Great music documentaries you should watch

To celebrate the release of Martin Scorsese's Rolling Thunder Revue, our writers pick some of their favourite rockumentaries

Music documentaries

This June, Martin Scorsese pulls back the curtain on a lesser-documented period of Bob Dylan’s career in Rolling Thunder Revue on Netflix.


In celebration of the arrival the documentary – which has been hailed as a “classic” of the genre by our reviewer Terry Staunton – we asked the staff to tell us about the music documentaries that have stayed with them long after the credits have rolled.

Have a look at our selections below.

Supersonic (2016, dir. Mat Whitecross)

In an age of sterilised superstars and music arenas being reduced to little more than selfie factories, Supersonic is a welcome reminder of a riotous era when Britpop ruled the world.

The Gallagher brothers’ wicked humour flows through the tale of Oasis’ birth then biblical explosion onto the stage at Knebworth in 1994 – when over four per cent of the entire UK population applied for tickets.

Supersonic puts you right in the middle of the storm, reminds you of a near-unrecognisable society, and will leave you with a devilish smirk spread across your face. – Michael Potts

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015, dir. Liz Garbus)

In this searing Netflix documentary by Liz Garbus, we are given insight into the remarkable life of singer and activist Nina Simone. It includes beautiful, archival footage of the star and delves into how racial discrimination impacted her career, the abuse she endured at the hands of her husband, and how she became increasingly radicalised in the late 1960s. Ellie Harrison

In Bed With Madonna (1991, dir. Alek Keshishian)

Full-colour concert footage from Madonna’s 1990 Blond Ambition tour switches to black and white verité when we’re behind the scenes, artfully separating the public performer from the private person – or at least what she wants the audience to see. Warren Beatty famously accuses his then girlfriend of “not wanting to exist off camera” as we follow her around the world capping off her first decade of fame, and even though she’s firmly in control of what she shares Madonna reveals more of herself than she realises, with a wry, naughty sense of humour emerging beneath the famously tough exterior. Johnathon Hughes

Imagine: John Lennon (1988, dir. Andrew Solt)

This intimate portrait of Lennon was released eight years after his death in 1980 and tells the story of John’s life, from growing up with his Aunt Mimi in Liverpool in the 1940s and 50s to meeting Paul McCartney, Beatlemania, the breakup, his solo years and his untimely death. Commissioned by Yoko Ono, and narrated by Lennon himself from old tapes, interviews and recordings, this film uses hundreds of hours of film from Lennon’s private collection to take you inside the life, home and mind of one of the most celebrated musicians and cultural icons in modern British history – and of course, has a fabulous soundtrack. – Tim Glanfield

Mistaken For Strangers (2013, dir. Tom Berninger)

Matt and Tom Berninger aren’t exactly Noel and Liam. They’re two soft-spoken middle age men who wear their anxieties on their sleeve. Thankfully they’re able to laugh at themselves, and they encourage us to do the same with Mistaken For Strangers, a unique and often amusing exploration of sibling rivalry and what it’s like to live in the shadow of a rockstar.

Compared to his brother – the frontman of The National, one of the biggest indie rock bands since the turn of the century – Tom is a failure. His movie-making aspirations are slowly wafting away as he languishes in his parents’ home. But the comes an opportunity to go on tour with the band as a roadie and quasi-documentarian. The band are reluctant to take him seriously, but this makes their interactions all the more interesting. Ben Allen

Bros: After the Screaming Stops (2018, dir. Joe Pearlman & David Soutar)

You don’t have to be a huge fan of Bros’ back catalogue to enjoy this delightfully silly documentary which caused the world to ask whether its David Brent-style humour was intentional.

Beyond the ridiculously quotable lines (“I made a conscious decision because of Stevie Wonder not to be superstitious”) and genuinely WTF moments lies a heartfelt story of two brothers forgetting the feuds and fallouts to give their fans another taste of their greatest hits. In the process, it reveals their loving, but sometimes troubled, relationship.

A must watch, if only for Matt Goss explaining his seven hour manscaping routine. – Kim Bond

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All (2015, dir. Alex Gibney)

How did the son of an illiterate Italian immigrant become the most famous crooner of his generation? Almost 50 years ago Frank Sinatra gave a famous ‘farewell’ concert in Los Angeles, with each song representing a specific period in his life. Using the same track list and footage from the evening, All or Nothing At All charts the rise of the singer and Oscar-winning actor, interweaving archival recordings and interviews with Ol’ Blue Eyes himself. – Flora Carr

Let It Be: The Beatles (1970, dir. Michael Lindsay-Hogg)


One for Beatles fans, although they might find it a difficult watch. Originally intended to promote a concert, in retrospect this captures the days leading up to a break up, like those pictures with your ex in Corfu. As they churn out tracks in the studio, the Fab Four are fracturing: John mute and huddled in the corner with Yoko, Paul becoming a full megalomaniac, Ringo’s…Ringo. It contains plenty of iconic moments (the rooftop concert, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers”) but left such a tart taste when it was released, it hasn’t been available to watch (officially) since the 1980s. However, an updated version, directed by Peter Jackson, is expected next year in time for the 50th anniversary. – Jonathan Holmes