Films have long featured larger-than-life rock stars and bands, some of which are just too cool to exist in own world. This week, The Lonely Island’s opus Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping introduces yet another such personality. We decided to take a look back at some of our favorite movie rock bands and musicians of all time, from the idols to the wannabes and everyone in between.
Here’s 14 Movie Bands We Wish Really Existed.
14. Stillwater (Almost Famous)
Most of the bands on this list made it by actually being great. Stillwater is something different; they’re great because they’re mediocre. More specifically they are, “a mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom,” according to Lester Bangs himself. Set against the wall-to-wall great music that Almost Famous offers, in counterpoint Stillwater’s “Fever Dog” barely make an impression. It’s dad rock that not even the dads are going to remember.
It’s Cameron Crowe’s love of the session players, the also-rans, the “those who got outclassed by Humble Pie” that make Almost Famous (and the rest of his pre-Elizabethtown work) so enthralling, see also Citizen Dick from his earlier film Singles, the one band in the Seattle scene guaranteed to make Candlebox look like virtuosos.) Stillwater may not be great, but at least they’re not the Jeff Bebe Band.
13. “Unnamed Band” (We Are The Best!)
They may have been formed primarily to spite a group of misogynistic teenage metal fans (Iron Fist!). They may not actually know how to play their instruments. They may only play one song. They may not even have a name. But the musical group in We Are The Best! represent so much about what’s great about making music; what’s wonderful about being in a band whether you achieve success or the opposite. Identity, solidarity, camaraderie and the cathartic joy of making a whole bunch of noise when you’re not supposed to.
12. The Hong Kong Cavaliers (The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai Across The 8th Dimension)
Unlike our previous entry, no band quite like The Hong Kong Cavaliers exists. That’s not so terrible – what little of their music we do hear is kind of an electronic free form jazz jam that’s…not great.
That being said, Buckaroo Banzai and The Hong Kong Cavaliers have saved our very existence countless times, from Doctor Emilio Lizardo, hostile interdimensional invaders, and The World Crime League itself. It just seems plain churlish to keep them off this list because of their sound. If they want to blow off a little steam between bouts of universe-saving with some jam sessions of faintly crappy music, who am I to judge?
11. The Bleek Quintet (Mo’ Better Blues)
Spike Lee’s Cassevettes-esque examination of the New York jazz scene and the obsessive mind of a musician at its center isn’t usually considered one of his masterpieces. It’s a bit too wandering and improvisatory (fitting for a movie about jazz) and lacks the intensity of Lee’s best work. But it also has an extremely personal feel: Lee’s father is a jazz musician, and one can’t help but feel that he had some insight into the mind of someone who periodically disappeared into their music.
But when Bleek and his quintet get on stage the movie hits another level. Also, it’s a band that has Blade and The Equalizer in it. That pairing alone means their accumulated body count is in the hundreds, even without the other three kicking in. Think they’re not making the list?
10. The Stains (Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains)
This 80s movie about a seventeen-year-old, former fast food worker who ends up headlining an all female punk band is a cult favorite. It’s long had the cache of a secret handshake among its fans. The Stains are tough, fighting it out with bands like The Metal Corpses and The Looters for stage space, giving incisive volatile calls to revolution at ever opportunity, robbing their corrupt manager, inciting a riot at their first major gig, and somehow managing to become MTV sensations.
The Stains have attitude to spare, and are aided by the charisma and talent of their young cast – Diane Lane, Laura Dern, and the other one. The movie itself is a strange mixture of grit and daydreams. A seventeen-year-old’s fantasy about being the most authentic in the land. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there, and we can’t help but wish The Stains had been there, too.
9. The Ain’t Rights (The Green Room)
You don’t get to see The Ain’t Rights play all that much in The Green Room. Most of the movie sees them occupied with… other concerns. But in that small sliver of time you get to see them stick to their DIY aesthetic, rock the ever living shit out of a Mexican restaurant and play the best/worst-timed Dead Kennedys cover of all time. Simple; direct; The Ain’t Rights are true believers and prove to be exactly the kind of band modern punk could use some more of.
8. The Juicy Fruits (The Phantom Of The Paradise)
Mourn the poor Juicy Fruits, for they never had a chance. They were caught in the middle of a battle of wills between a record producer who has literally sold his soul to Satan, and a half-crazed monstrous composer out for revenge. Something had to give, and in this case that thing happened to be The Juicy Fruits.
Yes, it was only a matter of time before they were blown up in an extended Orson Welles homage (this is a Brian DePalma film, after all). Before making their explosive exit, The Juicy Fruits manage to make a mark, opening the movie and playing the first show onstage at The Paradise with a brand of throwback greaser rock so brain dead that it might secretly be brilliant.
7. The Carrie Nations (Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls)
God, where to start with The Carrie Nations? They were the stars of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls – conceived and written by Roger Ebert, directed by Russ Meyer, produced by the legendary Z-Man. They play psychedelic pop, run through a lineup of men and do so many drugs that they wound up referenced in Sublime’s “Smoke Two Joints”. In other words, ladies and gentlemen, they are f***ing rock stars.
Murder, chaos, conspiracy, hidden fortunes and possible Nazis follow in their wake, but really how could they not? They also manage to straight up heal a dude’s paralysis. The Carrie Nations are one of those bands that seems to bend reality around themselves, creating a more interesting and exciting world just by existing. Our world would certainly be better off with them in it.
6. Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures (Halloween II)
In Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (which is a lot better than you’ve heard), a large portion of the action takes place at a Halloween party hosted by the psychobilly band Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures. They put on one hell of a show. Giant pumpkin-headed animatronics, buxom dancers, Jeff Daniel Phillips cosplaying as Vincent Price serving as their MC, and a pretty decent sound to go along with it. It’s basically Zombie’s excuse to create his ultimate band and Halloween concert on paper and he makes the most of the opportunity.
Unlike most of the bands on this list you can even get a little Captain Clegg in your life. Zombie went so far as to produce a tie-in album with tracks like “Transylvania Terror Train”, “Headless Hip Shaking Honey” and “Macon County Morgue”. It’s not bad! In fact, I would go so far as to call it the best album inspired by a sequel to a remake of all time.
5. The Folksmen (A Mighty Wind)
In many ways, the modern fake band owes itself to Spinal Tap. They perfected the art form with the armadillos down their trousers, miniature Stonehenges, and opening for puppet shows. But Spinal Tap was almost too successful; after all can you call yourself a “fake band” when you’ve toured extensively and released more than a few albums?
Enter The Folksmen, one of the bands in A Mighty Wind. Like The Folksmen, A Mighty Wind often finds itself overshadowed by its more famous older brother (and Best In Show, and Waiting For Guffman). But recent years have seen appreciation for the film on the rise. Like The Folksmen, it’s lower key than Spinal Tap, but still devastatingly funny (“I would love to visit Crabbstowne in the Autumn.“) The Folksmen aren’t the flashiest part of the film, but the ease and comfort that performerss Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest have with each other pays off. They have the kind of rhythm with each other that you only get after decades of performance and in that they fit The Folksmen as perfectly as a “smelly ol’ blanket that a Navajo wore.”
4. Dewey Cox (Walk Hard)
What can be said about Dewey Cox, after Eddie Vedder tries to sum him up? “If Elvis and Buddy Holly are the Cain and Abel of rock and roll, Bruce Springsteen is Zachariah, Iggy Pop is Methuselah, and, of course, Neil Young is the wise prophet Ezekiel, then what does that make Dewey Cox?” The man’s career speaks for itself. He dropped acid with The Beatles, practiced Kung Fu with Elvis, invented every genre of popular music of the past sixty years, fathered a nation of children, incorporated the didgeridoo into pop music, and did every drug known to man without ever paying for them (“Not even once.”) He also recorded “Let’s Duet” which is one of the funniest songs known to mankind. All while being smell blind and dealing with the crippling guilt of cutting his brother in half in a particularly bad way. Yes, Dewey Cox is perhaps the most underrated, under-appreciated artist on this list.
3. Wyld Stallions (Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure/Bogus Journey)
Most of these bands are on the list for their musical abilities in and of themselves, but Wyld Stallyns is a bit different. Their ascendancy has been prophesied to bring about a new Utopian era of peace, prosperity, and some totally bitching advances in water park technology.
The Wyld Stallyns brand of hair metal might not be for everyone, but life under the benevolent leadership of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter sure seems pretty good to us. Be excellent to one another, indeed.
2. The Clash At The Demon Head (Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe)
OK let’s break this down, The Clash At Demonhead (TCAD, if you’re in the know) has a cyborg for a drummer, an Akira level psychic vegan for a bassist who “ACTUALLY KNOWS HOW TO PLAY BASS,” and one of the most vicious exes of all time as its lead singer. Its songs are written by Metric. Its stage presence can only be termed as “formidable”. They played with The Pixies and didn’t give a crap. Oh yes, my friends, this is one of the greatest movie bands of all time. Witnessing them is like having the highlights punched out of your hair.
The only thing holding TCAD back from claiming the top spot and immediately crossing over into our world and ruling us all, is the issue of longevity. The last time we see TCAD, two of their members are either on the run or have been transformed into loose change. Even if they had been left intact, the final band in the list might have made them be-gone like ve-gones.
1. Ellen Aim And The Attackers (Streets Of Fire)
Ellen Aim and The Attackers is quite possibly the greatest band of all time. They serve not only as rock stars but as a symbol of hope to the entire downtrodden urban wasteland. In “another time, another place,” or as I like to think of it, “the magical land of ninety fifty-eight five,” Ellen Aim and The Attackers become a target for a leather overall wearing Willem Dafoe and his vicious gang of bikers.
Ellen Aim wears a one-sleeved top and a leather skirt; the Attackers are clad in white suits. They’re managed by Rick Moranis; their songs are written by Jim Steinman of Bat Out Of Hell fame. Diane Lane sings like she has been fed a diet of inferior singers, and poses better than anyone in human history. The Attackers play with such furor that at one point they intimidate Lee Ving. Director Walter Hill gives it all a sheen both desperate and hopelessly glamorous. Ellen Aim and The Attackers don’t just have a style – they have a mission, they’re singing “for the desperate and the broken hearted.” Isn’t that all of us?