Let's Take a Look at the 10 Most Iconic Piano Movies of All Time

The piano has been a beloved and much-used instrument ever since it was invented centuries ago. It's not surprising then, that it has been featured prominently in films about piano, both recent and classic, throughout the years. In this blog post, we will take a look at some of the most iconic, beloved piano films and classic piano movies that have featured the piano as a major part of the plot. From dramas, rom-coms, comedies, musicals, biopics and documentaries, this list of timeless classics contains some of the most inspiring piano movies that feature the piano as a major plot point, exploring a range of topics from family relationships, career choices, to musical education and performance. Some of these films focus on the story of a musician's gradual rise in success and others on a pianist's emotional journey through the exploration of music. Read on to learn more about these inspiring films and their indelible impact on both the music and film industry.

When we talk about iconic piano movies or great piano movies, we're referring to films that have left their mark on pop culture with their memorable piano scenes. These famous movie scenes and creations have either become iconic in their own right or provided a popular soundtrack to a memorable story. Iconic piano films are those that capture people's imaginations and remain as immortalised classics in the cinematic canon. They are typically recognised for their powerful performances, powerful scenes, or powerful melodies that become iconic and unforgettable. Iconic piano films are timeless, thus ensuring that even after decades, they still remain great movies at the forefront of both pop culture and the wider film industry. Here is our list of films we consider to be iconic movies about pianos and the characters they have ensnared.

Amadeus (1984) - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Music’s Most Talented Pianist as the Subject of Forman’s Powerful Piano Movie

The 1984 movie Amadeus by Czech director Milos Forman is one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. Set in 18th century Vienna, this Academy Award winning film centers around the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his nemesis, Antonio Salieri. It showcases Mozart at the piano as he composes and performs some of his best-known works. It is a compelling story of ambition and genius, both tragic and beautiful. Amadeus is not only a great piece of cinematic art, it is also an examination of the genius of one of the greatest music makers in history. Certainly this film is the of movies starring famous composers or presenting the life of a pianist or a composer.

Impact of Amadeus on the public

Amadeus has had a lasting impact not only on the public, but on the way composers like the iconic piano prodigy Mozart and his piano teacher and father Leopold Mozart are seen. Leopold Mozart was composer and teacher and father to his son Wolfgang. Not only did the films starring Tom Hulce (Mozart) and F. Murray Abraham (Antonio Salieri) as rivals capture the audience's hearts, but it also sparked the beginnings of the 'Mozartean' movement that strives to go further into the life and works of the iconic composer.The film was a commercial hit when it came out and is renowned for its brilliant score which is mainly based off of Mozart's compositions. It is a timeless classic, both for its original source material, the performances by the two main actors, and the Oscar-winning score by composer John Williams.

The Piano (1993) - The Piano: A Tale About a Piano, Emotions and Struggles


The Piano is a 1993 romantic drama written and directed by Jane Campion. The Piano is one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. It was released in 1993 and was a box office success, being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. Starring Holly Hunter, Sam Neill, and Harvey Keitel, The Piano is a romantic drama set in the early 19th century in which a mute piano player (Hunter) is sold against her will to a harsh, yet passionate settler (Neill) in second-hand frontier New Zealand. Gender and violence are explored as the main character struggles to keep her daughter, her prized piano and stay in control of her fate. The Piano managed to express the beauty of music and the beauty of deep human emotions despite all the odds, making it an unforgettable classic.

Impact of The Piano on the public

Released in 1994, the movie has cemented its place in history as one of the most iconic and influential piano movies of all time. Although the film was released on the small screen, it soon shot up the box office rankings and established itself as a landmark in modern cinema. Adrienne Hunter gives a captivating performance as a widow who sells her piano to a local settler in New Zealand. Harvey Keitel and Sam Neill provide strong support as her two potential suitors. The soundscape created by Michael Nyman's evocative score is highly regarded, creating an unforgettable atmosphere that has shaped how audiences and filmmakers approach the role of the piano in theatre. The movie had such an impact on the public that it was nominated for several Academy Awards and has gained a significant cult following.

Big (1988) - Epic Piano Movie Moments: The Joy of Youth through a Giant Piano


Big is one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. Starring Tom Hanks as a grownup Josh Baskin wishing to be "big" again, the movie follows the hilarious journey of his wish being granted. From running full speed down the street, to playing a giant piano at his work, Josh's wish was a wild ride. The giant piano playing in particular, was an amazing scene to watch as he made a song out of it with sheer delight and joy. A childhood classic, Big is definitely a must watch.

Impact of Big on the public

The 1995 classic 'Big' has left a lasting impact on the hearts and souls of many a movie goer. The soundtrack featuring the iconic heart-warming duet 'Heart and Soul' by Robert Loggia and Tom Hanks has been in heavy rotation for years, and a simple watch of the film leaves one feeling a sense of joy and nostalgia. This movie has undeniably left its mark on the public, and will continue to do so for years to come due to its accurate depiction of what it truly means to find and embrace the joy of youth.

Shine (1996): Piano Movie Perfection: A Pianist's Emotional Journey through Music and Mental Health


The movie 'Shine', released in 1996 and starring multi-award-winning actor Geoffrey Rush, is one of the most iconic piano-themed films of all time. The story follows the troubled journey of young pianist David Helfgott, a promising pianist whose ambitions are hindered by his father’s fear of failure, brought to the screen with stunning cinematography and powerful performances. The film follows David as he defeats his personal demons to become a virtuoso, going up against fate, society and himself. Another powerful player in the film is the third piano concerto of Sergei Rachmaninoff the esteemed Russian pianist and piano teacher. This work is arguably the greatest work in Russian piano music. Featuring the piano and the concerto as a character in its own right, the centrality of the piano to the story is unique and captivating. There are few films that are examples of cinema starring pianos themselves. Equally captivating are the scenes of piano lessons between student and piano teacher. Rush's powerful and emotional portrayal of a complex character coupled with the film’s masterful use of the piano on screen have left a lasting impact on audiences and critics alike.

Impact of Shine on the public

Shine was certainly a game-changer for feature films about pianists. The movie, which is based on the incredible true story of legendary Australian pianist David Helfgott, focused on Helfgott's struggle with mental illness, his love of music, and his determination to be a success. Not only was the movie highly acclaimed by critics, but it also had a major impact on the public, with many people left in tears after watching the movie's powerful climax. Shine powerfully highlighted the challenges faced by those living with mental illness, won numerous awards, and even picked up an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Geoffrey Rush. Shine is an iconic movie which has touched people all around the world and inspired many talented pianists to pursue their dreams.

Ray (2004) - Jazz Piano Prodigy: The Groundbreaking Film About Jazz Pianist Ray Charles


Ray is a movie that follows the tale of the groundbreaking American musician and jazz pianist, Ray Charles. This film captures Charles' story, from his humble beginnings in the segregated South and early musical success to his troubled personal life. Through this biographical drama, director Taylor Hackford demonstrated how talent, drive, and uncompromising ambition enabled Charles to overcome challenges and restrictions placed on him due to his race and physical disability. Cinematography in Ray captured every moment of Charles' remarkable musical compositions while also illustrating the political climate of this turbulent period in history. Ray is an emotive piece filled with powerful performances that elevates film music to an art form – an unparalleled celebration of how one man’s talent and determination changed the world of music. It's no wonder this movie featuring a jazz piano player is considered one of the most iconic films of all time.

Impact of Ray on the public

Ray was one of the most successful movies of all time. It earned critical acclaim for its compelling story and captivating performances. It also earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jamie Foxx), Best Director (Taylor Hackford) and Best Soundtrack (Ray Charles).

Beyond its immense success at the box office, Ray had a profoundly positive impact on the public. It showcased how music could be used as a powerful tool to spread joy, hope, and ultimately change lives. With its message of forgiveness and redemption, the movie was lauded for its impactful storytelling and performances. Through Ray's songs and life story, people were able to recognize the power of music and how it could move and inspire people around the world. In many ways, the movie has become an anthem of hope and inspiration for many across the globe.

Immortal Beloved (1995) - Tormented Piano Titan: Beethoven's Quest for Love Through Deafness and Chaos


Immortal Beloved is probably one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. The movie follows the story of genius concert pianist Ludwig Van Beethoven, as he battles through deafness and his chaotic personal life in his quest to find his 'immortal beloved.' The movie stars Gary Oldman in the lead role amidst a cast of some of Hollywood's most notable actors. One of the movie's most powerful piano scenes comes with the finale of Beethoven's famous Moonlight Sonata, where the camera pans out from the piano to reveal a performance filled with tears, pain, and passion. Despite the heaviness of the scene, watching Beethoven overcome his deafness to perform his masterpiece is incredibly moving. Immortal Beloved is a true depiction of the depths of emotion that a pianist can reach, and its enduring message of hope and perseverance will remain with viewers forever.

Impact of Immortal Beloved on the public

Immortal Beloved is one of the most iconic piano movies of all time, and its impact on popular culture, and the public, is still felt today. It tells the story of the famous pianist and composer Ludwig van Beethoven, and is remembered for its rich soundtrack and educational value. It first released in 1994 and starred Gary Oldman as the titular immortal beloved. The core of the movie is a love story between Beethoven and his mysterious beloved, leading to one of the most beautiful musical moments in cinema: his Ode to Joy. Immortal Beloved is considered a milestone for music education, and continues to inspire people to appreciate the life and work of Beethoven and the world of classical music.

Green Book (2018) - An Inspiring Journey of Unity and Hope between Pianist and Protector


Green Book is an inspiring movie based on a true story that follows two men from opposite sides of the track, Dr. Don Shirley, a prestigious African-American pianist, and Tony Lip, an Italian-American bouncer. During an eight-week concert tour across the deep south of the United States, the mismatched pair confront racism and use their wits to make their journey. The movie touched on the deep-seated anxieties of a nation by following the pair's thought-provoking conversations and dialogues. Audiences were captivated by the unconventional friendship and funny moments that emerged between the two men, who inspired each other to journey toward a better life. Ultimately, the movie leaves us with a message of hope and unity.

Impact of Green Book on the public

Green Book was released in 2018 and was met with a huge positive response from both critics and the public. The film stars Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen as an Italian-American bouncer hired to drive an African-American classical pianist on a tour of venues in the racially-charged Southern United States. It has been praised as an “unforgettable, triumphant film” and received multiple awards including the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor for Ali’s performance. The movie has had a huge influence on the public, serving as an almost iconic representation of race relations in the US. It highlights how the beauty of music can help to bridge divides in society and acts as a reminder that everyone should be given equal opportunities regardless of background.


Rhapsody in Blue (1945) - Rhapsody in Blue: A Musical Drama Celebrating the Power of Piano in Cinema


Rhapsody in Blue is a 1945 musical drama film, widely known as one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. Starring Robert Alda, the movie revolves around a talented pianist and composer called Paul Whiteman – played by Al Jolson. He takes on a mission to bring George Gershwin's masterpiece 'Rhapsody in Blue' (also the title of the movie) to life, assembling the best in the business to help him with the composition. At a rehearsal attended by multiple famous pianists, Gershwin puts the finishing touches on his masterpiece. The movie casts include the likes of Paul Whiteman, George Gershwin, and a score of wonderful performers that bring the song to life. A powerful, visually stunning, and emotionally charged piece, Rhapsody in Blue stands as one of the most iconic piano movies of our time.

Impact of Rhapsody in Blue on the public

Rhapsody in Blue, composed by George Gershwin in 1924, instantly featured into one of America’s most iconic music pieces of the 20th century. Its debut, famously led by Gershwin himself, was met with enormous public enthusiasm. The spirit of the Rhapsody was seen as a metaphor for the American ‘melting pot’, blending together elements from Europe with jazz-inspired sounds. Not only this, the piece served as a unifying sound for different nationalities, and importantly, classes of people. Its legacy lives on today, and continues to represent American pride and ingenuity to the rest of the world.

Rhapsody in Blue (1945) was a crucial film in the development of modern-day piano movies. The adaptation of the classic George Gershwin's song, which was previously composed in 1924, was composed by Herschel Burke Gilbert and performed by pianist Oscar Levant. The movie centred around a young artist who travels to New York to make it as a pianist. It was a critical success, inspiring audiences around the world, particularly in its presentation of the classical soloist as an artist and a hero. Its impact on public opinion was immense and it still continues to be a beloved classic today. The importance of the movie lay in its portrayal of the pianoist as something other than a merely talented executor of music, but as an artist who feels the music and expresses its emotional content. It changed the way people perceived the piano and its performances, giving it a more meaningful status in society.

Great Balls of Fire (1989) - Piano Scenes Galore: The Turbulent Life of Rock 'n' Roll Piano Man Jerry Lee Lewis


Great Balls of Fire is an iconic movie from 1989, which follows the turbulent decline of the legendary rock 'n' roller Jerry Lee Lewis. Lewis is one of the most famous piano players to ever live, and he inspired many films exploring his unique musical style and penchant for lighting his grand pianos on fire in concert. In Great Balls of Fire Lewis is portrayed by Dennis Quaid and also features Winona Ryder playing his young wife, Myra. The film follows the pair's early courtship, leading to their marriage and then his success in the music business, climbing the charts with his rendition of "Great Balls of Fire." However, Lewis' career is halted when public controversy ensues regarding his marriage to the much younger Myra, and the film explores the effect of this controversy on the couple and their life together. It also looks at the public and media pressure put on Lewis, which eventually leads to their eventual separation. Great Balls of Fire is a classic film about the amazing and colorful talent of one of the most iconic piano players of all time, and an interesting insight into the pressure of being in the public eye.

Impact of Great Balls of Fire on the public

The 1989 biopic of influential rock and roll singer Jerry Lee Lewis, Great Balls of Fire, had a huge impact on the public when it was released. This film followed the career of Lewis from childhood through to his infamous career as a rock and roll star and featured an all-star cast including Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder. Lewis' many TV piano performances included iconic shows like the Steve Allan Show. The film was accompanied by the iconic soundtrack, composed by Chris Stein from the rock band Blondie, which was hugely popular and helped reinvent Lewis' legendary songs. The Soundtrack featured many original hits such as "The Killer" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On", ensuring that the film's influence would be felt long after it had left cinemas.

Mr. Holland's Opus (1995) - Contemplating One’s Role: The Inspiring Journey of a Teacher and His Love for Music


Mr. Holland's Opus is one of the most iconic piano movies of all time. The film follows the career of Mr Glenn Holland, a thirty-year old composer with aspirations to write a great concerto. In the meantime, he takes a teaching job at a derelict school in Oregon. Over the course of thirty years, he inspires and influences the lives of his students as they come and go through his life. By the end of the film, he has come to terms with the fact that his contribution may be small, but it is significant and appreciated. The film is touching and inspiring and is often acclaimed for its accurate portrayal of the teaching profession.

Impact of Mr. Holland's Opus on the public

Mr Holland’s Opus was one of the most iconic Piano movies of all time. Its impact on the general public was profound, showing the importance of caring, dedicated teachers in our lives. The movie showed the character of Mr. Holland as someone who wasn't simply a teacher, but a mentor and a friend to his students. His influence on his students was genuine and had a huge impact on how the public saw the value of teachers in our society. Because of the lasting impression left behind by the movie, it’s no surprise that Mr Holland’s Opus is considered one of the most popular and well-loved piano movies of all time.


Piano movies have long since become iconic symbols of art and creativity. Some of the most famous piano movies to have ever been made include films about piano players like The Piano (1993), Shine (1996) and Mister Holland’s Opus (1995). Each of these films has long left a lasting impression, with powerful scores, prestigious music, beautiful cinematography and acclaimed performances, these popular films have been loved and adored by generations of moviegoers. Their timeless stories of passion and love for the piano have inspired many to take up playing the instrument in their spare time. It just goes to show that piano movies can be a great source of inspiration, emotion and culture in our everyday lives.


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