I love a good rockumentary and these days I seem to watch more documentaries than I do movies. I think this is because of my OCD of wanting to know everything about rock n roll and its origins. Well, to be honest, it’s mostly because I am a wannabe music journalist and I like to keep up on my knowledge so that I am not looking like a complete buffoon when I am writing about music or a particular band. While this is by no means a definitive list, and let’s face it, lists are fuckin’ stupid, really, this list is a bunch of documentaries that I personally love; documentaries that have taught me something. I hope you will search these out or watch them at the links below (for those that have links to the full movie) and feel free to leave a comment below about what you thought of each one, especially if you had never seen them before. Anyway, get yourself a pizza, a drink, sit back and watch cos you’re in for a real treat.
10. PUNK: ATTITUDE
There is nothing to fault in this documentary and you all need to see it. I mean, come on, the first person talking is Henry Rollins. I rest my case. Don Letts’ Punk is filled with great interviews and some mindblowing live footage by some of the greatest bands of all time. It also has a bitchin’ soundtrack. Why you wouldn’t watch this is kinda stupid and you should be ashamed of yourself if you’re not going to do so. Seriously, don’t be ‘that guy’, watch it now at the link below and learn something.
9. ANOTHER STATE OF MIND
One of the best and probably the most honest punk rock documentary that has been made to date. Filmed back in 1982, Another State Of Mind follows a tour of Youth Brigade and Social Distortion as they tour across the USA and through parts of Canada. What they weren’t banking on was everything going to shit with band members talking shit about each other and others just getting up and leaving mid-tour while some dude dyes his hair every couple days. It’s a really raw doco but it really shows just how things were back in the day and how doing things yourself can have great ramifications. Along the way they meet up with straight-edge legends, Minor Threat, and the live footage and interviews are killer. I’d love to see this doco made again with the same people at the age they are now and see just how different, if at all, these people are today.
8. THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION
Directed by Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World, The Little Rascals, Suburbia), this movie takes a candid look inside the world of punk rock in 1980. I could go on about this doco all day but it can seriously be summed up by watching the last 10 or so minutes with the live footage of the band FEAR who before playing a single note start a riot on stage with punches thrown and spit flying both to and from the stage. This is punk rock long before the breakthrough in 1994. This is when shit was dangerous. Penelope Spheeris went on to make a follow up years later on the heavy metal movement and that is also some priceless viewing. Look it up! The interview with Chris Holmes in the swimming pool will forever go down in history as cinematic gold. In the meantime, watch this.
7. A HEADBANGERS JOURNEY
Canadian metal fan, Sam Dunn, decided to make a doco on the world of heavy metal. While there have been many documentaries on heavy metal, this one stands out as one of the best. The interviews are classic (Mayhem’s being the most memorable), the live footage is great, and the story telling is just precise and delivered with a genuine love for the music and not a cash-in on a music scene by some Hollywood exec who knows nothing about it. A Headbangers Journey is a definite must see and chances are, if you are reading this site, then you’ve already seen it which in turn makes this suggestion completely redundant. Couldn’t find a link to the full thing so here’s the trailer.
6. SOME KIND OF MONSTER
I have spoken about this doco elsewhere on this site but it has to be said, any band that can sue its fans, make this highly embarrassing documentary, release St Anger and Lulu, and still continue to be the biggest band in “metal” is commendable. I don’t know how it happened but it did and this film is just priceless and worthy of your time. Sure, you’ll probably end up throwing a book at the TV (or whatever else is within your reach at the time) but that just goes to show that Metallica can really work an audience and get them feeling something. All the arguing and the ridiculousness of this movie as they record St Anger is at times extremely painful to watch but I still get a kick out it, especially the therapy sessions with guy in the Cosby sweater. I can’t find a link to the movie but here’s a link to the trailer which is just fine cos after three minutes you’ll probably be over it anyway. If that happens, just watch Cliff Em All instead. That’s a good one.
5. FLIGHT 666
If you ever want to know how a band with more money than you’ll ever dream of spends their time both on and off the stage, then look no further than Iron Maiden’s very own Flight 666. Directed by Sam Dunn (A Headbanger’s Journey), our British godfathers of heavy metal allowed a film crew to tag along on their Somewhere Back In Time Tour of 2008 to capture the bands day to day activites, both on and off the stage. Flight 666 takes you everywhere with classic interviews and some seriously awesome live footage. Actually, I am really only including this documentary because I’m in it, albeit fleetingly (giving the metal horns at 20:47). You’ve no doubt seen this movie anyway but still, here’s the link for those who have not been blessed with such awesomeness.
4. LEMMY – The Movie
This really is a no-brainer. If you enjoy rock music of any kind then you should have already seen this movie. It’s everything you need to know about one of rock n roll’s living legends, Lemmy Kilmister. Fronting Motorhead for what seems like half a century, Lemmy – The Movie, takes you on a firsthand look at the icon’s lifestyle, his relentless touring, and his love of rock n roll as told by the man himself and the many who have been involved with him throughout his career. This is essential viewing and if you still have yet to see it, you need to drop everything and watch it now.
3. BETTY BLOWTORCH AND HER AMAZING TRUE LIFE ADVENTURES
When director, Anthony Scarpa, set out to make a documentary on all-girl hard rock band, Betty Blowtorch, he had no idea what was going to unfold. This amazing no holds barred documentary tells the uncensored story of the short-lived band’s beginnings, recordings and their tour across the USA that saw the band fall to pieces ending with the untimely and tragic death of vocalist, Bianca Halstead. This documentary has it all and then some. There’s fights, punk as fuck over the top stage shows, perversion, and most importantly, a ton of rock n roll. The DVD also contains a whole bunch of extras including the readings from Bianca’s funeral. This documentary is very rock n roll but also quite heartbreaking to watch as the band members tell extremely personal stories that are both shocking and unbelievable. Betty Blowtorch were a band who were as real as they come. I couldn’t find a link to the entire movie but apparently this link may work elsewhere as it says that the movie is not available in Australia so feel free to check it out if you’re elsewhere. Still, here’s the trailer. A taster of what you will expect from a band whose time was taken from them way too soon. Bianca R.I.P.
2. END OF THE CENTURY – The Story Of The Ramones
To make the definitive movie about punk legends, the Ramones, would have been an arduous task. It’s also something that should have happened a lot earlier than it did. Unfortunately, we thought the Ramones would live forever just like their songs will live on in the hearts of the people that connected with it. End Of The Century is both inspirational and depressing, yet it’s as close as we will ever get to knowing the story. This movie really digs deep and cuts hard, leaving the viewer with a warm feeling of love and appreciation for everything they ever did for the music we hear today. I mean, let’s be honest here: The Ramones were the greatest band of all time. What they did for music will mostly go ignored by the mainstream media and you know what? Who fucking cares. The mainstream never mattered to begin with. The Ramones connected with their legions of fans across the world, as is evident in this documentary, and that will mean more than being accepted by the mainstream public. Us fans know what they did and the lives they have inspired, the bands they have influenced, and the legacy they have left. Long live the Ramones. Gabba Gabba Hey!
1. A TRUE TESTIMONIAL
Before Detroit went to complete financial ruin, this incredible documentary was made by people with an insatiable lust of telling the most in-depth story on one of the most important bands in music history; The MC5. What we have here is two solid hours of rare footage of the band compiled with a truckload of highly informative interviews with each band member, people who were close to the band, and of course their very own spiritual adviser, John Sinclair. The thing that makes this documentary stand apart from other music documentaries is that this movie isn’t just about the MC5. This is a movie about the people of Detroit, the music of Detroit, and what was happening in the world during the years the band was active. Of course it all ties back to the band but there is something so powerful, so inspiring and so unique about this documentary that it is a travesty that it has yet to be seen by every single person in the world. This is an important documentary and is one that if you have the time, you need to watch immediately. You might even learn something about music and why it is so important to so many people. You may pick up a guitar and kick out the jams. Or at the least, you may feel so inspired to create something beautiful, and if any of these things happen, hopefully the world will become a much better place.