Whether you love or hate heavy metal music, the genre makes for great movie material, with lots of larger-than-life characters.
From its earliest beginnings in late 60s England with the formation of Black Sabbath, heavy metal music has been an enriching form of escapism for millions of people around the world. With its deep bass, distorted guitar sounds, devilish lyrics, and peculiar band members, the genre captured the hearts and minds of young people looking for something different, something to pull them out of their mundane lives.
Metal music quickly became the music of choice for outcasts, written and performed by outcasts, all seeking restitution from the establishment. It spawned some amazing, genre-defining bands, who helped shape many a generation of music fans’ livelihoods. Sixty years later, and the music may not be as popular as it used to be, but it lives on. Heavy metal became a genre that would not quit and would not die, passing from generation-to-generation.
The music grew into something larger than just a genre – it became a way of life for many. Its impact on popular culture is undeniable, the genre inserting itself across mixed media, including cinema. Below are ten of the best heavy metal-themed movies to check out.
The Dirt (2019)
The Dirt is the biography of Mötley Crüe, a hair-metal band known for partying harder than most of their peers. Rising to fame through the early eighties Los Angeles metal scene, the band’s back-stage antics became the stuff of legend. It would be unfair, however, to cite the Crüe’s notorious lifestyles as their main claim to fame, as their music is phenomenal.
The Dirt is based on the memoirs of the band’s founder, Nikki Sixx, and the film was a decade in the making (at least). Netflix finally got the ball rolling on the production, and in the end, we got a faithful, entertaining adaptation of Sixx’s book, with great performances from its principal cast filling the shoes of these legendary rockers.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the film’s namesake in this cool, indie heavy metal-themed movie. Hesher is a metal-loving slacker who inserts himself into a high-school kid’s life and helps him cope with his family’s problems. Hesher’s carefree way of life opens the kid’s eyes to a different viewpoint, sending him on a heavy metal coming-of-age journey.
Hesher is an underrated indie gem that tells a relatable, family story, that teaches its audience not to take life so seriously while delivering its message through a heavy metal lens. It features Gordon-Levitt as you’ve never seen him before and is a film that can be enjoyed by metal and non-metal fans alike.
Detroit Rock City (1999)
Four aspiring teenage musicians will do anything to find their way into a KISS concert in 1999s Detroit Rock City. The film is a tribute to one of the most influential metal bands, KISS, told humorously through the antics of their passionate supporters.
It’s a fun film that truly expresses what it is to be a KISS fan while commenting on fandom culture. This is one not to miss for an easy-viewing, heavy metal-inspired movie that’s full of laughs.
Rock Star (2001)
Rock Star features Mark Wahlberg as the lead singer of a cover band who gets the call to replace the actual singer of the band he’s covering, sending him on a whirlwind trip from being a nobody to, well, a rock star. The instant fame and success will test him in every possible way as he struggles to cope with the newfound stardom.
The film gives audiences an entertaining look at the classic price-of-fame trope, which occurs regularly in the entertainment world when a nobody suddenly becomes famous beyond their wildest dreams. Rock Star is an enjoyable portrayal of the aspects that come with being a superstar rocker.
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny (2006)
Rocker-comedians Jack Black and Kyle Gass play a pair of slacker musicians on a quest to become the greatest band of all time. To get there, they’ll need to steal the ‘pick of destiny’; a legendary guitar pick that gives its owners epic guitar skills.
Playing themselves and based on the comedy duo’s actual band, Tenacious D, JB and KG, as they’re affectionately known, offer a laugh-a-minute experience in this musical, stoner comedy film. It’s unashamedly absurd and gives viewers a look into the more immature side of heavy metal-themed cinema.
The Devil’s Candy (2015)
From the Australian director of the cult horror film, The Loved Ones (2009), comes The Devil’s Candy. It follows a metal-loving artist who moves into a new house with his family, only to find he needs to contend with satanic forces.
The Devil’s Candy blends visuals with a deep, metal score, making for one of the more visceral viewing experiences of all the films on this list. Its style gives the audience a constant feeling of impending dread, which makes up for its lack of jump-scares.
Lords of Chaos (2018)
Jonas Åkerlund’s Lords of Chaos follows the rise of Norwegian Black Metal in the early 90s, which saw the making of the influential metal band, Mayhem. The band, notoriously known for its anti-social and violent music caused global headlines after taking claim to a series of church burnings, with their story ultimately ending in disaster.
Mayhem and its band members were the types of music personalities that gave conservative music listeners the creeps, and rightfully so. Black Metal music themes mostly revolve around death and destruction, and so too did the lives of its band members. A scary, hard-to-look-away film that charts one of metal’s least proud moments.
Heavy Trip (2018)
On the lighter side of the Black Metal spectrum comes the Finnish comedy film, Heavy Trip, which follows a group of misfit rockers on a journey to play at one of Scandinavia’s biggest metal festivals.
Heavy Trip is a charming road-trip comedy film (charming for metal) that’s full of misadventures for its protagonists. It charts the highs and lows of trying to make it as a band (of any genre) and the strain that puts on friendships, in a humorous fashion.
Metalhead is an Icelandic coming-of-age story that follows a metal fan and musician coping with personal tragedy as she tries to find a way out of her mundane, rural lifestyle, and follow her dreams of becoming a heavy metal star.
Another film where the story works on its own merits, despite the heavy metal-themed setting. Feelings of isolation while coping with grief, and breaking out of one’s shell and pursuing their dreams are universal themes, making this a film that any drama movie fan can enjoy.
Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005)
An informative, entertaining documentary that outlines the history of metal, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey is a must-see for all heavy metal music fans. Sure, they might know the history of metal like the back of their hands, but a refresher course never hurts.
For the uninitiated, and the non-believers, this film is simply a great music documentary that gives its viewers an education on a misguided genre that’s spawned some of the highest-selling bands of all time, become a way of life for many, and has persevered in the face of its detractors.