One of the most hotly anticipated shows of the fall season is Fox’s Monarch, a multigenerational drama about the first family of country music, set to premiere on Sept. 11. Oscar winner Susan Sarandon, 75, and country superstar Trace Adkins, 60, star as the dynasty’s matriarch and patriarch, Dottie and Albie Roman, with Pushing Daisies actress Anna Friel and indie rocker Beth Ditto appearing as their daughters. The Romans follow in a long line of iconic country acts from TV and film, both real (Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter) and fictional (Mac Sledge in Tender Mercies). Here, our 10 greatest hits about the world of country music that you can stream before Monarch takes the stage.
The premise: Nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, Robert Altman’s beloved music-industry satire features a sprawling ensemble cast that includes Lily Tomlin, 83, as the gospel-singing mother of two deaf children; Shelley Duvall, 73, as teen groupie “L.A. Joan”; Ronee Sue Blakley, 77, as the fragile country star Barbara Jean; and Jeff Goldblum, 69, as the silent Tricycle Man. The film is widely hailed as Altman’s magnum opus, and it has been included on many rankings of the best films of all time, including from the American Film Institute (number 59) and Entertainment Weekly (number 9).
The best song: “I’m Easy,” which was written and performed by Keith Carradine, 73, and won the Academy Award for best song.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
The premise: Based on Loretta Lynn’s autobiography of the same name, Coal Miner’s Daughter is perhaps the finest entry in the musical biopic genre, with Sissy Spacek, 72, truly channeling the spirit of the now-90-year-old living legend. It’s no surprise that Spacek won the best actress Oscar for her transformative role, as she charts Lynn’s rags-to-riches story from her girlhood days in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, to her marriage at 15 to her reign as the First Lady of Country Music. Equally memorable are her costars, Tommy Lee Jones (75) as her husband, Doolittle Lynn; Levon Helm as her coal miner father; and Beverly D’Angelo (70) as “Crazy” singer Patsy Cline.
The best song: Spacek’s cover of the title song, which helped the soundtrack hit number 2 on the country charts and earn the CMA Award for album of the year.
Honkytonk Man (1982)
The premise: Clint Eastwood, 92, stars alongside his real son Kyle, 54, in this bittersweet musical set during the Great Depression. The elder Eastwood — who also directed — plays country-western singer Red Stovall, who suffers from tuberculosis and drowns his sorrows in booze. When he arrives at his sister’s failing Oklahoma farm, he forms a bond with his 14-year-old nephew, and the two head across country to Nashville, where Red hopes for one last shot at stardom on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Country music lovers will recognize cameos from the likes of Porter Wagoner, Marty Robbins, Ray Price and Merle Travis.
The best song: “No Sweeter Cheater Than You,” a low-key ditty sung by Eastwood, which was nominated for a Razzie Award for worst original song but is better than critics at the time gave it credit for.