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Aug. 16, 2022

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Best Elvis movies to stream

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Baz Luhrmann’s sprawling pop biopic “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler as the iconic King of Rock ‘n’ Roll hits theaters this weekend, and it’s likely that the wild portrait of Elvis Presley might spark a desire to revisit, or discover, some of his best work. There’s of course his discography, but as the first televisual music superstar, there’s a wealth of TV and film content to explore as well, which offers a larger scope on his earth-shaking, and all-too-short life and career.

A logical first stop after Luhrmann’s “Elvis” should be the two part documentary series “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” currently streaming on HBO Max. The 2018 doc, directed by Thom Zimny, who has directed several rock docs, including about Bruce Springsteen, is a methodical exploration of Elvis through his music: his influences, his role in the formation of rock ‘n’ roll, and his eventual return to his blues, gospel and country roots. With interviews from Priscilla Presley, many of his musical collaborators, ethnomusicologists, as well as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen, it’s an exhaustive and carefully researched look into the music that made Elvis, and the music that Elvis made.

After his rock ‘n’ roll success, Elvis headed out for Hollywood. His first film, in 1956, “Love Me Tender,” is available on Starz or for rent on all digital platforms. 1957’s “Jailhouse Rock” (available to rent on all platforms) might be his most well-known film, spawning the popular tune of the same name. One of Elvis’ favorite films he was in was 1958’s “King Creole,” directed by Michael Curtiz, available to rent on Amazon. While he hoped for a career as a dramatic actor, his films “Wild in the Country” (1961) and “Flaming Star” (1960) were not financially successful (rent them on digital platforms or stream “Flaming Star” on Starz). He was pushed by his manager Colonel Parker to do more musicals with tie-in records, like 1964’s “Viva Las Vegas,” opposite the dynamic Ann-Margret (rent it on all digital platforms).

His 1968 comeback TV special returned Elvis to his musical roots, and allowed him to present a different, more authentic image to America, and make a powerful statement with the song “If I Can Dream,” inspired by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Rent it for $2.99 on iTunes or Amazon. In 1969, Elvis became the King of Las Vegas with his stage show residency at the International Hotel. The 1970 documentary “Elvis: That’s the Way It Is” documents the rehearsal process for the show. Rent it on iTunes.

Austin Butler transforms into Elvis and gives a star-making turn as the King, but he’s not the first actor to take on the challenging role. Irish actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers played Elvis in a 2005 two-part miniseries opposite Rose McGowan, which is available to stream for free with ads on The Roku Channel, Vudu, Tubi and Amazon Freevee. Michael Shannon also tackled the role in the 2016 film “Elvis & Nixon,” directed by Liza Johnson, which is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s likely Luhrmann’s film will only whet the appetite for more Elvis, and this is just a starting point to explore some of his best work and most memorable moments.

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