We take a look at some of the best rock documentaries over the past 40 years that are a must-watch for anyone who loves classic rock!
The classic rock bands that reigned over the music scene from the 70’s to 90’s have their legacies etched in film for generations to come and see what the life of a true rock star was back then. Unfortunately enough, they still remain the only source of nostalgia and holders of that level of stature in today’s time. The current generation is probably a little misty on what actually the rock scene was back in those days. So we take a look into the most famous documentaries that encapsulate the legends perfectly!
In what may be the greatest congregation of people and artists in a historical concert, Woodstock remains one of the most lauded documentaries of all time. The directors roster featured big names like Michael Wadleigh and Martin Scorsese. The film went on to win the Oscar for the Best Documentary feature and that alone speaks volumes about the content of the film. The festival was graced with legendary sets by The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Richie Havens among many more! A must watch, just to take in the enormity of the 3 day festival which made history!
2. Gimme Shelter
Rolling Stone’s legacy is nothing new to any one who knows the band’s long standing genius in the form of their albums or over-the-top extravagant live performances. The documentary captures the craze of the fans for the band and the debauchery that used to occur at their festivals. It was almost as if The Rolling Stones had a mental grasp on their audience whenever they performed. Director Albert Maysles made a very transparent and shocking look into the bands infectious energy.
3. Don’t Look Back
The Bob Dylan starrer ‘Don’t Look Back’ is featured on almost every rock documentary list that there is and that happens for a reason. The movie offers the most intimate glimpse into Dylan’s personal life. It perfectly captures his transformation from an activist singer days to becoming a soft rock poet. He was known to be the voice of a youth that had lost its way, which made him prominent in the eyes of the world. It shows him being a brash personality and through that envisions what fame does to art and it’s almost perfect representation. The trailer has him dropping cards to the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in what is believed to be the first ever music video. Them feels!
4. It Might Get Loud
David Guggenheim probably managed the feat of the century to get three legendary guitarists under one roof, handed them guitars and just let them talk about their craft. What we get is two hours of Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin, Jack White from the White Stripes and The Edge from U2! That is one couch session anyone would be glad to sit in on. The maestros talk about their inspirations, their first guitars, what motivates them and some really really cool jamming sessions. The best part of the film has to be when Jimmy Page starts playing “Whole Lotta Love”s godly riff and Jack White and The Edge watch with their jaws open. Classic schooling lesson!
5. Shut Up And Play The Hits
The 2012 movie captured the eccentric and unique take LCD Soundsystem has on dance music. They performed their last show at the Madison Square Garden in 2011 to a packed stadium. The film captures the most talked about question in the field of art – When do you know it’s time to hang up your boots? LCD singer James Murphy was a very unlikely rock icon, but he was probably one of the normal ones. Although that was their farewell show, they made a return in 2016 by headlining at Coachella and many more subsequent festivals.
6.The Song Remains The Same
The 70’s were almost entirely owned by English band Led Zeppelin. They took over the music scene as a complete band of misfits. A golden haired singer, a monstrous drummer, a guitar genius and a bass and keyboard maestro. The movie covered the bands performance at the Madison Square Garden in 1973 to a packed capacity venue. The movie shows the persona and the charm of the band and the madness they deployed during their live shows. 15 minute drum solos, playing the guitar with violin bows and some high pitched singing. If there was ever a look into the energy-fuelled lives of the 4 rock stars, it was this!
7. Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck
The founder of grunge and probably the biggest band embodying that genre- Nirvana, Kurt Cobain was no stranger to controversy. Kurt’s life was always under the scrutiny of the media. The movie directed by Brett Morgen, showcases one of the biggest rock culture icons going down the stairway of his own breakdown. The movie captures his journey right from his childhood days, the troubles he faced, his teenage years and how music became an outlet for him. The movie was highly appreciated by critics and had some in-depth interviews of his family members, his wife Courtney Love and Krist Novoselic (Nirvana). The director perfectly showcases the negative side of fame and the expectations that come along with it. The resulting journey is a damaged Kurt Cobain crumbling under the weight of media and his personal issues merging into a huge fireball which resulted in his demise. An extremely brilliant watch!
8. Let It Be
This was a movie not a lot of people were happy about. The Beatles had become a household name everywhere. They were probably the first and most successful boy-band of the world and their music was uplifting. It was a historic band at a historic moment captured on film.The film was going to showcase their surprise performance on top of the Apple Headquarters. The concert was their last public appearance together as a band and they were rumoured to break up after that. In many terms, it was a bittersweet farewell to a band who were much loved by almost everyone in the world. It was not before long that they started their performance that the police showed up and escorted them out.
9. David Bowie- Ziggy Stardust and The Spider From Mars
Early in 1972, David Bowie had taken on the infamous personality of Ziggy Stardust. A science-fiction based, theatrical character and released some of the best works that he would ever produce. The film captures the Starman’s performance under moody lights, gaudy make-up but a totally enticing performance. The most shocking aspect of this movie though has to be in the final moments when David Bowie announced that this would be his last performance much to the disbelief of his fans and his band as well. Although what he meant was that he was retiring his Ziggy Stardust persona forever. We lost the legend recently, perfect time to relive his charisma and persona!
10. Foo Fighters- Back And Forth
To say that Dave Grohl has lived the most eventful life would be an understatement of epic proportions. The Nirvana ex-drummer started Foo Fighters in his garage and the band has been on a never-ending uphill climb since then. Dave Grohl also probably stands to one of the COOLEST people alive in the rock scene currently. The film includes tons of new behind-the-scenes footage as well as in-depth interviews of band mates William Goldsmith and Franz Stahl. Their latest album Wasting Light, was recorded entirely in Grohl’s California garage, which was the main inspiration for the film. The band stands out in the fact that after selling out huge arenas all over the world they returned to the place where they started to make new music. Long live King Dave!
BONUS- This Is Spinal Tap
Although not a typical documentary, This Is Spinal Tap is one of the funniest mockumentaries that perfectly takes jibes at the 60’s and 70’s rock culture. The movie showcases a fictional metal band named Spinal Tap whose members were played by a group of comedic talents and made a satire of the over the top lifestyles of rock stars and their many antics! With many citable scenes in the movie, many musicians from the portrayed era like Ozzy Osborne, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page have said that they related a lot with the film.The movie hilariously smashes the aura of rock stars and makes them human in the eyes of the viewers. A must watch for any rock lover!
If you’ve always wanted to know what the rock culture was back in the day, this is your perfect go-to list. So grab some popcorn and binge your way through the classics!