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Ten Great Movies Starring Pianos

At Moore Piano we enjoy all things piano, including pianos and piano music featured in the movies. Whether you’re looking for inspiration, motivation, or a chill Friday night, these movies that feature pianos or tell the story of influential pianists are definitely worth the watch!

The Green Book

Inspired by true events, this movie tells the story of African American classical and jazz pianist Don Shirley’s landmark tour down south during the height of segregation. Don Shirley hires Italian-American bouncer, Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga as his bodyguard and chauffer.

Donald “Don” Walbridge Shirley recorded many piano albums in the 1950s and 60s. He wrote organ symphonies, piano concerti, and a host of other pieces. He brilliantly experimented with jazz music with a classical influence.

According to the movie and accounts from Tony Lip, one of Don’s quirks is that he only performed on Steinway pianos. One of Tony’s tasks was to ensure a Steinway was at each concert site for Don.

The Green Book will make you laugh, cry, dance, and mourn. It’s a historical tale of racial tension and a celebration of a concert pianist who influenced music and culture.

The Pianist

This 2002 film is an adaptation of the autobiography The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival In Warsaw. Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Polish Jewish radio station pianist, is forced into the Warsaw Ghetto and later separated from his family during Operation Reinhard. Refusing to surrender, Szpilman hides among the ruins and rubble of war-torn Warsaw to evade Nazi occupiers and survive the Holocaust.

The Pianist tells a terribly beautiful story of survival and how music can help the human soul fight impossible battles for survival. The featured song is the hauntingly beautiful Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor by Chopin. Other masterpieces by Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven make this film a cinematic and musical work of art.

Adrian Brody took the lead role as Wladyslaw Szpilman but the director desperately wanted the film to be as realistic as possible. Any scene showing Brody playing the piano was actually him playing but the music was dubbed over later. Brody practiced for months so the keystrokes on the piano matched the music and would convince the audience that Brody was the one playing.


Shine is a biographical drama that tells the story of Australian pianist, David Helfgott. Helfgott suffered a mental breakdown and spent a number of years in a mental institution.

The featured song is Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Shine won a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor. It’s a beautiful story of overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds. If you’d like to learn more about Helfgott’s life you can read Out of Tune, by Margaret Helfgott, David’s sister.


This movie was adapted from the stage play, Amadeus. Set in Vienna, Austria this is a fictional biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It focuses on the rivalry between Mozart and Italian composer Antonio Salieri at the court of Emperor Joseph II.

While Amadeus is a work of fiction, Wolfgang Mozart’s real life was quite dramatic in itself. He showed musical talent at a very young age and began composing around the age of 5. He stayed in Vienna where he achieved fame but not fortune. Mozart composed most of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas near the end of his short life.

Mozart died at age 35 but the cause of death cannot be identified with confidence. Researchers debate and suggest at least 100 potential causes of death. During the last days of his life, Mozart was rushing to complete unfinished works, including his famous Requiem.

Because it’s a story about Wolfgang Mozart, his music punctuates the entire film. It’s considered a cinematic classic and a must-watch for any piano aficionado.

The Piano

This 1993 film is a tale about a mute piano player and her daughter in a 19th century New Zealand town. It focuses on the passion of the musician and her herculean efforts to recover her piano after it is sold.

Michael Nyman wrote the score and it became a best-selling soundtrack album. It is rated in the top 100 soundtrack albums of all time. Because the lead character is mute, the music speaks loudest!

Holly Hunter, the lead actress, insisted on playing her own piano pieces for the film and she won awards for Best Actress for her performances.


This biopic tells the story of the life and career of legendary rhythm and soul musician, Ray Charles.

Ray began to play the piano before age 5. He lost his sight to glaucoma at age seven, not long after tragically watching his younger brother drown. He studied composition and learned to play the alto saxophone, clarinet, trumpet, and organ at St. Augustine School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Ray Charles began touring the “Chitlin Circuit”, a series of performance venues that accepted African-American musicians and other entertainers during the era of segregation. He burst onto the worldwide music scene as he masterfully blended rhythm and blues, rock and roll, gospel, country, jazz, and even orchestral influences together in a unique sound. Some of Ray’s hits include “Unchain My Heart”, “I’ve Got A Woman”, and What I’d Say”.

Rhapsody In Blue

Set in 1930’s New York City, this film uses George Gershwin’s song, “Rhapsody in Blue” to tell about a day in the life of four people longing for something more in life. A construction worker dreams of being a drummer at a jazz club; a young girl who longs for more time with her parents instead of with her governess; a rich man whose marriage is on the rocks; an unemployed man searches for a job.

The song, Rhapsody in Blue, was originally composed in 1924 by George Gershwin. Gershwin left school at age 15 to become a “song plugger” and his first song was published when he was just 17 years old. He began working for Aeolian Company and Standard Music Rolls in New York, recording and arranging music. He produced work under his own name and assumed names.

The story is that Gershwin got the idea for the title song, Rhapsody in Blue, while riding the train to Boston. While the movie doesn’t tell George Gershwin’s story, it does weave an engaging tale. Gershwin’s sound was a sort of classical music with a jazz twist. He primarily focused on show tunes and jazz during his career.

Four Minutes

This is a German film about a piano teacher, Traude Krueger, in a women’s prison. Krueger is surprised by the raw talent of Jenny, a prisoner who is at first banned from taking piano lessons. Krueger agrees to give Jenny lessons under the condition of absolute obedience. Jenny learns quickly and reaches the finals of a piano competition but must face many unforeseen obstacles along the way.

We won’t spoil the film for you but we do think it should be one everyone’s Netflix queue. While it doesn’t have any award-winning songs or featured music, it’s a heart-warming story about rising above and about love of music that every pianist will appreciate.

La La Land

This film was a box office hit in 2016 and tells the tale of an aspiring actress and a struggling jazz pianist. It’s a romantic musical film about falling in love and pursuing your dreams.

It was critically acclaimed for its musical score, cinematography, and production design and won a record-breaking seven Golden Globe awards. Justin Hurwitz composed and orchestrated the songs and scores for La La Land and the movie features a number of scenes and scores with beautiful piano music.

Ryan Gosling learned to play jazz piano in just three months to take the lead role as Sebastian in this film. It required practicing hours a day for months leading up to filming La La Land so Ryan could play all the piano music on screen.


This biopic about the life of musician Elton John, is set to debut on 31 May, 2019. Sir Elton Hercules John is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. Over his star-studded career he has sold over 300 million records and has more than 50 Top Forty hits to his name along with a laundry list of accolades, awards, and honors.

Sir Elton got his musical start at age 15 as a pub pianist on the weekends and enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks. It is unclear how much of his life the movie Rocketman will cover, or how much of his known music will be included. But one thing is certain, anyone who loves Elton John or appreciates his influence on modern music should consider seeing this film.

The official soundtrack has not yet been released so we are waiting to find out just how much piano music will be woven into the movie. We do know it will contain 22 tracks and feature a number of artists. We are also sure it will have all the flare and music that defines the life and legacy of Sir Elton John.