15 Best Music and Concert Films Movies to Watch

Staff & contributors
The Tragically Hip was a deeply beloved band from Ontario that peaked in the 90s with hits like Grace, Too or Nautical Disaster. The Hip, as their fans refer to them, had just finished recording their latest album in 2015 when the lead singer was diagnosed with a fatal disease. This movie is about them deciding to go on one last tour to say goodbye to their fans and country. Mostly, it’s about the singer, Gord Downie, and how his personality and love for the music shined through his illness. Picture someone who is giving an immaculate performance despite being a few weeks away from death, and a packed stadium of people singing along in tears - this is this movie. It’s truly an incredible story of human ambition, empathy, and the bond that music can create between an artist and a whole nation.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Bobby Baker, Gord Downie, Gord Sinclair, Jennifer Baichwal, Johnny Fay, Justin Trudeau, Nicholas de Pencier, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker

Director: Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier

Rating: N/A

Here’s a biopic that focuses on capturing the feel of the era it depicts, rather than all the facts — and is all the better for it. 24 Hour Party People takes the same punk approach to storytelling as its subjects did to music, playfully throwing off the dull constraints that often make based-on-a-true-story movies feel like uninspired celluloid translations of a Wikipedia page. 

In the film’s opening scene, Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson breaks the fourth wall to address us directly and semi-spoil the movie’s ending. But it doesn’t matter, because the ride is so fun: we’re taken on an immersive trip through the heyday of the Manchester music scene: the births of Joy Division, New Order, the Happy Mondays, and Wilson’s Factory Records label and legendary Hacienda nightclub, an incubator for acid house and rave culture. The era’s hedonism is brought to life by the movie’s frenetic editing, documentary-style cinematography, and strobe-heavy visuals. For all its onscreen anarchy, though, the movie remarkably never feels loose or self-indulgent. Its irreverence is grounded by the ironic filter of the meta filmmaking, which frequently breaks the fourth wall to draw attention to its own conceits. A refreshing rejection of biopic tropes, but also a thrilling transportation into and evocation of the Madchester era.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music

Actor: Andy Serkis, Chris Coghill, Christopher Eccleston, Daniel Lestuzzi, Danny Cunningham, Darren Tighe, Elizabeth Kelly, Enzo Cilenti, Fiona Allen, Helen Schlesinger, John Simm, John Thomson, Kate Magowan, Keith Allen, Kenny Baker, Kieran O'Brien, Lennie James, Margi Clarke, Mark E. Smith, Martin Hancock, Naomi Radcliffe, Neil Bell, Paddy Considine, Paul Popplewell, Peter Gunn, Peter Kay, Ralf Little, Raymond Waring, Rob Brydon, Ron Cook, Sean Cernow, Sean Harris, Shirley Henderson, Simon Pegg, Smug Roberts, Steve Coogan, Toby Salaman, Tony Wilson

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Rating: R

“As fragile as she was strong, as vulnerable as she was dynamic, she was African royalty. How does royalty stomp around in the mud and still walk with grace?”. What Happened, Miss Simone? will surprise you no matter how much you thought you knew about the soul singer - not only in its exploration of Nina Simone’s personal life and complexities, but by being both a personal and political documentary. As you discover an original singer with talents that reach all the way to performance art, you will also learn about a Civil Rights activist’s journey and an unstable woman’s struggle. The documentary is not about answering the question of what happened, Miss Simone? – it’s an exploration of why that question is so important.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Dick Gregory, Elisabeth Henry-Macari, James Baldwin, Lisa Simone, Liz Garbus, Nina Simone, Stokely Carmichael, Walter Cronkite

Director: Liz Garbus

Rating: Not Rated

, 2023

For a short while in the ‘80s, the pop scene benefited from the sheer musical joy created by George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, known together as Wham! With confectionary hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and “Last Christmas,” the  British duo sang about the escapism that a generation desperately sought out. Their songs were dismissed by pundits as shallow (“How can the country be in love with these two idiots?”), but as young people flocked to their concerts in droves, it was clear that Wham! struck a chord with the worn-out youth. 

They were no Beatles or Bowie, not heavyweight enough to make a lasting impression in our collective pop culture memory, but theirs is a story rich with meaningful lessons. Wham!, the film, is as much about the personal lives of the duo as it is about the difficulty of making it as independent artists; about the saving grace of music; and about the importance of authenticity. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Andrew Ridgeley, Aretha Franklin, Bono, Boy George, David Bowie, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, George Michael, Helen DeMacque, Jerry Wexler, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Sting, Terry Wogan, Tony Hadley

Director: Chris Smith

Rating: NR

Plenty of films have been made about the grueling climb to rock-and-roll fame, but few carry the effortless charm that That Thing You Do! has. Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film is as cookie-cutter as it gets, dodging the dark depths that typically haunt rock biopics. But that isn’t to say That Thing You Do! is boring—just the opposite, its simplicity and nostalgia make it wholly enjoyable. It’s a confection of a film that goes down easy, and it will have you smiling and bopping your head from start to end.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance

Actor: Alex Rocco, Barry Sobel, Benjamin John Parrillo, Bill Cobbs, Brittney Powell, Bryan Cranston, Charlize Theron, Chris Ellis, Chris Isaak, Claudia Stedelin, Clint Howard, Clive Rosengren, Colin Hanks, Dawn Maxey, Elizabeth Hanks, Ethan Embry, Gedde Watanabe, Gina Aponte, Giovanni Ribisi, Heather Hewitt, Holmes Osborne, Johnathon Schaech, Jonathan Demme, Kathleen Kinmont, Kevin Pollak, Lee Everett, Liv Tyler, Marc McClure, Mars Callahan, Michael P. Byrne, Obba Babatundé, Paul Feig, Peter Scolari, Renée Lippin, Rita Wilson, Robert Ridgely, Robert Torti, Robert Wisdom, Sarah Koskoff, Sean Whalen, Steve Zahn, Tom Everett Scott, Tom Hanks, Tracy Reiner, Warren Berlinger

Director: Tom Hanks

Rating: PG

Documentaries about musicians — or anyone famous, for that matter — are often mythologizing puff pieces, essentially feature-length airings of PR material. But Against All Odds has more to it than flattery. It chronicles the rise of Australia’s first drill rappers, five young men of Samoan origin who soared to fame from their disadvantaged Sydney neighborhood after going viral and catching the eye of artists like the UK’s Skepta and Australia’s own The Kid Laroi. 

ONEFOUR’s rise from “the trenches” is compelling in itself — far more so than some of the dull origin stories that often pad out this kind of movie — but the documentary is given even more weight by its examination of the forces that sought to put out their fire: New South Wales police. ONEFOUR’s lyrics, which often reference violence, put them in the crossfires of a police tactical unit determined to, in one officer’s words, “make [ONEFOUR’s] life miserable until [they] stop what [they’re] doing.” Amazingly, the on-camera police interviews feature even more brazen admissions of the ways they “lawfully harass” ONEFOUR, a fact that makes this documentary an eye-opening portrait of both aggressive (and allegedly racist) policing and the resilience of the group in the face of it.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Celly, J Emz, Lekks, Spenny, YP

Director: Gabriel Gasparinatos

Rating: R

Beastie Boys Story, a live documentary that runs for two hours and consists entirely of two speakers presenting a PowerPoint onstage, shouldn't be as enjoyable and enthralling as it is, but with the help of director Spike Jonze, remaining band members Mike D and Adam Horovitz pull off the impossible and draw in a rapt crowd by chronicling how the iconic hip-hop group came to be.

Told with intimate detail and blithe humor, Beastie Boys Story has the easygoing charm of a dear friend recounting the good old days with you. Mike D and Adam Horovitz are skilled storytellers, and with Jonze operating the technicals to a tee backstage, everything comes together in a satisfyingly smooth and utterly watchable take. You don't have to know much (if anything at all) about the Beastie Boys to enjoy this documentary, and whatever your opinion is of them beforehand, you'll leave this film knowing a bit more about the creative process, necessary growth, and unbelievable luck all artists go through.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Adam Horovitz, Adam Yauch, Afrika Bambaataa, Ben Stiller, Bill Hader, David Cross, Dick Clark, Don Cornelius, Joan Rivers, Karen Duffy, Kurt Loder, Kurtis Blow, Madonna, Michael Diamond, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Stipe, Money Mark, Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, Spike Jonze, Steve Buscemi, Tenzin Gyatso

Director: Spike Jonze

Rating: TV-MA

Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There, Carol), The Velvet Underground takes an avant-garde approach to tell the story of the 1960s rock band. Like their music, nothing about this documentary is linear and expected. Screens are split to show two different things at once, seemingly unrelated clips are stitched to create a patchwork of feelings, and strobes of light flash multiple times onscreen. It's like an art installation come to life.

The film is dynamic and dazzling, infused with the same underground atmosphere as their early performances. If you’re looking to know more about the band, this film might not be for you. But if you’re looking to experience the band, to feel and see and hear what it was like to catch them at their peak, then this is for you.

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Allen Ginsberg, Amy Taubin, Andy Warhol, Bill Graham, Billy Name, Cass Elliot, Danny Fields, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Jackson Browne, John Cale, John Waters, Jonas Mekas, Jonathan Richman, Lou Reed, Marian Zazeela, Mary Woronov, Nico, Sterling Morrison

Director: Todd Haynes

, 2018

Howard Ashman was at the peak of his career—fresh off Little Mermaid’s sweeping win at the Grammys and Oscars, and concocting the iconic songs that would make up Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast—when he died of AIDS at 40. But even at that relatively young age, Ashman already had a lifetime’s worth of work to show. Howard, the documentary, gives us a glimpse into Howard’s inner and early life, starting with his fanciful and imaginative childhood, all the way down to his formative college years, his foundational work in “off, off” Broadway, and the breakout success of The Little Shop of Horrors the Musical. Disney isn’t the whole picture, the documentary rightfully proclaims, so in between the abovementioned highlights, director Don Hahn inserts pockets of heartwarming anecdotes from Howard’s friends and family, and some of Howard’s own wise words from interview snippets. It’s clear Hahn was a good friend of Ashman, since the documentary often feels like a warm get-together of the people who knew and loved Ashman best. 

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Adam Jacobs, Alan Menken, Angela Lansbury, Anne Bobby, Annette O'Toole, Barbara McCutchan, Barry Peterson, Bill Boggs, Bill Lauch, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Brynn O'Malley, Charles B. Griffith, Chris Montan, Colleen Camp, Dan Rather, Dan Stevens, Danny Glover, David Friedman, David Geffen, Denise Nickerson, Dennis Green, Diane Sawyer, Divine, Don Hahn, Donald W. Ernst, Douglas Seale, Dudley Moore, Ellen Greene, Emma Watson, Estelle Bennett, Fats Waller, Frank Oz, Frederick Coffin, Gary Trousdale, Glen Keane, Howard Ashman, James Monroe Iglehart, Janis Menken, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jerry Orbach, Joan Prather, Jodi Benson, John Herman Shaner, John Musker, Jonathan Hadary, Jonathan Haze, Karen Miller, Kirk Wise, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Kyle Renick, Larry Kramer, Leola Wendorff, Levi Stubbs, Maria O'Brien, Marvin Hamlisch, Maureen Abbott, Maury Yeston, Mel Welles, Melanie Griffith, Melinda Smith, Mena Massoud, Michelle Weeks, Mike Gabriel, Nancy Parent, Natalie Wood, Paige O'Hara, Pat Carroll, Paula Abdul, Peter Schneider, Phil Spector, Randy Cartwright, Richard Beymer, Richard White, Rick Moranis, Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers, Roger Ebert, Ron Clements, Ronnie Spector, Roy Edward Disney, Sarah Gillespie, Shirley Ashman, Steve Martin, Thomas Schumacher, Tichina Arnold, Tisha Campbell, Vincent Gardenia, Walt Disney, Will Smith

Director: Don Hahn

While most media outlets would rather talk about Taylor Swift’s love life and never-ending feuds, the fact remains that Swift is a dedicated artist. She’s a prolific songstress and an astute writer, and regardless of what you think of her, it’s always a treat to see someone with that much passion and talent delve deep into their craft. 

This is precisely what she does in Folklore. Between cozy conversations with co-producers and rustic live sessions, Swift lets her guard down to reveal how she works on each song, from the backstory to the melody. The result is a mesmerizing documentary about how Swift spent the secluded year of 2020 working on a record that would go on to win Album of the Year at the Grammys. 

Genre: Documentary, Drama, Music

Actor: Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Justin Vernon, Taylor Swift

Director: Taylor Swift

Rating: TV-14

Jennifer Lopez believes that her latest album and its movie accompaniment, This Is Me…Now, are her magnum opus, so she gives the joint project her all. She funds, writes, produces, directs, and choreographs everything with the help of her team, which amusingly includes her lover and muse Ben Affleck. Whether or not it actually is her greatest work of all time doesn’t matter; it doesn’t even matter that people get it. What matters is that she creates it with the undivided fervor of an artist possessed with the knowledge that this is their last chance to make a mark. And it’s that energy that makes this documentary, which is a behind-the-scenes look at This Is Me…Now, so captivating. Lopez is in her element directing the movie-musical of her life. At 54 years old, she’s completely candid (sometimes, amusingly, to Affleck’s dismay) and abandons all need to conform to industry norms. She follows her heart first and her mind second, which explains why her project is as big-hearted and relatable as it is bonkers and all over the place. It’s a bit like The Disaster Artist in that way: watching Lopez’s creative chaos is far more interesting than the creation itself.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ben Affleck, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, Jane Fonda, Jennifer Lopez

Director: Jason B. Bergh

Rating: R

After directing George Harrison: Living in the Material World and No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese brings to the fore yet another singular musician, this time New York Dolls frontman David Johansen (aka Buster Poindexter). More of a concert film than anything, this feature takes place during a live performance Johansen gives during his birthday; his raspy voice and poetic punk songs already tell a story in themselves, but Scorsese intercuts them with the occasional archival footage and interview, careful not to disrupt a glorious musical moment with cheesy throwback scenes. 

A Dolls or punk fan will be moved by the resulting film, a fittingly jagged but meaningful oeuvre of a tenacious artist. But if you're coming to this documentary without much prior knowledge about Johansen, his band, and the era from which he came, you might find it somewhat niche, but overall impressive, informative, and musically thrilling.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: David Johansen, Debbie Harry, Hal Willner, Morrissey, Sylvain Sylvain

Director: David Tedeschi, Martin Scorsese

What does a highly successful 20-year-old musician have to say about life and the industry? As we learn from Laroi, a lot apparently. Throughout this film, which documents his rapid rise from hopeful Aussie to international star, Laroi shares observations that are at turns earnest, endearing, and self-aware. Unfortunately, these likable traits aren’t enough to make Kids Are Growing Up staple viewing beyond Laroi’s fanbase. If you’re not part of the club, you might find it hard to grasp the necessity of this production at all. Though pleasantly intimate and amusingly animated, there is nothing innovative nor insightful about it. The Australian leg of his origin story seems to have been largely skipped, as are some parts of his musical process. And though it's the most interesting part about him, the documentary doesn't focus too much on him being a prodigy. Laroi is talented to be sure, but this documentary seems like a premature attempt at capturing him in his presumed prime. As a result, the filmmakers betray a lack of confidence in Laroi's future, even though it's clear it'll burn brighter than ever.

Genre: Documentary, Music

Actor: Justin Bieber, Katarina Demetriades, Lil Bibby, Post Malone, The Kid LAROI

Director: Michael D. Ratner

Rating: R

This is Me…Now is more than just a glorified music video. It’s a personal confessional for one, and a surprisingly effective comedy for another. In parts, Jennifer Lopez speaks to her therapist (Fat Joe) about the dreams she’s been having, which then give way to surreal sequences of Lopez singing songs off her latest album, all about love and personal growth. You’d have to be a fan of Lopez’s pop style to appreciate the music, but the choreography is mesmerizing and, dare I say, Lopez’s true strength. When she’s not regaling us with her thoughts on love, we have the Council of Zodiac Signs, played by a stacked cast that includes Jane Fonda, Sofia Vergara, and Trevor Noah, to humor us with their genuinely funny observations. Lopez obviously has a vision, and it’s admirably big and earnest, but the technical side of the film fails her. Except for the ornate storybook opener, most of the dream sequences are gray and sludgy, and they rarely reflect Lopez’s rose-tinted view of life. I wish the film had more light, but instead, we get melty, inferior CGI work that is just painful to look at. Some people might be able to forgive this, but because film is largely a visual medium, I find that it ultimately detracts from the experience.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alexander Pelaez, Alix Angelis, Ashley Versher, Ben Affleck, Brandon Delsid, Carlito Olivero, Danielle Larracuente, Derek Hough, Fat Joe, Jane Fonda, Jay Shetty, Jenifer Lewis, Jennifer Lopez, Jocelyn Marie, Keke Palmer, Kim Petras, Matthew Law, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Paul Raci, Post Malone, Sadhguru, Sofia Vergara, Trevor Jackson, Trevor Noah

Director: Dave Meyers

Rating: PG-13

Operating in a similar style and speed as the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems, Freestyle gives us a peek into the seedy underbelly of Poland through the eyes of Diego, a smalltime muscian who slides back into his drug dealing ways when he finds himself short on money. On the sensory front, Freestyle is a thrilling experience. Diego charges the film with palpable anxiety, Kraków’s underground community lights it up in dizzying neon, and the local hip-hop scene backs it with exciting new sounds. It’s a technical feat, but stripped of these elements, Freestyle is nothing more than a predictable crime thriller populated with predictable characters, many of whom, by the way, are thrown in at random points in the movie so that it often gets confusing and infuriating to watch. Despite potentially having something to say about the apathy of youth or the glaring discrepancy between social classes, Freestyle seems solely interested in being a slick crime thriller that has its characters run around in circles to save themselves. It looks good and sounds even better, but without anything substantial holding it up, Freestyle fails to relay an authentic sense of relevance and urgency. 

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Artur Krajewski, Filip Lipiecki, Hana Nobis, Juliusz Chrząstowski, Krzysztof Zarzecki, Maciej Musiałowski, Michał Balicki, Michał Sikorski, Nel Kaczmarek, Olek Krupa, Patrik Vrbovský, Roman Gancarczyk, Zofia Kowalewska

Director: Maciej Bochniak