The top 10 rock documentaries of the last 10 years
We were going to put together a top 10 rock documentaries of all time post but – you know what? – everyone’s watched Woodstock, and everyone’s watched Spinal Tap, so it didn’t seem that interesting. What you’re less likely to have watched are the top 10 rock documentaries from the last 10 years (especially if, like me, you don’t just live for rock but also under a rock)
So here we go:
Oil City Confidential (2009)
Featuring contributions from some of the luminaries of the 1970s punk scene (Sex Pistols, Blondie and the Clash, amongst others), Oil City Confidential focusses on seminal English pub rock band Dr Feelgood. Guitarists will love the in-depth study of legendary guitarist Wilko Johnson, a man who seems to rival Keith Richards in his ability to dodge the grim reaper.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010)
Featuring a staggering amount of archive footage from way-back-when, Beyond the Lighted Stage chronicles Canadian rockers Rush’s progression from prog to heavy and everything in-between. If you’re a fan of out-there rock and want to see some blistering performances from some of the best in the business, this is for you.
Watch on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/watch/70137744
Lawrence of Belgravia (2011)
You may never have heard of the bands Felt, Denim or Go Kart Mozart (you’d probably remember that name if you had), but they were all the brainchildren of a man mysteriously known only as Lawrence (too cool for surnames, clearly). Whether you’re familiar with his work or not, this is an illuminating study of someone who point blank refuses to give up on his dreams for rock n roll stardom. I’m sure a lot of us can sympathise with that…
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011)
Slightly better known is a gentleman by the name of George Harrison, who performed guitar in a popular 1960s beat combo called The Beatles. And “gentleman” is definitely the word: George comes across as a genuinely lovely fellow in this epic Martin Scorsese examination of his life. Viewers begin to appreciate Harrison as very much more than the third Beatle; he was a deeply gifted, spiritual and creative soul in his own right.
Shut Up and Play the Hits (2012)
Filmed over a 48-hour period over the course of LCD Soundsystem’s final gig in 2011, this film offers an intimate portrait of frontman James Murphy as he deals with the decision to end the band at the height of their popularity.
Searching for Sugar Man (2012)
It’s difficult to explain this documentary without introducing any spoilers. Suffice to say: if you’ve never heard of Sixto Rodriguez, then this film is for you. That last sentence will only really make sense once you’ve watched the film, which describes the search for the eponymous “Sugar Man”, a 1960s Dylanesque character who mysteriously disappeared from the public eye. The film is both mind-boggling and moving, with the kind of ending that you always hope for.
20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
This film isn’t about the superstars, it’s about the people in the background. Focussing on a few key vocalists who performed on tracks by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and many more, the film acts as a tribute to them and their considerable talents, without which modern pop music wouldn’t be what it is.
This film is about a superstar, and that superstar is, of course, Amy Winehouse. Documenting her rise to fame, struggles with substance abuse, and tragic death at the age of 27, Amy examines not just her career but more generally the pressures of being a star musical talent in the 21st Century.
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)
Another star who tragically died at the age of 27 (what is it about being 27 and a rock star?), Kurt Cobain was almost the epitome of the troubled genius. This aptly-named film takes archival home recordings and artworks and splices them together with animations and dream sequences into a strange, troubling montage of, um, heck.
Long Strange Trip (2017)
Another Scorsese-produced documentary, Long Strange Trip tells the story of the Grateful Dead, a band that have inspired an almost cultish devotion from their followers. It’s an enthralling dissection of the hippy movement, whether you’re a Deadhead or not, and like many of the other documentaries listed here, it shines a light on the in fact fairly normal people behind the music.