Foo Fighters recently unleashed their insane heavy metal horror-comedy Studio 666 unto the world, and Netflix announced that it will soon be releasing a heavy metal-based movie of their own entitled Metal Lords in which a teenage band look to overcome any challenges in their path to win the Battle of the Bands. With this in mind, we decided to look back at some of the greatest movies based around the heavy metal subculture.
These types of films aren’t massively commonplace, and some may alienate casual cinema fans due to their niche subject matter. Every now and again, though, you get the odd one that stands above the rest and can appeal to a wider portion of the public, regardless of their taste in music. It might be a comedy that affectionately sends up the culture, playing it for laughs and reveling in the ridiculousness of some bands in the scene that might take themselves just a tad too seriously, or it could be an emotional character driven drama examining the deep comradery of those that choose to be a part of the subculture. Either way, there’s bound to be something there for you. Check out below 8 of the most notable ‘heavy metal’ movies released to date.
8 The Dirt
If you’re going to make a biopic about any band from the 80s, Motley Crüe seems like a good place to start, if you’re not looking for anything too deep or thought-provoking. The Dirt, based on their printed biography, follows the band, notorious for their hard partying and wild antics, as we witness their extreme highs (and often depraved lows). While certainly not the best biopic on the market, it manages to capture the excessiveness and self-destructiveness so common within the whiskey-soaked 80s era of the glam metal. Giving credit where credit is due: the cast, including Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker, Iwan Rheon, and Douglas Booth are fantastic at simultaneously portraying the care-free yet deeply troubled nature of the addled rock stars.
Airheads, a mostly forgotten comedy that was a critical and commercial disappointment, follows a band of waste of space musicians who hijack a radio station in an attempt to get their demo tape played, and in the process become overnight media sensations. Yes, it’s ridiculous and, yes, all of its extremely impressive cast members (which includes Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, Adam Sandler, the unforgettable Chris Farley and Ernie Hudson) have been in better films. But this is an extremely fun movie, and the cast are still brilliant. While nothing revolutionary, it’s definitely worth a re-watch and compared to a lot of other comedy movies that were being released at the time, it’s probably among the better ones.
6 Lords of Chaos
Admittedly, many fans of the Norwegian black metal scene and a number of the band members depicted have been vocal about the verisimilitude of the entire movie and dispute how close it really is to the horrific true events on which it’s based. For those not familiar with the 90s Norwegian black metal scene, unfortunately there was also a lot of horrific events that would often overshadow much of the music, including murder, suicide, and the occasional church burning. Allowing for a little artistic license, Lords of Chaos itself is actually a well-made and well-performed, gritty, and compelling story of isolation, nihilism, and depravity with a few hints of humor (albeit as black as the metal music its based around).
5 Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
Since forming the hard rock comedy band Tenacious D way back in 1994, members Jack Black and Kyle Gass have always wanted to make some kind of movie based around the band. Fast-forward 12 years and Tenacious D are now a platinum selling act and Jack Black is a certified movie superstar in his own right. The timing seemed perfect, and The Pick of Destiny was unleashed unto the world; a stoner, musical, fantasy, farcical fare that is just as fun as it is silly. The plot is loosely based on their journey to find a guitar pick that belongs to Satan, which would allow them to acquire rock n roll legend status. Just as much an ode to cannabis as it is to heavy metal, unfortunately the movie was a flop at the box office. It has since gone onto amass a cult following and is highly regarded amongst fans of the band’s unique brand of heavy metal and humor.
Deathgasm is about as metal as it gets: screeching guitars, beer-soaked violence, and evil cults all feature prominently in the ultra-gory splatter fest. The story is loosely based on a young group of heavy metal fans who inadvertently summon an evil entity while messing around with black magic. Marking New Zealand-born director Jason Lei Howden’s feature debut, Deathgasm is a comedy horror flick that follows the Kiwi movie trend started by Peter Jackson with Bad Taste and Dead Alive and continued by the likes of Black Sheep and What we do in the Shadows of managing to find that difficult balance between comedy and horror.
Probably the most serious and utterly compelling entry on the list, Sound of Metal stars Riz Ahmed, who provides one of the most emotional and powerful performances of recent years. He plays a heavy metal drummer who is coming to terms with the fact that he is losing his hearing. Directed by Darius Marder and co-starring Olivia Cooke, Paul Raci, Lauren Ridloff, and Mathieu Amalric, Sound of Metal was nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Ahmed) and Best Supporting Actor (Raci) and won Best Sound and Best Film Editing at the 2020 Oscars. A must-watch, not just for fans of metal, but anyone with a heart, a truly astonishing piece of film making.
2 This is Spinal Tap
Arguably the movie that launched the ‘Mockumentary’, This is Spinal Tap is hilarious from start to finish and remains so even after nearly 40 years. Regardless of your taste in music, it’s almost impossible not to crack a smile when seeing ‘England’s loudest band’ trying to come to terms with the fact they’d accidently gotten the dimensions wrong on their Stonehenge props and now have an 18-inch stage replica instead of 18 feet. One of the influential movies of all time, it perfectly manages to capture the ridiculousness of some of the rock band’s attitudes at the time and the documentaries sensationalizing said band that were being created.
1 Wayne’s World
In the same conversation as The Blues Brothers when it comes to the best and most successful movies based on SNL sketches, Wayne’s World is a fantastic send-off of the long haired dweeby stereotypical metalhead of the late 80s/ early 90s. Starring Dana Carvey and Mike Myers (in his debut role that would make him a superstar) as a pair of low rent radio hosts, Wayne’s World is famous for popularizing the phrase ‘That’s what she said’ and adding ‘Not’ at the end of a sentence to state the opposite. It also provided the world with one of cinema’s most iconic scenes of all time. Yes, that scene, the one that makes it near impossible to take a car trip and listen to Bohemian Rhapsody without headbanging like an absolute madman.