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Bohemian Rhapsody VS A Star is Born: Which Should You See?

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake

“Somebody to Love” or “I’ll Never Love Again?” Both of these 2018 musical dramas have left a mark at award shows and the box office, but if you had to choose one to see before the Oscars, which should be higher on your watch-list? Join WatchMojo as we pit “Bohemian Rhapsody” against “A Star Is Born”!


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Script written by Nick Spake

Bohemian Rhapsody VS A Star is Born: Which Should You See?

“Somebody to Love” or “I’ll Never Love Again?” Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’re pitting “Bohemian Rhapsody” against “A Star Is Born.” Both of these 2018 musical dramas have left a mark at award shows and the box office, but if you had to choose one to see before the Oscars, which should be higher on your watch-list? Let’s find out!

Round 1: Music

Queen easily ranks among the most iconic rock bands ever while Freddie Mercury is the very definition of frontman. So naturally, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has no shortage of immortal music to work with. Songs like “We Will Rock You,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” and “Under Pressure” are all well-integrated into the narrative and capture the sensation of attending a concert. Speaking of which, the “Live Aid” finale is marvelously constructed, passionately performed, and ends the film on the highest note possible. Above all else, this biopic demonstrates how Queen forever changed rock, mixing various genres to create a sound that was practically operatic.

“A Star Is Born” is primarily comprised of original tunes, most of which were co-written by Lady Gaga. The film’s most celebrated song is the Golden Globe-winning “Shallow,” a stirring duet that finds Ally and Jackson diving into the deep end of love. Throughout the story, the music cleverly transitions from country to pop, signifying the growing distance between our leads. “Always Remember Us This Way” will leave you feeling on top of the world while “I'll Never Love Again” will leave your heart in pieces. The fact that many scenes were shot at actual concerts with live audiences contributes to the authentic performances.

Both movies have pitch perfect soundtracks and even inspired sing-along versions, but it’s hard to top Queen’s greatest hits. While the songs in “A Star Is Born” have carved out a special place in pop culture, Queen impacted the music medium in more ways than one. That impact is certainly felt in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” making it this round’s champion.

WINNER: Bohemian Rhapsody 1 / A Star Is Born 0

Round 2: Story

“Bohemian Rhapsody” chronicles the career of Queen, but its factual accuracy has been called into question. Some subplots are backed up by facts, such as Mary Austin’s lifelong dedication to Mercury. In typical music biopic fashion, though, the screenplay fabricates a couple of major plot points, such as the band breaking up, and Mercury knowing about his HIV diagnosis before Live Aid. That being said, these changes make sense from a storytelling perspective and add to the drama without necessarily betraying the band’s spirit. Considering how enigmatic Mercury was, you could argue it’s actually fitting that this dramatization embraces both the real life and the fantasy.

“A Star Is Born” is based on the 1937 classic, which was previously remade in 1954 and again in 1976. Being the third official remake, you’d think there’d be nothing left to do with this tale of love, fame, and tragedy. Thanks to Bradley Cooper’s stunning direction, a spellbinding soundtrack, and captivating chemistry between our leads, however, it feels like we’re watching this story for the first time. The screenplay, which Cooper crafted with Eric Roth and Will Fetters, maintains the timelessness of its predecessors while bringing a modern sensibility to the narrative, making this the most well-told version of “A Star Is Born” yet.

Although both “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star Is Born” touch upon familiar tropes about superstardom, they present their narratives in a fresh and gripping fashion. Between the two, “A Star Is Born” had a more uphill battle since we’ve already seen this story three times. The film overcame these narrative obstacles, which is reason to declare it this round’s winner.

WINNER: Bohemian Rhapsody 1 / A Star Is Born 1

Round 3: Lead Performances

After Sacha Baron Cohen left “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Rami Malek was enlisted to play Freddie Mercury. Although Malek is an acclaimed actor, this casting choice threw some for a loop, seeing how he’s best-known for playing the emotionally detached Elliot on “Mr. Robot.” Malek completely transformed himself for the role however, channeling the late musician’s charisma, passion, and distinctive accent to a T. The actor did receive some backup during the film’s singing portions, using a mix of his own voice, Mercury’s recordings, and a sound-alike named Marc Martel. Yet, Malek’s Golden Globe-winning performance is so commanding and enthralling that it never comes off as mere lip-syncing.

The casting for “A Star Is Born” also had many people skeptical at first. As if making his directorial debut wasn’t daunting enough, Bradley Cooper needed to prove he had the singing chops to convincingly play a famous country singer. While we all know Lady Gaga can sing, her previous acting gigs had some critics convinced that she wouldn’t be able to tackle such a heavy role. Regardless, Cooper and Gaga wound up making beautiful music together, emerging as possibly the most recognizable screen couple of 2018. Their work here is nothing short of transcendent, redefining Cooper as a filmmaker and Gaga as an actress.

Through their spellbinding performances, Malek, Cooper, and Gaga all made audiences see them in new lights. Given their backgrounds, however, Cooper and Gaga took the most risks, making their performances the most impressive in the end. Plus, “A Star Is Born” has the advantage of possessing two captivating leads whereas “Bohemian Rhapsody” only has one. Winner, “A Star Is Born.”

WINNER: Bohemian Rhapsody 1 / A Star Is Born 2

Round 4: Supporting Players

Rami Malek takes center stage in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but this is far from a one-man show. The film wouldn’t be complete without the effective supporting work from Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor, and Joe Mazzello as John Deacon. The dynamics these men share makes Queen feel less like a band and more like a family. Lucy Boynton is just as crucial to the film’s success as Mary Austin, whose relationship with Freddie is equal parts poignant, heartbreaking, and fascinating. An unrecognizable Mike Myers is also ingeniously cast as a fictional EMI executive who criticizes “Bohemian Rhapsody” for being too long.

While “A Star Is Born” belongs to Gaga and Cooper, the supporting cast does provide greater insight into their characters. Known for being a raunchy comedian, Andrew Dice Clay shows off a softer side as Ally’s father, who wants to see his daughter’s talents flourish. Dave Chappelle also stretches his dramatic muscles as Jackson’s childhood friend, taking the famous musician back to his humble roots. Sam Elliott is especially powerful as Jackson’s older brother, who fears the sibling he’s loved like a son will drink himself into an early grave. They all earn their places in the movie, even if some of them come and go.

It’s a close call, but you couldn’t make a movie about Freddie Mercury without the rest of Queen. As great as the supporting cast in “A Star Is Born” might be, it’s the leads who do most of the heavy lifting. That’s another point for “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

WINNER: Bohemian Rhapsody 2 / A Star Is Born 2

Round 5: Critical & Audience Reception

Despite winning the Golden Globe for Best Picture – Drama, “Bohemian Rhapsody” has a Rotten Tomatoes score of only 62%. While that’s still technically fresh, it’s surprisingly low for a film that’s performed so well elsewhere. It’s possible that some negative reviews were also influenced by the controversy surrounding director Bryan Singer. Of course, we can also see where various critics are coming from when they claim the film is formulaic and could’ve offered a more complete portrayal of Mercury’s sexuality. With a 90% positive audience score, however, mainstream moviegoers clearly don’t agree with these criticisms.

Ever since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival, critics have been going gaga for “A Star Is Born,” amounting to a 90% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. The masses generally fell in love with the film as well, sharing the same praise of its direction, music, and performances. When you compare its audience score to “Bohemian Rhapsody’s,” though, “A Star Is Born” is actually 9% lower at 81% positive. So, where the critics favor one film by a wide margin, audiences seem to gravitate towards the other, albeit only slightly. Either way, “A Star Is Born” has love on both sides.

Like the song it shares a title with, “Bohemian Rhapsody” might’ve received a mixed reception from critics upon release, but that hasn’t stop it from amassing a legion of fans. “A Star Is Born,” meanwhile, was a critical favorite and a crowd-pleaser right out of the gate. While the receptions towards both of these films may change over time, “A Star Is Born” seems to have more universal appeal.

With box office success and plenty of accolades to go around, these two movies are both far from being losers. There can only be one champion here, however, and “A Star Is Born” comes out on top with a final score of 3 to 2.

WINNER: Bohemian Rhapsody 2 / A Star Is Born 3

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