The best music documentaries aren’t the ones covering the most popular bands, they are the ones that delve into the psyche of the artists portrayed. Here is Modern Thrill’s list of best music documentaries.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil
In 1984 heavy metal band Anvil toured with Scorpions, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. All three bands went on to sell millions of records while Anvil faded into obscurity. In 2008 director Sacha Gervasi followed the aging rock stars, which have been delegated to blue collar work, on their first European tour in decades.
The documentary is both heartbreaking and endearing as the group continues to follow their dreams year after their hey-day. Featuring interviews from rock royalty Slash, Lemmy, Scott Ian, Tom Araya, and Lars Ulrich, Anvil is a compelling story that isn’t so much about rock n’ roll as it is about family and human spirit.
The film garnered high praise from critics and helped bring the band back into the public eye. Anvil recently released their 15th album, Hope in Hell.
Searching for Sugarman
Another tale of belated fame, Searching for Sugarman tells the story of Sixto Diaz a folk singer from Detroit, Michigan who released the single, “I’ll Slip Away” in 1967 under the moniker Rod Riguez. Soon after, Diaz virtually fell off the face of the earth.
Diaz’s music became wildly popular in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and New Zealand being compared to Bob Dylan and Cat Stevens. However, many people from the region believed that Diaz had killed himself during a concert in 1970’s.
The documentary, premiering in 2012, details the efforts of two South African fans to see if his rumored death was true and what had become of the musician. It turns out Sixto worked several blue collar gigs and even ran for city council all the while his music was being revered across the world for decades.
Until the Light Takes Us
Few genres of music have generated as much bad press as the Norweigan Black Metal scene. Until the Light Takes Us documents the birth of dark, almost satanic genre of music that rose to worldwide notoriety in the mid-nineties when there was a rash of suicides, murders and church burnings that accompanied the music and ensuing counter culture.
The documentary features interviews with leaders of the movement including Gylve “Fenriz” Nagell (Darkthrone) and Varg “Count Grishnackh” Vikernes. Vikernes is at the center of the documentary after he was convicted of murder for stabbing his bandmate to death.
The Devil & Daniel Johnston
This 2005 documentary chronicles the life of musical genius and tortured soul, Daniel Johnston who suffers from bipolar disorder which manifests itself in demonic self-obsession. Johnston has been heralded by musical revolutionaries like Kurt Cobain.
The documentary tells Daniel’s harrowing battle with his own mind and won the Documentary Directing Award at Sundance Film Festival in 2005.
In 2006, Sigur Ros embarked on a tour around their homeland of Iceland and documented the events. More of a live concert, visual tapestry of a film than a documentary, the band performs in nearly every venue in the country including stadiums, abandoned fish factories, and a rock quarry.
All of the performances were free to the public and the doc gives a glimpse into the lives of one of the sweetest bands in the world.