From "Ray" to "Walk the Line", music movies are a staple of American cinema. Fascinating as these dramatic interpretations can be, we here at Music Forte believe that they can't possibly capture the full story like a great documentary can. With that in mind, we present our picks for the best music documentaries of all time.
5. The Devil and Daniel Johnston
Equal parts love letter and tragedy, this fascinating look at Johnston's unwavering love for music is a rare glimpse into the day-to-day realities of mental illness. Juxtaposing a surprising amount of home-recorded footage from his carefree youth with modern-day interviews, this exhaustively researched documentary weaves a tale unlike anything you've ever seen.
Best moment: Johnston's father breaking down in tears while telling the "Casper" plane crash story.
4. I am Trying to Break Your Heart: a Film About Wilco
Shot during the recording of the critically-lauded "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" and its aftermath, this surprisingly engaging documentary turns a middle-of-the-road indie rock band into the ultimate underdogs. The ridiculous machinations of an unappreciative record company culminate in the band being dropped from Warner Brothers, only to be permitted to re-sell the master tapes of their most popular album to a subsidiary of the same record label. This film sounds an early death knell for bloated major labels worldwide.
Best moment: Watching the band members slowly turn against multi-instrumentalist Jay Bennett is more cruelly thrilling than anything in "Mean Girls."
3. Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back
The first fly-on-the-wall music documentary follows Dylan on a 1965 tour of the United Kingdom. Best known for the opening sequence cue-card rendition of "Subterranean Homesick Blues", this doc reminds the world about what a mean-spirited contrarian Dylan really was.
Best moment: Dylan giving a seemingly unprovoked lashing to pop-singer Donovan.
As a personality, Lemmy Killmister has always loomed larger than Motorhead. This documentary doesn't try to rectify that, focusing mostly on Lemmy's day-to-day life. Fully half the film takes place is Lemmy's dilapidated Sunset Strip apartment. Watch it with subtitles if you want to understand a word of it. What Lemmy lacks in enunciation, he more than makes up for in debauchery.
Best moment: Lemmy wearing the shortest daisy-dukes you've ever seen during Hollywood's hot summer with absolutely no sense of humor or shame.
1. You're Gonna Miss Me
Another story of rock 'n' roll mixed with mental illness, "You're Gonna Miss Me" tells the tale of forgotten legend Roky Erickson, onetime leader of the influential Texas band 13th Floor Elevators, and his unlikely return from the violent depths of severe schizophrenia.
Best moment: Roky settling in for a nap by turning on a dozen noisy gadgets. The sound is a terrifying testament to his illness, far more telling than the interviews that precede it.