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Movies Like 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' to Watch Next

Marry your love of movies and music with these biopics.

Sam Rosenberg
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Naomi Ackie in 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody'

Sony Pictures

Pop icon Whitney Houston left behind quite a legacy. The Newark-born megastar dominated the music scene in the late '80s and early '90s with such hits as "Saving All My Love for You," "Where Do Broken Hearts Go," "How Will I Know," and "Greatest Love of All." Her cover of "I Will Always Love You" for the 1992 thriller The Bodyguard (also her acting debut) became more recognized than Dolly Parton's still very good original: As of this article's publication, that film's soundtrack remains the highest-grossing soundtrack of all time, with 45 million copies sold. 

Over the course of her career, Houston consistently topped the Billboard charts, received numerous Grammy Awards, and, at the age of 27, performed what many believe to be the best rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the Super Bowl. The combination of her captivating, powerhouse vocals and infectiously charming personality transformed Houston into a celebrated cultural icon, influencing a whole generation of contemporary pop artists. 

Houston's life was also fraught with complications, namely drug addiction, heavy media scrutiny, and a troubled relationship with singer Bobby Brown. Her sudden, tragic death in 2012 at the age of 48 provoked a devastating ripple effect across the world, with fans and critics alike mourning her peerless talent and impact on American pop music.

Now, a decade after her passing, Houston is getting the biopic treatment with I Wanna Dance with Somebody, named after her beloved 1987 single. Directed by Eve's Bayou filmmaker Kasi Lemmons and written by Bohemian Rhapsody scribe Anthony McCarten, I Wanna Dance with Somebody follows Houston from her humble beginnings through her quick ascent to fame. The film stars Master of None actor Naomi Ackie as Houston, Moonlight actor Ashton Sanders as Brown, and Stanley Tucci as Houston's record producer Clive Davis

To commemorate the release of I Wanna Dance with Somebody, Metacritic lists 10 other music biopics that also share a similar style and focus on with musicians with similar career arcs as Houston's. And if you're looking for even more, check out our list of the best celebrity biopics overall.


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The cast of 'Dreamgirls'

Paramount Pictures

Dreamgirls (2006)

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of Motown and throwback Broadway musicals 
Where to watch

iTunesVudu
Runtime: 130 minutes

Though Bill Condon's musical drama Dreamgirls is a work of fiction, much of its source material was inspired by Motown and The Supremes. Adapted from the 1981 Broadway show, Dreamgirls portrays the career of "The Dreams," a 1960s Detroit-based girl group played by BeyoncéJennifer Hudson, and Anika Noni Rose. The Dreams get the opportunity of a lifetime when an exploitative record executive (Jamie Foxx) recruits them to open for a popular R&B star (Eddie Murphy), and soon enough, they find success as a mainstream act. The film was a critical and commercial achievement when it debuted in 2006, earning $155 million and eight Oscar nominations, including a momentous win for former American Idol contestant Hudson.  

"The movie belongs to Hudson as the proud, self-destructive Effie. When she's center stage, Dreamgirls transports you to movie musical heaven." — David Ansen, Newsweek


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Angela Bassett in 'What's Love Got to Do With It'

Touchstone Pictures

What's Love Got to Do With It (1993)

Metascore: 76
Best for: Fans of '80s pop, rock 'n' roll, soul, and R&B
Where to watch:

, fuboTV, , iTunes, Paramount+, Vudu
Runtime: 118 minutes

Like Houston, Tina Turner was another major Black female pop icon whose turbulent marriage often overshadowed her musical success. Adapted from Turner's autobiography I, Tina and also named after one of her biggest songs, the 1993 drama What's Love Got to Do with It chronicled her tumultuous professional and romantic dynamic with her husband Ike Turner. Despite the real-life Turners' disappointment with the film's factual inaccuracies, it went on to be a critical and commercial smash, earning nearly $40 million against a $15 million budget. Additionally, Angela Bassett, who played Tina, and Laurence Fishburne, who played Ike, both received Oscar nominations for their performances.

"What's Love Got to Do With It ranks as one of the most harrowing, uncompromising showbiz biographies I've ever seen." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times 


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Queen Latifah in 'Bessie'

HBO

Bessie

Metascore: 75
Best for: Fans of blues and gospel
Where to watch:

, , HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 115 minutes

Considered to be the most popular blues singer of the 1930s, Bessie Smith received the biopic treatment with this 2015 HBO film Bessie, written and directed by Pariahand Mudboundfilmmaker Dee Rees. Alongside a decorated cast that includes Michael K. Williams and Mo'Nique, Queen Latifah, also a famed singer, plays Smith from her beginnings as a struggling vaudeville Tennessee artist through her rise as the Empress of the Blues. Similar to Houston, Smith cultivated a culturally significant musical legacy, engaged in a clandestine queer love affair, and faced a tragic, untimely death at the age of 43. Upon release, Bessie received a rapturous reception, earning raves for Latifah's performance, garnering 12 Emmy nominations, and winning four, including Outstanding Television Movie. It also stands as the most watched HBO movie of all time as of 2016, scoring 1.34 million viewers during its premiere

"A beautifully affecting biopic about the tragic and glorious life of blues pioneer Bessie Smith, showcasing a gutsy, soul-and flesh-baring performance by Queen Latifah in the title role." — Joanne Ostrow, The Denver Post


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Whitney Houston in 'Whitney'

Miramax

Whitney (2018)

Metascore: 75
Best for: Fans of in-depth, multifaceted celebrity documentaries
Where to watch

iTunesVudu
Runtime: 120 minutes

If you're looking for a less Hollywoodized retelling of Houston's life, career, relationships, and hardships, this decades-spanning documentary is a good place to start. Whitney is an uncompromising, multilayered portrait of the pop artist that features intimate, unseen archival footage, rare concert performances, and a multitude of talking head interviews with friends and family. In addition to probing issues of race, class, and celebrity, Whitney touches on under-discussed topics regarding Houston's personal life, such as her secret affair with her longtime best friend and executive assistant Robyn Crawford. The film premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and went on to receive a Grammy nomination for Best Music Film the following year. (Whitney: Can I Be Me, another slightly lesser acclaimed documentary about Houston, was also released on HBO in 2017).

"Whitney offers an informed and moving portrait of a complex, talented woman who was poorly understood, and often cruelly judged." — Gary Thompson, Philadelphia Daily News


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Jamie Foxx in 'Ray'

Universal Pictures

Ray

Metascore: 73
Best for: Fans of soul, R&B, and '50s pop
Where to watch:

, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 152 minutes

An innovative pioneer of soul, an iconic singer, and a gifted pianist, Ray Charles broke genre barriers in American music during the 1960s when he integrated pop, R&B, and country into one harmonious sound. Charles' life and career were dramatized into Taylor Hackford's Ray just a few months after his death at the age of 73. Jamie Foxx plays the title role, leading an ensemble that includes Kerry Washington as Charles's second wife Della Bea Robinson and Terrence Howard as Charles' friend Gossie McGee. Following Charles from childhood to late adulthood, Ray was a commercial triumph, raking in $124 million against a $40 million budget, and an awards darling, receiving six Oscar nominations and winning two, including Best Actor for Foxx.

"A fit tribute to an entertainer who, no matter what hate or hardship threw in his way or how many mistakes he made, we can't stop loving." — Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


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Joaquin Phoenix in 'Walk the Line'

20th Century Fox

Walk the Line

Metascore: 72
Best for: Fans of country, blues, and rock 'n' roll
Where to watch:

, , iTunesVudu
Runtime: 136 minutes

Another critically and commercially successful music biopic about a troubled but revered musician, James Mangold's Walk the Line follows country star Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) across his career, from his years as an outlaw to his rise to prominence performing at prison concerts in the late '50s to his second marriage with singer June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon). Dubbed the "Man in Black" for his signature all-black wardrobe, Cash is up there with Houston as one of the best-selling artists of all time, with over 60 studio albums and 13 Grammy Awards under his belt. His story was quite profitable as a film too, with Walk the Line grossing $187 million worldwide on a $28 million budget and becoming the highest grossing music biopic of all time until Straight Outta Compton surpassed it in 2015 (and then again by Bohemian Rhapsody in 2018). Additionally, Walk the Line received five Oscar nominations, with Witherspoon winning Best Actress.

"A passionate, chronicle of an extraordinary artist, and a love story that can't be beat." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle


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Chadwick Boseman in 'Get On Up'

Universal Pictures

Get On Up

Metascore: 71
Best for: Fans of soul, jazz, funk, and nonlinear narratives that break the fourth wall
Where to watch:

, , iTunes, Netflix, Vudu
Runtime: 139 minutes

Known by multiple nicknames, namely "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" and "Godfather of Soul," James Brown built a reputation for his magnetic stage presence and flashy outfits, developed multiple hit songs, and was one of the first inductees into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He continued to perform and record music until his death in 2006. Eight years later, in 2014, The Help director Tate Taylor adapted his life in the film Get On Up. The film stars the late Chadwick Boseman in the title role, Viola Davis as Brown's mother Susie, Craig Robinson as jazz saxophonist and frequent Brown collaborator Maceo Parker, and True Blood favorite Nelsan Ellis as talent scout Bobby Byrd. Though not a huge box office success like the other films listed, Get On Up was greeted with critical praise, particularly for Boseman and Ellis's performances.

"Tate Taylor's film cares less about narrative clarity and more about portraying a life lived between the extremes of sin and grace, between the abject and the sublime. It's lively, stylized, and genuinely surprising." — Bilge Ebiri, Vulture


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Taron Egerton in 'Rocketman'

Paramount Pictures

Rocketman

Metascore: 69
Best for: Fans of '70s glam-pop and rock 'n' roll
Where to watch:

, , iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 121 minutes

Unlike most of these entries listed, Dexter Fletcher's Elton John biopic Rocketman fortunately doesn't end in tragedy, though it's not without its dark moments. Part jukebox musical, part character drama, the film stars Taron Egerton as the flamboyant pop star and follows his journey from a prodigy at the Royal Academy of Music in the '50s to his partnership with songwriter and close friend Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) to his pop superstardom in the '70s. Similar to Houston and other singers mentioned on this list, John dealt with addiction and abusive authority figures like his emotionally neglectful mother Sheila (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) and exploitative manager John Reid (Richard Madden). Despite reported studio pressure to cut a gay sex scene and other censorship issues, Rocketman persevered with a $195 million worldwide box office gross and an Oscar win for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song). John himself served as an executive producer on the film.   

"The sheer brute force of Egerton holds it all together. And despite some darker themes, Rocketman is still quite a ride. It plays more as a musical than a standard biopic." — Mike Ryan, Uproxx


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Renée Zellweger in 'Judy'

Roadside Attractions

Judy (2019)

Metascore: 66
Best for: Fans of dramatic studies of Hollywood icons
Where to watch:

, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 118 minutes

Another remarkably talented singer who became famous early on, struggled with addiction, and met a tragic fall from grace, Judy Garland got her life story told in Rupert Goold's Judy, starring Renée Zellweger in the lead role. A cinematic adaptation of the Tony-nominated play End of the Rainbow, the film mainly captures Garland's final stage shows in England in 1969 and also incorporated flashbacks of her time working on The Wizard of Oz as a teenager. Judy marked a career comeback for Zellweger, who returned to Hollywood in 2016 from an acting hiatus and earned her second Oscar win for this performance.

"Zellweger knocks it out of the park, lighting up this punchy and moving late-life biopic with big-hearted, big-voiced panache." — Kate Stables, Total Film


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Austin Butler in 'Elvis'

Warner Bros. Pictures

Elvis

Metascore: 64
Best for: Fans of style-over-substance, over-the-top musical dramas
Where to watch:

, , HBO Max, iTunes, Vudu
Runtime: 159 minutes

The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann's long-gestating project on the King of Rock 'n' Roll came to fruition in 2022 with Elvis. Told through the perspective of Presley's former manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), Elvis depicts Presley (Austin Butler) throughout his career, from his controversies to his performances, his familial and professional relationships to his various contributions to American music. Despite receiving mixed reviews, especially for Hanks's portrayal of Parker, Elvis received a 12-minute standing ovation at its Cannes premiere and garnered praise for Butler's performance as the King. It was also a massive financial success, earning $286 million and becoming the second highest-grossing music biopic of all time behind 2018's Bohemian Rhapsody. The film even got the stamp of approval from Elvis's daughter Lisa Marie, ex-wife Priscilla, and granddaughter Riley Keough.

"At the center of Baz Luhrmann's sprawling pop epic Elvis, a film as opulent and outsize as the King's talent and taste, Butler delivers a fully transformed, fully committed and star-making turn as Elvis Presley. The rumors are true: Elvis lives, in Austin Butler." — Katie Walsh, The Los Angeles Times