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16 Must-See Music Documentaries
October 25, 2011
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Incredibly memorable characters. Rise-and-fall story arcs. Built-in soundtracks. The music doc is a form brimming with natural elements that can be spun into something incredible. Not every music-centric documentary manages the trick, but when they do, they can be very, very special.

We've broken down 16 of our favourites here, divvied up along the lines of "the kind-of-obvious choices" and "the ones you may not have heard that much about (but which, if you get a chance, you should definitely check out)".

The Obvious Choices

Don't Look Back
D.A. Pennebaker's classic 1967 doc following Bob Dylan on his 1965 UK tour.

Gimme Shelter
The fly-on-the-wall film that chronicled Mick and Keith and the boys during the few weeks leading up to Altamont.

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco
First-time filmmaker covers one of the most turbulent periods in Wilco's existence.

It Might get Loud
Davis Guggenheim, who directed An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for 'Superman', profiles three of the greatest living guitar gods: Jimmy Page, the Edge and Jack White.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould
A probing portrait of the ups and downs of Canada's greatest pianist.

Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll
Taylor Hackford, perhaps known best for directing An Officer and a Gentleman and the Ray Charles biopic Ray, turns his lens on two 1986 concerts celebrating Chuck Berry's 60th birthday.

Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
Canadian Sam Dunn's globetrotting journey to discover why metal is forever.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky - who made the documentary Paradise Lost, about the West Memphis Three - follow Metallica through therapy, blowups and revelations while they record their 2003 album, St. Anger.

End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
One of punk's founding acts, from CBGB's to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Docs Less Seen

The Documentary Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance in 2004, DiG! charts the friendship/rivalry between The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, as well as the group's divergent career paths.

Wild Style
If the four pillars of hip hop are MCing, DJing, breaking and graf writing, Wild Style is the 1983 doc that ties them all together, visually.

Cocksucker Blues
The second Stones doc on this list, the never-released Cocksucker Blues tags along with the band on their somewhat hedonistic 1972 Exile on Main Street tour.

Elton John: Tantrums and Tiaras
Elton's long-time partner, David Furnish, directed this all-access account of the 1995 Made in England tour.

Grunge. All you need to know.

The Decline of Western Civilization
A survey of the LA punk scene in 1979-1980, featuring seminal acts like Black Flag, The Germs and Circle Jerks.

Rock the Bells
The promoters of the Rock the Bells series of concerts had their work cut for them in 2004, when they successfully managed to wrangle each and every member of the Wu-Tang Clan on stage at the same time.


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