Memorable music biopics as Jennifer Hudson plays the late Aretha Franklin in ‘Respect’

Listen to my conversation with Aretha Franklin on the “Beyond the Fame” podcast.

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes music biopics (Part 1)

Jennifer Hudson stars in the Aretha Franklin biopic “Respect” in theaters this Friday.

The late “Queen of Soul” hand-picked Hudson for the role prior to her death in 2018, an admiration that she hinted at during a 2015 phone interview with WTOP.

“Jennifer Hudson has done some things that I like,” Franklin told WTOP.

During the same conversation, Franklin shared how she wished to be remembered.

“That I gave them the best, that I brought it and that I’m a giving and caring person first and an artist second,” Franklin said. “I’m not after lights, camera, action. It’s important to do the right thing when nobody’s looking. Everybody wants a little respect.”

Hudson is the second actress to play Franklin this year after Cynthia Erivo in “Genius.”

So that got us thinking — what are the best film and TV portrayals of real-life musicians?

Here are some standout performances over the years listed in chronological order:

Memorable Music Biopics:

James Cagney as George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” (1942)

Barbra Streisand as Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl” (1968)

Diana Ross as Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972)

David Carradine as Woody Guthrie in “Bound for Glory” (1976)

Gary Busey as Buddy Holly in “The Buddy Holly Story” (1978)

Kurt Russell as Elvis Presley in “Elvis” (1979)

Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980)

Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in “Amadeus” (1984)

Gary Oldman as Sid Vicious in “Sid and Nancy” (1986)

Dexter Gordon as Dale Turner in “Round Midnight” (1986)

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens in “La Bamba” (1987)

Forest Whitaker as Charlie Bird in “Bird” (1988)

Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in “The Doors” (1991)

Alex Burrall, Jason Weaver and Wylie Draper as Michael Jackson in “The Jacksons: An American Dream” (1992)

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” (1993)

Jennifer Lopez as Selena in “Selena” (1997)

Eminem as himself in “8 Mile” (2002)

Adrien Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in “The Pianist” (2002)

Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles in “Ray” (2004)

Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny and June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line” (2005)

O’Shea Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Aldis Hodge and Neil Brown Jr. as N.W.A. in “Straight Outta Compton” (2005)

Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw as Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” (2007)

Jamal Woolard as Notorious B.I.G. in “Notorious” (2009)

Michael Douglas as Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra” (2013)

Chadwick Boseman as James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014)

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in “I Saw the Light” (2015)

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead” (2015)

Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy” (2014)

Michael Shannon as Elvis Presley in “Elvis & Nixon” (2016)

Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac Shakur in “All Eyez on Me” (2017)

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley in “Green Book” (2018)

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018)

Taron Egerton as Elton John in “Rocketman” (2019)

Renée Zellweger as Judy Garland in “Judy” (2019)

Viola Davis as Ma Rainey in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (2020)

Andra Day as Billie Holiday in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (2021)

Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin in “Genius: Aretha” (2021)

Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin in “Respect” (2021)

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes music biopics (Part 2)

Listen to my conversation with Aretha Franklin on the “Beyond the Fame” podcast.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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