and Melinda's eyes. In both Love & Mercy and Walk the Line, the story is all that more compelling for the performances of the female leads. And Paul Dano is so heart-breakingly emotive and real as the young Brian Wilson that we become all that more deeply invested in needing to see him escape his immobilizing depression.

  • J Spencer - 7 months ago

    If Cusack wins, will he give half the prize money to Paul Dano? I mean c'mon.

  • Brett - 7 months ago

    I’m not a huge Jamie Foxx fan but out of all the names on this list, he was the one who most fully embodied the genius of Ray Charles in manner, voice and physicality. (Too bad the movie was such a generic “biopic”.)
    So even though I am more of a Joaquin Phoenix fan, I had to go with Foxx.

  • Aaron Crabtree - 7 months ago

    Should've been Dano!

  • Jack - 7 months ago

    I also agree with all the Dano praise.

  • Benji - 7 months ago

    When I think of Johnny Cash, I picture Johnny Cash. When I think of Bob Dylan, I picture Bob Dylan. When I think of Brian Wilson, I picture Brian Wilson. When I think of Jim Morrison, I picture Val Kilmer.

  • Craig Johnson - 7 months ago

    My previous comment focused on the movie. Aaron-Taylor Johnson captures exactly what I think John Lennon was like at that age dealing with finding/losing of his mother and accepting more skilled musicians into "his" group and therefore possibly sharing the leadership and future recognition.

  • Alex Ludwig - 7 months ago

    Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon is perhaps the greatest ‘musical’ biopic performance on this list. Directed by the incomparable Bob Fosse, Scheider’s depiction of an artist grappling with his art and his vice, in equal measure, demands all the plaudits it’s earned.

  • Chris Moody - 7 months ago

    Marcel is right!
    Andy Serkis as Ian Dury is tremendous.
    Also, Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra

  • Lucas Muratore - 7 months ago

    Well I've only ever seen one of these films though they've all been on my watchlist for years now. So I guess I got to go with Straight outta compton?

  • Michael Medley - 7 months ago

    I thought I was the only one who thought that Paul Dano should have gotten the nod over Cusack. He was better than I thought he would be(Cusack I mean). I thought Dano should have gotten an Oscar nomination. He was that good.

  • Olivier Pasco - 7 months ago

    Maybe less famous in the US than Édith Piaf, French singer Serge Gainsbourg was no less influential and interesting a character and this biopic is as unusual as Gainsbarre himself.

    Olivier (from Encinitas, CA)

  • Marcel - 7 months ago

    Andy Serkis in Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll should definitely be in the conversation.

  • Craig Johnson - 7 months ago

    Nowhere Boy is a bit of a "smaller" film than the others on the list but it is a fantastic start to films about the history of the Beatles. Watching Nowhere Boy followed by Backbeat and then A Hard Day's Night paints a vivid picture of how these four (originally five) lads changed the world. (Five does not include Pete Best who was inconsequential in their story.)

  • Kate Burrill - 7 months ago

    I agree with Aren! Dano should be considered over Cusack.

  • Aren Bergstrom - 7 months ago

    Why is John Cusack on here but not Paul Dano, who gives the better performance as Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy? He's be my pick for the best of the past 20 years (although Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker is pretty close). The scene of him working out the many sound effects and layers of music on Pet Sounds is as close to a glimpse inside of the mind of a musical genius at work as cinema has ever been able to conjure.

    "Two bass lines in two different keys? How does that work?" "It works in my head." = Sublime

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