Documentaries about musicians weren’t as prevalent in the past as they are today. From The King talking about Elvis Presley to What Happened, Miss Simone? Chronicling the music and life of the late Nina Simone, many thought-provoking documentaries have been made in the recent past. If gaining insight about your favorite musicians catches your fancy, then you are lucky because, in this article, we will talk about 10 of the best music documentaries ever made:
10. “Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten” (2007)
Julien Temple’s The Future is Unwritten about Clash’s Joe Strummer, is just as compromising as the band itself. The film features never-seen-before footage of a young Strummer trying his luck with his guitar.
It also elucidates how through his music, he (and the band) became the advocate(s) for the dissatisfied British youth. In addition to shedding light on the band’s journey to greatness, it focuses intensely on Strummer’s rise from a nobody to a youth-favorite.
9. “Whitney: Can I Be Me” (2017)
Nick Broomfield’s Whitney: Can I Be Me was aptly titled. He talks about how Whitney Houston was eager to succeed but couldn’t handle the quick influx of fame she received.
Doing concerts, appearing on talk shows and maintaining a celebrity persona took all of her time, and she didn’t have time for her self. Robyn Crawford, her long-time friend also appeared on the documentary massively.
8. “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” (2015)
Brett Morgen is known to tackle unorthodox topics in his movies, but in Montage of Heck, he picked a subject that we thought we already knew a great deal about. He presented the story of Kurt Cobain in his way, and it was worth savoring.
He mixed recent interviews with archival footage, and also included a wide variety of animations to portray an artist that gained so much success in such a limited time, before losing the war with himself.
7. “Tom Petty: Runnin’ Down a Dream” (2007)
Peter Bogdanovich’s Runnin’ Down a Dream is over 4 hours in runtime, and that might be a total no-no for you, but trust us, if it were a test in patience, we would have never put it in this list. When you see the director delve deep into the life of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, you forget about how long you have been sitting on the couch.
From seeing Petty forming and disintegrating bands, to eventually creating Mudcrutch, which finally led him to The Heartbreakers; you get a sense of how hard it is to transform from an aspiring musician into a decorated Rockstar.
6. “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” (2004)
Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger had no idea that their behind-the-scenes documentary of the rock band Metallica recording their latest album, will become one of the most talked-about documentary films about rock music in history.
St. Anger, released in 2003 was a colossal flop, and it led all the members of the band into therapy. If you want never to see Metallica in the same way again, this documentary is a must-watch for you.
5. “Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?” (2006)
Some might know Harry Nilson as the voice behind “Without you” and “Everybody’s Talkin’,” but his actual career was far beyond just the two songs. At the time when the Beatle-fever was at its hottest, the Beatles claimed that Harry Nilsson was their best-loved singer.
Where on the one hand, Nilsson was being praised for his incredible voice; on the other, his career was being blemished by his drinking problems. John Scheinfeld, the director of the film, talked to many people close to Nilsson, including his producers Micky Dolenz and Richard Perry and his idol, Randy Newman.
4. “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown” (2014)
Alex Gibney’s overview of James Brown, the funk legend was long overdue when it finally materialized in 2014. Brown himself admitted to finding it hard to become a musical sensation simply because he wasn’t the easiest on the eyes.
The documentary is entertaining and realistic at the same time; it shows how fun the singer was while also delving into his personal life.
3. “Madonna: Truth or Dare” (1991)
More than anything else, Madonna was self-aware. Throughout her life, she has known her strengths (and her limitations) which she has used to shape the pop culture without even trying, and it all comes to fruition only because her step she took was deliberate. Alek Keshishia directed truth Or Dare, and it primarily showcases the pop queen’s Blonde Ambition tour, during which she opens up about her ambitions, her past, and her lovers.
However, as unlikely as it might seem, all of her actions seem to be calculated. She isn’t getting caught in the spur of the moment and divulging things she wouldn’t usually talk about; she is very selective about the type of persona she wants to share with the world. The film received mixed reviews from the critics.
2. “Bob Dylan: No Direction Home” (2005)
Martin Scorsese has directed some of the most beautiful cinematic masterpieces that Hollywood has ever seen, and his documentary about Bob Dylan, No Direction Home, was no exception. The film showcases how brilliantly Bob turned his talent into a platform and brought about paradigm shifts in the field of folk music.
At the start of his career, historic New York locations like Café Wha used to play freewheeling, absurd folk music and Bob just wasn’t having it. The film lasts for over 3 hours, like most Scorsese films, but to capture the true essence of Bob Dylan’s life, it had to be at least this long.
1. “Amy” (2015)
Asif Kapadia’s Amy won the Oscar for the Best Documentary in 2015. He is said to have great respect for Amy Winehouse’s music, and that’s why he enjoyed directing the documentary. It paints a very ambivalent but accurate picture of the immensely talented singer who rose to fame because of her musical prowess but also always remained notorious because of her drinking and drug-related problems.
As you journey through the film, you see Miss Winehouse make her way to the top, and you hope that someone will swoop in and save her from her vices; but, no one does. It breaks our hearts, but it also teaches us a vital life lesson.