Film’s School of Rock: 7 Great Rockumentaries

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Music is just a tiny part of what makes a great rock and roll documentary. The films on this list also contain intimate interviews, rare concert footage, and research into the social and political landscapes that have influenced some of the greatest musicians, bands, and musical movements in history. Here’s a list of some of the greatest rock and roll documentaries ever made.


1. Don’t Look Back

While it’s another Dylan doc that frequently tops the rock and roll documentary lists (Martin Scorsese’s No Direction Home), D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 film covers a pivotal moment in Dylan’s career: his switch from folksy protest singer to brooding rock and roll poet. Dylan screws with journalists at press conferences, scoffs at fans that just don’t get where he’s going, and duets with Joan Baez as their relationship is on the verge of collapse.

This is the most intimate glimpse into Dylan’s personal life that he would ever allow the world to see. He fights with Baez, fights with journalists, fights with his entourage, fights with other musicians, and when not fighting, spends his time hammering away at a typewriter. “Dont Look Back is really about fame and how it menaces art, about the press and how it categorizes, bowdlerizes, sterilizes, universalizes or conventionalizes an original like Dylan into something it can dimly understand,” said a 1967 Newsweek review. Lastly, it contains what is thought by some to be the first ever music video, footage of Dylan holding up and dropping cards with the lyrics of “Subterranean Homesick Blues.”

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