Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music

I’ve recently been watching Beware of Mr Baker, Jay Bulger’s fascinating warts-and-all documentary about the legendary drummer Ginger Baker, and it got me thinking again about an idea I had when we last updated the music books lists* – how about a similar list of recommended music documentaries? Contemplating the music films I’ve seen over the years and rummaging through my own DVD collection, I found more than enough to start a decent list of the films I’d recommend, which you’ll find below. However, I bet you’ve got loads of other suggestions for me and I’d love to hear them! You know what to do – tweet me or comment here, and we’ll see if we can compile the ultimate music documentary list…

The list is arranged in alphabetical order by title, followed by the director’s name and the year of the film’s release. Some of these are straight-up documentaries, others are tour or concert-type films with a documentary element. I’ve included one radio documentary, but I suspect there are plenty more of those too. Most of these films are available on DVD, and quite a few of them are also on YouTube. If you want any more information on any of the films on the list or why I chose them, just ask!

A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake (Jeroen Berkvens, 2000)

A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica (Parts 1 & 2) (Adam Durbin, 1992)

Beware of Mr Baker (Jay Bulger, 2012)

David Bowie: Five Years – The Making of an Icon (Francis Whately, 2013)

Gimme Shelter (Albert and David Maysles/Charlotte Zwerin, 1970)

Foo Fighters: Sonic Highways (Dave Grohl, 2014)

Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes (Byron Hurt, 2006)

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 (Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn, 2009)

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten (Julien Temple, 2007)

Joy Division: Their Own Story in Their Own Words (Grant Gee, 2007)

Lemmy (Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski, 2010)

Marley (Kevin Macdonald, 2012)

Muscle Shoals (Greg ‘Freddy’ Camalier, 2013)

Searching for Sugarman (Malik Bendjelloul, 2012)

Sound City (Dave Grohl, 2013)

The Amen Break (BBC Radio 1 & 1Xtra’s Stories) (BBC, 2011)

The Clash: Rudeboy (Jack Hazan and David Mingay, 1980)

The Clash: Westway To The World (Don Letts, 2000)

The Filth and The Fury: A Sex Pistols Film (Julien Temple, 2000)

The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna (Sini Anderson, 2013)

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music (Michael Wadleigh, 1970. Director’s Cut, 1994/2009)

The Who: The Kids Are Alright (Jeff Stein, 1979)

Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (D.A. Pennebaker, 1973)


* Much to my delight, a number of people have got in touch to tell me that they’re using the music books lists as a resource to plan their music-related reading – and so am I! I’ve got Alex Ross’s absolutely brilliant ‘The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century’ on the go at the moment, have recently devoured ‘Love Goes To Buildings On Fire: Five Years in New York That Changed Music Forever’ by Will Hermes (which I suggest you read if you haven’t), and both Viv Albertine’s memoir and John Lydon’s latest volume of autobiography are in a pile of books by my bed waiting to be read. All of these were recommended by you for the list. Thank you!



  1. The Riverboat Captain

    I’d definitely add another Temple doco.. Oil City Confidential, the Dr. Feelgood story. Ace. One I didn’t expect to enjoy quite as much as I did was Mike Figgis’ contribution to Martin Scorsese’s blues series ‘Red, White and Blues’, about the 60s blues explosion in the UK. Van, Jeff Beck etc. plus, maybe surprisingly, great appearances from Tom Jones and Lulu.

    • trickygirl

      I’m a big fan of Julien Temple’s films (his ‘London: The Modern Babylon’ is also great. It makes fantastic use of archive footage and music), I really want to see ‘Oil City Confidential’ – it’s great someone’s made a film about Dr Feelgood! I don’t think I’ve seen the Mike Figgis one, but it sounds very interesting. I’ll add that to my ever-growing list of music films to see…

  2. Rick Leach

    Here we go…Mistaken for Strangers-The National/Pennebaker’s Dylan doc Don’t Look Back/Scorsese’s No Direction Home/Thelonious Monk; Straight No Chaser/Les Blanks The Blues Accordin to Lightnin Hopkins/ We Jam Econo; The Story of the Minutemen/ The Fearless Freaks-The Flaming Lips/ The Wonderful & Frightening World of Mark E Smith/The Artist Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart…

  3. Pingback: Recommended Viewing: Documentaries on Music – Your Choices | Another Kind Of Mind

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