Traditional musicals may have been in short supply on the big screen in the past 40 years, but expand the definition to include movies set in the music scene -- or just characters described as 'musicians' -- and the number explodes. With the release of The Runaways on DVD and Blu-ray today, we have a good excuse to dig into musical characters who rock.
Fair warning: this list reflects my own personal, idiosyncratic musical and cinematic leanings, including a broad definition of what constitutes a rockin' character, and so your favorites may not be included. But that's why we have a comments section! Please share your recommendations.
1. Steve Coogan in 24 Hour Party People
By the mid-70s, rock music had become fossilized, inspiring open rebellion by kids with more raw energy than musical proficiency. As The Runaways hints at the Los Angeles music scene of that period, Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People portrays what was happening in Manchester, England, through the eyes of Tony Wilson (Coogan). Wilson may not have been a musician, but he was tuned in to what was happening musically and socially, and he had a keen sense for self-promotion, married to a genuine love for music. The film depicts more than a decade of musical history -- the image above is from a scene recreating the Sex Pistols' sparsely-attended, first public performance -- and Coogan as Wilson is a fabulous tour guide, part fabrication, part fantasist, and part True Believer, all essential components of a character who rocks.