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Over the years, there have been countless great country music movies ranging from Academy Award-winning biographical dramas like Walk the Line and Coal Miner’s Daughter, to beloved fictional stories set in honky tonks and massive concert halls around the country like Tender Mercies and A Star is Born.
There is just something about country music that makes it perfect for the big screen, which is one reason there are just so many great movies focused on down-on-their-luck lost souls at the end of their rope and the heartfelt music that comes from their life experiences and sorrow. Below is a collection of 11 great country music movies and where you can watch them streaming. Grab a tissue (and a bottle of your favorite spirit) because this is going to be one emotional ride…
Walk The Line (2005)
There are few biopics that resonate as much as James Mangold’s Walk the Line. Telling the story of Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix), this 2005 drama follows the “Man in Black” from his early days in rural Arkansas all the way to one of the highlights of his career and country music as a whole — the live-recording of the famous 1968 At Folsom Prison album. There are plenty of ups and downs — especially those involving Cash’s bandmate turned soulmate June Carter (Reese Witherspoon in an Oscar-winning performance) — throughout this wonderfully directed and acted film, all of which makes Walk the Line a must-watch for anyone fond of Johnny Cash or country music in general.
Crazy Heart (2009)
The 2009 drama Crazy Heart tells the unforgettable story of country music legend Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges), who, despite being one of the best in the game, is stuck playing small dive bars after burning one too many bridges throughout his life. Drunk, depressed, and all alone, Blake’s life is given new meaning when he meets journalist Jean Craddock (Maggi Gyllenhaal). What starts out as a reporter asking a few questions quickly turns into an intimate relationship that gives the washed-up country singer a new purpose in life. That promise of a better life, however, is soon threatened by ghosts of Blake’s tumultuous past.
A Star Is Born (2018)
There have been a total of four films with the title A Star Is Born released over the years, but the 2018 musical drama directed by Bradley Cooper, who also stars alongside Lady Gaga, is the rawest and most emotional of the bunch. The film centers on Jackson Maine (Cooper), a successful musician with a bevy of personal issues who finds new meaning and romance when he runs into struggling singer Ally (Lady Gaga) at a drag bar. What starts out as a happy-go-lucky love affair quickly turns into something much bigger as the two fall deeply in love just as Ally’s career begins to reach new heights. As the roles reverse over time, Jackson and Ally are left wondering how to make sense of this confusing life.
Also Try: A Star is Born (1976).
Pure Country (1992)
Dusty Wyatt (George Strait) is one of the biggest country singers in the world with everything he could want in life: fame, fortune, sold out arena shows, you name it. But, the glitz and glamour causes the chart-topping musician to grow disillusioned with life and causes him to take a step back and return to his small town. Christopher Gain’s 1992 country music romance, Pure Country, follows Dusty as he becomes a hired hand at a local ranch, falls in love with the owner’s daughter, and finds his passion for life once again. The peace and quiet of the country life can only last so long, as Dusty is slowly pulled back into the hectic nature of the music industry.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Coen Brothers’ 2000 crime drama O Brother, Where Art Thou?, which is loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey, tells the story of three escaped convicts — Ulysses McGill (George Clooney), Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson), and Pete (John Turturro) as they embark upon an epic journey to find buried treasure in the American South. To make money to support their pursuit of fortune, the trio record a song as The Soggy Bottom Boys, becoming an overnight sensation. But, the group’s fame could also lead to their undoing and prevent them from finding that elusive treasure chest.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
A quarter-century before Joaquin Phoenix paid homage to Johnny Cash in Walk the Line, Sissy Spacek brought to life the story of country music legend Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter. This wonderful 1980 biographical drama directed by Michael Apted tells the improbable story of a young teenager in Kentucky as she goes from mother of four before she’s even 20 to one of the biggest voices the world of country music has ever seen. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, Coal Miner’s Daughter would ultimately win one that night when Spacek was named Best Actress for her remarkable portrayal of a woman who never gave up on herself, her dreams, or her family.
Tender Mercies (1983)
Bruce Beresford’s 1983 country music drama, Tender Mercies, follows washed up singer Mac Sledge (Robert Duval) as he tries to make sense of the decisions that led to him waking up in a motel room with no money to his name. When given an opportunity to make some cash leads to him falling in love with the motel’s owner, Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), Mac makes a conscious effort to change his life and pull himself out of the cycle of honky-tonk gigs, blackouts, and regrets. Robert Duvall ended up winning an Oscar for his portrayal of the down-on-his-luck country singer in this must-watch country music movie.
The name Blaze Foley might not be the most recognizable to the casual country music fan, but the crooner from Texas remains one of the most influential musicians of his time, even decades after he was stabbed to death following a disagreement with his neighbor’s son. The Ethan Hawke-directed biopic Blaze sees singer-songwriter Ben Dickey do a masterful job of bringing the “Duct Tape Messiah” to life in spectacular fashion. Told through a combination of scenes from Blaze’s life and interviews with Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton) and Zee (Josh Hamilton), Hawke offers a unique spin on the biographical drama setup, producing one of the most beautiful films of the past few years.
Honkytonk Man (1982)
In 1982, Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the musical drama Honkytonk Man, which follows Great Depression-era country singer Red Stovall as he sets off to make a name for himself at the Grand Ole Opry. But, Red isn’t some up-and-coming musician with his best years ahead of him. No, Red is dying of tuberculosis and is using the fuel that’s left in his tank to turn a seemingly impossible dream into a reality. Honkytonk Man, which happens to be one of Clint Eastwood’s best movies, would also be the final film appearance by country-western icon Marty Robbins, who passed away less than two weeks before the film’s December 15, 1982 release.
In 1975, Robert Altman gave the world one of his most ambitious movies with the release of his satirical musical drama, Nashville. With a large ensemble cast including Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, Karen Black, Keith Carradine, and numerous others, the movie tells of the interconnected lives of various musicians, politicians, and local residents who are all trying to make a name for themselves in the Tennessee capital. Nominated for five Academy Awards, Nashville would end up taking home the Oscar for Best Original Song for Keith Carradine's poignant "I Am Easy."
Heartworn Highways (1976)
And then, there is the 1976 outlaw country documentary Heartworn Highways, which offers viewers a look into the lives of some of the most prolific yet least-talked-about singer-songwriters of the era. With iconic scenes involving the late great Townes Van Zandt performing his gut-wrenching ballad “Pancho and Lefty,” David Allan Coe performing at the Tennessee State Prison (where he was once an inmate), Guy Clark’s epic Christmas party with the likes of Steve Young, Rodney Crowell, and a young Steve Earle, and more, this is must-watch for anyone who wants to know about some of country music’s most influential figures. I promise, you will not be let down.
These are some of the best country music movies you can watch right now, but this doesn’t mean this is everything out there. If you like all these titles and want to learn more about the world of country music there are dozens of great documentaries and movies on Netflix that shed light on the luminaries of the genre. Some of the best movies on Amazon Prime also touch on country music and shouldn’t be overlooked, either.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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