Special Report

Best Movies for Fans of Country Music

Country music is famous as a medium for sharing stories. Perhaps it’s for this reason that the genre itself has inspired numerous great movies over the years.

While fewer films cater directly to country fans than, for instance, rock ‘n’ roll fans — 2019 alone saw the release of numerous movies dealing with rock, such as “Rocketman,” “Yesterday,” and “Blinded by the Light” — there have been many exceptional movies made that relate to country in some manner that have become audience favorites. Some tell stories about real musicians, some feature country artists as actors, and some merely use the culture around the genre as a backdrop for their stories.

24/7 Tempo has identified the 24 best movies for fans of country music based on critic and user ratings on websites Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. Each film offers something special for music fans, especially those drawn to the narrative qualities of country and western.

Of course, nothing can replace the satisfaction brought about by listening to one’s favorite musician. These are the 100 most popular country music albums of all time.

Click here to see the best movies for fans of country music.

To determine the best movies for fans of country music, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film needed to have some connection to country music, either thematically or with regard to the talent involved.

24. Grand Theft Parsons (2004)
> Directed by: David Caffrey
> Starring: Johnny Knoxville, Christina Applegate, Marley Shelton
> Runtime: 88 min

“Grand Theft Parsons” tells the story of business manager Phil Kaufman and his relationship with singer-songwriter Gram Parsons, a country-rock trailblazer who died at just 26 years old. Parsons performed with the country-rock group The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Though New York Post critic Megan Lehmann found the film to be a “meandering road movie,” she thought the soundtrack, which featured tracks from Parsons, was “extremely cool.”

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23. The Last Ride (2012)
> Directed by: Harry Thomason
> Starring: Henry Thomas, Jesse James, Fred Thompson
> Runtime: 102 min

“The Last Ride” is a biopic about the final days of Hank Williams Sr., one of the giants of country music in the 1940s. Williams died in 1953 at age 29 from complications involving drug and alcohol abuse while trying to restart his storied career. Mario Tarradell of the Dallas Morning News said the movie “doesn’t give us a complete picture of Hank Williams. But it does ably illustrate the final days of his life.”

22. Falling from Grace (1992)
> Directed by: John Mellencamp
> Starring: John Mellencamp, Mariel Hemingway, Claude Akins
> Runtime: 100 min

“Falling from Grace” marked the acting and directorial debut of John Mellencamp. The rocker plays a country music performer who returns to his hometown in Indiana to escape the turmoil of life on the road, but his personal life becomes complicated once he returns home. Larry McMurtry, who’s written novels about the West, including “Lonesome Dove,” wrote the screenplay. Folk singer-songwriter John Prine, who died from COVID-19 in April, appears in the film and on the movie’s soundtrack.

21. Your Cheatin’ Heart (1964)
> Directed by: Gene Nelson
> Starring: George Hamilton, Susan Oliver, Red Buttons
> Runtime: 99 min

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” is another biopic about the accomplished and hard-living country star Hank Williams Sr., played by George Hamilton. The film traces Williams’ climb to fame in the late 1940s as well as his inability to cope with stardom. The movie features the vocals of then-15-year-old Hank Williams Jr., who recreates his father’s voice on the movie’s soundtrack.

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20. Honeysuckle Rose (1980)
> Directed by: Jerry Schatzberg
> Starring: Willie Nelson, Dyan Cannon, Amy Irving
> Runtime: 119 min

Texas country hero Willie Nelson stars as musician Buck Bonham in “Honeysuckle Rose,” his first leading role. Though critics weren’t over the moon for the romance-tinged drama, fans generally like the film thanks in large part to Nelson’s presence as well as a soundtrack that includes numerous songs by Shotgun Willie himself. Country fans should keep their eyes peeled for appearances by other musicians, including Emmylou Harris, Hank Cochran, and Jeannie Seely.

19. The Thing Called Love (1993)
> Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
> Starring: River Phoenix, Samantha Mathis, Dermot Mulroney
> Runtime: 116 min

Peter Bogdanovich directed this film about four young country musicians aspiring to success in Nashville, and the rivalries and romantic entanglements that result. The movie is noteworthy for an early-movie career appearance by Oscar winner Sandra Bullock and for being the last film River Phoenix appeared in before his tragic death at age 23. According to Critics Consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, the film “doesn’t have much new to say about show business, but it’s energetic and well acted.”

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18. Songwriter (1984)
> Directed by: Alan Rudolph
> Starring: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Melinda Dillon
> Runtime: 94 min

Famed country music singer-songwriters Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson basically play themselves in this easy-going film that traces the lives of two friends in the music industry. The movie holds a perfect Freshness score among Rotten Tomatoes critics, who lauded the music performed in the movie. Dennis Schwartz of Ozus’ World Movie Reviews said, “If you’re fans of country music and especially of Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, you should love this free-wheeling road film.” Kristofferson was nominated for a Best Music, Original Song Score Oscar.

17. Georgia (1995)
> Directed by: Ulu Grosbard
> Starring: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mare Winningham, Ted Levine
> Runtime: 115 min

“Georgia” stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Mare Winningham as sisters seeking fame in the music industry. Leigh, whose mother Barbara Turner wrote the film, plays an aspiring rock star given to reckless behavior that includes substance abuse. Winningham, in the titular role, is a financially secure country and western singer who tries to help her sister. Winningham received a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance. Susan Wloszczyna of USA Today called the film a “painful though sadly humorous portrait of sisterhood.”

16. Pure Country (1992)
> Directed by: Christopher Cain
> Starring: George Strait, Lesley Ann Warren, Isabel Glasser
> Runtime: 112 min

King of Country George Strait stars as fictional country music superstar Dusty Wyatt Chandler, who walks away from all the glitz and glamour to reconnect with his country roots. The movie won positive reviews from 90% of viewers on Rotten Tomatoes, and its soundtrack sold 6 million copies in the United States.

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15. Honkytonk Man (1982)
> Directed by: Clint Eastwood
> Starring: Clint Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood, John McIntire
> Runtime: 122 min

Clint Eastwood directed and starred in this road movie about a Depression-era country musician traveling to Nashville with his young nephew with the goal of playing the Grand Ole Opry. The movie, which reveals a more tender side for Eastwood, currently holds a 93% Freshness rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, with the late Roger Ebert describing it as “a movie that makes you feel good without pressing you too hard.”

14. Payday (1975)
> Directed by: Daryl Duke
> Starring: Rip Torn, Ahna Capri, Elayne Heilveil
> Runtime: 103 min

Emmy award-winning director Daryl Duke highlights the seedier side of the country music industry in this gritty flick from 1973. Rip Torn stars as sleazy singer Maury Dann as he tours across the Southeast, fueled by a diet of pills and alcohol. Though only rated 277 times by users on Rotten Tomatoes, 76% of viewers liked the relatively underseen movie.

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13. Loving You (1957)
> Directed by: Hal Kanter
> Starring: Elvis Presley, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey
> Runtime: 101 min

Elvis’ second movie features the King of Rock N’ Roll playing a young musician seeking commercial success — as well as a little romance — in the music industry. The movie contains numerous Elvis songs, including “Loving You” (which was written for the film) and “Teddy Bear.”

12. A Prairie Home Companion (2006)
> Directed by: Robert Altman
> Starring: Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson
> Runtime: 105 min

A strong cast including Lily Tomlin, Meryl Streep, Woody Harrelson, and Kevin Kline appears in Robert Altman’s last film, “A Prairie Home Companion.” This movie is about what occurs backstage during the last broadcast of a fictitious Midwestern radio variety show, whose performers include country and western singers. The film adaptation of Garrison Keillor’s radio broadcast has a Rotten Tomatoes Freshness rating of 82%.

11. Blaze (2018)
> Directed by: Ethan Hawke
> Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat, Charlie Sexton
> Runtime: 129 min

Oscar-nominated actor Ethan Hawke co-wrote and directed this biopic about the late Texas singer-songwriter Blaze Foley. The film received positive reviews from 96% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes, where the Critics Consensus described it as “lyrical and bittersweet as the music its subject left behind.” The movie features cameos from some faces that will be familiar to country music fans, such as Kris Kristofferson.

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10. Urban Cowboy (1980)
> Directed by: James Bridges
> Starring: John Travolta, Debra Winger, Scott Glenn
> Runtime: 132 min

After his iconic role as a disco dance king in “Saturday Night Fever,” John Travolta turned to the west to play an oil rigger who immerses himself in the nightlife of Houston, where he finds romance, does country dances, and rides a mechanical bull. “Urban Cowboy” did not achieve the cultural stature of “Saturday Night Fever” (though Travolta did a solo dance turn to country music), but it did produce a soundtrack album of country hits and helped launch a Western fashion trend.

9. Sweet Dreams (1985)
> Directed by: Karel Reisz
> Starring: Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Ann Wedgeworth
> Runtime: 115 min

Critics lauded the performance of two-time Academy Award winner Jessica Lange, who received a Best Actress Oscar nomination as the legendary country music singer Patsy Cline. Janet Maslin of The New York Times said Lange “makes herself a perfect physical extension of the vibrant, changeable, enormously expressive woman who can be heard on these recordings.” “Sweet Dreams” holds a 90% Freshness rating among Rotten Tomatoes critics.

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8. Wild Rose (2019)
> Directed by: Tom Harper
> Starring: Jessie Buckley, Matt Costello, Jane Patterson
> Runtime: 101 min

“Wild Rose,” one of the more recent films on this list, is about Rose-Lynn Harlan, a woman from Glasgow, Scotland, who is focused on becoming a country music star while trying to navigate the world in the aftermath of her release from prison as well as the responsibilities of motherhood. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes awarded the film a 92% Freshness rating and were won over by the performance of Irish singer/actress Jessie Buckley, calling it her “transcendent moment.”

7. Crazy Heart (2010)
> Directed by: Scott Cooper
> Starring: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell
> Runtime: 112 min

Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for his performance in “Crazy Heart” as aging country musician Bad Blake, who attempts to improve his life as he develops a relationship with a female journalist. The movie — which won over 90% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes — is also notable for its soundtrack, which includes songs by classic country artists, including Buck Owens and Waylon Jennings, as well as the Academy Award-winning track “The Weary Kind,” performed by young gun Ryan Bingham.

6. Nashville (1975)
> Directed by: Robert Altman
> Starring: Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakley
> Runtime: 160 min

“Nashville” is a look at American politics from master cynic Robert Altman. The film features top performances from Keith Carradine, Karen Black, Ronee Blakely, and Lily Tomlin. Carradine won the Academy Award for Best Music, Original Song for the song “I’m Easy.” The movie also won the BAFTA award for Best Soundtrack that featured cast members singing songs they wrote. The movie was nominated for four other Oscars. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes awarded “Nashville” a 92% Freshness rating.

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5. Tender Mercies (1983)
> Directed by: Bruce Beresford
> Starring: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley
> Runtime: 92 min

Robert Duvall plays an over-the-hill, alcoholic country singer working for a second chance at life in this moving drama. The film won two Academy Awards: Best Actor for Duvall and Best Screenplay for writer Horton Foote. Duvall — who has often declared his love for country music — would later appear in the thematically similar “Crazy Heart.”

4. Crazy (2008)
> Directed by: Rick Bieber
> Starring: Waylon Payne, Ali Larter, Lane Garrison
> Runtime: 106 min

“Crazy” is a film inspired by the experiences of renowned guitarist Hank Garland, who performed with music luminaries such as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, and The Everly Brothers among other legendary country icons. That distinctive guitar twang on the Christmas classics “Jingle Bell Rock” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” belongs to him. Garland is credited with pushing the boundaries of country music. The film, directed and co-written by Rick Bieber, holds an audience approval score of 91%.

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3. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2001)
> Directed by: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
> Starring: George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson
> Runtime: 107 min

“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, is a quirky comedy about the adventures of three criminals who escape from a prison chain gang in the South during the Depression. It holds an audience approval score of 89%. Produced by famed musician and producer T Bone Burnett, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack features country-adjacent artists, including Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, and Gillian Welch. It sold more than 8 million copies in its first seven years and is credited with spurring a resurgence in interest for bluegrass music in America.

2. Walk the Line (2005)
> Directed by: James Mangold
> Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin
> Runtime: 136 min

“Walk the Line” is a biopic about the early career of Johnny Cash, from his life on an Arkansas cotton farm to his famous recording sessions at Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. The film is noted for its authenticity, including Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the man in black and the Oscar-winning Best Actress performance by Reese Witherspoon as Cash’s wife June Carter. Audiences on Rotten Tomatoes awarded the film a 90% approval score.

1. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
> Directed by: Michael Apted
> Starring: Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Levon Helm
> Runtime: 124 min

“Coal Miner’s Daughter” tells the story of Loretta Lynn, from her youth “in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler” through her rise to country superstardom. Anchored by an Oscar-winning lead performance by Sissy Spacek (who in 1983 would release her own country music album), the movie is a must-see for fans of Lynn and the country genre. In 2019, the movie was selected by the Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry.

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