The Runaways Archives – FutureFemme

Here are ten of the best biopics about female musicians ever made. Be sure to play ‘em loud.

Dreamgirls: The best female focused music biopics

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Roxanne Roxanne, Michael Larnell’s critically acclaimed biopic of female emcee Roxanne Shanté, premiered on Netflix back in March and we’re still reeling from it. By all accounts, it’s one of the finest music biopics in recent years.

Boasting a strong pedigree of actors including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali (House of Cards), Nia Long (The Best Man Holiday), and the Beastie Boys’ Adam Horovitz, as well as a score by RZA and producers including Pharrell Williams and Forest Whitaker, Roxanne Roxanne is definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already.

While we’re on the topic, here are ten of the best biopics about female musicians ever made. Be sure to play ‘em loud.

10. The Sound of Music (1965)

Loosely based on Maria von Trapp’s account of the Von Trapp Family Singers, The Sound of Music takes a lot of artistic license with the source material. But isn’t it all worth it to see Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins) howling at the Austrian hills with a gaggle of precocious stage children around her? That might depend on whether the movie sends you hurling off for the hills or singing along with rapt enthusiasm. (We’re definitely the former).

9. Sweet Dreams (1985)

Patsy Cline’s life story is peppered with tragedy all the way through until her shocking death in a 1963 plane crash at the height of her fame. Starring Jessica Lange (Tootsie) as the velvet-voiced country icon, Sweet Dreams brings energy to Cline’s most wounded moments and meditates on the cost of love & success.

8. Bessie (2015)

Dee Rees’s HBO Bessie Smith biopic is a loving tribute to the legendary blues performer and deserves to be celebrated. The director brings out phenomenal performances in a cast including Queen Latifah (Chicago), Mo’Nique (Domino), Oliver Platt (Bicentennial Man), and Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave) and showcases Rees’s skill with ensemble casts & music.

7. Selena (1997)

Jennifer Lopez’s performance as record-breaking Tejana singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez is vastly underrated. Selena follows the chanteuse as she spins big dreams into even bigger chart success right up until her tragic murder in 1995.

6. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)

Starring Sissy Spacek (The Help) as legendary country singer Loretta Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter explores the icon’s dynamic career from the provincial poverty of her beginnings to the international superstardom that followed. The movie is an underrated gem (though it made a huge splash at the time) that comes with the added bonus of a young Tommy Lee Jones with a dashing sweep of blonde hair sure to make you wonder, “Wait, do I have a crush on Kay from Men in Black now?” ‘Fraid so, friend.

5. The Runaways (2010)

Floria Sigismondi’s frenetic coming-of-age biopic about a raucous teenage rock band The Runaways is full of youthful energy and painful insight. Exploring the ways the band may have been exploited by the industry alongside the relationship between Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart), the movie is as pounding as The Runaways’ hottest tracks.

4. Lady Sings the Blues (1972)

Sidney J. Furie’s biopic of Billie Holiday features Diana Ross (The Wiz) neither looking nor sounding anything like the iconic singer, but if you can get past that, the movie is nothing short of incredible. With stellar performances from Ross and co-stars Billy Dee Williams (Batman) and Richard Pryor (See No Evil, Hear No Evil), the five-time Oscar-nominated movie offers an unflinching look at Holiday’s troubled life and career.

3. Dreamgirls (2006)

Though not a direct biopic, Dreamgirls is loosely based on the story of The Supremes and Motown Records, and that’s good enough for us! Featuring Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson acting circles around Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained) and Eddie Murphy (Coming to America), the movie is pure power and deserves to enjoyed with the volume turned up to max.

2. La Vie en Rose (2007)

Marion Cotillard (Ismael’s Ghosts) is staggeringly good as French chanteuse Édith Piaf and rightfully took home the Best Actress statue at the 2008 Oscars for her performance. Piaf’s devastating and often heartbreaking life is laid out alongside some of her most beloved tracks to shattering effect.

1. What’s Love Got to Do with It (1993)

Following the career ascension of soul goddess Tina Turner (a formidable Angela Bassett) as she fights to break free of abusive husband Ike (Laurence Fishburne), What’s Love Got to Do with It is one of the greatest musical biopics ever made. The soundtrack is pure fire and the barbed energy between Bassett & Fishburne will have you screaming at the screen for Tina to rise up and succeed.

Kristen Stewart has enjoyed a career full of gutsy roles and masterful performances that prove she’s genuinely one of the greatest young actors in the industry. Here’s our ranking of her ten best so far.

‘Personal Shopper’: Kristen Stewart’s most gutsy roles to date

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Catherine Hardwicke’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was released ten years ago and the film (along with his subsequent sequels) remains a divisive relic of 00s movie madness. Scores of preadolescent girls developed major feelings for sparkling vampires and Kristen Stewart was basically tasked with being the human equivalent of a heart-eye emoji as meek mortal Bella Swan opposite brooding undead babe Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). However you feel about the films, there’s no denying they didn’t offer much of a role for Stewart to sink her teeth into.

From the Twilight franchise alone, it’d be difficult to see any glimmer of skill or talent from Stewart beyond her ability to bite her lip suggestively at a blood-guzzling beau. But both prior to and following the young adult vampire films, Stewart has enjoyed a career full of gutsy roles and masterful performances that prove she’s genuinely one of the greatest young actors in the industry. Here’s our ranking of her ten best so far.

10. On the Road (2012)

Released towards the end of the Twilight Saga’s tight grip on the hearts & minds of teenage girls (and grown-ass women) everywhere, On the Road saw Stewart delivering a transformative performance. Playing free-spirited Marylou in Walter Salles’s adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s revered beat classic, Stewart gleefully danced off the shackles of mainstream Hollywood.

9. Panic Room (2002)

Only the gutsiest 12-year-olds have the opportunity to work with David Fincher (Zodiac) for a lead role, which is exactly what Stewart did as the daughter of Jodie Foster’s Meg in Panic Room. She’s tough, resilient, and daring, squaring up to the men who have broken into her home (Jared Leto & Forest Whitaker) with all the confidence of someone twice her age.

8. Certain Women (2016)

Alongside Michelle Williams (All the Money in the World) and Laura Dern (The Tale), the movie tells the story of three trailblazing women whose lives intersect in a small-town. Though her role isn’t as major in the movie, Stewart is sweet and restrained as a lawyer struggling with the demands of her job.

7. Camp X-Ray (2014)

G.I. Jane aside, it’s rare to see portrayals of female soldiers in a lead role. As Cole – a soldier assigned to Guantanamo Bay who befriends a man imprisoned there – she offers a magnificent blend of strength & vulnerability, proving women can also throw on Army fatigues and display as much corporal tenacity as the dudes (as if anyone ever had any doubt!)

6. American Ultra (2015)

After showing off her credentials in numerous dramatic roles, Stewart let loose a little in American Ultra as a stoner striving to protect her government agent boyfriend who has been marked for extermination. Her performance is the most playful of her career to date, and an absolute hoot to watch.

5. Lizzie (2018)

Having premiered at Sundance in January, Lizzie is still yet to be released to the masses. However, the psychological thriller in which Stewart plays the maid and occasional lover of Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) is still a gutsy choice of role. An infamous murder mystery with a side of illicit lesbian romance? Yes, K-Stew!

4. The Runaways (2010)

The musical biopic marked a departure for Stewart from mainstream teen idol to a rebel with range. Starring opposite Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) & Michael Shannon (The Shape of Water), Stewart sported a messy mullet to play rock icon Joan Jett and delivered a performance full of swagger and unkempt, sapphic desire.

3. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014)

It’s no surprise Stewart’s most critically-acclaimed performance was in Olivier Assayas’s story of a film star (Juliette Binoche) coming face-to-face with an uncomfortable reflection of herself. The actor collaborates well with the director and in Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart holds her own against powerful performances from Binoche and Chloë Grace Moretz (I Love You, Daddy) by maintaining a measured intensity throughout.

2. Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

If you’re going to step into the acting ring against James Gandolfini (The Sopranos), you’ve got to have some big moves to keep up with him. Playing a troubled stripper named Mallory, Stewart showcased her capabilities as an actor who – at the time – was unfairly ridiculed for her apparent lack of range. Stewart stepped up to her criticisms in the role, showcasing serious range alongside some truly unnerving restless energy.

1. Personal Shopper (2016)

Assayas’s mournful horror balances emotional, pensive drama with unnerving, supernatural exploration. At the heart of the story is Stewart, who juggles all of these thematic swords with effortless finesse as Maureen – a young woman desperate to make contact with her recently deceased twin brother.