The best music documentaries and concert films

Artists who let fans go behind the scenes, stunningly-shot concerts and movie homages to departed legends.

Times are tough right now; and while we're all self-isolating and social distancing, there's no better excuse to sit back in front of the TV.

With the live music industry essentially on hold for now, resulting in hundreds of cancelled or postponed tours, why not get to know the musicians you love (and perhaps even the ones you don't) a little better? 

Recent years have seen music documentaries and concert films up their game considerably, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of music royalty. 

Justin Bieber - Seasons (2020)

This deeply introspective, 10-episode series on YouTube is a warts-and-all look at Bieber's life since becoming a global superstar. Drugs, his battle with Lyme disease, his recent marriage to Hailey Baldwin and the run up to his fifth album Changes are all covered off. When you're done, watch his 2011 Never Say Never doc for the startling comparison.

Taylor Swift - Miss Americana (2020)

After going from country music superstar to pop powerhouse, Taylor Swift found herself in a whirlwind of bad press and controversy in 2017. This doc by director Lana Wilson follows Taylor during the recording of her Lover album, on which she sounds off about politics, her Reputation album being snubbed by the Grammys and lots more. Watch on Netflix

Travis Scott - Look Mom I Can Fly (2019)

Travis Scott is the one of the latest famous faces to find himself at the centre of a hip-hopumentary, with his special Look Mom I Can Fly. The intimate movie charts some seriously life-changing moments for Travis, as he dealt with fame and also put together his third album Astroworld. Following the release, his album Astroworld returned to albums charts around the world and his subsequent single Highest In The Room became his biggest UK hit to date. Watch on Netflix.

Mark Ronson - From The Heart (2019)

This insightful documentary offers a close look at the London producer Mark Ronson as he is followed working across London, New York and Los Angeles in the run up to the release of his Late Night Feelings album. There's also commentary from Mark's family and close friends about his musical influences and working on Uptown Funk, Amy Winehouse's Back To Black and music with Lady Gaga for A Star Is Born. Watch on BBC Online.

Beyoncé – Homecoming (2019)

Beyoncé teamed up with Netflix to go behind the scenes as she prepared for her celebrated 2018 Coachella headline slot. It's a powerhouse documentary combining breathtaking performance clips – seamlessly edited to use footage from both shows – tales of the physical challenge Beyoncé set herself own and fascinating rehearsal footage, tracking Bey and her team's progress from concept to execution.

Kate Nash – Underestimate the Girl (2018)

Kate Nash shot to fame in 2007 with breakthrough hit Foundation and a documentary about her impressed critics and gained serious traction since dropping on BBC Three in June. Underestimate The Girl tells Kate's story as she tries to get her career back on track following a few bruising incidents with the music industry. It's a raw look at the realities of fame and its effects, and Kate's journey is inspiring. Available for UK residents on BBC iPlayer.

Kesha – Rainbow (2018)

Following her return to music with album Rainbow in 2017, after a prolonged court battle with her former collaborator Dr Luke, Kesha provided more insight into her story with a film of the same name. Mixing raw confessionals, harrowing stories of rehab for an eating disorder, and dealing with her pain along with highly stylised, striking art montages, Rainbow depicts the urge to create as a way of finding your way out of the darkness. Watch on Apple Music.

Lady Gaga – Five Foot Two (2017)

Documenting Lady Gaga’s return to the charts with fourth album Joanne, and the preparations for her Super Bowl Half Time Show performance, Gaga: Five Foot Two is a fairly downbeat look at her thoughts on fame, loneliness and pop superstardom. Not that Gaga isn’t funny and sharp, because she is – her “rivalry” with Madonna is dealt with to marvellous effect – and the production is glossy and slick. Watch on Netflix.

Whitney Houston – Can I Be Me/Whitney (2017)

An icon taken before her time, Whitney Houston’s life was a subject of fascination long before she died. Two documentaries have tried to make sense of Whitney’s successes and troubles, each causing controversy with their revelations. Can I Be Me uses footage from Whitney’s 1999 world tour, while Whitney, which was approved by the star’s estate, relies on interviews with her inner circle, and makes some astounding discoveries. Both movies are pretty emotional; big Whitney fans may find it hard to process them, but they're as fascinating as they are heartbreaking. Watch Can I Be Me on Netflix.

Kurt Cobain – Montage of Heck (2015)

Since taking his own life in 1994, the Nirvana frontman has been the focus of numerous books, documentaries, and movies. Among the highest profile is Kurt and Courtney, a 1998 movie by Nick Broomfield – who also co-directed Whitney: Can I Be Me – which looked into the circumstances surrounding and arising from Kurt’s death. Courtney Love refused to take part and license Nirvana’s music to be used, which led to a war of words between her and Broomfield. Montage of Heck, which uses home video, archive footage, and Kurt’s own journal entries, has been decried by some close to Kurt as mostly fictional, but seeing his story in his own words still has impact, and there are plenty of revelations along the way. Watch Montage of Heck on YouTube.

Amy Winehouse – Amy (2015)

This heartbreaking, Oscar-winning movie from 2015 tells Amy’s story through snippets, recordings, interviews and archive footage. Her rise to fame, issues with substance abuse, romantic troubles, career highs and lows and, finally, her sad passing, are dealt with emotionally but respectfully. Warning: this is not for the faint-hearted, so make sure you're surrounded by fluffy animals and comfort food while watching. Watch on YouTube.

One Direction – This is Us (2013)

When still a fivesome, One Direction took us behind the scenes of their 2013 Take Me Home Tour, featuring on-camera high jinks spliced with footage from the shows. While the movie is unscripted and cameras were access all areas, we reckon there were probably some pretty outrageous off-cuts. if you want to see the boy's wild side, you're out of luck: there’s a noticeable absence of hell-raising, and Zayn, Harry, Louis, Liam, and Niall all seem like witty, clean-living boys. Anyone looking for dirt would be better off checking their own fingernails.

Katy Perry – Part of Me (2012)

Set during Katy’s California Dreams Tour, what could have been a saccharine, cartoonish extended promo turned into something else entirely when Katy’s marriage to Russell Brand collapsed while filming was going on. That aside, there are plenty of celebrity cameos and live footage from the shows to lift the mood – Katy’s concerts are never short of spectacular.

A Tribe Called Quest – Beats, Rhymes & Life (2011)

2011 film Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest tells the story of one of the most iconic and influential hip-hop groups of all time. While it’s a celebration of what made the group great, their history, and their legacy, it also doesn’t shy away from documenting the tensions among group members and covering the low points too. Some fans were irked the movie wasn’t 100% positive, but the resulting film feels like a fair and honest portrayal of a group’s rise and fall. Watch on Amazon Prime.

Blur – No Distance Left to Run (2009)

What do you do when the band gets back together? Record it for posterity, of course! When the band reunited for a tour in 2009, they invited camera crews along – probably a good way to make sure there are no squabbles, actually – and added in some previously unseen archive footage and interviews about what it was like to be a band again. Watch on YouTube.

Kylie – White Diamond (2007)

Not quite as revelatory but fascinating nonetheless, White Diamond charts Kylie’s return to touring in 2007, following her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. You get to see Kylie’s fun side as she trills mini operettas backstage and cavorts with her friends and crew, and there are guest appearances from sister Dannii and U2 frontman Bono. Watch on YouTube.

Geri Halliwell – Geri (1999)

Candid to the point of full body-cringe at times, this documentary picks up Geri’s life mere days after she quit the Spice Girls, and follows her journey to find a post-Ginger life for herself after five years of sharing her bandmates’ spotlight. Geri comes across pretty well, if a little unsure of the magnitude of what she’s done, and her horror at her mum getting some screen time is still a classic scene. The entire thing is currently on YouTube.

Madonna – Truth or Dare (1991)

Is this the popumentary to end them all? Back in 1991, few thought Madonna could get more shocking, but she delighted in proving them wrong with Truth or Dare (called In Bed With Madonna in the UK). Warts-and-all barely covers it: Madonna shows every side to her personality: good, bad, mean, hilarious, spoiled, generous. Plus there's a scene with a bottle of water that can never be forgotten.

What have we missed? Tell us in the comments below: