Worst to Best
Prince Movies

Of all the many high-profile celebrity deaths in 2016, perhaps none hit harder here at the Anorak Zone than the death of Prince, aged just 57.


by
THE ANORAK
APRIL 2017


A year on from his death, the site pays tribute with a look back at Prince's movies, from worst to best...

4 Graffiti Bridge (1990)

An unofficial sequel to Purple Rain that was critically panned and released straight to video in the UK, Graffiti Bridge is better than its reputation... if only just. Written and directed by Prince, what's most noticeable is how sterile the whole thing is. Purple Rain was filmed in real locations with many vocals recorded live... whereas all the songs in the movie are lip synched without even the pretence of a microphone and are shot in claustrophobic studio sets. With lines like "it's hard to see green, when there's so much blue", this is, at best, something of a naïve venture.
More metaphysical than his most famous film, Prince has a guardian angel in the movie. The album soundtrack was one of his more mediocre efforts, though not without its charm and stronger songs. However, the title track of the movie was so saccharine that even the most sentimental version of Michael Jackson would have refused to record it. Ultimately this is one that only real aficionados should sit through.
The Anorak Zone as a site is concerned with visual entertainment, so as a tribute to a great artist, this one might seem not seem overwhelming with praise. But it must be noted that while his albums were almost always worth a listen – yes, even the later, underrated ones – his work in the cinema medium was never a real reflection of his true talent. Perhaps the last word should go to Prince himself, who told Rolling Stone that he wasn't "looking to be Francis Ford Coppola. I see this more like those 1950s rock & roll movies."

3 Purple Rain (1984)

A hugely problematic movie that hasn't aged nearly as well as any other film on this list. It's not just that it's possibly the most 80s film ever made, with huge glasses and shoulder pads, but that the picture calls upon the redemption of a man given to domestic abuse. It's to the credit of Prince that he didn't go the easy route and depict himself as a flawless man, but instead plays "The Kid", a self-centred egomaniac who abuses women because that's what he's seen his father do. However, such themes aren't served well by being in a movie that's so full of rock movie clichés, poor acting and casual sexism.
Such elements are very much "of their time", but in 2017 make it a very troubling production. In its favour are the music scenes, which are electrifying, but scenes such the "Lake Minnetonka" sequence, or a show-stealing Morris Day supervising hurling a woman into a dumpster are ones which fare very badly in modern terms.

2 Under The Cherry Moon (1986)

If time has been unkind to Purple Rain, then it's treated Under The Cherry Moon very well. Set in France during an unspecified past, and released in stark black and white, it's largely divorced of the shoulder pads and electro eyeliner that make Purple Rain such a guilty pleasure to sit through today. And, while his most famous film called on too much of him as a dramatic actor, Under The Cherry Moon allows him to gurn and roll his eyes with abandon, a virtual cartoon character. That Prince being so OTT in what is supposed to be a romantic comedy can cause consternation to some, but thirty years after its release, the singer's blurring of gender and sexual identity now seems almost ahead of its time.
Perhaps what gives the film a poignancy that it doesn't earn is that it's the one film that ends with Prince's death. As the effeminate gigolo "Christopher Tracy", Prince recorded a middling ballad about the character's death called "Sometimes It Snows In April". With Prince dying on April 21st, what was a relatively average song for the artist suddenly develops added meaning and becomes one of the most significant – and chillingly prophetic – in his canon.

1 Sign O' The Times (1987)

If a Prince movie was going to top this list, it was always going to be one that did what he was best at – the music. Sure, this is again so eighties that it heavily showcases a plasma globe and features its star in a pastel peach suit, but it also helps that Sign O' The Times makes a serious argument at being his best-ever album, an eclectic mix of styles.
Gender and sexual politics have increased so much in the thirty years since this film was released that some segments – most notably the skirt-ripping, woman-chasing "Hot Thing" – can seem a little awkward outside of historical context, but this is Prince at his peak. Sadly, while later years had their glories, he was never quite able to recapture this form.