This time of year, everyone is looking for gifts, planning get-togethers, imaging their time off, and generally making merry. Yet, all of that running, planning, and last-minute shopping can lead to holiday stress. And since one of the best things about the holidays is the time off you’ve earned, relaxing with friends and family ranks high for most musicians. And if you love classical music, watching movies that showcase incredible scores and themes are a fun way to spend your down-time.
The following list of movies includes some of the best films about classical music ever made, regardless of whether or not the movie itself has a “holiday” theme. Either way, watching them is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy the long winter nights. So grab your remote, pop some corn, and turn on the Netflix because these movies are perfect for the holiday break.
- Amadeus—Probably one of the best-known classical music movies, winner of 8 Academy Awards including Best Picture of 1985, the soundtrack for this semi-fictional tale is superb. The plot examines the life of Mozart, as told through a flashback by Antonio Salieri, his lifelong rival. With a score that features Mozart’s timeless compositions and a more personal look at his life, this 2 hour 40-minute film is a must watch for classical music lovers. See a list of the music included in this movie here. Watch it on Amazon for $2.99, or for free if you’re a prime member. This Academy Award Winning, R-rated film from 1984 is also available on Netflix. Or you can purchase the 2-disk director’s cut DVD for under $9.
- Immortal Beloved—This film examines the life of Ludwig Van Beethoven. The period costumes, phenomenal score by the master himself (including pieces from Rossini), and stunning locations make it an excellent classical music movie to watch over the holidays. Gary Oldman and Isabella Rosselini are outstanding in this fictional representation that is essentially a mystery plot. As Beethoven’s final effects are examined, a letter written to his nameless “beloved” is discovered, and the story is interspersed with a series of flashbacks that deal with the efforts employed to find this person. The DVD is available for $10, but you can also view this film on IMDb.
- Shine—Based on the life of pianist David Helfgott, this remarkable movie shows the battle one gifted musician experienced through the pressures of his family and his teachers. The extreme stress imposed on him (playing Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 3 in D Minor) led to a mental breakdown, which resulted in his spending years in and out of mental hospitals. He was able to eventually overcome his problems and returned to the stage with popular acclaim in this heart-warming triumph. The score of this film is simply excellent. Geoffrey Rush won the Academy Award for his portrayal of Helfgott. You can watch it on Amazon, or purchase this multiple award-winning DVD for $30.
- The Soloist—This heartrending, beautiful film is based on a true story. Jamie Foxx (nominated for a Best Actor Oscar) and with Robert Downey Jr. form an unlikely friendship when Downey discovers a gifted, but mentally ill, homeless musician, playing on the street using broken instruments. Recovering from an accident and a severe case of writer’s block, Steve (Downey) writes a series of articles about Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) that alter both of their lives. The performances and score of this film are awesome, leading many people to wonder why it didn’t receive higher honors. Watch it on Amazon Prime for free, or purchase this incredible film for $8.
- The Competition—This 1980 fictional release is about the decisions you must make to follow your dreams, and the consequences. The love story centers around a piano competition and features a soundtrack rich with Chopin, Prokofiev, Brahms, and Beethoven, which is perfect for classical music lovers. The story revolves around an aging pianist and a young girl with incredible talent. It hints at the cut-throat environment of competitions and stars Richard Dreyfus and Amy Irving. Watch this film on Amazon video, or buy it for $18.
- The Red Violin—Although the star-studded cast of this R-rated, 2008 release includes names like Samuel L Jackson, Jason Flemyng, and Greta Scacchi, the “Red Violin” is the real star. Covering over three centuries, the story revolves around the life of an incredible instrument, created by Nicolo Bussotti in 1681, as played in the hands of various masters and its modern destiny. The stellar soundtrack, performed by Joshua Bell and the surprise ending make this a must watch for any classical music lover. Get this movie for less than $8.
This year, pop in some classical music movies during your holiday break. Whether you re-watch old favorites or see new ones, these movies are guaranteed to deliver enjoyment.