Sometimes you have to take a break from playing, and what better way to do so than watch a good guitar related movie?
Sometimes you just need to rest your fingers and give yourself some additional creative stimulus before going back to the guitar, and watching movies is a perfect way to do it!
While a documentary is the obvious choice, we thought to highlight five of our favorite dramas, comedies and rockumentaries from over the years to get you in the mood to get back at it. Enjoy!
How many guitarists were inspired to pick up the instruments after seeing THAT Vai scene in crossroads?
Released in 1986, Crossroads is Ralph Macchio in the “coming of age” journey of a classical guitar student who travels the south with an old bluesman looking for a song written by none other than Robert “sold my soul to the devil at the crossroads” Johnson.
Even if Vai’s electric guitar wizardry isn’t your thing, there’s so much incredible blues playing (leading into the neo-classical style that became huge in the mid to late 80s) that there’s something here for just about any guitarist.
Who could have guessed the Karate Kid would be the one to launch so many musical careers?
The Blues Brothers
As 80s movies go, few had the staying power of The Blues Brothers. Produced by John Landis (then of Animal House fame and now considered one of the leading voices of what we now consider the 80s movie genre) and starring the then cream of Saturday Night Live cast, The Blues Brothers also features an all star cast of contemporary blues, soul and jazz musicans – James Brown, Cab Calloway, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, John Lee Hooker…
Not only that, but the all star band(s) in the movie feature a wide range of actual musicians (not just actors posing as musicans), from Matt “Guitar” Murphy (who had been Howlin Wolf’s guitarist since the late 40s) to Willie Hall of Isaac Hayes band.
To top it off, the movie is funny as shit. In addition to several legendary longer quotes (“There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses”), the movie is packed with shorter quips from “I hate Illinois Nazis” to “we got both kinds. We got Country AND Western!”
Even 40 years later, The Blues Brothers is one you can watch again and again.
School Of Rock
Long before Tenacious D, Jack Black had a place in musicians hearts after his star making turn in High Fedelity, School Of Rock really established where his heart was at.
Now you could be mistaken in thinking School Of Rock is a kids moving, but nothing could be further from the truth. While the subject matter is pretty light, Jack Black brings the Jack Black energy as well as enough Angus Young jokes to keep any guitarist entertained.
Of course the movie is entertaining enough for anyone, but if you’re a player of a certain age, this might be the perfect movie to convince your kids to get in on the action.
This Is Spinal Tap
Everyone’s got a favorite Spinal Tap moment, but my favourite joke about this movie isn’t on the screen – it’s the fact that Ozzy didn’t realize it was a comedy the first time he saw it because it was so real.
And how would he – just about every musician can relate to a band being bumped in favor of a puppet show, or having several drummers spontaneously combust, leaving in some cases only a globule.
That being said, it’s impossible these days to go a week on the road or in the studio without coming across a line from Spinal Tap – how Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer managed to come up with an entirely improvised movie so completely jam packed with incredible jokes without having spent years on the road themselves is a testament to their talent.
That Thing You Do
Released in 1996, That Thing You Do is basically Tom Hanks love letter to 60s music, following the formation and rise of a band called The Oneders (pronounced The Wonders) that are quite transparently based on The Beatles (though they do lack a certain left handed guitarist or bassist to really make the comparison ring out.
Much like Spinal Tap, you could sometimes forget this is a comedy as you get dragged into the all too familiar band drama, but as both the writer and director, Hanks has enough of an affection for the time period to make it a little more Peggy Sue Got Married with a great soundtrack than something that only appeals to musicians.