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It’s the age of the biopic, and many filmmakers are turning to classic rock artists as their subjects. It makes sense — their music has moved people for decades, and their lives are usually full of enough intrigue to fill at least one film. As news of the new Bob Dylan biopic continues to trickle out and we not-so-patiently await a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac movie, here are six classic rock biopics to watch.

A black and white picture of Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon of The Beatles posing in suits.
The Beatles | Central Press/Getty Images

‘Love & Mercy’

The 2014 film Love & Mercy stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson. The film alternates between the 1960s, as Wilson works on the seminal Pet Sounds, and the 1980s, as he grapples with his mental health and begins a new relationship. Wilson himself said that upon watching the film, he was astonished by both portrayals of him, particularly Dano’s.

“Well, he looked a little bit like me at age 24,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “But the way he portrayed me producing records — you know? — was very factual, accurate, stimulating. I was really blown away by how close he got to my personality. It’s amazing.”

The film was a critical success, lauded not only as one of the year’s best but one of the best biopics of all time.

‘I’m Not There’

The 2007 film I’m Not There is an unconventional biopic as it stars six different actors — Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, and Ben Whishaw — to portray Bob Dylan. They each play the different sides of Dylan’s public persona. None of the characters even go by the name Bob Dylan, but they accurately portray portions of his life story.

“Yeah, I thought it was all right. Do you think that the director was worried that people would understand it or not?” Dylan asked Rolling Stone, adding, “I don’t think he cared one bit. I just think he wanted to make a good movie. I thought it looked good, and those actors were incredible.”

The viewer might not walk away with a broadened understanding of Dylan’s private life, but that feels fitting for the enigmatic musician.


The 2019 film Rocketman follows Elton John’s life from his childhood in England to the heights of his career to the time he spent in rehab. The film received largely positive reviews, and star Taron Egerton won a number of awards for his portrayal of John. 

The film also stands out because it was not a straight retelling of John’s life. While it was largely historically accurate, filmmakers wanted it to hold a fantasy element to give it a stylized, over-the-top look.

“The first and foremost thing [about Rocketman] was that we weren’t doing a straight biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody,” costume designer Julian Day told Variety. “It was always planned as a fantasy musical. So that was the starting point for the costumes, hair and makeup, production design … everything.”


The 1994 film Backbeat is a Beatles biopic, but it focuses on their days in Hamburg, long before Beatlemania. It also focuses primarily on bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, who quit the band and died of a brain hemorrhage in 1962. It depicts his close relationship with John Lennon and romance with Astrid Kirchherr. 

While it may not be the perfect biopic, it focuses on an overlooked but foundational period in The Beatles’ career with striking accuracy. In addition, the people depicted in the film, including Kirchherr, drummer Pete Best, and Paul McCartney, praised elements of the storytelling and acting.

‘Nowhere Boy’

Another film about the early days of The Beatles, 2009’s Nowhere Boy follows a teenage Lennon. It focuses on his relationship with his mother, the aunt who raised him, and his future Beatles bandmates. 

Lennon was the most outspoken Beatle, and fans got a sense of his personality through his many interviews. The film dives into the adolescent experiences and relationships that made Lennon who he was.

‘Sid & Nancy’

The 1986 film Sid & Nancy stars Gary Oldman as The Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious and Chloe Webb as his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Both actors do an eerily good job of capturing the intense and destructive nature of the couple’s relationship. 


The Beatles: What to Watch if You Love the Band

“The astonishing thing about Sid and Nancy is the amount of subtle information it gives us about their relationship, given the fact that the surface of the movie is all tumult and violence, pain and confusion,” Roger Ebert wrote in his review. “This movie doesn’t take the easy way out and cast these two lovers as Romeo and Juliet, misunderstood waifs. It sees beneath their leather and chains, their torn T-shirts and steel-toed boots, to a basically conventional relationship between an ambitious woman and a man who was still a boy.”