Hollywood and heavy metal have never had the best relationship. For every film that gets what the genre’s all about, there are a dozen that paint its artists and fans as doofuses and/or devil worshippers. But what happens when blockbusters not only respect what metal stands for, but also want to put the musicians and their craft front and centre? Here are ten mainstream movies that feature bands doing what they do best: absolutely crushing it live.
Cannibal Corpse – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
It’s tricky talking about Ace Ventura in the 2020s, what with the string of homophobic and transphobic jabs that defines its ending. What’s aged far better is the appearance of Cannibal Corpse. The death metal kings stomp their way through Hammer Smashed Face during their cameo – an appearance that, though brief, creates comedy gold when Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura awkwardly dances and tries to engage in conversation with metalheads too busy headbanging to care.
Ministry – A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Originally intended to be a collaboration between visionary director Stanley Kubrick and blockbuster king Steven Spielberg, A.I. is as big a mess as you’d expect. It may confusingly live somewhere between bleak satire and charming Pinocchio story, but at least we get Al Jourgensen out of the deal. Ministry play during the “Flesh Fair” scene, where robots are brutally destroyed for a crowd of baying fans, Roman gladiator-style.
My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult – The Crow (1994)
The Crow is essential metalhead viewing. Every millimetre of celluloid oozes gothic blackness, while Brandon Lee turns in what should have been a star-making performance as a cool-voiced rock star turned vengeful spirit. Musically, its coolest moment is the transition from protagonist Eric Draven’s pensive guitar solo to raging industrial-goth-dance provocatuers My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, who rant and screech in the villain’s underground club. From heavy metal sorrow to mindless aggro – a perfect summary of the dynamic between the two opposing characters.
White Zombie – Airheads (1994)
Though slated when it came out, Airheads was ahead of its time. In an age where Spotify streaming gives bands next to no money, this film’s protagonists’ desperate struggles for radio airplay feel scarily relevant. It’s also strewn with rock star cameos, from Lemmy as “the editor of the school magazine” to White Zombie. Rob Zombie’s pre-Hellbilly day job rock up at a club where Chris Farley’s Officer Wilson is trying to investigate a hostage situation, only to be pushed and beaten through multiple moshpits.
The Offspring – Idle Hands (1999)
Never heard of this stoner horror comedy? Its 15% Rotten Tomatoes score and the fact that it earned $4 million against a $25 million production budget might indicate why. The film – which follows a teen whose hands become possessed and go on a murder spree – isn’t really funny or scary, although one of its kills is preceded by The Offspring playing I Wanna Be Sedated. Credit where it’s due to the gig’s titanic pumpkin backdrop. We’d definitely go in real life.
Aerosmith – Wayne’s World 2 (1993)
After the original Wayne’s World tapped Alice Cooper for one of rock’s funniest cameos and re-popularised Bohemian Rhapsody, its sequel needed to go big. Sadly, Wayne’s World 2 never got the same critical or commercial appreciation as its predecessor, but at least fucking Aerosmith show up. The classic rock masters tear through Dude Looks Like A Lady as our heroes Wayne and Garth, crowdsurf, then later save the day for the film’s “happy ending” by playing the duo’s festival, Waynestock.
Alice In Chains – Singles (1992)
Singles is a romcom set against the backdrop of 1990s Seattle. So, of course, every grunge musician and their gran are in it. Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam play members of fictional band Citizen Dick, Soundgarden have a cameo and wrote the song Birth Ritual for the soundtrack, and Alice In Chains play It Ain’t Like That in one scene. Fun fact: the AIC belter Would?, which would become arguably their biggest hit, first appeared on this film’s soundtrack before showing up on Dirt.
Rush – I Love You, Man (2009)
Rush don’t just get a scene in I Love You, Man; they’re an intrinsic part of the entire film. They’re the protagonist’s favourite band, and it’s through them that he bonds with his relationship-straining best friend. Their music is played in the iconic “slappa da bass” scene and Paul Rudd and Jason Segel even play a cover of Tom Sawyer. Plus, of course, there’s a Rush gig in the film, where the prog icons perform their 1981 classic Limelight live for the ecstatic main characters.
Primus – Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991)
After the surprise success of Excellent Adventure, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey was able to tap some serious rock ’n’ roll pedigree. Megadeth wrote Go To Hell for its soundtrack, while funk metal weirdos Primus get their own cameo. The three-piece play Tommy The Cat at a Battle of the Bands where the bill also includes the protagonists’ group, the Wyld Stallyns. Ultimately, despite the big names, Bogus Journey didn’t get the rave reviews of its predecessor and proved a box office flop, although some metalheads still cling to it to this day.
Rammstein – XXX (2002)
Google “rammstein xxx” and you might expect to find the videos for Pussy and Sonne, but you’ll actually get footage of the industrial icons playing in this all-action drama. The sextet bust out Feuer Frei! during the opening scene, where shady agents wrestle through moshing metalheads, and they don’t hold back on their live insanity. Flames, flames and more flames fly during their short cameo, although the most ridiculous moment has to be an assassinated body crowdsurfing over the packed-out audience.