Whether you are looking for inspiration to start playing your drum set again, or simply hoping to live vicariously through the characters on screen, sometimes there is nothing better than a good drum movie. In this article, I’ll present a comprehensive list of 11 of the best drumming movies of all time for you to enjoy.
Sound of Metal
The most recent addition to this list and one of the most powerful drumming movies of all time is 2019’s Sound of Metal. Directed by Darius Marder and co-written by Marder and Derek Cianfrance, the film stars Riz Ahmed as Ruben Stone, the drummer in a metal duo alongside his girlfriend, Lou Berger, who is played by Olivia Cooke.
While drumming is central to the plot, the story is ultimately focused on Ruben as he loses his hearing and attempts to come to terms with his new life. One of the most critically acclaimed drumming movies of all time, Sound of Metal won two Academy Awards and two BAFTA Awards, while Riz Ahmed was also nominated for Best Actor at both ceremonies.
Any credible list of the best drumming movies ever made must include Whiplash. This film was released in 2014 and features a great cast of well-known actors, including Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, and Melissa Benoist. The film received three Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and received almost universal acclaim from film publications.
It tells the story of Andrew Neiman (Teller), an ambitious jazz drummer, and his relationship with Terence Fletcher (Simmons), his ruthless and abusive instructor at Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. The movie also has a phenomenal soundtrack, which includes original jazz pieces written and performed specifically for the film.
Wayne’s World, released in 1992, is an American comedy film, based on a sketch from Saturday Night Live, and it enjoyed both critical and commercial success. The story centers on two heavy metal-obsessed friends, Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar, who host a popular local access cable network TV show from Wayne’s parents’ basement.
One of the film’s most iconic scenes sees the character of Garth, played by Dana Carvey, launch into an impressive drum solo in a music store. As the solo goes on, the background shifts as Garth imagines himself on stage, before the background shifts back to reality. After being told he is amazing, he gives an understated: “Thanks. I like to play.”
Carvey is an accomplished drummer in real life and the solo in the film was genuinely played by him.
Another outstanding drumming and percussion movie comes in the form of 2002’s Drumline, starring Nick Cannon and Zoe Saldana. The teen drama tells the story of Devon Miles, a recent high school graduate, played by Cannon. He attends Atlanta A&T University on a scholarship, and gets caught up in a rivalry with Morris Brown College.
As you may expect, the movie concludes with a face-off between the A&T and Morris Brown drumlines. However, alongside the music are a nice coming-of-age story and some excellent performances, which helped to earn the movie nominations for two MTV Movie Awards and three Teen Choice Awards, as well as a CinemaScore A+ rating.
A 2008 comedy, written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, Step Brothers explores the relationship between Brennan Huff and Dale Doback, two 40-year-olds who still live with their parents, and who are forced to live together as step brothers after their parents fall in love and get married. So why is it in this list of drum movies?
One of the highlights of the movie occurs after Dale warns Brennan not to touch his beloved drum set. Of course, Brennan does so anyway, playing the drums in an amusing scene, and Dale is immediately suspicious after noticing a small chip on one of his drum sticks. What follows must be the greatest fight over a drum set ever committed to film.
A Drummer’s Dream
A Drummer’s Dream is a 2010 documentary film from John Walker, which focuses on the 2008 Nasyrium Drum Camp founded by Nasyr Abdul Al-Khabyyr. At the camp, attended by aspiring drummers, he is backed by a host of top percussionists, including Horacio Hernadez, Kenwood Dennard and Dennis Chambers.
In addition to exploring the camp itself, the documentary features some superb performances spanning a variety of different drumming styles. Beyond all else, however, the documentary captures the love the musicians have for their drum kits and explores the necessary balance that must exist between technical skill and the love of playing.
The Rocker may have performed poorly at the box office, but it is still a good choice for anyone with an interest in fun, feel-good drum movies. Released in 2008, it stars Rainn Wilson as Robert Fishman, an aspiring drummer who is ditched by his band, Vesuvius, as they chase a record deal.
Fast-forward 20 years and Vesuvius have become global stars, while Fishman has ceased playing the drums entirely. That is until his nephew’s band, A.D.D, needs a replacement when their regular drummer is suspended from school. After enjoying local success and signing a record deal of their own, A.D.D provides Fishman with a shot at redemption.
Beware of Mr. Baker
Another excellent documentary film, Beware of Mr. Baker was directed, written and produced by Jay Bulger and sees the legendary jazz and rock drummer Ginger Baker reflect on his career. The film was made following a period where Bulger lived with Baker in South Africa, conducting hours of interviews for an article he was writing.
Featuring contributions from Eric Clapton and Charlie Watts, Beware of Mr. Baker is a great choice for anyone interested in reality-based drumming movies. It provides viewers with fascinating insights into the life of one of music’s most controversial figures, while also capturing what made him such an iconic, groundbreaking figure in the first place.
Sound of Noise
If you are looking for the ultimate percussion movie, look no further than Sound of Noise. Released in 2010, this charming comedy was written and directed by Ola Simonsson and Johannes Stjärne Nilsson and expands on a short film, Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers, which was created by the same duo back in 2001.
Sound of Noise focuses on six “guerrilla percussionists”, who put on disruptive anarchist music performances in the city of Stockholm. To do this, they use their skills to create music using a variety of ordinary objects that would not usually be considered musical, including oxygen tanks in a hospital, and a paper shredder in a bank.
That Thing You Do!
Released in 1996, That Thing You Do! stars Tom Hanks, Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler and Charlize Theron, and features cameos from Kevin Pollak, Bryan Cranston, Rita Wilson and more, meaning it is among the most star-studded movies about drumming – and music in general – ever made.
The plot itself centers around Guy Patterson, a jazz drummer who fills in for another drummer at a talent show for a band called The Oneders. This then begins the story of the band, later re-branded The Wonders, as they sign a record deal, have a hit single, and become known as a one-hit wonder band.
Adventures of Power
Finally, the 2009 film Adventures of Power must be among the most unique drumming movies ever created. Starring Ari Gold, Michael McKean and Jane Lynch, it tells the story of Power, played by Gold, who engages in compulsive air drumming, having been raised in a family that was too poor to buy him a drum kit of his own.
This compulsion takes Power on a quest to conquer the world of competitive air drumming. Described by some critics as a combination of This is Spinal Tap and Napoleon Dynamite, it should hold particular appeal for any drummers who happen to be fans of either of those films. It also features a cameo from the late great Neil Peart.