5 Films About Country Music

1) Tender Mercies (1983), directed by Brue Heresford

This has long been one of my favorite movies and it is criminally underseen. Robert Duvall won an Oscar and gives what might be his best performance in a career full of fantastic work. The plot revolves around Mac Sledge, played by Duvall, a washed up alcoholic country singer who wanders into a small Texas town and finds a new lease on life with a widow and her young son. It is an absolutely beautiful film, with some great songs (including a few written by Duvall himself), and heartfelt performances by everyone involved. Duvall’s monologue about the cruelty of life and his mistrust of happiness has stuck with me from the first time I saw it. I encourage everyone to give it a chance.

2) Crazy Heart (2009), directed by Scott Cooper

Another film about a washed up alcoholic countey singer (maybe there is a pattern here) featuring a career best performance from its lead. This time, it is Jeff Bridges in the forefront winning an Oscar, although Robert Duvall makes a strong supporting appearance. Bridges plays Bad Blake, a down on his luck formerly-famous singer reduced to working the dive bar circuit for his whiskey money. The soundtrack is amazing, really selling the notion that these songs could have been popular. In addition to the stellar work from Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhall and Colin Farrell (who is a surprisingly good singer) turn in great performances as well. This is a must see.

3) Walk The Line (2005), directed by James Mangold

An absolutely engaging film about country music’s most iconic couple, Johnny Cash and June Carter. Adapted from two of Cash’s autobiographies, the film details his life from his troubled childhood through his early career struggles to the height of his fame when his career was nearly derailed by addiction. It culminates in his career defining performance at Folsom Prison, and all the while John and June’s love story unfolds in the background. The film is anchored by truly outstanding performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon with both actors doing a damn fine job replicating two of classic country’s most recognizable voices.

4) Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), directed by Michael Apted

No list about country music films could be complete without this one. The film tells the story of Loretta Lynn, from her humble upbringing in rural Kentucky to her rise to fame as one of the most popular country singers of all time. It is aa film filled with great performances. Sissy Spacek is fantastic in the tirle role and won a well-deserved oscar. Tommy Lee Jones is as brilliant as he always is as Loretta’s husband Doolittle. The film is, of course, filled with great music to drive the story. Definitely still worth watching today.

5) Rhinestone (1984), directed by Bob Clark

This one definitely falls into the “so bad that you have to see it” category of films, a delightful subgenre that I can never get enough of. This cinematic disasterpiece was director Bob Clark’s followup to the brilliant holiday classic A Christmas Story. The film stars Dolly Parton as a country singer stuck in a contract she wants out of, so she makes a bet with her sleazeball manager that she can create a countey star out of any schmuck on the street. If she succeeds and creates a star, then she no longer has to perform in his New York nightclub. If she fails, her contract is extended and she has to fuck him (this is not a post Me Too movement film). The average joe she has to transform into a country star is none other than John Rambo himself, Sylveser Stallone. Stallone is just as awful of a singer as you would expect him to be and the film is every bit as bad and ridiculous as it sounds. Parton did have a couple of minor hits from the soundtrack, but that is the one bright spot on this trainwreck of a flick.

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