So, you find yourself quarantined. We get it — we’re quarantined, too. We’re also music nerds, and all good music nerds love a good — and even cheesy, and sometimes even bad — music movie. Be it an eye-opening documentary on a beloved artist, a fictionalized retelling of a famous movement, or a totally made-up narrative that hits close to home, there’s nothing more captivating than a cinematic story dedicated to the genre we love.
We at Billboard Dance have spent countless hours devouring the scene in all its forms. We want you to do the same, so we’ve compiled a handy list of movies with links on where to stream them.
Presented in chronological order of release, here are 14 favorite movies about dance music culture, dating back 20 years. You won’t find a better collection of soundtracks, and, based on his Human Traffic cameo, you won’t believe how little Carl Cox has aged during the past two decades.
Human Traffic (1999)
What makes a great night magical? Your friends, obviously, and anyone who tells you differently doesn’t have the right friends. The music, the lights and the substances are all a side plot to the real story of your life, a story made of small conversations and nonsensical laughs. So goes the plot of the 1999 classic Human Traffic. This hilarious, heart-warming and brilliantly inane film plays like the SLC Punk of ’90s UK club culture, a stylistic mix between Trainspotting and The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down (which you can read about later on this list). Set across one wild weekend, the film highlights every element of young people finding escape in great parties, where interpersonal issues and deep conversations with strangers about Star Wars are equally important – and hey, Carl Cox plays the club owner!
Where to stream: $3.99 across YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and Vudu
24 Hour Party People (2002)
Absolute classic alert! You don’t get to call yourself a dance music historian until you’ve gobbled up this iconic biopic about the Manchester scene. It catalogues the British city’s unstoppable musical influence, all the way from the punk era of the late ’70s to the “Madchester” rave days of the early ’90s. Much like Human Traffic, it uses a lead who talks to the camera. The difference? This story actually happened. (Alright, some of it might be urban legend.) There is actual live concert footage from throughout the years, too. If you like the Sex Pistols, Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and anything to do with Factory Records or The Hacienda, well, then you’ve probably already seen this. Watch it again.
Where to stream: Now on Hulu with subscription, $2.99 on YouTube, Amazon Prime and Google Play, $3.99 on iTunes and Vudu.
Party Monster (2003)
Modern-day ravers owe so much to the club kids of ’90s New York, and there’s never been a tale so fabulously sordid as that of promotion kingpin Michael Alig. This story has sex, drugs, great music, incredible outfits, drag queens, and yes – murder. This is history, baby, and it’s brought to life in stunning technicolor. Macaulay Culkin came out of a nine-year retirement to play Alig opposite Seth Green as James St. James. Chloe Sevigny and Marilyn Manson also make appearances. Consider Party Monster required watching for any faithful club rat, and can we please start organizing some McDonald’s raves of our own?
Where to stream: Free on Tubi, Vudu. $2.99 on YouTube and Google Play. $6.99 on Amazon Prime.
Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem (2003)
You know Daft Punk’s Discovery as one of the best electronic dance music albums ever made, but did you know the French robots teamed with Japanese animation studio Toei Animation (Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, One Piece, Digimon, everything) to create a silent full-length animated feature soundtracked by the entire album? Maybe you saw the first four “music videos” as part of that life-altering Toonami special on Cartoon Network in 2001, but the rest of the film was released in 2003, and should be watched by all Daft Punk fans immediately. It tells the story of an alien band kidnapped by evil record executives with dark secrets. We could talk to you about the nuances all day, but you should just watch it yourself.
Where to stream: YouTube
It’s All Gone Pete Tong (2004)
Yo, it’s 2020, and if you aren’t wearing ear plugs every damn time you walk into a club, concert hall or festival, you are officially f-cking up. Legendary DJ and BBC Radio 1 host Pete Tong has been trying to warn y’all for decades, and he executive produced this mockumentary to bring the point home. The fictionalized tale (based on true stories) follows an international DJ named Frankie Wilde who parties as much as he plays. When a doctor warns Wilde that drugs and loud noises will leave him totally deaf, he disregards the news, to terrible effect. It’s a rowdy comedy that really takes the piss out of the superstar DJ lifestyle, with cameos from young scene legends Tiësto, Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Paul van Dyk and Tong, of course.
Where to stream: Free on hdfy.to
The Boys & Girls Guide to Getting Down (2006)
This is a cult classic, even if the cult is just me and my friends. It’s kind of like Human Traffic in that it takes place over one wild night on the town (the town being Los Angeles), but it takes the format of an informational video. This flick covers everything from getting past the bouncers (hot dogs will never be the same), to hooking up at the party and mastering the bleary-eyed stumble back to your house sans sleep at eight in the morning. This movie is hysterical, absolutely nails the culture and is a blast to watch because of all the mid-2000s hipster style. Ahh, the good old days.
Where to stream: $5.99 on Amazon Prime
Part of the Weekend Never Dies (2008)
So you’ve heard the term “bloghouse,” but what does it mean? All these aging hipsters talking about “it was better in 2007.” What are they talking about? Belgian brothers Soulwax went ahead and recorded themselves on an international tour, and the results are mind-bogglingly rock’n’roll. Radio Soulwax saw the band perform a full live set, followed by a DJ sets as their DJ alter-egos 2manyDJs. That name was funny in 2008 even before the EDM explosion. The film captures 120 shows across Europe, Japan, the US, Latin America and Australia, and features interviews and cameos by Peaches, the Klaxons, James freakin’ Murphy, Nancy Whang, Justice, Boys Noize, Tiga, So-Me and more. Also, side bang haircuts. It’s a beautiful, glittering, beer-soaked time capsule.
Where to stream: Free on Vimeo
Leave The World Behind (2014)
Swedish House Mafia were undeniably one of the biggest acts of the EDM explosion. They came, they saw, they conquered, and then they broke up, and this eye-opening documentary explores why, in personal detail. Yes, being a superstar DJ is glamorous, but it’s not necessarily easy. Personal tensions run high in the end days, but we also get behind-the-scenes looks at their last tour (before the 2018 reunion, of course) and the making of “Don’t You Worry Child.” It’s also beautifully filmed.
Where to stream: Free on Tubi, $1.99 on Amazon Prime, $4.99 on iTunes.
Under The Electric Sky (2014)
Maybe you’ve always wanted to go to EDC Las Vegas, but you’ve never made the trip. Maybe you’ve been, and want to relive the magic (except for that part where you try to find your car in the parking lot at 7 a.m.). Under The Electric Sky is the ultimate in-home EDC LV experience. Get up-close-and-personal with the stages and the PLURy masses, hear from the Insomniac staff and check out live clips from Above & Beyond, Dash Berlin and more. There are even some anti-drug PSAs, but what really makes it special is following along with EDC headliners (read: attendees) as they travel the world and escape the troubles of daily life, all so they can come together under… yeah, you get it.
Where to stream: $3.99 across YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu
We Are Your Friends (2015)
Everyone, including myself, wanted to make fun of this movie when we heard it was coming out. An EDM drama starring the guy from High School Musical? And they named it after Justice and Simian’s generational anthem? It had to be a joke. But it turns out this fictionalized story about a college DJ with dreams of making it big is actually pretty good. Its heart is in all the right places, it’s got an honest message, and it’s got cool cameos from Nicky Romero, Dillon Francis, Alesso, DallasK and Them Jeans. If you lived the EDM era, you’re going to like this movie in spite of yourself.
Where to stream: Now on Netflix with subscription, $2.99 on YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime and Vudu, $3.99 on iTunes.
If you’re looking for something with sheer star power, look no further than this thorough love letter to Roland’s most famous drum machine. Indeed, the Roland TR-808 is one of the most recognizable sounds in the modern music landscape, instrumental to the creation and experimentation of electronic music, hip-hop and pop at large. Apple Music host Zane Lowe narrates the film, starring interviews with Afrika Bambaataa, Diplo, Pharrell Williams, David Guetta, Richie Hawtin, Fatboy Slim, A-Trak, Beastie Boys, Lil Jon, Rick Rubin, Armand Van Helden, Arthur Baker, Damon Albarn, Tiga and many more.
Where to stream: Free on Tubi, $3.99 on YouTube, Amazon Prime and Google Play, $4.99 on iTunes.
Avicii: True Stories (2017)
You should know it’s going to be hard to watch this movie before you press play. Avicii took his own life shortly after this documentary was released. It’s a very intimate portrait of a young man struggling with fame and the pitfalls of easy excess. Filmed and directed by his close friend Levan Tsikurishvili, the doc shows the softer side of an EDM poster boy who would rather have just stayed inside and played his piano with his friends. We watch as he demands his management let him quit touring, but we all know the story doesn’t have a happy ending. Special appearances by David Guetta, Wyclef Jean, Nile Rodgers, Tiësto and Chris Martin round out the hopeful yet heartbreaking tale.
Where to stream: In the UK via BBC iPlayer, and on Facebook everywhere
What We Started (2017)
Carl Cox looks minimally different from 1999’s Human Traffic to this 2017 doc – but still! This dude is as close to immortal as one can be! He pits that nearly 40 years of scene experience against baby-faced Martin Garrix, the most famous of the EDM prodigies who will probably also look slightly baby-faced forever. There’s a lot of talk about how “EDM” came to take over the world, and a lot of trash talk about what that means in regard to the “real music” underground. Shout-out to Seth Troxler for taking the absolute piss in this one. He holds nothing back. Also, lots of footage of Ultra Music Festival in Miami (but, just so you know, Daft Punk never played there. Crafty editing can’t change facts).
Where to stream: on Netflix with subscription, $2.99 on Amazon Prime and Vudu.
Iris: A Space Opera (2019)
Standing ovation for the only movie on our list to, in a way, win a Grammy! Justice‘s Woman Worldwide took the trophy for Best Dance/Electronic Album in 2019; it’s kind of a live album, in that it was recorded during numerous Woman Worldwide live sets, then cleaned and edited in the studio. Likewise, Iris: A Space Opera is kind of a live film, in that it is a stunning rendition of that album’s tour production performed in an empty, reflective studio space to no live audience at all. Taking cues from ’70s sci-fi, including Kubrick’s genius 2001: A Space Odyssey, Iris captures Justice at all the right angles with interstellar animations inter-stitched throughout. It’s trippy as hell, and brings the magic right to your living room.
Where to stream: Ripped on YouTube