The 5 Best Music Documentaries of All Time

We listen to music while doing literally anything. And while we spend so much time with artists that we like, we wish we could actually spend time with them and not just their art. Luckily music documentaries allow us to do just that as they give us a glimpse into these individuals’ lives, making us feel closer to them.

It’s rare to find a companion that will be with you your entire life. One that will stick by your side even when you’re an annoying child, bratty teenager, naïve 20-year-old, or an exhausted parent. But we all have that one friend. Music. We turn to music when we’re feeling ecstatic or low. Sometimes we don’t even need a reason aside from just wanting company. Our favorite artists constantly tell us their stories, but we never get bored listening to them, their melodies pulling us in.

As a child who’s grown up continuously getting complaints from neighbors for holding loud shower concerts for my toiletries, I’ve long given up on my dream of becoming a rock star. Nonetheless, when I listen to these musicians, I can’t help but wonder about the lives they must lead, the people they meet, and how they create their art. And while I can’t meet each of my idols, I’ve decided to get my answers from the second-best source — music documentaries. These are the ones that I have enjoyed the most.

 

Miss Americana (2020)

Directed by Emmy winner Lana Wilson, this documentary follows the 11-time Grammy winner, giving viewers a peek into Taylor Swift’s life. Audiences discover that the artist’s life is surprisingly different from what many imagine. Throughout the film, the singer alternates between visiting her past self through diary entries and creating an album her future self would be proud of. What I loved the most about this movie was the vulnerability Taylor allowed her fans to see as they watched her grow, a process that could be pretty painful. A must-see if you want to feel closer to the person the American Music Awards (AMAs) named the Artist of the Decade.

 

Amy (2015)

This Oscar-winning movie follows the life of Amy Winehouse, the British singer, whose voice can easily be recognized in every corner of the world. Combining over 100 interviews with close friends and family and never seen behind-the-scenes footage, Asif Kapadia delivered a film that ensures Amy will never be forgotten. The director also manages to make this singer’s tragic story intimate by weaving in-home movies of a younger 14-year-old Amy, still discovering her voice. An honest film that dives into the meaning of love and family, exploring their relationship with fame and depression. Definitely needs to be added to your watchlist.

 

Gimmie Shelter (1970)

While I usually prefer watching music documentaries that show the artists’ creative process of making an album, this film piqued my interest when I discovered the tragedy it accidentally captured. Initially, this documentary was supposed to follow the last few weeks of The Rolling Stone’s 1969 United States tour. That included the famous Altamont Free Concert the band decided to hold on the Altamont Speedway in California.

Unfortunately, an audience member was violently murdered during this concert. This incident was believed to be the beginning of the end of hippie culture. What’s unique about this film is that its directors, David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin, managed to capture the band and their audiences’ natural reactions, following the events as they unfolded instead of taking the somewhat traditional route of investigating the incident.

 

Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry (2021)

By now, Billie Eilish has become a household name. But how does a teenager with all this fame live? This documentary, directed by R.J. Cutler, aims at giving audiences a glace into one of the generation’s biggest sensations, following the star as she celebrates all her accomplishments, from getting her driver’s license to being nominated for several Grammys.

However, the film also tells the story of a young teenager, merely 17 years old, who just wants to make music with her brother in their bedroom (spoiler alter: that’s how Billie’s album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was created). And as the cameras watch her experience many firsts in life, going through character-defining moments, fans get to see the star grow in front of the public eye as well as behind it. It is certainly interesting to see how the world reacts to this artist and her art and how she herself feels and thinks about it all.

 

The Beatles: Get Back (2021)

And last but not least, I had to include the legendary Beatles in this list. While this documentary is not actually a film but a three-part docuseries, you need to find the time to see it. Originally shot in January 1969 by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, the 57 hours of footage recorded were compressed into an 80-minute movie titled Let it Be. However, the film was said to be fairly censored by the band. In this newer version, director Peter Jackson uses the same original footage to give fans an unfiltered look into the band’s inner workings as they create their last released album Let It Be. The docuseries not only follows the group as they write and perform this new album with an impossible deadline but also captures their memorable last live performance together.

 

 Photo: Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

 


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