By Courtney E. Smith
There’s a specific kind of storytelling woven into the shape of some songs; the kind that goes from A to B to C, telling the story of a narrator. It’s not terribly popular these days, but the spine of songwriting was built on the idea of telling the capsule of a story that tapped into some greater idea. Songs can be a short story (or a long one), detailing the travails of a person. They can be funny, dramatic, heroic, whatever humanity’s got.
With those story telling songs in mind, we’ve picked out 15 that would make excellent movie adaptations. We’ve selected a director, some featured stars and given them a short plot. If you’d like to see them, put on the song, close your eyes and play the movie inside of your head. It won’t cost you $17 and the price point on store-bought popcorn is far more reasonable.
1.The Band Perry – “Better Dig Two”
Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Viggo Mortensen
Director: Ang Lee
Synopsis: Mortensen plays an old man who Johansson has known and had a crush on all of her life. She’s young and inexperienced when they marry and move out West to his secluded ranch. What starts as a quiet love story turns dark when she finds he’s contemplating infidelity and she vows to stop it by any means necessary.
Tagline: If the ties that bind ever do come loose, she’ll tie them in a knot…like a hangman’s noose.
2. Ice Cube – “It Was a Good Day”
Starring: Michael B. Jordan (Friday Night Lights), Ice Cube
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Synopsis: A surreal look at South Central Los Angeles set in the present day, eerily similar to the ’90s. We follow Jordan and his uncle Cube around for a day in which nothing bad happens, but a snapshot of the city and its implied menace is understood and tension is a palpable character. This love-letter to gang life doesn’t glorify the violent choices, but documents them and the city that breeds them.
Tagline: Nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A, today was a good day.
3. Leonard Cohen – “Hallelujah”
Starring: George Clooney, Michael Cera, Chelsea Handler, Penelope Cruz, Chloë Grace Moretz, Channing Tatum and Willem Dafoe as Lucifer
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Synopsis: A group of angels existentially wrestle with the end of days: humanity, time, space and their very being, on the night before Judgement Day. Their conversation encompasses the mysteries of humanity and the universe from beginning to what will happen when there is, once again, nothing. Do angels get unemployment?
Tagline: Even though it all went wrong I’ll stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah.
4. Taylor Swift – “22”
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson
Director: Amy Heckerling
Synopsis: Woodley and Larson play Romy & Michelle for millennials. This comedic Thelma and Louise explore female friendship and what society makes of it during one wild night out in Toledo, OH where they “fall in love with strangers” and “keep dancing like they’re 22.” Instagram filters act as another character in the film, highlighting every emotional moment.
Tagline: We’re happy, free , confused, and lonely in the best way.
5. The Cure – “Lullaby”
Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter
Director: Tim Burton
Synopsis: Depp plays The Spider Man, a black & white candy-cane striped force of evil whose motives are wildly misunderstood by the public. He is unable to stop himself from committing unspeakable acts nightly in the dreams of children. Bonham Carter is the heartless puppet master pulling his strings.
Tagline: It’s much too late to get away or turn on the light. The Spider Man is having you for dinner tonight.
6. Bruce Springsteen – “The Promise”
Starring: Harry Dean Stanton, Bryan Cranston and Jake Gyllenhaal
Director: Jason Reitman
Synopsis: The film follows three generations of an American family, from immigrants with no money to blue-collar worker to their first college graduate, as all three live their lives in the same house on Thunder Road.
Tagline: All my life I fought that fight, the one that no man can win.
7. David Bowie – “Ziggy Stardust”
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe
Director: Marc Webb
Synopsis: Radcliffe plays Ziggy, the rock star whose ego is careening out of control. Part Warhol film experiment, part documentary, this fictional trip captures his last days before an infamous demise.
Tagline: He was the nazz with God-given ass, but he took it all too far.
8. Tupac Shakur – “Brenda’s Got A Baby”
Starring: Willow Smith, Vanessa Hudgens
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Synopsis: Smith, a teenage prostitute, is found dead. Hudgens is the cold case detective who traces her last days, discovering her sad story of sexual abuse, drug addiction and the child no one realized she had. This is a very depressing film.
Tagline: Prostitute found slain and Brenda’s her name.
9. Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart”
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen
Director: Sophia Coppola
Synopsis: Olsen is the only person we see on screen for the duration of this film, which takes place inside her apartment, as she gets over a devastating break up. We see glimpses of her relationship and family in photographs, getting the story of just when things went wrong and exactly how the influence of her controlling mother was behind it all.
Tagline: My mama came from a softer generation, where you get a grip and bite your lip just to save a little face.
10. The Lubin Brothers – “Knoxville Girl”
Starring: Tom Hardy, Amber Heard and Kim Basinger
Director: Martin Scorsese
Synopsis: Hardy marries his sweetheart, Herd, in 1860s Knoxville, Tenn., only to discover his newlywed wife is not the innocent flower he thought. He is driven mad by the whispers of the town, whispers of his deranged mother (Basinger) and eventually the whispers in his own head — and he takes Herd out for a walk from which she won’t return.
Tagline: The Knoxville girl never spoke another word.
11. Geto Boys – “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Synopsis: A Houston man grows increasingly paranoid due to his PTSD, driving the freeways of the city as he remembers his gang banging past in the city, spanning a night that grows increasingly more tense while he careens towards his own self-induced demise.
Tagline: I keep looking over my shoulder and peeping around corners. My mind is playing tricks on me.
12. Arrested Development – “Tennessee”
Starring: Idris Elba and Rutina Wesley (True Blood)
Director: Steve McQueen
Synopsis: This husband and wife move from London to Memphis, TN when they inherit a family home. What comes along with the home is the diary of Berry’s great-grandfather detailing his harrowing life in the South at the turn of the century, which Wesley and Elba find run parallel to their every day experiences.
Tagline: I am still thirsty.
13. Rebecca Black – “Friday”
Starring: Bella Thorne, Maisie Williams and Maude Apatow
Director: Judd Apatow
Synopsis: Three teenage girls are just trying to make it through Friday, until the party that night at Thorne’s house. And, unfortunately, everything that can go wrong does go wrong — think Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on opposite day.
Tagline: Gotta get down on Friday.
14. Hall & Oates – “Private Eyes”
Starring: Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie
Director: Tom Ford
Synopsis: A Cold War-era Russian spy walks into a bar and realizes the prettiest woman in the place is making eyes at him. And she happens to be an American spy. As these two spar verbally, in what they both know is a one-night only encounter, we watch their secrets and those of the nations they serve unfurl.
Tagline: Private eyes, they’re watching you.
15. Garth Brooks – “The Thunder Rolls”
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Kruger
Director: Frank Darabont
Synopsis: Sarandon and Jones are a happily married Boomer couple who live in suburbia. Married young, the duo seem to have one of those storybook romances, until Sarandon uncovers Jones’ secret: an affair with Kruger who is 30 years his junior. And one dark and stormy night, Sarandon decides to deal with his infidelity through supernatural methods.
Tagline: Another love grows cold on a sleepless night.