7 of the best music films of all time

Category: News

As the UK’s summer festival season continues, you may find yourself daydreaming about taking a break from work and rocking out to some of your favourite bands under the late summer sun.

If you won’t have that opportunity this year, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the concert experience from the comfort of your own home.

Now, we’re not suggesting you prop up a tent in your living room and forgo bathing for a week.

Instead, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best band, gig, and music films of all time.

Read on to learn more about seven titles we think will help you capture that festival season atmosphere from the comfort of your sofa this summer.

1. Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Message to Love is a feature documentary film shot on the Isle of Wight during its 1970 music festival.

The film was directed by Murray Lerner and includes performances from iconic rock, folk, and jazz acts such as Jimi Hendrix (from whom the film derives its name), the Who, the Doors, Joni Mitchell, and Miles Davis.

The film struggled with budgetary issues and ended up in production limbo until 1997 when it was finally released almost 27 years after the concert took place.

The documentary covers the myriad of problems that the festival had to endure during its chaotic run including gatecrashing, fans breaching the stage during performances, and general fan unrest. At several points riots nearly occurred over the extortionate ticket prices for the event.

2. The Band’s The Last Waltz

The Last Waltz was advertised as the farewell concert for legendary Canadian American folk-rock group The Band and was held on Thanksgiving Day, 1976 in San Francisco.

The documentary of the same name was filmed by Martin Scorsese, chosen by the band’s management team as the perfect person to cover the project. The film would be released in cinemas in 1978.

Originally intended as a celebration of the various hits and influences of The Band, the concert evolved into a showpiece with dozens of special guests including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, and Ringo Starr.

The documentary is considered one of the greatest concert films ever made. It has been preserved in the Library of Congress in the United States National Film Registry for its cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance.

3. The Rolling Stones’ Shine a Light

Another Martin Scorsese project, The Rolling Stones’ Shine a Light covers the band’s 2006 ‘A Bigger Bang’ tour.

Released in 2008, the film includes archive footage covering the band’s vast musical career and the backstage antics from the 2006 tour.

The decision to produce a documentary prompted additional shows to be added to the tour, specifically for filming. These shows featured a specially tailored set list covering some of the band’s greatest hits and a star-studded crowd including the Clintons and other government dignitaries.

A slick, carefully crafted film, it received mostly positive reviews from critics upon release.

4. The Rolling Thunder Revue

The Rolling Thunder Revue was a 1975/76 concert tour run by legendary American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan alongside many musical collaborators. The tour intended to get back to small-scale roots and allow artists like Dylan, who had now become accustomed to larger arena-like venues, to play in smaller venues in less popular cities for more intimate gigs.

A 2019 American pseudo-documentary film was produced covering both fictional and non-fictional accounts of the concerts. The film was directed by, yet again, Martin Scorsese.

The vast majority of Rolling Thunder Revue is compiled from outtakes from Bob Dylan’s 1978 film Renaldo and Clara, which had been filmed around the time of the tour.

5. Pink Floyd – The Wall

Pink Floyd – The Wall is a 1982 British live-action and animated musical film directed by Alan Parker, based on Pink Floyd’s 1979 album of the same name. The film has a deeply psychological and dramatic vibe.

Written by Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, the film features Bob Geldof.

It delves heavily into metaphor, symbolic imagery, and the use of sound, with the vast majority of the production driven by the use of music over dialogue.

The film has established a cult following and received generally positive reviews upon release.

6. The Beatles’ Hard Day’s Night

Filmed at the height of Beatlemania, this 1964 musical comedy directed by Richard Lester stars the Beatles as they evade hordes of adoring fans and prepare for a big performance.

A Hard Day’s Night was a financial and critical success and was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay.

The film is considered one of the all-time greatest musical film productions and has gone on to influence various other projects across a range of genres.

7. Oasis: Supersonic

A 2016 music documentary directed by Mat Whitecross, Oasis: Supersonic details the history of the Britpop band Oasis during their formative years, right through to the peak of their success in the 1990s.

It features interviews with members of the band, friends, family, and colleagues, as well as archive footage of concerts and backstage content.

The film was praised for its insights into Liam and Noel’s relationship and the fractious rivalry that would eventually lead to the band’s downfall.