It’s no surprise that the north’s reputation for delivering on the music scene has, on many occasions, been well-documented on the big screen too. Whether this is through real-life documentaries, biopics or in some cases fictional stories based on northern artists, there is a plethora of fine examples.
We’ve compiled a list of our ‘Top 10 Films & Documentaries Based on Northern Music’. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments…
10. England is Mine (2017)
This Morrissey biopic launched at the Edinburgh Film Festival last year, and despite coming in for some criticism from a close friend of the former frontman of The Smiths, it was pretty well received on the whole. It was a unique take on the early life of the controversial, yet always intriguing, singer-songwriter, and the film takes us right up to the time when Morrissey met Marr.
9. Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop (2003)
The dust had settled on the era-defining Britpop craze, but this documentary gave people the chance to relive the biggest and best moments. This included the famous chart showdown between Blur & Oasis, which saw Roll With It lose out to Country House. Live Forever provides a great watch in the sense that it’s reminiscent of a great era of music, but some were to follow years later which really set the bar for music documentaries.
8. Northern Soul (2014)
Despite the fact that this is the most loosely linked film to northern music, it’s still highly rated and a must-watch. The plot follows two Lancashire DJs in 1974, who leave behind their northern UK roots and head to the USA to follow their dreams. The ambition is to establish themselves as top DJs on the American Northern Soul scene, with their close friendship being put to the test along the rocky road to success.
7. Spike Island (2012)
Spike Island wasn’t very well received by the critics when it was released six years ago, but for the majority of Stone Roses fans it proved to be a great watch nonetheless. The film obviously comes with a quality soundtrack, and follows a group of young Roses fans on the hunt to see the band at their iconic gig. Spike Island stars Elliott Tittensor (Shameless) and Emilia Clarke, with the latter going on to star as Daenerys Targaryen in the critically-acclaimed HBO show Game of Thrones.
6. The Importance Of Being Morrissey (2002)
Whilst ‘England is Mine’ provided us with the Morrissey biopic, The Importance of Being Morrissey featured the man himself as part of a documentary 15 years earlier. Featuring a variety of different guests including JK Rowling, Alan Bennett and Bono, and with archived footage of Johnny Marr, the documentary gave fans a much better insight into the life of the controversial star. Of course, Morrissey himself brought his usual sense of humour to proceedings too.
5. The Stone Roses: Made of Stone (2013)
‘Spike Island’ was the fictional Stone Roses tale, but a year later ‘Made of Stone’ was the real-life insight into the iconic Manchester band. It was directed by the talented Shane Meadows, best known for This is England, and featured all four members of the Roses. It focused on the preparations for the big comeback tour, which featured three sold out homecoming shows at Heaton Park. It also looks into the general day to day lives of each band member away from The Stone Roses.
4. A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
The oldest entry into the Top 10 list, but certainly one of the most well-known, is the musical comedy A Hard Day’s Night. The concept of the film is a day in the life of The Beatles, as John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr entered a world of fame where they were dubbed as being the best band in the world. Scoring 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 96% on Metacritic, it’s clear to see that A Hard Day’s Night was a big hit.
3. Supersonic (2016)
The greatest thing about Supersonic is that it delves way deeper than anybody could have imagined into the history of Oasis, and the wonderful yet toxic relationship between Noel & Liam Gallagher. Providing unseen footage and exclusive interviews with band members, this wasn’t just any Oasis documentary, it was an immersive, behind-the-scenes experience. It’s a great watch for fans both old and new, with the resulting yearn for an Oasis reunion the only downside of the film.
2. Control (2007)
It was a close call between the top two, but just losing out on the number one spot is Control. Set in the 1970s, it follows the story of Joy Division‘s lead singer Ian Curtis, as he battles with personal struggles such as worsening epilepsy and a troubled marriage. Curtis’ personal issues were ongoing during the rise of Joy Division, and actor Sam Riley is incredible in his portrayal of the iconic frontman. Tony Wilson was involved in the production of the film, and former bandmates Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook and Stephen Morris contributed to the soundtrack. A must-watch for everybody, not just Joy Division fans.
1. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
Taking the number one spot, after plenty of deliberation, is 24 Hour Party People. Starring Steve Coogan, the film follows the journey of Tony Wilson, from his early days as a TV news reporter right through to the creation of Factory Records and The Hacienda Club. With a soundtrack including the likes of Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and The Clash, along with an all-star cast, this iconic film is a great indication of what northern music is all about.
Top 10 Films editor, Dan Stephens had his say on our choice of winner: “Director Michael Winterbottom’s triumph, along with screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce, is channelling not only the zeitgeist of the period but recreating the component parts, from the performances themselves by bands like The Sex Pistols, Joy Division (later New Order) and Happy Mondays to the sex, drugs and rock n roll of Manchester’s transformative music scene.
“Of course, the film benefits from Steve Coogan who, outside of his TV work, delivers a career-best performance. He was seemingly made to play low-fi visionary Tony Wilson. Ultimately, it is an amusing reminder of the blood, sweat and tears of Madchester between the late 1970s and early 1990s for those that lived it, and a revealing, entertaining tragi-comic history lesson for those that didn’t.”
Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments…