CATEGORIES Features
In the recent musician biopic 'The Runaways,' Kristen Stewart channels a teenage Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning slinks around trying to sound like a breathy voiced Cherie Currie. Most critics praised their performances as the precocious girl rockers, and it reminded us that musician biopics are the most popular in the genre for a reason.

When they're cast well and executed properly, biographical dramas about musicians are some of the best "based on real people" films period, not to mention wonderful vehicles for the versatile actors tasked with playing beloved artists.

Here's a list of our 15 favorite musician biopics; and when we say musician, we're all-inclusive -- rock, punk, country, jazz, standards, Tejano, R&B and classical artists all make the cut. However, movies about fictional musicians, no matter how much they resemble one (or many) real artists, were just too confusing to include, but we do love movies like 'Crazy Heart,' 'Dreamgirls,' '8 Mile,' 'Velvet Goldmine' and 'The Rose.' Drumroll, please ... In the recent musician biopic 'The Runaways,' Kristen Stewart channels a teenage Joan Jett and Dakota Fanning slinks around trying to sound like a breathy voiced Cherie Currie. Most critics praised their performances as the precocious girl rockers, and it reminded us that musician biopics are the most popular in the genre for a reason.

When they're cast well and executed properly, biographical dramas about musicians are some of the best "based on real people" films period, not to mention wonderful vehicles for the versatile actors tasked with playing beloved artists.

Here's a list of our 15 favorite musician biopics; and when we say musician, we're all-inclusive -- rock, punk, country, jazz, standards, Tejano, R&B and classical artists all make the cut. However, movies about fictional musicians, no matter how much they resemble one (or many) real artists, were just too confusing to include, but we do love movies like 'Crazy Heart,' 'Dreamgirls,' '8 Mile,' 'Velvet Goldmine' and 'The Rose.' Drumroll, please ...

15. 'Bird' (1988)
Musician: Charlie Parker
Played By: Forest Whitaker
Why It Rocks: Clint Eastwood's 160-minute biopic of the legendary jazz saxophonist stars Whitaker in a virtuoso role as the gentle but haunted composer. Like most of the subjects on this list, Parker's life was cut way too short by addiction (he was only 34 when he died), but Eastwood doesn't concentrate on the details. Instead, Eastwood provides a loving tribute to the musician -- the father of bebop whose compositions continued to influence other musicians years beyond Bird's death.

14. 'Selena' (1997)
Musician: Selena
Played By: Jennifer Lopez
Why It Rocks: The meteoric rise of Selena Quintanilla-Perez from her working-class South Texas roots to Grammy-winning chart-topper was lovingly followed by Mexican director Gregory Nava. If you've forgotten how good of an actress Lopez used to be, revisit her breakthrough performance as the young Tejano-music sensation. Despite the early casting controversy over a Puerto Rican actress playing a Mexican-American legend, Lopez won over Selena's fans, perhaps because she lip-synched.

13. 'The Buddy Holly Story' (1978)
Musician: Buddy Holly
Played By: Gary Busey
Why It Rocks: Back in the days when Busey was a promising young actor, he wowed critics and audiences with his stirring portrayal of the '50s rock 'n roll star responsible for such memorable songs as 'It's So Easy,' 'That'll Be the Day' and 'Every Day.' Busey, whose performance the New York Times called a "one-man show," not only nailed Holly's appearance but also sang so convincingly he earned an Oscar nomination and the enduring love of Holly's die-hard fans.

12. 'Lady Sings the Blues' (1972)
Musician: Billie Holiday
Played By: Diana Ross
Why It Rocks: Before the biopic's release, there was widespread concern that Ross, a Motown diva with no acting chops, would never be able to adequately convey Lady Day's tumultuous rise and fall. But Ross proved the naysayers wrong with a touching performance that was bolstered by her singing, which was rightfully more tribute than impersonation. For her impressive screen debut, Ross even landed an Academy Award nomination.

11. 'La Bamba' (1987)
Musician: Ritchie Valens
Played By: Lou Diamond Phillips
Why It Rocks: Chances are if you ask any Gen X'er what they think of when they hear "Para bailar La Bamba," the answer will be Lou Diamond Phillips playing Ritchie Valens. The tragic tale of the teen singer's all-to-brief career introduced younger audiences to the Oldies Station staple, and it launched the careers of Phillips and co-star Esai Morales. The best-selling soundtrack is also a winner, thanks to Los Lobos' covers, especially of Valens' signature song.

10. 'I'm Not There' (2007)
Musician: Bob Dylan
Played By: Various actors, but most notably Cate Blanchett
Why It Rocks:
OK, so we've sort of broken our own rules with this one, since none of the characters is named Bob Dylan, but Todd Haynes' critically acclaimed tribute to Dylan features his music and is a tribute to the many phases of his life. Although six actors capture the different Dylan personas, it's an amazing Blanchett's "Jude Quinn" who steals the show, rocking out to "Maggie's Farm," partying with the Beatles and dealing with a confrontational BBC reporter.

9. 'La Vie En Rose' (2008)
Musician: Edith Piaf
Played By: Marion Cotillard
Why It Rocks:
In her Oscar-winning performance, Cotillard transformed into France's most famous music icon, rendering herself unrecognizable as she disappeared into the sickly, tragedy-stricken body of Piaf. Although she didn't have to actually sing, Cotillard had to switch back and forth from a 17-year-old street singer to a dying, drug-addicted 47-year-old to every stage in between. Director Olivier Dahan's non-linear chronicle is, like Piaf's songs, heartbreakingly beautiful.

8. 'Walk the Line' (2005)
Musicians: Johnny Cash, June Carter Cash
Played By: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon
Why It Rocks:
James Mangold's story of the enduring love between country legends Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash spends more time following Johnny's life, but it's Witherspoon's June who gives the movie it's uplifting soul. Phoenix and Witherspoon's believable chemistry, and their surprisingly capable renditions of Cash's songs make this a must-see biopic. Plus, unlike most of the films on this list, this one actually has a happy ending.

7. 'The Doors' (1991)
Musicians: The Doors, aka, Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger
Played By: Val Kilmer, Kyle MacLachlan, Kevin Dillon, Frank Whaley
Why It Rocks: One reason: Val Kilmer. Yes, there are three other members of The Doors, but Oliver Stone's occasionally revisionist take on the influential band is definitely The Lizard King show. Kilmer looks and sounds so much like Morrison, it's almost unsettling, and in the end it's the talented but troubled frontman's road to self destruction that attracted audiences -- non-fans and cult-of-Jim followers alike.

6. 'Sid and Nancy' (1986)
Musician: Sid Vicious
Played By: Gary Oldman
Why It Rocks:
Ah, the agony and the ecstasy that is this morbid drama about the unstable, ultimately fatal relationship between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb). A drug-and-sex-fueled romance, Alex Cox's gritty drama is often reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet -- if they were a heroin-addicted punk rocker and his enabling lover. Oldman, who lost so much weight to play Vicious he was briefly hospitalized, is scarily spot-on as Sid.

5. 'Ray' (2004)
Musician: Ray Charles
Played By: Jamie Foxx
Why It Rocks: Foxx's many Best Actor awards were all well deserved for his metamorphosis into the blind singer-songwriter; he perfected Charles' mannerisms and humanized his flaws, like his twin vices of substance abuse and womanizing. Taylor Hackford's finely tuned biopic balanced showing Charles' highs and lows, included an excellent supporting cast (Kerry Washington, Regina King, Aunjanue Ellis), and highlighted his unforgettable music.

4. 'Shine' (1996)
Musician: David Helfgott
Played By: Geoffrey Rush
Why It Rocks: Rush, a relatively unknown actor in the States, broke into Hollywood with his stirring portrayal of Australian piano prodigy Helfgott, who suffered from severe mental illness. Director Scott Hicks captured the genius and madness of Helfgott's life, cast stellar supporting players like Armin Mueller-Stahl, Lynn Redgrave and John Gielgud, and introduced the world to a brilliant classical musician.

3. 'What's Love Got to Do With It' (1993)
Musician: Tina Turner
Played By: Angela Bassett
Why It Rocks: Unlike sweeping biographical dramas that follow artists from birth to old age, Brian Gibson's chronicle focuses on Tina Turner's early career and, more specifically, on her stormy, sometimes abusive relationship with husband-manager-producer Ike (Laurence Fishburne). The two powerhouse lead actors elevate the biopic from formulaic to unforgettable with their rousing performances.

2. 'Coal Miner's Daughter' (1980)
Musician: Loretta Lynn
Played By: Sissy Spacek
Why It Rocks: Spacek did everything right. She mastered Lynn's catalog of songs, singing all of them so well even Lynn herself approved. Director Michael Apted's fascinating look at the country icon's compelling rags-to-riches story is completely driven by Spacek's stunning, nuanced performance. As Lynn's controlling but supportive husband Doo, Tommy Lee Jones was wise not to chew up the scenery -- he just let Spacek shine.

1. 'Amadeus' (1984)
Musician: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Played By: Tom Hulce
Why It Rocks: Based on Peter Shaffer's play, director Milos Forman's adaptation unconventionally follows the composer's life from the point of view of a tortured, envious musician named Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). Hulce's partying, arrogant Mozart is unlikable at times, but when he sits at the piano, he's divine -- and it nearly kills Salieri to witness the musical perfection wrapped up in such a seemingly undeserving man. The movie is quite simply a masterpiece, as is the music that accompanies it.