Documentary The Best Documentaries About Music  

Ranker Film
1.3k votes 261 voters 13.3k views 76 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 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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Billy Corgan, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart 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

29 14
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looksharp added History of the Eagles Eagles

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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

30 19
Lemmy is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
Dave Grohl, Slash, Billy Bob Thornton Lemmy is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver.

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looksharp added Ozzy Osbourne, Gene Simmons, Bret Michaels 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

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looksharp added Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr 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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Randy Ferchuk added Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger 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

11 3
Cobain: Montage of Heck is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
BooRadley added Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Don Cobain Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is a 2015 documentary film directed by Brett Morgen. The documentary chronicles the life of Kurt Cobain from his birth in Aberdeen, Washington in 1967, through his ...more

15 7
The Devil & Daniel Johnsto... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
The Devil & Daniel Johnston

16 8
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Dig! is a documentary film directed by Ondi Timoner, and produced by Timoner, Vasco Nunes and David Timoner. Compiled from seven years of footage, it contrasts the developing careers and ...more

9 2
Mr. Blue Sky: the Story of Jef... is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Mr. Blue Sky: the Story of Jeff Lynne Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison

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Henry Rollins, Flea, Thurston Moore We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, is a full-length documentary about the influential 1980s punk rock band Minutemen, created by director Tim Irwin and producer Keith Schieron in ...more

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Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom, John Doe 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

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clash1977 added Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey 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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looksharp added Smokey Robinson, Bianca Lawson, D. B. Woodside The Temptations is a four-hour television miniseries broadcast in two-hour halves on NBC, based upon the history of one of Motown's longest-lived acts, The Temptations. Executive produced by ...more

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carlybobarly added Amy

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looksharp added Meshell Ndegeocello, Bootsy Collins, Martha Reeves 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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richerb added Kevin Costner, Stevie Nicks, Ringo Starr 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

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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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looksharp added Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll is a 1987 documentary film directed by Taylor Hackford that chronicles two 1986 concerts celebrating rock and roll musician Chuck Berry's 60th birthday. A soundtrack ...more

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Michael McKean It Might Get Loud is a 2008 American documentary film by filmmaker Davis Guggenheim. It explores the careers and styles of prominent rock musicians Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White. The film ...more

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richerb added "The film takes us on the 16 year journey of the Foo Fighters, from Dave Grohl and Pat Smear’s surviving the aftermath of Nirvana to Dave, Pat, Nate Mendel, Taylor Hawkins and Chris ...more

8 3
Les Paul: Chasing Sound is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Les Paul: Chasing Sound Les Paul, Mary Paul, Miller

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sebbzor added No Direction Home is a documentary film by Martin Scorsese that traces the life of Bob Dylan, and his impact on 20th-century American popular music and culture. The film focuses on the period ...more

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Joy Division 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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Flop Gas Huffer Hype! is a documentary directed by Doug Pray about the popularity of grunge rock in the early to mid-1990s United States. It incorporates interviews and rare concert footage to trace the steps ...more

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sebbzor added 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

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Debbie Harry, Rob Zombie, Joey Ramone 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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Billy Gibbons, Roky Erickson You're Gonna Miss Me is an American documentary film by Keven McAlester. It focuses on Roky Erickson, the former frontman for the band The 13th Floor Elevators. The band is cited as pioneers of ...more

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clash1977 added Steve Jones, Malcolm McLaren, Glen Matlock The Filth and the Fury is a 2000 British rockumentary film about the Sex Pistols, directed by Julien Temple.

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Joan Jett, Billie Joe Armstrong, Miley Cyrus 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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A Band Called Death is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
A Band Called Death is a 2012 American documentary film directed by Mark Christopher Covino and Jeff Howlett. The documentary is about the 1970s rock band Death and their new-found popularity ...more

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Per "Dead" Ohlin, Varg Vikernes, Hellhammer Until the Light Takes Us is a 2008 American documentary film about Norwegian black metal by the directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell. It was released on December 4, 2009.

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looksharp added Rattle and Hum is the sixth studio album by rock band U2, and a companion rockumentary film directed by Phil Joanou, both released in 1988. The film and the album feature live recordings, ...more

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Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a 2007 documentary film directed by Julien Temple about Joe Strummer, the lead singer of the British punk rock band The Clash, that went on to win the ...more

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richerb added Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a 2012 documentary film about American rock band Big Star, directed by Drew DeNicola and Olivia Mori.

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American Hardcore is a documentary directed by Paul Rachman and written by Steven Blush. It is based on the book American Hardcore: A Tribal History also written by Blush. It was released on ...more

6 4
Classic Albums: Steely Dan: Aj... is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Classic Albums: Steely Dan: Aja is a 1999 musical documentary directed by Alan Lewens.

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Fred Armisen, Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco is a black-and-white documentary film by Sam Jones which follows the American alt-country rock band Wilco through the creation and ...more

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Jude Newsome added Crossfire Hurricane Crossfire Hurricane is a 2012 documentary film about The Rolling Stones written and directed by Brett Morgen. The film chronicles the early years of the band through their gradual mainstream ...more

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Joe Strummer, Siouxsie Sioux, Shane MacGowan The Clash: Westway to the World is a 2000 documentary film about the British punk rock band The Clash. In 2003 it won the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video. Directed by Don Letts, the ...more

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The King The King is a 2018 documentary film directed by Eugene Jarecki. Forty years after the death of Elvis Presley, a musical road trip across America in his 1963 Rolls-Royce explores how a country ...more

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Maria Callas, Fanny Ardant, Joyce DiDonato Maria by Callas is a 2017 documentary film directed by Tom Volf. An intimate look at the life and work of Greek-American opera singer, Maria Callas, as told in her own words.

9 9
Radiohead: Meeting People Is E... is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy

4 4
Joe Strummer - the Future Is U... is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
punksnotdead added Joe Strummer - the Future Is Unwritten

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imagine66 added Adam Sandler, Michael J. Anderson, Vicky Tiu Liu Pearl Jam Twenty is a 2011 American rockumentary directed by Cameron Crowe about the band Pearl Jam. Preliminary footage was being shot as of June 2010. Crowe completed filming in April 2011, ...more

4 4
Everyone Stares: The Police In... is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
looksharp added Sting, Andy Summers, 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 I'll Sleep When I'm Dead

2 2
The Damned: Don't You Wish We ... is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
punksnotdead added The Damned: Don't You Wish We Were Dead about The Damned by Wes Orshoski