Hollywood and metal should be polar opposites. One’s a mainstream behemoth that dominates the entertainment industry; the other’s an obnoxious underdog that wants to piss on everything the mainstream stands for. Yet, occasionally the two can come together and create a miracle: a movie that both wows the masses and leaves metalheads beaming. Here are just ten of them:
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
Stonehenge. None more black. Up to eleven. This Is Spinal Tap has permeated heavy metal culture since its release in 1982. It’s disrupted it more than 99% of bands ever will. At a time when the genre was still young, enigmatic and dangerous, Rob Reiner’s masterpiece created an all-too-real portrayal of the ridiculousness behind the macabre theatre. Its understanding of touring and the creative process is so spot-on that countless have called it as accurate as a documentary.
Trick Or Treat (1986)
Everything about Trick Or Treat is perfectly heavy metal. It’s about a high school student being haunted by the ghost of his rock star idol. The soundtrack was composed by Fastway, the supergroup featuring Motörhead’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke. And Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne have cameos. Every second is crammed with leather-adorned ridiculousness, and you’re not a true metalhead until you’ve seen it.
Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
What fledgling metal band doesn’t want to be told that, within 700 years, your music will be responsible for creating a new utopian society? Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure is a glorious tribute to the genius hiding behind the veneer of the heavy metal slacker stereotype. Over one time travel adventure, they wow Socrates, make Beethoven a metal virtuoso and send Napoleon down a flume. Much like metal itself, it’s so silly that it’s genius.
Wayne’s World (1992)
If you’ve never been on a roadtrip where the whole car’s headbanged to a hard rock classic, you’ve never lived. We all love Wayne’s World for its iconic Bohemian Rhapsody scene. Let’s not forget, though, that the rest of the film is a perfect portrayal of metal fan culture. After all, director Penelope Spheeris’ previous outing was The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: an excellent exploration of the war between thrash and glam in ‘80s LA.
When you’re in an underground metal band, the biggest challenge is convincing people to give you five seconds of their time. And Airheads knew it. Brendan Fraser, Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi star as power trio The Lone Rangers, whose innocent desire to get radio airplay spirals into a farcical hostage situation. Although panned by critics, Airheads is more timely than ever in a post-Spotify world of intense competition and minimal income.
How many of us have said “Heavy metal got me through tough times”? Metalhead is the embodiment of that. Ragnar Bragason’s heart-wrenching drama chronicles a young woman’s grief after losing her brother, and the hope and inspiration given to her by aggressive music. Bonus points should be dished out for breaking onscreen metalhead stereotypes, courtesy of the priest and his Eddie tattoo.
Metallica: Through The Never (2013)
Don’t think of Metallica: Through The Never as a “movie”. Go into it expecting a music video accompanying not a song, but an entire concert, and you’ll have a lovely time. Yes, the Four Horsemen’s second foray into theatres was slain by critics. However, it still understood what makes Metallica great: ferocious live performances, inimitable songs and a drive to push the boundaries of heavy metal’s reach.
If you could take old Venom albums and cram them onto celluloid, then the end result would be Deathgasm. Like Trick Or Treat, it’s a heavy metal must-see, drowning in gore, corpse paint and first-wave black metal riffs. Moreover, it’s just excellently written. Protagonist Brodie’s monologue on why metal rules (“Listen to metal and life’s better, because someone else knows the pain and rage you’re going through”) rings especially true.
Sound Of Metal (2019)
Metal musicians from Myles Kennedy to Calligram have all suffered from hearing loss, sometimes caused or aggravated by live music. Sound Of Metal explores the impact of this worryingly widespread problem, and how it can dismantle an entire life. In it, Riz Ahmed’s Ruben Stone is forced to leave his band, and has to seek out new passions and goals. Rightly, it swept up the Academy Awards for Best Editing and Best Sound in 2021.
Days Of The Bagnold Summer (2019)
Days Of The Bagnold Summer understands the teenage metalhead. Its plot follows the stroppy and black-clad Dan, left dejected by his parents’ divorce, and his cheery mum Sue. Both are stuck together over the six-week school holidays. The tender dramedy perfectly rides the line of the teenager being annoyed by and embarrassed of his mum, yet still loving her. It’s a dynamic so many of us are familiar with, played out both sweetly and hilariously.