10 Music Documentaries to Watch Before You Die

Categories: Lists
crossfire hurricane.jpg
The Rolling Stones in 'Crossfire Hurricane'

Whether you're a jazzhead, a punk, a folkie or a hip-hop connoisseur, music documentaries have always been a vital part of fanhood. They serve as a peek behind the mysterious curtain to give mere mortals a glimpse into the candid moments that happen to our favorite musicians. It's hard to judge what separates a great documentary from another, since most will give you inside access, through in some exclusive footage and of course, kickass concert clips. We're focusing here not so much on the concert film, which is an entirely different category in itself, but on what makes a documentary so important to understanding a particular band, what makes an artist who he or she is or why a scene happens. And if there's some unintentional comedy along the way, then great. While there's been a number of unforgettable music docs made over the years, we've given ourselves the daunting task of narrowing down our 10 essentials that you should check out before you, ya know, check out.

10. George Harrison: Living in the Material World, 2011

First and foremost, anything directed by ace music documentarian Martin Scorsese (music credits: The Last Waltz, Shine A Light, No Direction Home) gets bonus points. Though this comes nine years after the quiet Beatle's death, it confirms every thing you would imagine he stood for and further showed that while he may not have been the most vocal musician, he was certainly one of the most the interesting.

9. Hype!, 1996

An insider's look in the grunge explosion of the early 1990s, this documentary shows rare performances by bands like Nirvana and Mudhoney, candid interviews and yes, the stupidity of record labels signing fifth-rate bands simply because they were from the Emerald City. This is an insider's look at one of the most important American music scenes of the last century.

8. It Might Get Loud, 2009

What happens when you put guitar heroes Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White in a room together? If you guessed it might get loud, then bingo... you're a genius. Learning about the three, very different guitar players' background is interesting, but seeing them in a room together learning how to play each other's songs is makes this documentary a must-own for any rock fan.

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what about 'stoned' from martin scorsese? that was brilliant!


Good collection but I think there are many more than ten that you have to see. Just from your list I think you've missed Dig!, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Anvil! (The anti-Some Kind of Monster), Searching for Sugar Man, etc. You can get a taste of all music docs out there on MusicFilmWeb.com

Simon Baty
Simon Baty

No Spinal Tap? Your argument is invalid.

Avanti Natural
Avanti Natural

The Last Waltz >> More concert film than doc, but rather epic

Kimberly Branson
Kimberly Branson

You have missed my favorite documentary, the small but no less historic "Teen a Go-Go" about garage rock in 1960s Tarrant County, particularly the city of Fort Worth, Texas.

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