Tom RostonIndependent journalist Tom Roston checks in and writes about the world of documentaries in his column, Doc Soup.

You can follow Tom on Twitter @DocSoupMan.

Doc Soup: The 10 Greatest Rockumentaries of All Time (Okay, This List Goes to 11!)

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Volume Knob from This is Spinal Tap

Yes, this list goes to eleven. View the slideshow.

Love is blind. So is our taste in music. And that also logically applies to lists of one’s favorite rockumentaries. I swear, one of my life’s most ecstatic movie-going moments was going to Stop Making Sense not to see Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads film, but to instead be mesmerized by the 10-minute opening video of New Order playing the song, “The Perfect Kiss,” in their rehearsal studio. The band members keep their heads down and inertly play their instruments. To non-fans it must have been like watching paint dry. To me, it was 10 minutes in heaven.

View the gallery of top rockumentaries »

So, yes, this list is subjective. And I’m going to reinforce that point by illustrating why some of these films are important to me. I hope you will share your favorite rockumentaries — personal reminiscences encouraged! — in the comments section below.

This post is born from both last week’s review of Dont Look Back, which I had never seen before and loved, and White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights, which I saw a little while back, and loathed. I felt dirty watching the White Stripes doc. It’s such a fawning, suck up to the band, showing Jack and Meg White wandering aimlessly in bleak settings, rocking out on stage, having tender moments… I felt like I was watching a Leni Riefenstahl movie, aimed at convincing me to love these two. And yet, as I said before, if I did love these two, maybe I would consider it the greatest doc of all time. But, as I merely appreciate their music, I was put off. It made me more aware of how much rockumentaries play easy cards and tug at heart strings. But that’s why we love (or hate) them.

Start with #11…

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He comes to us as a ten-year veteran of Premiere magazine, where he was a Senior Editor, and where he wrote the column, Notes from the Dream Factory. Tom was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom has also written for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, GQ, New York, Elle and other publications. Tom's favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi - Godfrey Reggio 2. Hoop Dreams - Steve James 3. The Up series - Michael Apted 4. Crumb - Terry Zwigoff 5. Capturing the Friedmans - Andrew Jarecki
  • Jazz Cook

    “Gimme Shelter” and “Woodstock” rate higher on my list. As good as Dylan songwriting skills are, they pale in comparison to his dreadful voice. With “Woodstock” you get a variety of voices, 99% of which sound better than Mr. Dylan.

  • Wheels

    Jimi Hendrix, 2 DVD collection entitled “Live at Woodstock”.
    Neil Young “Heart of Gold”, a Jonathan Demme picture.

    • Kigad13_a

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  • Chad Roscoe

    What about “Here Comes Huffamoose?” They were robbed not to be on this list!

  • vinyl

    I would add “Meeting People is Easy” and “Message to Love” to this list.

  • Alex Corbor

    I can’t believe you didn’t put Dig! on the list.

    • Dave

      Agreed. Dig! is fantastic. It should be in any Top 10 music film list.

  • Doc Soup Man

    @927415089a82faae0de99336fe5aeae4:disqus , I so wanted to love “Meeting People is Easy,” but it was so spare, it felt nihilistic. I looove Radiohead, but that film took them too far.

    • vinyl

      Doc, for me the filmmaking style replicated what was going on with the band, and the obsessions with technology, alienation and society that permeate “OK Computer” the tour that’s being documented. I loved the film for its style, and actually saw it before I became a Radiohead fan.

  • Playmixt

    also: The Secret to a Happy Ending (about Drive-by Truckers)

  • MusicFilmWeb

    Have you seen The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector? Creepy, funny, tragic, revelatory. But sadly not on DVD.

  • Rebnorman

    My wife’s film, Tupac Resurrection?

  • Guest


  • Greys Anatomy Episode Guide

    its great to see metallica on the list, my all time favorite

  • Pancreatic Cancer Symptoms

    I would add “Meeting People is Easy” and “Message to Love” to this list.

  • sean

    grey gardens absence is inexplicable.

  • Sandrarkennedy

    Searching for Sugarnan had me laughing crying and singing

  • JJ

    1991:The year punk broke should definitely be on here, Sonic Youth and Nirvana on tour… with a lil bit of dino jr, ramones, gumball, babes in toyland… whats not to love???

  • SS

    ‘It Might Get Loud’ is one of my favorites. 3 generations of guitar players telling their story individually while on their way to meet each other for the first time to jam out. Beautiful and mind blowing all at once. The 3 musicians? Jimmy Page, the Edge, and Jack White.