A Controversial Hit Rock Biopic Is Hitting The Charts On Streaming

The Baz Luhrmann rock biopic Elvis is currently in HBO Max's most streamed movies.

By Nathan Kamal | Published


The rock n’ roll biopic has been on a bit of a hot streak in recent years, with movies like Bohemian Rhapsody (in which Rami Malek’s mustache did the heavy lifting) and Rocketman (with Taron Egerton serving as an ahistorically jacked Elton John) receiving critical praise and enormous box office profits. The most recent entry in the genre is climbing the streaming charts, as Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, starring Tom Hanks and Austin Butler, is in the top ten most streamed movies on HBO Max. The movie immediately became controversial on theatrical release, but that did not stop it from being a massive commercial success.

Elvis stars Austin Butler as the titular singer and icon of American rock ‘n roll, but he is not really the main character. The movie is primarily seen through the lens of (and narrated by) Colonel Tom Parker, played by Tom Hanks in prosthetics and a heavy, vaguely Dutch accent. In this particular take on Elvis’ story, we see the legendary musician groomed to be a kind of circus act by Parker, a former carny, and then tumble into the standard chaos of drugs, sex, and rock music.

Tom Hanks’ was criticized for using fat-suit-style prosthetics to portray Elvis’ controversial manager, as well as for his bizarre accent and diction (which to be fair, is pretty weird). Baz Luhrmann also received quite a bit of criticism for his fast-and-loose treatment of the events of Elvis’ life and his portrayal of Black American artists like Little Richard (Alton Mason) and B.B. King (Kelvin Harrison Jr.). 


Regardless of those criticisms, Elvis made bank at the box office, grossing $287 million globally and becoming the second-highest-performing music biopic ever (after Bohemian Rhapsody). Austin Butler recently won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance as the singer, presumably making his stress-triggered near-fatal illness worth it after all, and is considering a frontrunner for the upcoming Academy Awards. 

For his part, Tom Hanks said that choosing the role of Colonel Tom Parker was his attempt to portray a character far away from his standard fare of decent individuals that has earned him the title of America’s Dad. While Parker might not have been on the level of a Marvel villain (which Hanks seems to be going for as well), his controlling and toxic relationship with Elvis seems to be the very thing that made the actor want to step outside his comfort zone.

Given that Elvis is a Baz Luhrmann film, it is unsurprising that it is a lushly visual movie, with the Australian director bringing his eye for cinematic excess to the life of a man who lived excessively. We shall have to wait and see how many Academy Award nominations the film garners when they are announced next week, but at least for now, it is getting a second life on HBO Max. No matter how often the tale is told, people never get tired of watching Elvis’ life.