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10 Music Movies to Watch (on Filmstruck before it shuts down)

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Streaming service Filmstruck, the collaboration between The Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies, is closing down at the end of the month, which is a major bummer for fans of great movies and film preservation. Amongst their giant library are a number of music-related dramas, documentaries and one weird fishing show. We picked 10 that are worth checking out on Filmstruck (or really anywhere you can find them).

Some of these are available to rent on on other services, but Filmstruck also has bonus features — like Criterion Collection commentary tracks, interviews and outtakes — for those who’d like to learn even more. Filmstruck also has a giant collection of classic musicals, like the three previous versions of A Star is Born (which made this list). Unfortunately with the shutdown imminent, Filmstruck is not accepting new subscribers, but maybe a friend who has a subscription will invite you over (or something like that).

FISHING WITH JOHN

Funded by a Japanese TV network, Lounge Lizards leader and NYC downtown scenester John Lurie‘s surreal 1991 travel series is only kind of about fishing, and more about hanging with friends like Tom Waits, Jim Jarmusch, Willem DaFoe, Matt Dillon and Dennis Hopper. The hilarious, dead serious narration is what really makes it. Lurie’s commentary tracks on Filmstruck are worth checking out too. You can also watch Lurie in Jim Jarmusch’s Permanent Vacation on Filmstruck.

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RUDE BOY

Actual punk rock band The Clash are at the center of this pseudo-documentary about a troubled young punk (Ray Gange) who signs on to be a roadie for the band. His story is fiction, but the footage of The Clash at the height of their late-’70s power is real and amazing, and this paints a vivid portrait of depressed but creatively vibrant Thatcher-era England.

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SMITHEREENS

Likewise, Susan Seidelman’s gritty Smithereens is a window into New York City in the early ’80s. It follows a girl (Susan Berman) from New Jersey who comes to the city to become part of the punk scene only to find it’s not what it once was. At the center of a love triangle between a sensitive fellow transplant living out of his van (Brad Rijn) and a fading punk rocker (played by Richard Hell). The score is by The Feelies.

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ABBA: THE MOVIE

In the same fashion as Rude Boy, real life Swedish pop superstars ABBA are at the center of this quasi-documentary about a DJ trying to score an interview with the group on their 1977 tour. That part is pretty forgettable but there’s tons of live footage, including 18 of their songs at the apex of their worldwide stardom. The film was directed by Lasse Hallstrom who would go on to make My Life as a Dog, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat.

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GIMME SHELTER

One of the greatest documentaries ever made, music or otherwise. Albert and David Maysles were hired to film The Rolling Stones’ 1969 U.S. tour including a free concert in Altamont, CA with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, and more. Through the Altamont show’s poor planning and other factors, however, tension builds throughout the day between fans, the bands and the Hell’s Angels who were hired as security, before things erupt into violence. Many people consider this the death of ’60s idealism caught on film. Filmstruck has lots of great extras, too, including a commentary track by the Maysles, and an archive of KSAN’s post-Altamont broadcast where they took calls from people who were there (and organizers, too).

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A HARD DAY’S NIGHT

The first Beatles movie is still the best, and its influence on film, music video and pop culture cannot be overstated. It’s also hilarious and just a real joy to watch. Filmstruck’s got some of the Criterion Collection’s bonus features, including making-of documentaries, commentaries and more.

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DON’T LOOK BACK

Likewise, DA Pennebaker‘s thoroughly entertaining documentary on Bob Dylan is as iconic as it gets, with a level of access to the artist (in 1965) that we’d never see again. Filmstruck offers tons of bonus features, including a commentary with DA Pennebaker, an alternate take of the famous “Subterranean Homesick Blues” scene, reflections on the film with Patti Smith, Greil Marcus, and more.

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HYPE!

Released at the tail end of the grunge scene, this 1996 documentary looks at the Seattle rock movement, from its early days through the height of the Nirvana/Pearl Jam/Soundgarden and beyond. It goes deep, interviewing most of the key players, the outliers, and more. Hype! is  funny, there’s lots of great live footage, and you don’t every have to have worn flannel and frayed jeans to dig it.

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QUADROPHENIA

The Who’s classic rock opera is the basis for this portrait of a disaffected teen (Phil Daniels), who finds refuge in the mod scene of parties, pills and music. Daniels (who you may also know from Blur’s “Parklife“) is terrific, with great supporting roles from Ray Winstone and, yes, Sting. Also, all the vespas and anoraks still look cool. Filmstruck’s got many of the Criterion Collection edition bonus features as well.

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ALL THE OTHER ‘A STAR IS BORN’ MOVIES

If you love Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga’s A Star is Born and want more…there are three previous versions of the story: William Wellman’s 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor and Frederick March; George Cukor’s 1954 version starring Judy Garland and James Mason; and the 1976 remake starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. Filmstruck’s also got an interview with Bradley Cooper on the evergreen allure of this familiar tale.

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