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The Best Documentaries About Music 

Ranker Film
Updated May 11, 2020 2.2k votes 324 voters 15.9k views 85 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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list ordered by
1
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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
2
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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
3
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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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#27 of 210 The Best Movies About Music #174 of 591 The Best '70s Movies #386 of 548 The Greatest Movies for Guys

4
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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
5
Lemmy is listed (or ranked) 5 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.
6
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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
7
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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
8
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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
9
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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.
10
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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
11
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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
12
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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
13
Mr. Blue Sky: the Story ... is listed (or ranked) 13 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

14
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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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#61 of 210 The Best Movies About Music #4 of 19 These Documentaries Took A Hard Left Turn And Left Audiences Shocked And Confused #84 of 102 The 100+ Best Movies Streaming On The Criterion Channel

15
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Michael McKean

Released: 2008

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim

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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#101 of 210 The Best Movies About Music #209 of 364 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #13 of 92 The Best Rockumentaries of All Time

16
The Devil & Daniel J... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
The Devil & Daniel Johnston

Released: 2005

17
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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
18
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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
19
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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 92 The Best Rockumentaries of All Time #9 of 33 The Best Punk Movies

20
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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
21
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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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#230 of 364 The Greatest Documentaries of All Time #42 of 137 The Best Concert Movies

22
Everyone Stares: The Pol... is listed (or ranked) 22 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
23
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Henry Rollins, Flea, Thurston Moore

Released: 2005

Directed by: Tim Irwin

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
24
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richerb added

Released: 2011

Directed by: James Moll

"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
25
Cobain: Montage of Heck ... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
BooRadley added Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Don Cobain

Released: 2015

Directed by: Brett Morgen

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