August 29, 2013 Slideshows

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35 Music Documentaries Worth Seeing 

This week, the latest music documentary -- One Direction: This is Us -- hits theaters. Director Morgan Spurlock spent three months on tour with the guys, whirling from Japan to Norway to Mexico, but doesn't seem to have asked them a single question besides, "How does it feel to be really, really popular?" Instead, he lumps them together like a box of chicken nuggets.

As an antidote, we present this collection of 35 music documentaries that are worth seeing.

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"This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

We know, we know, This Is Spinal Tap isn't actually a documentary (be careful calling it a "mockumentary" as well, Christopher Guest isn't especially fond of that term). But Spinal Tap
"The Carter (2009)

The Carter captures Lil Wayne at the height of his codeine-fueled hip-hop mega-celebrity, when even his stoned ramblings captured the attentions of millions. The fact that Wayne himself sued
"Searching For Sugar Man (2012)

Fluid, open-ended documentaries that demand more of an audience than foregone assent or fleeting bouts of passive outrage are rare these days, which is what makes Malik Bendjelloul's Searching for
"Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

Despite the passive-aggressive bickering, Beats, Rhymes & Life is not, thankfully, hip-hop's Some Kind of Monster. (At one point, whe
"A Band Called Death (2012)

A band of black brothers inventing punk in Detroit only to be discovered three decades after the fact? It sounds, as Henry Rollins says in the opening of a new film about the band's moving
© 2002 - United Artists Films - All Rights Reserved
"The Last Waltz (1978)

Take one of the 20th century's most famous directors, throw in the most famous backing band of all time, and combine it with the concert where said Band quits in its prime, never to reform. What
"Until The Light Takes Us (2008)

Until the Light Takes Us defines Norse Black Metal as a combination of image (morbid corpse paint), philosophy (rejection of post-A.D. 600 history; anti-Judeo-Christian, pro-
"Lemmy (2010)

"Lemmy is the baddest motherfucker in the world," exclaims Dave Grohl in Lemmy: 49% Motherf---er, 51% Son of a Bitch. It's a sentiment shared by almost everyone who appears on camera (Dave Nava
"Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008)

The awe-inspiring persistence of Anvil guitarist Steve "Lips" Kudlow (on right) is the focal point of director Sacha Gervasi's phenomenal rockumentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil
© 2012 - Sundance Selects
"Last Days Here (2011)

When we're first introduced to emaciated, bug-eyed, trembling Bobby Liebling, the fiftyish frontman of the frequently dormant cult metal band Pentagram and the subject of this small-scale but weirdly
"We Jam Econo (2005)

"Some dudes from Pedro" found themselves in the Southern California punk scene, befriending Black Flag, although the sounds of the Minutemen guitarist D. Boon were wildly different than the low-e
"The Road to God Knows Where (1990)

The product of a German film student with a single handheld camera spending five weeks on the road with one of the must-see underground acts of the 1980s, The Road To God Knows
"Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? (2006)

A really good documentary is capable of taking you to a world you don't care about, explaining a boiling controversy you weren't aware of, and leaving you with th
Edward Colver
"American Hardcore (2006)

This hardcore chronicle is great, covering all the cities with scenes of fans and bands, interviewing the men and women who were on the frontlines of the genres birthing, including godfathers
"Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010)

If you aren't a fan of these prog gods from the Great White North, you will at least have a respect for them after checking out this star-studded doc. Trent Reznor and Billy Cor
"DiG! (2004)

This Ondi Timoner film made Brian Jonestown Massacre frontman Anton Newcombe an instant batshit rock and roll legend and painted The Dandy Warhols as a Pollyanna-ish pack of kids in over their heads. -
"The Devil & Daniel Johnston (2005)

The best thing about this Daniel Johnston flick is that it does not shy away from explaining his mental illness, showing how DJ's fight effected his family and friends. The home fo
"Imagine (1988)

This 1988 film and 2006's The U.S. Vs. John Lennon are looks into what made J-Yo tick. The scenes dealing with Lennon's "lost weekend" in the former are excellent. --Craig Hlavaty"
"I Am Trying To Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco (2002)

Over the course of two hours, Wilco is seen recording Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and then getting shafted by Reprise. We love the part where a harried Jeff Tweedy
"The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

This Penelope Spheeris documentary, plus her Roger Corman-produced punksploitation Suburbia, no doubt turn countless kids into punk rockers after one viewing, if not
© 2004 Lakeshore Entertainment. All rights reserved.
"Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)

Rodney Bingenheimer (on far left) was a sort of Andy Warhol for the L.A. music scene, touching most every genre from the mid-'60s until today. He gets exalted by everyone who comes i
"Madonna: Truth or Dare

The chick who made Lady Gaga possible takes us into her world with Truth Or Dare, and manages to humanize herself in the midst of one of the most vanity-laced periods in her career.
"Don't Look Back (1967)

You don't realize how much of am insufferable smart-ass Bob Dylan was in the beginnings of his fame until you see D.A. Pennebaker's Don't Look Back, which follows him on his 1965 UK t
"Joy Division (2007)

Before you watch Anton Corbijn's feature film about Joy Division and Ian Curtis, Control, be sure to check out this Grant Gee film on the band. --Craig Hlavaty"
"Fearless Freaks (2005)

This Flaming Lips documentary will instantly turn you into a fan. Before we saw this film we weren't a convert, but after Freaks we were hooked for life. Be sure to watch for Wayne Co
"End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones (2003)

The Ramones made great music together, but they seemed to hate the shit out of each other while they were together. For a band as documented as the Ramones, this f
"Instrument (2003)

Fugazi is broken down into film mode. Check out the "Ice Cream Eating Motherfucker" scene. --Craig Hlavaty"
"You're Gonna Miss Me (2005)

This look into Texas garage legend Roky Erickson's life isn't so much different than the Daniel Johnston flick, with both dealing in the family drama behind mental illness. Now we just ha
"Hated: GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (2012)

If you ever wanted to see GG Allin throw feces and piss on his fans, Hated is your chance. The 1994 doc was directed by Todd Phillips, who would go on to also mak
"It Might Get Loud (2008)

Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White join forces to show us how they each make their signature sounds. White builds a guitar on a back porch, and Page is generally a badass. The Edge shows us
"Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (2007)

Following the same course as Westway, The Future Is Unwritten jumps into the life at the heart of the Clash, Strummer, and the meandering turns his life
"Radiohead: Meeting People Is Easy (1998)

Radiohead goes insane on tour as they overtake Oasis as the biggest band from the UK in the last years of the '90s. --Craig Hlavaty"
"Hype! (1996)

Grunge hit Seattle like an atom bomb, and this 1996 doc talks to locals who were the most effected, from zine publishers, the bands, to the folks at Sub Pop Records who sat on top of it all. It gets san
"Westway To the World (2000)

The best film about the Clash, so far, takes you from the band's fitful beginnings to pop semi-stardom and finally their slow-motion collapse. which the late Joe Strummer is seen choking
"Thunder Soul (2010)

Straight out of a high school in Texas, the electrifying Kashmere Stage Band was the brainchild of gifted music teacher Conrad Johnson."
"This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

We know, we know, This Is Spinal Tap isn't actually a documentary (be careful calling it a "mockumentary" as well, Christopher Guest isn't especially fond of that term). But Spinal Tap

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