A look back at Hollywood’s most successful musical biopics, whose subjects range from Tupac to Ritchie Valens to Elton John. (All box office totals are for domestic ticket sales.)
11. “All Eyez On Me” (2017) $44.9 million Critics were not impressed by Benny Boom’s biopic on the life and career of Tupac Shakur, but fans of the late rapper showed up en masse on its opening weekend to help the film beat box-office expectations and earn nearly $45 million at the box office.
10. “Jersey Boys” (2014) $47 million Clint Eastwood is known for directing grittier films like “The 15:17 to Paris” and “The Mule,” but he also contributed to musical history with a 2014 jukebox drama about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, which earned $47 million domestically and $67 million worldwid
9. “Amadeus” (1984) $51.9 million Thirty-five years after its release, the Best Picture Oscar-winning adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play is still charming fans of Mozart … and infuriating classical music scholars who insist that Antonio Salieri did not poison him.
8. “La Bamba” (1987) $54.2 million Ritchie Valens, writer of “La Bamba” and Pacoima’s cherished native son, became known as much for his tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 17 as he was for his music. “La Bamba,” starring Lou Diamond Phillips as the iconic rock star, goes deep into the family behind the guitar player, and how teenage fame forced Valens to make tough decisions.
7. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980) $67 million In 1976, country star Loretta Lynn released a bestselling memoir, and plans were quickly set in motion to turn it into a biopic. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” became both a Best Picture Oscar nominee and one of the top-grossing films of 1980. Sissy Spacek, who was personally picked by Lynn to play her, won the Best Actress Oscar.
6. “Ray” (2004) $75.3 million Speaking of Oscar winners, Jamie Foxx earned his Oscar 15 years ago for his depiction of Ray Charles in this biopic that also starred future Oscar winner Regina King. Charles’ death four months before the film’s release raised the biopic’s profile, and Foxx honored Charles’ memory during his Oscar acceptance speech.
5. “I Can Only Imagine” (2018) $83 million One of the biggest surprises of the 2018 box office was this film about Christian songwriter Bart Millard, who wrote the hit MercyMe song “I Can Only Imagine” in honor of his father. The film was such a hit that directors Andrew and Joe Erwin launched a new Christian film studio, Kingdom Studios, which has a first-look deal with Lionsgate
4. “Rocketman” (2019) $96.4 million As executive producer on a biopic fantasy musical about his life, Elton John demanded that “Rocketman” be an R-rated film because he “didn’t lead a PG-13 life.” Taron Egerton’s performance blew away critics, as the film became a popular alternative to big summer sequels.
3. “Walk The Line” (2005) $119.5 million Joaquin Phoenix earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as the legendary Johnny Cash, while Reese Witherspoon won Best Actress for her turn as Cash’s wife, June. For 10 years, “Walk The Line” stood as the highest-grossing music biopic ever, until it was dethroned by…
2. “Straight Outta Compton” (2015) $161.2 million Made with the approval of Ice Cube and Dr. Dre and starring Cube’s son, O’Shea, “Straight Outta Compton” pushed the biopic genre deeper into the realm of hip-hop with a retelling of N.W.A..’s career that gained an extra level of topicality with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The film also elevated the career of director F. Gary Gray, who would go on to direct installments in the “Fast & Furious” and “Men in Black” franchises.
1. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018) $216.7 million There may be another music biopic in the future that passes “BoRhap”‘s domestic total, but its worldwide total looks like it will stay atop the charts for a long time. With $903 million grossed globally and a Best Actor Oscar for lead star Rami Malek, it will likely enjoy a legacy as the most well-recognized music biopic ever made.