Have you ever watched a cop movie as a kid and decided that when you grow up you will hunt down criminals? Or maybe you watched one too many episodes of ER or Grey’s Anatomy and thought you would be an amazing doctor without even considering the fact that you would have to go through grueling years of med school? I am pretty sure anyone at one point or another watched a movie with an actor portraying a certain specialty or doing something and got obsessed with the idea that they should be doing the same thing.
I have definitely watched a movie or two when I was a kid and decided that no matter what happened I had to play the guitar. And by had to I mean really HAD TO! The obsession was real. It does not really matter whether you are a film buff or a music geek there is always a space of intersection between the two. You either love movies that feature musical scenes or you love music that is in one way or another related to film.
If you have been inspired to take on mastering the art of guitar playing because of a film you watched as a kid you are definitely in the right place. Just so you know, this is not a list of all lists, you might not see a movie that inspired you or maybe you see a movie that you do not really like. It would be impossible to include all guitar movies here so that is why I have decided to limit the list to the top 10 rather than the top 20 or 100. Hope you enjoy it!
10 Best Guitar Movies
10. High Fidelity
There is no better way to start off a list than with a movie featuring a character obsessed with making lists, be it of his favorite songs or of his exes. High Fidelity is heavily based on a love of music with the main character, Rob famously saying: “What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music?” I think most people who love music will relate to this quote. Being obsessed with The Smith from an early age it definitely resonated with me. Great music, somewhat relatable character, and a scene with Bruce Springsteen, THE BOSS, made me watch this movie one too many times. I mean what is there more a music lover can want from a movie?
A movie that should have won the 1973 Oscars if not for “The Godfather” being released the same year (goddamn you Coppola!) “Deliverance” is about a journey into the unknown and dangerous wilderness. The film is famous for its “Dueling Banjos” scene at the beginning when one of the main characters plays opposite a country boy, one of the most memorable banjo moments in film history that was followed by one of the most disturbing scenes later on (if you have seen it you know what I am talking about).
8. O Brother, Where Art Thou?
One of Coen brother’s best films “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” is about three convicts who escape jail and want to get the treasure that one of the characters supposedly buried in an area that was to be flooded very soon. On their journey, the three men pick up a guy who says he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to play guitar. The guy is so talented that the next day they record a song under the name of The Soggy Bottom Boys which becomes a hit. The film is full of period folk music and it is a definite must watch if you love good music and film.
Banderas playing mariachi and a gunslinger seeking revenge for his lost lover. I will be honest, I have not seen this movie in years and I might be a little bit biased about it because I was a kid, easily impressed by anything with guitars or guns in it. Even though this is not one of my favorite films of all time, Banderas’ suave manners and lack of effort as he is playing with his band while kicking a guy’s ass without missing a single key is something to see at least once.
6. Wayne’s world
Wayne and Garth are hosts of a TV show called Wayne’s World. Well… “TV hosts” sound like they are full-blown celebrities. That is definitely not the case taking into account that they stream from Wayne’s parents’ basement. In this scene, Wayne finally manages to buy the guitar (I think it was Fender) that he has been drooling over for a while Garth turns out to be an amazing drummer. Although there is not much playing here this has to be one of the funniest moments in the film featuring a guitar.
5. School of Rock
We all wish we had a substitute teacher like Dewey Finn. Well, at least I do. Jack Black’s character is a struggling musician that was kicked out of his band and now pretends he is a substitute teacher. He gathers a band from talented fourth graders to compete in Battle of the Bands. This is the first scene with Black’s character kind of trying to persuade the kids to play and a great collaboration ensues as they play bits of Iron Man, Smoke On The Water, and Highway to Hell. I’m just saying, if I had a teacher like Finn, I would have been a better student… or maybe not, there is only so much a great teacher can do.
4. This Is Spinal Tap
Word “mockumentary” is enough to get me excited about a movie. Movies about music? Would watch one any time of the day! BUT a music mockumentary comedy about a fictional band is enough to have my eyes popping out of my head like in some sort of a cartoon. “This Is Spinal Tap” follows a fictional heavy metal band on their fictional tour. The film is full of amazing quotes and scenes. Just as an example, one of the most hilarious scene is a moment when Tufnel, one of the band members shows the interviewer an amplifier with volume knobs that go up the 11 instead of 10. The scene is so memorable that the phrase “turning it up to eleven” was entered in Shorter Oxford English Dictionary and it basically means taking something to an extreme level. If you still have somehow not seen this movie you have to watch it!
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Nowadays hearing the news that this or that director has decided to make a sequel or a prequel of a movie that made them famous in the first place never really sounds like a good idea. Most times it is just a final attempt at squeezing out the final drops of cash or fame out of a cash cow that has long been dead. This DEFINITELY is not the case with George Miller who once again created something marvelous and amazing after a 30 year break from the “Mad Max” franchise. In this scene we see Immortan Joe, ruler of War Boys, going after Furiosa, his lieutenant gone rogue, and 5 wives. The details in the construction of the cars and mechanisms is mesmerizing. Doof Warrior with his guitar blazing fire on top of a Doof Wagon is a scene to be watched and admired, especially considering that no CGI was used. This is not the most realistic guitar playing (to say the least) you can see in a movie, but it definitely is exciting.
2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim is a bass guitarist of a garage band who has to fight seven evil exes of his girlfriend Ramona Flowers. The movie has been one of my favorites for years now along with an amazing comic series, providing just the right amount of wit and great music. In this scene, Scott has to fight Ramona’s third ex, vegan Todd Ingram. Although the bass scene is great Scott ends up defeating him not by his sheer talent in music but by tricking Todd to drink coffee with actual milk instead of “Fair-Trade blend with soy milk”… That is one way to deal with an onslaught of exes.
1. Back to the Future
One of the most memorable and greatest films of all time – “Back to the Future” also boasts one of the best and most memorable guitar scenes in film history. Marty McFly, a 17-year-old kid who accidentally gets into time travel because of his friend Doc has to save his parents’ marriage to avoid disappearance from the face of the Earth (or time) by going back in time and playing a matchmaker for his nerdy dad and kinda out-of-his-league mother. Oedipal themes of the movie aside, this film has to be one of the smartest and most entertaining time travel stories out there with Marty kind of inventing Rock’n’Roll and playing Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode to 1950s high schoolers.
The film has been a source of inspiration for people ever since the very first attempts at making them in the 19th century up until today with blockbusters with millions and millions in budget. No matter whether it is an Oscar-winning drama or the worst comedy in the world there is always something to take out of it (sometimes it is a regret of wasting money and time on it but still).
Perhaps you watched a movie as a kid that has a guitar scene that struck a chord with you and you decided to learn how to play guitar. Maybe that led you to years and years of practicing and achieving your dreams. Who knows but I definitely hope that some of these movies will be to your liking and strengthen your love for music or film.