6 Outstanding Rock Music Documentaries

Documentary films can give viewers new insight into historical moments and figures by transporting them back in time. Since the 1960s, some of the most critical points within the evolution of music were caught on camera, offering a unique look into the past for future generations.

Videos by American Songwriter

[RELATED: 10 Must-See Music Documentaries You Don’t Want to Miss]

If you’re itching to learn more about the history of rock and roll, we’ve curated a list of films from its early beginnings to its modern renaissance within the New York City music scene in the early 2000s.

Here are six stellar rock music documentaries that give a new perspective on some of the genre’s most innovative artists:

1. Woodstock

Released in 1970, Woodstock expertly captures the chaotic yet joyful energy of the historic 1969 music festival. Director Michael Wadleigh brings viewers to the farmlands of Bethel, New York, and documents every stressful moment as thousands of fans descend onto the festival grounds. The U.S. Library of Congress selected the film for preservation because of its pivotal look at a turning point in rock and roll history.

2. The Last Waltz

Directed by award-winning actor Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz documents The Band‘s final show on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. One of the first of its kind, the landmark concert film captured the entire star-studded event, which featured guest appearances from Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Ringo Starr, and many more.

3. Meet Me In the Bathroom

The newest documentary on our list, Meet Me In The Bathroom, examines rock bands’ reemergence into New York City’s gritty music scene in a post-9/11 climate. Based on the best-selling book by Lizzy Goodman, this 2022 film captivating look back at an era dominated by bands like The Strokes, Interpol, and LCD Soundsystem.

4. Gimme Shelter

Driven by raw, mostly unedited footage, Gimme Shelter looks into a particularly tumultuous era of the Rolling Stones’ career. The 1970 film follows the final dates of the rock band’s 1969 tour, which included an appearance at the Altamont Free Concert. The violence that ensued during the show between fans and Hells Angels members working as security for the event, which led to the death of concert attendee Meredith Hunter, is documented in chilling detail.

5. The Beatles: Get Back

Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson spent years restoring and researching footage of the Beatles, shot in 1970 for an unfinished documentary. After debating how to condense weeks worth of film into one documentary, Jackson opted to release it as an eight-hour series that tracks the recording process of the band’s iconic album Let It Be.

6. Searching for Sugar Man

This eye-opening 2021 film tells the story of Sixto Rodriguez, an American musician living a quiet life, unaware he had become an unlikely superstar across South Africa. Searching for Sugar Man won an Academy Award for its captivating storytelling of the filmmaker’s search for Rodriguez, who died earlier this week (August 8) at the age of 81.

(Photo by King Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

Nicki Minaj Hints at “The Greatest Song She’s Ever Written”

Andy Taylor Reveals Life Expectancy after Undergoing “Nuclear” Cancer Treatment