Hollywood and heavy metal have never had the best relationship. For every film that understands what the genre is, there are a dozen that portray its artists and fans as doofus and/or devil worshippers. But what happens when blockbusters not only respect what metal stands for, but also want to put the musicians and their craft front and center? Here are ten mainstream films that feature bands doing what they do best: crushing absolutely everything live.
Cannibal Corpse – Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
It’s difficult to talk about it Ace Ventura in the 2020s, with the series of homophobic and transphobic hits that defines its end. What has aged much better is the appearance of Cannibal Corpse. Kings of death metal smash their way through Face crushed by a hammer during their cameo — an appearance that, albeit brief, strikes comedic gold when Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura awkwardly dances and tries to strike up a conversation with metalheads too busy banging heads to care.
Ministry – AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Originally intended to be a collaboration between visionary director Stanley Kubrick and blockbuster king Steven Spielberg, AI is a mess as you might expect. It may live confusingly somewhere between dark satire and charming Pinocchio story, but at least we’re eliminating Al Jourgensen from the case. The Ministry performs during the “Flesh Fair” scene, where robots are brutally destroyed for a crowd of barking fans, Roman gladiator style.
My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult – The Crow (1994)
The crow is essential viewing for metalheads. Every millimeter of celluloid exudes gothic darkness, as Brandon Lee delivers what should have been a star performance as a cool-voiced rock star turned vengeful spirit. Musically, its coolest moment is the transition from protagonist Eric Draven’s pensive guitar solo to the raging industrial-Gothic dance provocateurs My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, ranting and howling in the villain’s underground club. From heavy metal heartbreak to stupid aggro – a perfect encapsulation of the dynamic between the two opposing characters.
White Zombie – Aerial Heads (1994)
Although expected when it was released, Aerial heads was ahead of its time. At a time when Spotify streaming gives groups almost no money, the desperate struggles of this film‘s protagonists for radio airplay seem awfully relevant. It’s also peppered with rock star cameos, from Lemmy as the “school magazine editor” to White Zombie. The pre-Hellbilly day job at a club where Chris Farley’s Officer Wilson attempts to investigate a hostage situation, only to be pushed and beaten through several moshpits.
The Offspring – Idle Hands (1999)
Ever heard of this stoner horror comedy? Its 15% Rotten Tomatoes score and the fact that it earned $4 million against a production budget of $25 million might indicate why. The film – which follows a teenager whose hands become possessed and engages in a series of murders – isn’t exactly funny or scary, although one of his murders is preceded by The Offspring playing I want to be sedated. Credit where it’s due to the concert’s titanic pumpkin backdrop. We would definitely go in real life.
Aerosmith – Wayne’s World 2 (1993)
After the original Wayne’s World tapped Alice Cooper for one of rock’s funniest cameos and re-popularized Bohemian Rhapsody, his sequel had to go big. Unfortunately, Wayne’s World 2 never had the same critical or commercial appreciation as its predecessor, but at least the damn Aerosmith shows up. Classic rock masters rip Dude looks like a lady Crowdsurf as our heroes Wayne and Garth, then later save the day for the movie’s “happy ending” by playing the duo’s festival, Waynestock.
Alice in Chains – Singles (1992)
Simple is a romantic comedy set against the backdrop of 1990s Seattle. So, of course, all the grunge musicians and their grandmothers are in it. Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament play members of fictional band Citizen Dick, Soundgarden made a guest appearance and wrote the song Birth Ritual for the soundtrack, and Alice In Chains plays It is not like that in a scene. Fun fact: the AIC belt Would have?which would arguably become their biggest hit, first appeared on that film’s soundtrack before appearing on Dirt.
Rush – I Love You, Man (2009)
Rush don’t just make a scene I love you man; they are an integral part of the whole film. They’re the protagonist’s favorite band, and it’s through them that he bonds with his relationship-straining best friend. Their music is played in the iconic “slappa da bass” scene and Paul Rudd and Jason Segel even play a cover of Tom Sawyer. Plus, of course, there’s a Rush concert in the film, where the prog icons perform their 1981 classic. limelight live for the ecstatic main characters.
Primus – Bill and Ted’s Fake Trip (1991)
After the surprise success of Excellent adventure, Bill and Ted’s fake trip was able to harness a serious rock ‘n’ roll pedigree. megadeth wrote Go to hell for its soundtrack, while funk metal crackpots Primus get their own cameo. Threesome game tommy the cat during a Battle of the Bands where the poster also includes the protagonists band, the Wyld Stallyns. Finally, despite the big names, fake trip failed to receive the rave reviews of its predecessor and proved a box office flop, though some metalheads still cling to it to this day.
Google “rammstein xxx” and you might expect to find the videos for Cat and Son, but you’ll actually get footage of the industrial icons starring in this all-action drama. The bust of the sextet Feuer Frei! during the opening scene, where sleazy agents battle moshing metalheads, and they don’t hold back their live madness. Flames, flames and more flames fly during their brief appearance, though the most ridiculous moment has to be a murdered body surfing the crowded audience.