While music gives its audience a glimpse into the artistic journey, a film can go beyond the carefully constructed mysticism and peek behind the curtain at the inner workings of the process.
Country music is filled with stories of artists with a “higher calling”, drawn to pursue the act of creation. As such their stories are filled with all the heartbreak, humor, struggles and longed-for triumphs that we as fans love to revel in.
Here, we take a look back at some of the best movies about country music – a few widely known classics mixed in with a few off the beaten path B-sides. Grab a whiskey, kick those boots up and enjoy.
From the heartwarming screenplay to the incredible cast, there is much to adore from this 2005 film about the legendary Johnny Cash – but the pulsing heart of the movie is undeniably Joaquin Phoenix’s revolutionary portrayal of the man in black himself. His range of emotion from desperation to redemption is remarkable (Reese Witherspoon also stars as June Carter).
You’ll find it impossible to not jump to your feet as soon as he steps foot on that thumping stage in Folsom, the sheer energy radiating through the screen.
You don’t even need to like country music to love the story of Loretta Lynn. Through the cast’s impeccable care of depicting Lynn’s journey, it continues to inspire decade after decade.
Sissy Spacek’s timeless performance - with a special nod to the tongue-in-cheek rendition of ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man’ will have you grinning from ear to ear. Come on now, Doo.
Jessie Buckley is an absolute firecracker. Her full throttle dive into Rose-Lynn’s world is an honest but humorous portrayal of the sacrifice and dedication involved in an artist’s journey.
Though her experiences in prison might seem distant to many, once she opens her mouth to sing, she’s instantly like all of us - seeking love, purpose and a damn good time. Try to not cheer with all your heart during ‘Glasgow (No Place Like Home)’.
A quieter, slower reflection on the life and times of Blaze Foley. Ben Dickey is delightful as Foley, bringing soulfulness, humor and grit. But what’s front-and-center is Ethan Hawke’s direction of the film. His tender eye proves that biographical pictures don’t always have to capture an entire life but can also focus on specific parts of one’s story along their way. It’s pure magic.
The world needs more films by Diane Paragas. Many have cited Yellow Rose as being provocative and political, but Rose’s journey of the immigrant experience in the United States is a universal tale of belonging and understanding.
Paragas’ work is a testament of the power of music to unite us all. Not to mention, Eva Noblezada, Broadway veteran, is an absolute blast to watch on screen. The camera eats up every frame she’s in.
Jeff Bridges' commitment to Bad Blakes’ journey in Crazy Heart is tireless and at times downright hilarious (his portrayal nabbed him a well-deserved Oscar for Best Actor).
Backing his performance throughout is the music, featuring surprising performances by Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall. The devastating ‘The Weary Kind’ won the dynamic duo of Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett an Oscar for Best Original Song. Grab the tissues for this one.
This quiet small-town film offers a subtle reflection on religious redemption and the meaning of family; an honest tale of personal salvation.
In preparation, Robert Duvall dedicated himself by driving through Texas recording accents and playing in country music bands which led to him singing all of his own original songs in the film.
You’ll be desperate to get a table at the Cedar Creek Plowboys Club to watch him perform after watching.
Does it matter that the script makes no sense and that the film received a universal thumbs down by critics? No! This film has what every film should have: 112 minutes of George Strait.
George is Dusty. Dusty is George. Don’t think too hard because it doesn’t really matter. Just bask in that young movie star glow of a country music legend and be thankful that it produced a fantastic soundtrack that sold over 6 million copies.
Long before the television series about Nashville, there was this little film about the struggles of making it in Music City. Critics absolutely hated it. But how? You’ve got the sparkle of River Phoenix, and he wasn’t alone - Sandra Bullock, Dermot Mulroney and Samantha Mathis shine brightly and give hints of the full stardom that was in store for each of them. Grab some popcorn and put it on for a full nostalgia-filled afternoon.
Yes, this is a 1995 American made-for-TV movie. Yes, critics unfairly stated that Michele Lee was miscast as Dottie West. And yes, the author of this article had a worn-out VHS tape of this movie and used to reenact scenes in his childhood backyard.
But beyond all of that there is the story of the incomparable Dottie West, an artist whose personal life often gets more focus than her stellar contributions to country music. West deserves another try at the big screen. Any interested screenwriters out there? I’m ready to get to work to honor this Tennessee legend.