The Best Films About Classical Music

We all know that classical music is great for studying and relaxing, but did you know that it can also make for some great cinema? Here are our picks for the best films about classical music!


Classical music is often seen as inaccessible and elitist, but there are plenty of films out there that explore its fascinating history, key composers and performers, and enduring appeal. Here are ten of the best.

1) “A Night at the Opera” (1935)

The Marx Brothers’ classic comedy is set in the world of opera, and contains some of their most famous routines. Groucho plays a hapless impresario trying to stage a new production, while chaos inevitably ensues. As well as being hilariously funny, the film gives a good overview of the world of opera and its often eccentric inhabitants.

2) “The Red Violin” (1998)

This Canadian drama follows the life of a rare violin from its creation in 17th-century Italy to the present day. As it passes through the hands of various owners and performers, the instrument has a profound effect on their lives. The film explores the power that music can have over people’s lives, and is narrated by none other than Samuel L. Jackson.

3) “Fidelio” (1984)

This BBC documentary tells the story of Beethoven’s only opera, his great masterpiece “Fidelio”. The film charts the work’s turbulent history, from its rocky premiere to its eventual triumph at Bayreuth many years later. Along the way, we hear from some of today’s leading performers and directors about what makes this such a special work.

4) “Amadeus” (1984)

One of the most popular films about classical music ever made, this Oscar-winning drama tells the fictionalized story of Mozart and his rivalry with Antonio Salieri. The two composers are brilliantly played by Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham, respectively, and the film’s magnificent score features some of Mozart’s most famous pieces. If you’re new to classical music, this is an ideal place to start.

5) “Song Without Words” (1948) Based on Mendelssohn’s much-loved piano piece by the same name, this British drama follows two young musicians as they fall in love against the backdrop of Victorian England. The film features excellent performances by Mark Stevens and Jean Kent, and includes appearances by members of Mendelssohn’s own family – including his great-grandson Felix!
6) “Carmen” (1983) This acclaimed BBC documentary tells the story of Bizet’s timeless opera “Carmen”, from its scandalous premiere to its current status as one of the most popular works in the repertoire. Along with plenty of excellent performances, we hear from leading musicians such as Placido Domingo and Sir John Eliot Gardiner about what makes this such a special piece. 7) “Elgar: The Man Behind The Mask” (2006) This affectionate BBC documentary paints a picture of Edward Elgar – one of Britain’s most popular composers – as a complex individual who was both passionate about his art and deeply troubled by personal demons. Featuring interviews with friends and family members as well as leading musical figures such as Simon Rattle and Yehudi Menuhin, this is a must-see for fans of Elgar’s work.”

The Red Violin

The Red Violin is a 1998 Canadian drama film directed by François Girard and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Caroline Dhavernas, Greta Scacchi, and Aiden Quinn. The film spans four centuries and five countries as it tells the story of a mysterious red violin that appears to have a life of its own.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, and won a Genie Award for Best Achievement in Music – Original Score. It was also nominated for eleven Genie Awards overall, winning three.

Mr. Holland’s Opus

Few films about classical music have attempted to tell a truly uplifting story about the power of music and its ability to change lives. Mr. Holland’s Opus is one of those rare films that succeed in doing just that.

The film follows the story of Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss), a talented musician who takes a teaching job in order to make ends meet and to pursue his dream of composing one great symphony. Over the course of 30 years, Holland has a profound impact on the lives of his students, helping them to find their own love of music and giving them the confidence to pursue their dreams.

Whether you’re a fan of classical music or not, Mr. Holland’s Opus is a film that will move you and leave you with a newfound appreciation for the power of music.

Immortal Beloved

This film, directed by Bernard Rose and released in 1994, stars Gary Oldman as Ludwig van Beethoven. The story is told through a series of flashbacks as Beethoven’s secretary (Jeroen Krabbé) investigates the composer’s deathbed request that his “immortal beloved” be found and notified of his final words for her. Although the film was not a box office success, it received critical acclaim for Oldman’s performance and for its evocative portrayal of Beethoven’s life and music.


Shine is a 1996 Australian biographical drama film based on the life of pianist David Helfgott, who suffered a mental breakdown and was institutionalized for much of his adult life. The film was directed by Scott Hicks and stars Geoffrey Rush, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Noah Taylor, Googie Withers, Justin Braine, Sonia Todd and Alex Rafalowicz.

The screenplay was written by Jan Sardi, and executive produced by Oscar winner Ridley Scott. Shine was released in Australia on 26 January 1996 and in the United States on 31 May 1997. It grossed $18 million worldwide at the box office on a budget of $6 million. Shine was nominated for seven Academy Awards (winning for Best Actor in a Leading Role), as well as numerous other awards.

The film tells the story of David Helfgott’s personal struggle with mental illness while he is trying to become a world-renowned pianist. When we first meet David, he is living in an institution after having a nervous breakdown. His father (Mueller-Stahl) has been dead for years; his mother (Withers) is overprotective; and his only friend is an imaginary kangaroo named “Joey.” But when we see David play the piano, we understand his mother’s concern: he has undeniable talent but little discipline. When he’s released from the hospital, against his mother’s wishes, he falls into the orbit of two very different people: an older man named Gill Wilder (Taylor), who encourages his talent but does not push him too hard; and Wilder’s ex-wife Rosalinde (Claire Benito), who provides both financial support and maternal love.

Shine is ultimately a story of triumph over adversity, as David triumphs over his mental illness to become one of the world’s greatest concert pianists. But it is also a story of loss, as David loses himself in his music and becomes estranged from those who love him most.


We hope you enjoyed our list of the best films about classical music. These films offer a wide range of perspectives on the genre, from its history and origins to its influence on popular culture.

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