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The Best Documentaries About Music

Updated May 11, 2020 3.3k votes 329 voters 16.1k views84 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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  • 1
    The Kids Are Alright is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    72
    19

    The Kids Are Alright

    Pete Townshend, Keith Moon

    Released1979

    The Kids Are Alright is a 1979 rockumentary film about the English rock band The Who,... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Dig! is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    48
    19
    Dig! is a documentary film directed by Ondi Timoner, and produced by Timoner, Vasco Nunes and... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    No Direction Home is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    No Direction Home is a documentary film by Martin Scorsese that traces the life of Bob Dylan,... more on Wikipedia

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    #23 of 37 The Best Martin Scorsese Movies#163 of 195 The Best Movies About Music

  • 4
    Standing in the Shadows of Mot is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    41
    13

    Standing in the Shadows of Motown

    Meshell Ndegeocello, Bootsy Collins

    Released2002

    Directed byPaul Justman

    Standing in the Shadows of Motown is a 2002 documentary film directed by Paul Justman that... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    We Jam Econo is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    42
    14

    We Jam Econo

    Henry Rollins, Flea

    Released2005

    Directed byTim Irwin

    We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, is a full-length documentary about the influential... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    History of the Eagles is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    45
    18

    History of the Eagles

    Eagles

    Released2013

    Directed byAlison Ellwood

    History of the Eagles is a 2013 two-part authorized documentary about the career of the... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    Searching for Sugar Man is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    63
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    Searching for Sugar Man

    Dennis Coffey, Malik Bendjelloul

    Released2012

    Directed byMalik Bendjelloul

    Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish–British documentary film directed and written by... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Les Paul: Chasing Sound is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    34
    9

    Les Paul: Chasing Sound

    Les Paul, Mary Paul

    Released2007

    Directed byLes Paul

  • 9
    The Temptations is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    34
    10

    The Temptations

    Smokey Robinson, Bianca Lawson

    Released1998

    Directed byAllan Arkush

    The Temptations is a four-hour television miniseries broadcast in two-hour halves on NBC,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 10
    The Last Waltz is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    The Last Waltz was a concert by the Canadian rock group the Band, held on American... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    The Beatles Anthology is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    39
    18

    The Beatles Anthology

    Paul McCartney, George Harrison

    Released1996

    The Beatles Anthology is a documentary series on the career of The Beatles. It was broadcast... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Lemmy is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    40
    21

    Lemmy

    Dave Grohl, Slash

    Released2010

    Directed byGreg Olliver, Wes Orshoski

    Lemmy is a 2010 documentary film written and directed by Wes Orshoski and Greg Olliver.
  • 13
    Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    46
    28

    Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage

    Billy Corgan, Geddy Lee

    Released2010

    Directed bySam Dunn, Scot McFadyen

    Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is a 2010 documentary film directed by Scot McFadyen and Sam... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Hype! is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    33
    15

    Hype!

    Flop Gas Huffer

    Released1996

    Directed byDoug Pray

    Hype! is a documentary directed by Doug Pray about the popularity of grunge rock in the early... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Madonna: Truth or Dare is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    Madonna: Truth or Dare is a 1991 American documentary film chronicling the life of American... more on Wikipedia

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  • 16
    The Decline of Western Civiliz is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music

    Released1988

    Directed byPenelope Spheeris

    The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years is a documentary film directed by... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    American Hardcore is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    American Hardcore is a documentary directed by Paul Rachman and written by Steven Blush. It is... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Runnin' Down a Dream is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    22
    11

    Runnin' Down a Dream

    Kevin Costner, Stevie Nicks

    Released2008

    Directed byPeter Bogdanovich

    Runnin' Down a Dream is a 2007 documentary film about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers,... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Bad Reputation is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    16
    5

    Bad Reputation

    Joan Jett, Billie Joe Armstrong

    Released2018

    Directed byKevin Kerslake

    Bad Reputation is a 2018 documentary film directed by Kevin Kerslake. Featuring archival...
  • 20
    Mr. Blue Sky: the Story of Jef is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    21
    11

    Mr. Blue Sky: the Story of Jeff Lynne

    Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty

    Released2012

    Directed byMartyn Atkins

  • 21
    The Decline of Western Civiliz is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    26
    19

    The Decline of Western Civilization

    Exene Cervenka, Billy Zoom

    Released1981

    Directed byPenelope Spheeris

    The Decline of Western Civilization is an American documentary film filmed through 1979 and... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    George Harrison: Living in the is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    George Harrison: Living in the Material World is a 2011 documentary film directed by Martin... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Amy is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    20
    13

    Amy

    Amy Winehouse

    Directed byAsif Kapadia

    Amy is a 2015 British documentary film about the life and death of British singer-songwriter... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    End of the Century: The Story  is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music

    Released2003

    Directed byMichael Gramaglia, Jim Fields

    End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones is a 2003 documentary film about highly... more on Wikipedia

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    #15 of 89 The Best Rockumentaries of All Time#29 of 33 The Best Punk Movies

  • 25
    Gimme Shelter is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentaries About Music
    22
    16

    Gimme Shelter

    Keith Richards, The Rolling Stones

    Released1970

    Directed byAlbert Maysles, David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

    Gimme Shelter is a 1970 documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte... more on Wikipedia
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