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Music biopics have a way of inspiring audiences by sharing stories about our favorite musicians overcoming extreme hardships to accomplish odds-defying dreams. And it doesn’t hurt that music biopics usually have amazing soundtracks as well. In honor of “Respect” — the Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson as the Queen of Soul — we rounded up a handful of must-see music biopics depicting the lives of legendary stars.
From Judy Garland to James Brown, see below for a roundup of great biopics that are available on Blu-ray. For more recommendations, be sure to read our list of other music documentaries based on true stories available now for streaming.
Jamie Foxx takes the lead as Ray Charles in this 2004 film. “Ray” illustrates Charles’ life as a young, blind, African-American male growing up in the South during a time of extreme racial divide, and how he became one of music’s biggest legends. The film goes in depth telling the story of loss of family, addiction, marriage, and infidelity, while also highlighting hope, redemption, and success. You can also expect to hear Charles’ extensive catalog of hit songs. The Grammy winner passed away four months prior to the movie’s release, but his legacy continues to be celebrated. On August 16, Charles was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Selena’s life was tragically cut short when she was murdered in 1995 at the age of 23. Two years after the death of one of Tejano’s music’s rising stars, the biopic “Selena” was released. Led by Jennifer Lopez, in her breakout role, the biopic made $35.5 million at the box office and earned Lopez a Golden Globe Award. The film’s soundtrack also won a Grammy.
From a kid on an Arkansas cotton farm in the 1930s to a country music icon, “Walk the Line” tells the story of Johnny Cash. Joaquin Phoenix transforms into the singer for this 2005 drama depicting Cash’s journey to stardom and his challenges along the way, such as falling in love with June Carter (played by Reese Witherspoon) while on tour, even though he had a wife at home, and his battle with drug and alcohol abuse. “Walk the Line” earned Witherspoon an Oscar for Best Actress and it proved to be a hit with audiences, raking in $187 million at the box office.
Judy Garland, born Frances Ethel Gumm, rose to prominence after her role as Dorothy in the 1939 musical, “The Wizard of Oz.” Renee Zellweger plays Garland in the 2019 biopic “Judy,” which tells of the mother of three’s struggle with fame amid money troubles and addiction battles. The film unfolds 30 years after “The Wizard of Oz,” when Garland takes a gig in London so that she can afford a lawyer in her custody battle with ex-husband, Sid Luft.
The late Chadwick Boseman portrayed James Brown in 2014’s “Get on Up.” The Godfather of Soul came from humble beginnings in South Carolina in the 1930s and overcame tremendous obstacles (like surviving abuse and abandonment) before reaching fame. “Get on Up” offers a closer look into Brown’s life and career and the traumas he endured prior to becoming a star.
In “La Bamba,” Lou Diamond Phillips plays Mexican-American singer Ritchie Valens who becomes an overnight rock ‘n’ roll success as a teen in the 1950’s thanks to the hit song “Donna.” Valens wrote the love song about his girlfriend whose parents disapproved of her dating a Latino. The singer’s life is tragically cut short when he dies in a plane crash, along with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, in 1959. “La Bamba” was released in 1987 and grossed over $5 million in its opening weekend.