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Top 10 Best Rock Documentaries

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Tiffany Ezuma. Ever wanted a backstage pass to the creative process of your favorite artists? Fortunately for you, some talented filmmakers have gone behind-the-scenes with almost every artist under the sun to bring you just that. Whether it’s to take a look at a band’s history, a band’s struggles or a band’s sheer epicness, these flicks are always entertaining and full of rockin’ tunes. In this video, counts down our picks for the top 10 rock documentaries. For this list, we’ve picked the most truthful, raw, behind-the-scenes documentaries that follow some of our favorite rock stars.

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Script written by Tiffany Ezuma.

Top 10 Rock Documentaries

Ever wanted a backstage pass to the creative process of your favorite artists? Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 rock documentaries.

For this list, we’ve picked the most truthful, raw, behind-the-scenes documentaries that follow some of our favorite rock stars.

#10: “The Devil and Daniel Johnston” (2005)

Johnston may have the smallest name on our list in terms of recognition; but his documentary features one of the most compelling stories. Viewers watch Johnston battle with mental illness and his obsession with the devil. It’s interesting to see how his illness interacts with his creative process as he deals with the demons that haunt him. This introspective film won him the Documentary Directing Award at Sundance upon release.

#9: “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart: A Film About Wilco” (2002)

When two members of a band clash, everyone around them is affected. This documentary is as much about the conflict between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett as it is about the band’s struggles against their record label and Wilco’s struggle to make their fourth studio album. It gives great insight into how much labels value the bottom line versus the creative content of the artist, and the stress that puts on the band members is almost palpable to viewers.

#8: Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2009)

Compiled of the behind-the-scenes footage for Jackson’s final tour, this film was released after his untimely death – and fans flocked to see it. However, the footage wasn’t originally meant to be released, and there was controversy over whether the studios did it to capitalize on his death. Regardless, “This Is It” is the highest grossing rock documentary of all time and proof that Jackson will always be “the King of Pop.”

#7: “Fearless Freaks” (2005)

This doc traces the origins of The Flaming Lips, from their humble roots as a punk band in Oklahoma City to their status as indie music gods. It stands out thanks to its candid interviews with Wayne Coyne, Steven Drozd, and their families. Nothing is off the table as they talk about their drug use and its affect on their lives and music. The film also features a memorable scene of Drozd preparing to shoot heroin.

#6: “Pearl Jam Twenty” (2011)

Filmmaker Cameron Crowe uses his personal connection to the band’s members to get honest insight into what it was like to be in the premiere grunge band during their heyday in the ‘90s. The doc chronicles the band’s birth after Mother Love Bone’s break-up, to the present day, and investigates the radical changes the music industry has been through by using the Pearl Jam’s battle with Ticketmaster as an example.

#5: “The Kids Are Alright” (1979)

Director Keith Stein called this doc “a hair-raising rollercoaster ride” as viewers are given a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes lives of The Who. The film’s content shows the goofy sides of the band members as they make guest appearances on variety shows and interact with fans. However, the best footage the film offers are the final performances of Keith Moon during a recording session and at a show at Shepperton Studios.

#4: “Dig!” (2004)

A doc known for its controversial portrayal of the feuding band members in The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, “Dig!” creates a compelling story of the antics between the bands’ front men as they fought relentlessly with one another over the course of eight years. Whether it’s a completely true story or not, the film was a critical success and it earned the filmmakers the Documentary Jury Prize at Sundance.

#3: “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” (1988)

Lots of sex, lots of booze, and some rock ’n’ roll is the only way to describe this documentary. Even though the film has never been released on DVD, it has garnered a cult following among viewers interested in seeing debauchery at its finest. The film features some infamous scenes of bands like Aerosmith, Kiss, Megadeth, and W.A.S.P. overindulging. Filmmakers received flak for the faked footage of Ozzy Osbourne and the exposure of hypocrisy in glam metal culture.

#2: “The Beatles Anthology” (1995)

At ten hours long, “The Beatles Anthology” recounts the entirety of the band’s expansive history. The miniseries first aired on TV in ’95, and launched a resurgence in the band’s popularity. It does a great job of conveying just how huge Beatlemania was and continues to be even decades after their debut. Coinciding with the film’s release was their single “Free As a Bird,” a coffee table book, and a compilation album.

Before we unveil our number one pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “It Might Get Loud: (2009)
- “We Jam Econo” (2005)
- “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” (2010)
- “Meeting People is Easy” (1998)
- “Shine a Light” (2008)

#1: “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan” (2005)

An artistic genius and legend, Bob Dylan has managed to become equal parts man and myth. This doc offers perhaps the best glimpse into early Dylan as he tries to deal with the onslaught of fame and his unexpected success. It catches Dylan after his claim that he would retire from touring in the early ‘60s, the period in which he began to experiment with an electric sound that alienated his early fans.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite rock music doc? For more eye-opening behind-the-scenes Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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