Documentaries for live music fans

With festival season in full swing, we run through some of our favourite films with incredible live music scenes. 


The first documentary on gospel/soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. MAVIS! reveals the struggles, successes, and intimate stories of her journey as a Singer. A documentary that features her powerful live performances, rare archival footage, and conversations with friends and contemporaries including Bob Dylan, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm, Jeff Tweedy, Chuck D, and more. Reviewed as 'Immensely colourful and lively' by the Independent, this is a must-see for those who love a passionate performer.

The Punk Singer

A film about the singer Kathleen Hanna who became the iconic voice of the riot grrrl movement. The lead singer of the punk band Bikini Kill and dance-punk trio Le Tigre, her critics wished she would just shut-up, and her fans hoped she never would. The Punk Singer takes viewers on a fascinating tour of contemporary music and offers a never-before-seen view into the life of this fearless leader. Featuring clips of her early days and a unique performance with her new band The Julie Ruin.

Awesome I F*ckin' Shot That!

An innovative, yet radical film created by the band Beastie Boys whom gave out 50 camcorders for fans to film their gig in New York's Madison Square Gardens in 2004. (Beastie Boys' member Ad-Rock is married to Kathleen Hanna and also features in The Punk Singer) The fans were told to film throughout the event and not miss a second, capturing an ingeniously exclusive video from their perspective. Later the band cut the video down to a powerfully fierce 90 min film.

Janis: Little Girl Blue

A stunning insightful portrait of the original 'Rock Chick' Janis Joplin. Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg (Deliver Us from Evil, West of Memphis) examines Joplin’s story in depth for the first time on film, presenting an intimate and insightful portrait of a complicated, driven, often beleaguered artist. Janis: Little Girl Blue features a vast amount of live footage from Janis Joplin performing from her early days to her last days. It's an opportunity for those who didn't get to experience her live to get as close as possible.

Gimme Shelter

Albert Maysles' classic doc about Rolling Stone's 1969 US tour. With live footage from the last week of their tour, this documentary follows the tragic unforeseen event that took place at the Altamont Free Concert. Meredith Hunter, a young black African-American was stabbed and beaten to death by members of the Hell's Angels, which was all captured on film. 

Monterey pop

A shout-out for great live music films has to be given to Monterey Pop, the 1968 concert film by legendary filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker. Some of the footage can be seen in Janis: Little Girl Blue but you can't miss the full film. Monterey Pop Festival took place in the summer of 1967 and this film sees electric performances from Otis Redding, The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and more.