The 12 Best Movies About Music Managers and Producers, Ranked

Sometimes, the people behind musicians are more interesting than the musicians themselves—as seen in these movies.
The 12 Best Movies About Music Managers and Producers, Ranked

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Behind every great musician is a great (or terrible) manager who calls the shots, books the shows, negotiates the contracts and payrolls. They essentially have complete and utter control over a star's life, making it easy to take advantage of the talent who trusts in them.

Some music managers are genuinely in it for the art, for the potential they see in someone, for the impact they can have. Other music managers view it as a shortcut to riches, pumping their clients full of drugs, slaving them to work like dogs, and raking in those dollars.

Here are my picks for the best movies about music managers and producers, which explore the dynamics between them and their musicians. Many of these are based on real people!

12. The High Note (2020)

Directed by Nisha Ganatra

Starring Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr.

Drama, Music, Romance (1h 53m)

6.4 on IMDb71% on RT

The High Note might follow the generic tropes and and narrative cues of its genre, but it ultimately presents a different kind of musician-manager relationship than what we're used to.

Instead of being an enabling cheerleader or abusive dominator, Maggie (played by Dakota Johnson) has absolutely no power over R&B superstar Grace Davis (played by Tracee Ellis Ross). Why? Because she's mainly just a personal assistant...

Having studied as a composer, Maggie decides to try selling herself as Grace's next manager by toppling over her current one (played by Ice Cube). Not only does Maggie have a higher-ranking male to break through, but also Grace's own towering ego.

Will Grace accept the Las Vegas residency that killed Elvis? Will she bite the bullet to record a new album? Nisha Ganatra's rom-com goes in all the directions you'd expect it to go, but that doesn't mean it isn't an enjoyable watch along the way!

11. Rocketman (2019)

Directed by Dexter Fletcher

Starring Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Richard Madden

Biography, Drama, Music (2h 1m)

7.3 on IMDb89% on RT

Rocketman is a musician biopic that reaches all the way back to Elton John's childhood, starring Taron Egerton in the titular role. Although his manager John Reid (played by Richard Madden) is only one puzzle piece in the mosaic of Elton John's hectic life, he's a very big one.

John Reid isn't just Elton's manager, but also his lover. This blurred boundary between work and personal life is risky enough, but even more so when Reid turns out to be a toxic manipulator.

As Elton descends into addiction and rage, Reid plays on his partner's insecurities to stack up the dollars. He overworks and belittles Elton, and is the primary reason for his downward spiral (alongside Elton's parents).

The manager storyline pervades most of Rocketman as the obstacle for the protagonist to overcome on his Hero's Journey. Elton John was an executive producer for this jukebox musical, so we can only assume Reid really was as terrible as he's portrayed.

10. The Runaways (2010)

Directed by Floria Sigismondi

Starring Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon

Biography, Drama, Music (1h 46m)

6.5 on IMDb69% on RT

Michael Shannon is the perfect guy to play off-beat characters who err on the side of villain. Kim Fowley was a "shadowy cult figure" and self-proclaimed "necessary evil" of the 70s music scene, a sort of punk purist who launched the all-girl rock band The Runaways to fame.

Kim Fowley works to coax out the bad-girl side of singer Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) and introduces her to the rest of his makeshift band, who practice in a trailer while Kim screams and throws things at them for "heckling practice."

While Kim got The Runaways signed to Mercury Records, he also broke them—both as a band and as people. After convincing Cherie to do a secret photoshoot, the girls split up and Cherie spirals into drug addiction.

9. Frank (2014)

Directed by Lenny Abrahamson

Starring Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Comedy, Drama, Music (1h 35m)

6.9 on IMDb92% on RT

Some indie films try too hard to be zany and original, but for Frank, it all comes naturally baked into the premise.

Lenny Abrahamson's black-comedy stars Michael Fassbender as eponymous guitarist Frank, though you wouldn't know it because he spends the whole movie wearing a giant papier-mâché head.

Don (played by Scoot McNairy) is the manager of The Soronprfbs, whose keyboardist attempts suicide so Jon (played by Domhnall Gleeson) is recruited. No, Don isn't an evil, bloodsucking manager type—but he does fail to pay the band's rent and live up to Frank's expertise.

Then, Don does something tragic that harms the band and causes all kinds of tremors that grow and divide the group. Don's sudden absence lingers among them and weighs heavy, and it all puts the nature of Frank's mask under the spotlight.

8. Dont Look Back (1967)

Directed by D. A. Pennebaker

Starring Bob Dylan, Albert Grossman, Bob Neuwirth

Documentary, Music (1h 36m)

7.9 on IMDb91% on RT

Dubbed the "pre-eminent chronicler of Sixties counterculture" by The Independent, D. A. Pennebaker captured the likes of Otis Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry with his films.

Known for his many documentaries—music-related and otherwise—Pennebaker spent particular time featuring Bob Dylan in three of them. The most acclaimed of the three is Dont Look Back, a black-and-white documentary that's preserved in the US National Film Registry.

Voted as the ninth-best documentary ever made, Dont Look Back lets us tag along on the day-to-day life of a legendary country singer during the 1960s. The film's opening title cards set to "Subterranean Homesick Blues" were especially praised and parodied.

While on the road with Bob Dylan, we also spend a lot of time with his manager, Albert Grossman. Pennebaker loved direct cinema, so we witness all the backstage action from a neutral POV.

And yet, despite a knack for expensive record deals, Dylan ended up firing Grossman in 1971 for getting greedy.

7. Dreamgirls (2006)

Directed by Bill Condon

Starring Beyoncé, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy

Drama, Music (2h 10m)

6.6 on IMDb79% on RT

Bill Condon's Dreamgirls is a film à clef adapted from Broadway, so it's not 100% true—but it isn't supposed to be. The film's central trio, called "The Dreamettes," are a stand-in for The Supremes (originally The Primettes). You know, the hit 1960s girl group that launched Motown Records.

Jamie Foxx plays band manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (a sort of pseudonym for Berry Gordy Jr.) who founded Motown in 1959. The former Cadillac salesman is relentless in his quest to become a rich record executive, chiefly by bringing The Dreamettes to white audiences.

Despite his success and glowing peer reviews, Berry Gordy Jr. had a reputation for his high-pressure approach in the darker side of Motown (though arguably this level of ruthlessness was required to become one of the few big African-American businessmen of the time).

Foxx's fictionalized version of Gordy is super slick and just a teeny bit slimy, strong enough to not be overshadowed by the dazzling musical numbers. Looking for another 1960s Motown movie also starring Beyoncé? Check out Cadillac Records (2008).

6. That Thing You Do! (1996)

Directed by Tom Hanks

Starring Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn

Comedy, Drama, Music (1h 48m)

7.0 on IMDb94% on RT

Back in the 1960s, every up-and-coming band was compared to The Beatles. Even today, The Beatles remain an underlying measurement of success when bands get really big, but in 1964, it was very on-the-nose.

"The Wonders" are taken on by Play-Tone Records manager Mr. White (played by Tom Hanks) after their song "That Thing You Do!" becomes a hit. A one-hit wonder, as it would turn out.

They're jazzy, poppy, fast-paced. They're also forced into matching suits and sunglasses like other boy bands of the time (like Vanity Fare, The Beatles, The Animals, The Monkees... Perhaps The Wonders should have been named after some kind of mammal, too!)

No matter how well Mr. White plays their cards, they always seem to be down to the felt and unable to catch a break. That Thing You Do! was also Tom Hanks's debut as a director, who harnessed the beloved lighthearted humor he was synonymous with in the 1990s.

5. Amy (2015)

Directed by Asif Kapadia

Starring Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson

Documentary, Biography, Music (2h 8m)

7.8 on IMDb95% on RT

The relationship between Amy Winehouse and her manager is a little complex because... well... he was her dad. Much like the famously vile manager of The Jackson Five, Mitch Winehouse put his daughter's career before her own health and happiness.

You know that line about her not going to rehab because "my daddy thinks I'm fine"? That's based on a true story. She finally agreed to attend rehab if her father approved, which he didn't (presumably because it would cost him many tour dates and a lot of money).

Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning five years later, exacerbated by many years of hard drug abuse.

Asif Kapadia takes us through the whole of the jazz singer's life, from childhood to death at just 27 years old. It includes jabs at Mitch, who allowed her self-destruction to continue in the name of success.

4. Straight Outta Compton (2015)

Directed by F. Gary Gray

Starring O'Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell

Biography, Drama, History (2h 27m)

7.8 on IMDb88% on RT

Straight Outta Compton doesn't look like your typical Oscar-nominated film from its cover, but I assure you it's worthy of its awards. Director F. Gary Gray's observational biopic—tracing the rise and fall of N.W.A—was commended for being one of the more realistic of its genre.

Straight Outta Compton is as much a tale of gang culture as it is the music industry, with the hip-hop group painted in an ugly-but-honest picture of life on the streets of Los Angeles.

Their rap lyrics were enough to spark controversy back in the 90s, which manager Jerry Heller (played by Paul Giamatti) tried to keep under control. Don't feel too sorry for him, though! The sleazy businessman had been underpaying them all along while embezzling funds.

Former N.W.A members Ice Cube and Dr. Dre produced Straight Outta Compton, giving it that uniquely raw authenticity.

3. Last Night in Soho (2021)

Directed by Edgar Wright

Starring Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy, Matt Smith

Drama, Horror, Mystery (1h 56m)

7.0 on IMDb76% on RT

Last Night in Soho features your typical corrupt manager archetype, but it doesn't start out that way. Directed by Edgar Wright, Last Night in Soho unfolds in London where young Ellie (played by Thomasin McKenzie) moves to study fashion.

Ellie has a hard time fitting in because of her love of the 1960s. The era is her escape route, and it manifests itself as reality when she travels back in time to the 1960s when she sleeps. It's not just a dream, as shown when she wakes up with real love bites on her neck.

When she's time-travel-dreaming, Ellie finds herself in the body of Sandie (played by Anya Taylor-Joy), an aspiring singer of the era. Her relationship with her manager as both lover and client quickly spirals into darkness when he turns out to be a manipulative pimp.

When these dreams-turned-nightmares seep into Ellie's waking life, she starts to wonder if Jack was a real guy... and what he did to her.

2. Love & Mercy (2014)

Directed by Bill Pohlad

Starring John Cusack, Paul Dano, Elizabeth Banks

Biography, Drama, Music (2h 1m)

7.4 on IMDb90% on RT

As good as Straight Outta Compton was, it came out just after Love & Mercy and slightly paled in comparison. Funny enough, Love & Mercy also features Paul Giamatti as a crooked music manager!

Well, technically, Dr. Eugene Landy was a psychologist, but he managed Brian Wilson's life with a tightly controlled 24-hour therapy regime.

Why was this doctor so dedicated to "looking after" Brian, lead singer of the Beach Boys, who suffered with paranoid schizophrenia? Well, Landy wants to force music out of Brian and force himself into his will.

Bill Pohlad directs this tragic biopic, switching between Brian's life in the 1960s (played by Paul Dano) and 1980s (played by John Cusack).

1. Elvis (2022)

Directed by Baz Luhrmann

Starring Tom Hanks, Austin Butler, Olivia DeJonge

Biography, Drama, Music (2h 39m)

7.3 on IMDb77% on RT

My favorite movie about music managers also happens to be the newest one of this list, which showcases the glamour of Elvis Presley at a breakneck speed. It's best experienced in theaters, but if you missed the showing window, it's still good when streamed!

The fact that Elvis is directed by Baz Luhrmann should tell you everything you need to know about the film's level of spectacle.

We're used to seeing Tom Hanks play the good guy, but this time he's the Dutch-born music manager Colonel Tom Parker, who's often blamed for Elvis Presley's early death. Nicknamed "The Snowman," Parker began his career in carnival, hence his attraction to Elvis's showmanship.

Parker gained the poor musician's trust and worked him to the bone. He fed Elvis drugs to keep him reliant and tricked him into signing a permanent Las Vegas residency contract that ended his life.

Despite being called Elvis, and despite being the only Elvis-centric biopic out there, the protagonist is arguably Parker, who opens the film on his deathbed and claims he didn't destroy Elvis but instead "made" him.