The Best Music Documentaries

8 July 2018, 11:30

Great Music Documentaries
Great Music Documentaries. Picture: Press

There's a reason that music fans love music documentaries: they can show us a new side to our favourite artists - or make us fall in love with a group we knew nothing about. Here are some of the finest.

  1. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

    Tracking Kurt's early years and rise to the top - as well as his tragic suicide - there's plenty of new info for Nirvana fans to take away too. That includes the band's rubbish potential names: Cold And Wet anyone?

  2. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten

    Julien Temple's remarkable documentary that covered The Clash legend in a way that paid tribute to his genius but also called him out on his shortcomings. It might be a bit long for anyone who's not a Clash fan though.

  3. It Might Get Loud

    Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White's differing approaches to guitar-playing are explored in this doco that's essential viewing for any axe-wielders among you.

  4. Pulp: A Film About Life, Death and Supermarkets

    As much a tribute to the band's hometown of Sheffield as the great music they created, it's great fun to watch.

  5. Meeting People Is Easy

    Released in 1998, this film tracks Radiohead on their exhaustive (and properly exhausting) tour to promote OK Computer. It includes some brilliant live performances from the time too, including an astounding version of Karma Police performed for David Letterman's US talk show.

  6. The Beatles: The First US Visit

    Another film that covers a British band touring America - albeit a bit happier - is this 1964 documentary from the Maysles Brothers, who would also make the classic Gimme Shelter film following the Rolling Stones. It's an intimate account of four young lads who are about to become the most famous people in the world.

  7. Some Kind Of Monster

    You don't need to be a Metallica fan to enjoy this 2004 documentary that covers the band's near implosion while recording the St Anger album. Proof that the best kind of rock documentaries are no holds barred.

  8. Upside Down: The Creation Records Story

    Oasis form the cornerstone of this film charting the rise and rise and rise (and then enormous fall) of one of the most influential independent labels in British music history, founded by the charismatic Alan McGee.

  9. Joy Division

    One of the bleakest stories in music history, the story of Manchester's greatest post-punk band is told honestly and directly, with the participation of the surviving members and other people who knew tragic lead singer Ian Curtis. Along the way there's some timeless music and incredible footage.

  10. Last Shop Standing

    Great record shops have a special place in all of our hearts - and Last Shop Standing celebrates the very best of them. Thankfully, vinyl seems to be back for good, but here's a stern reminder of why you should support your local record emporium.

  11. Lemmy

    Some music films cover great bands or a classic album. Few manage to capture the singular spirit of one hellraiser in quite the same way as Lemmy does. The life and philosophy of the late, great Motorhead man is covered at length and not without some humour.

  12. The Decline Of Western Civilisation II: The Metal Years

    The first edition of Decline covered punk in LA. This follow-up sees Ozzy Osbourne, Aerosmith and Megadeth covered in Penelope Spheeris' documentary. Her reward for this brilliant film? Getting to make Wayne's World.

  13. Made Of Stone

    A music documentary that captures just why a band means so much to its fans, Made of Stone was filmed by Shane Meadows of This Is England fame, and charts the progress of the legendary Manchester band as they reunite in 2012 after 16 years apart.

  14. Amy

    Asif Kapadia had previously directed a compelling documentary on the late F1 driver Ayrton Senna and this examination into the short, sad, brightly-burning life of the British singer is equally thorough. At turns funny and tragic, her father Mitch didn't like it, but everyone else did.

  15. Dig!

    One category of music documentary that we need more of: the battle of the bands. Dig! shows what happens when two bands, The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre stop being friends - and start hating each other.

  16. George Harrison: Living In The Material World

    Possibly the best Beatles documentary? Martin Scorsese's spellbinding film looks at the member of the Fab Four that most consider to be the most interesting one - sorry Ringo. It's about as in-depth as a music documentary can be, with plenty of insight from The Quiet One's friends, family and admirers.

  17. Supersonic

    Directed by Mat Whitecross and produced by Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees, who did the business with the Amy Winehouse doc, this is an impeccably researched film on the rise and rise of Oasis. Starting off with their early years in Burnage to the Britpop high water mark of Knebworth in 1996, it leaves out the details of their messy split, but it's an often hilarious and memorable piece of film-making with some amazing footage.

  18. Shut Up And Play The Hits

    This film captures what was thought to be the last-ever gig of LCD Soundsystem but also follows the band's James Murphy in the 48 hours around the gig, from his nervy preparation to delirious post-show reaction.

  19. Gimme Shelter

    The hype around this remarkable documentary is entirely justified. If any film captures the end of the 1960s, the critics say it's this one. Who are we to argue? The cameras capture the Rolling Stones as they head back out on the road in America at the end of 1969. Unfortunately, it ends up at the chaotic outdoor show at Altamont, during which a man was murdered.

  20. The Filth And The Fury

    Julien Temple featured earlier on this list with his Joe Strummer documentary, but this earlier film captured the misadventures of the other pillar of punk: The Sex Pistols. It was actually Temple's second film about the Pistols, but this one paid more attention to the band rather than their svengali Malcolm McLaren.