As kids, most of us dreamed of making it as superstars. Singers, dancers, football players, actors, rock stars, astronauts—take your pick! The trouble is, how do you get there?
Getting your foot in the door is the biggest challenge for any talented wannabe artist. How do you make yourself known and forge opportunity when you're a nobody? One way is to win a competition!
Here are the best movies about singing competitions, featuring characters who want to get ahead and make their dreams come true by entering and winning contests.
10. Joyful Noise (2012)
Directed by Todd Graff
Starring Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer
Comedy, Drama, Music (1h 58m)
Musical films will always benefit from casting real-life musicians, like Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born (2018) and Beyoncé in Cadillac Records (2008). In Joyful Noise, it's Dolly Parton who takes the stage as church benefactor G. G. Sparrow. Or, at least, she tries to.
This time, the small-town church elects Vi Rose Hill (played by Queen Latifah) to lead the choir instead of G. G.
The choir never makes it past the regional finals of the "Joyful Noise" contest, plus they face budget cuts. But when G. G.'s grandson drifts in with his knock-out singing voice, things finally start to look up.
Joyful Noise is a safe-betting feel-good family film—like a Christian version of Glee—directed by Todd Graff.
9. The Fighting Temptations (2003)
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Starring Cuba Gooding Jr., Beyoncé, Mike Epps
Comedy, Drama, Music (2h 3m)
If it has Beyoncé in it, I'm sold. Before she was blowing us away with her performance as a fictionalized Diana Ross (Dreamgirls) or the legendary Etta James (Cadillac Records), Beyoncé made a smaller movie appearance in The Fighting Temptations.
The Fighting Temptations doesn't try to hide what it is—it's an easy-going comedy that follows the usual tropes. But Beyoncé's presence behind the scenes went on to earn the soundtrack critical acclaim.
Overall, it's a sweet and breezy little MTV movie with a soulful soundtrack, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a guy who's trying to revive his church choir and get ready for a gospel competition (with the help of Beyoncé as a gorgeous lounge singer).
8. Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)
Directed by David Dobkin
Starring Will Ferrell, Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens
Comedy, Music (2h 3m)
If you've ever tuned into the annual Eurovision Song Contest, then you have to watch this movie! Or, if you like Anchorman (2004) because it stars Will Ferrell, then you have to watch this movie!
The ESC is the biggest singing competition in the world, featuring international contestants who each represent their countries. It's like the World Cup or Olympics, but for singers!
David Dobkin's musical comedy follows two Icelandic competitors. Although they're fictional, several real winners appear throughout the movie, which is chock-full of ESC Easter eggs and references.
Of course, it's not just Will Ferrell here. The film also stars Rachel McAdams, Dan Stevens, Mikael Persbrandt, Graham Norton, Demi Lovato, and Pierce Brosnan!
7. Teen Spirit (2018)
Directed by Max Minghella
Starring Elle Fanning, Agnieszka Grochowska, Archie Madekwe
Drama, Music (1h 33m)
Max Minghella's directorial debut gives a refreshing voice to a familiar plot. Elle Fanning stands center stage in Teen Spirit as the shy young Violet Valenski, who dreams of being a famous pop singer.
Luckily, she's got the lungs for it! But what she doesn't have is the permission or approval of her parents.
When an older man approaches her in a bar, he offers to fake parental consent so she can enter the Teen Spirit UK competition. Her mother wishes that she would reserve her talent for the church choir, but she just can't keep her teen spirit from breaking free.
Following in the footsteps of Lady Gaga in A Star Is Born, Teen Spirit uses live vocals from Elle Fanning herself.
6. Sing (2016)
Directed by Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane
Animation, Comedy, Family (1h 48m)
Animated movies tend to be hit-or-miss these days. They're quicker to produce now, so they can be churned out at rapid speed—and they don't need to be that great just to entertain kids.
Sing is one of the exceptions. It was a big enough hit that it led to a sequel, a series of short films, and a theme park ride.
The franchise takes place in a world like ours, except it's populated by talking animals. One of those animals is a theater owner who hosts a singing competition to keep it from foreclosing.
You'll recognize many voices in this one: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton... just to name a few.
5. The Music Teacher (1988)
Directed by Gérard Corbiau
Starring José van Dam, Anne Roussel, Philippe Volter
Drama, Music (1h 35m)
The contest in The Music Teacher isn't just for fame or money—it's for revenge. Prince Scotti (played by Patrick Bauchau) is holding the prestigious competition in order to get back at Joachim Dallayrac (played by José van Dam), an opera singer who won over Scotti many moons ago.
Dallayrac enters his two sister students to sing on his behalf, ensuring to train them rigorously first. It's intense work, but so were most lessons back in the day! And it's worth it for the payoff.
Gérard Corbiau's sophisticated Belgian drama was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, catering to the more refined audience members with a taste for culture and high art (like opera itself).
4. Sister Act (1992)
Directed by Emile Ardolino
Starring Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Harvey Keitel
Comedy, Family, Music (1h 40m)
Sister Act will make you get up and dance! Although soul comes from gospel music, most church choirs ironically stick to soulless hymns. But that's all about to change for Saint Katherine's Convent when they take on a lounge singer in witness protection.
Struggling to adjust to the nun life, Deloris (played by Whoopi Goldberg) decides to add a little rock 'n roll into Sunday mass. Of course, not all the nuns appreciate her interference—but most of them love it!
Emile Ardolino's fun musical comedy returned to screens for a sequel in 1993, and a third is currently in the works. If that's not enough rocking nuns for you, there's also a hit stage musical!
3. Pitch Perfect (2012)
Directed by Jason Moore
Starring Anna Kendrick, Brittany Snow, Rebel Wilson
Comedy, Music, Romance (1h 52m)
Pitch Perfect is one of those endlessly quotable chick flicks that even guys love. In fact, everyone seems to love it despite the numerous cheesy moments. The genuinely funny jokes and a cappella numbers more than make up for it!
Beca (played by Anna Kendrick) is the last person you'd expect to join an all-female a cappella sorority group. She's moody and anti-social, dressed in all black, yet hiding an incredible singing voice.
When she's forced to join the Barden Bellas, she forms an unlikely gang of fierce competitors. Pitch Perfect gives Mean Girls a run for its money as far as memorable lines. "Aca-scuse me?" seems to be Gen-Z's answer to "That's so fetch!"
2. 8 Mile (2002)
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Starring Eminem, Brittany Murphy, Kim Basinger
Drama, Music (1h 50m)
We've had soul, we've had a cappella, now it's time for some rap. Eminem is one of the most famous rappers around, known for his superhuman lyrical speed and the fact that he's white.
Race relations are rarely explored in cinema with a white person on the losing end of things, but in 8 Mile we see Eminem fighting for a spot as the only white guy in the crowd—an aspect that made the film controversial for pushing reverse racism.
8 Mile is a semi-autobiographical film on Eminem's life, who grew up in a Detroit trailer park before making it big. The final rap battle is an iconic scene even to people who've never seen 8 Mile, with "Lose Yourself" still a popular karaoke choice to this day.
1. School of Rock (2003)
Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Mike White, Joan Cusack
Comedy, Music (1h 49m)
Battle of the Bands takes place across the globe in many forms. It's a generic competition title where bands compete for the winning prize based on a voice vote by the audience.
In Richard Linklater's hilarious cult classic School of Rock, we see an unlikely contestant entering the rock battle: school kids.
After he's kicked out of his band, Dewey Finn (played by Jack Black) pretends to be a prep school substitute teacher—then takes advantage of his students and their music lessons to compete.
Jack Black gives the performance of his career as the hungover, Zeppelin-loving, eyebrow-dancing sub we all wish we had in school.