The Best Documentaries About Music 

Ranker Film
Updated May 11, 2020 2.2k votes 324 voters 15.9k views 84 items

A number of documentaries examine the famous lives of musician or discuss the music industry, genres, or the effects music can have on the brain. The best documentaries about music include Oscar nominees, short films, and those music movies you can find on Netflix, Hulu, or even online.  Music affects the deepest parts of our soul; it can inspire us, relax us, lift us up, fill us with adrenaline, make us angry, or unleash our inner rock gods. The best kind of music speaks the language we’ve always wanted to speak but just didn’t know how! What are the best documentaries about bands? 

This list discusses the top documentary films discussing music, including: Carter, Imagine, Searching for Sugar Man, A Band Called Death, Until the Light Takes Us, Lemmy, Last Days Here, American Hardcore, and The Road to God Knows Where. Vote for your favorites and add any that are missing.
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Dennis Coffey, Malik Bendjelloul, Clarence Avant

Released: 2012

Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul

Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish–British documentary film directed and written by Malik Bendjelloul which details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen ...more
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looksharp added History of the Eagles Eagles

Released: 2013

Directed by: Alison Ellwood

History of the Eagles is a 2013 two-part authorized documentary about the career of the American rock group the Eagles, directed by Alison Ellwood and co-produced by Alex Gibney. After screening ...more
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Billy Corgan, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart

Released: 2010

Directed by: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is a 2010 documentary film directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn. The film offers an in-depth look at the Canadian progressive rock band Rush, chronicling the ...more
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Released: 2008

Directed by: Sacha Gervasi

At 14, Toronto school friends Steve 'Lips' Kudlow and Robb Reiner made a pact to rock together forever. Their band Anvil went on to become the 'demi-gods of Canadian metal', releasing 1982's ...more
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Released: 1978

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

The Last Waltz was a concert by the Canadian rock group the Band, held on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. The Last Waltz was advertised as ...more

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#166 of 554 The Best '70s Movies #36 of 199 The Best Movies About Music #18 of 37 The Best Martin Scorsese Movies

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looksharp added Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr

Released: 1996

The Beatles Anthology is a documentary series on the career of The Beatles. It was broadcast on UK television in six abridged parts between 19 and 23 November 1995, while in the U.S. it was seen ...more
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looksharp added Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Bret Michaels

Released: 1988

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a documentary film directed by Penelope Spheeris about the Los Angeles heavy metal scene from 1986 to 1988. It is the second film ...more
Lemmy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
Dave Grohl, Slash, Billy Bob Thornton

Released: 2010

Directed by: Greg Olliver, Wes Orshoski

Lemmy is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver.
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richerb added Kevin Costner, Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr

Released: 2008

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich

Runnin' Down a Dream is a 2007 documentary film about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. The 4-hour documentary chronicles the history of the band, from its ...more
Mr. Blue Sky: the Story ... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Mr. Blue Sky: the Story of Jeff Lynne Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison

Released: 2012

Directed by: Martyn Atkins

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Adam Horovitz, Mike D

Released: 2020

Directed by: Spike Jonez

Beastie Boys Story is a 2020 American documentary film directed by Spike Jonze. The film offers an intimate look into the lives of Diamond and Horovitz as well as the Beastie Boys.

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#122 of 199 The Best Movies About Music #35 of 56 Life-Changing Documentaries You've Got to See #4 of 10 The Best Documentary Movies of 2020

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Joan Jett, Billie Joe Armstrong, Miley Cyrus

Released: 2018

Directed by: Kevin Kerslake

Bad Reputation is a 2018 documentary film directed by Kevin Kerslake. Featuring archival footage and interviews with rock legends, the documentary explores the rise of Joan Jett in rock-n-roll ...more
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clash1977 added Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey

Released: 1979

The Kids Are Alright is a 1979 rockumentary film about the English rock band The Who, including live performances, promotional films and interviews from 1964 to 1978.
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Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, John Doe

Released: 1981

Directed by: Penelope Spheeris

The Decline of Western Civilization is an American documentary film filmed through 1979 and 1980. The movie is about the Los Angeles punk rock scene and was directed by Penelope Spheeris. In ...more
Everyone Stares: The Pol... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Sting, Andy Summers, Stewart Copeland

Released: 2006

Directed by: Stewart Copeland

Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out is a rockumentary film made by Stewart Copeland, drummer of the band The Police. The film premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was released on ...more
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carlybobarly added Amy Winehouse

Directed by: Asif Kapadia

Amy is a 2015 British documentary film about the life and death of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse. Directed by Asif Kapadia, it covers Winehouse's life and her struggle with substance ...more

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‘Amy’ Is A Deeply Upsetting Documentary That Forced Us To Re-Examine Her Tragedy #99 of 199 The Best Movies About Music #15 of 55 The Best Biopics About Women

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Randy Ferchuk added Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger

Released: 1970

Directed by: Albert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

Gimme Shelter is a 1970 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin chronicling the last weeks of The Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour which culminated in the ...more

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#58 of 199 The Best Movies About Music #24 of 347 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #4 of 19 These Documentaries Took A Hard Left Turn And Left Audiences Shocked And Confused

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sebbzor added

Released: 2011

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a 2011 documentary film directed by Martin Scorsese, based on the life of Beatles member George Harrison. It earned six nominations at the 64th ...more
Les Paul: Chasing Sound ... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Les Paul: Chasing Sound Les Paul, Mary Paul, Miller

Released: 2007

Directed by: Les Paul

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looksharp added Meshell Ndegeocello, Bootsy Collins, Martha Reeves

Released: 2002

Directed by: Paul Justman

Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a 2002 documentary film directed by Paul Justman that recounts the story of The Funk Brothers, the uncredited and largely unheralded studio musicians who ...more

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#236 of 347 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #42 of 137 The Best Concert Movies

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Joy Division

Released: 2007

Directed by: Grant Gee

Joy Division is a 2007 British documentary film on the British post-punk band Joy Division, directed by Grant Gee. The film assembles TV clips, newsreel, pictures of modern Manchester and ...more
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Debbie Harry, Rob Zombie, Joey Ramone

Released: 2003

Directed by: Michael Gramaglia, Jim Fields

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is a 2003 documentary film about highly influential New York punk rock band the Ramones. The film, produced and directed by Jim Fields and Michael ...more

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#15 of 89 The Best Rockumentaries of All Time #9 of 33 The Best Punk Movies

The Devil & Daniel J... is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
The Devil & Daniel Johnston

Released: 2005

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Leonard Cohen, Judy Collins, Ron Cornelius

Released: 2019

Directed by: Nick Broomfield

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love is a 2019 international documentary film directed by Nick Broomfield. This documentary explores the relationship between singer Leonard Cohen and Marianne ...more
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Taylor Swift

Released: 2020

Directed by: Lana Wilson

Miss Americana (a.k.a. Taylor Swift: Miss Americana) is a 2020 American documentary film directed by Lana Wilson. An in depth look at American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.