Go to the NEW FORUM
I'm very interested in definitive documentaries about artists (and popular music in general) but there seems to be a lack of these actually available. Here are a few of note on some of the most acclaimed artists:
The Beatles Anthology (10 hours and still seems too short!)
The Rolling Stones '12x25' (only released on VHS)
Dylan's 'No Direction Home' (just the first few years but covers the important period)
This Is Elvis
Seems quite a few on Hendrix. Not sure what the best one is. But there seems to be no official ones on Bowie, Prince, Zeppelin, or The Who.
I've never worked out why artists like to release endless concert videos but never a proper documentary. I've got REM's hour-long 'South Bank Show' but I recorded it off the television!
Also of note on popular music in general is 'All You Need Is Love' (recently released on DVD) and the BBC's fantastic 'Dancing In The Street' series (only available on VHS).
Perhaps there are more or better ones than that I've not mentioned here. Anyone like to add anything to this?
Not sure if it's definitive (or even a documentary), but "The Last waltz" is a fun introduction to the music of The Band, and the interviews do make it a docu-something of sorts.
I really liked Let's Rock Again about Joe Strummer touring with the Mescalaros (SP?). I'm not even a big Clash fan and that was one of the best rock films I've ever seen. A rock legend forced to go out on the streets to plug his show and show up unannounced to radio stations. All this while Tom Petty... don't get me wrong, I like Tom Petty a lot... gets 65 dollars a pop on tickets and sells out arenas. It's a shame. Anyway, it's a short movie and it's not totally depressing because Strummer stays pretty positive about it and it gave me new appreciation of The Clash and Joe Strummer. Two thumbs up.
Also, no rocumentary list can be complete without the amazing Gimme Shelter. Again, not a huge fan of the Stones but that movie is absolutely amazing. Charlie Watts is awesome.
There really should be more documentaries that document a band's entire career. The Beatles Anthology is the only one I've ever seen, but I bet it would take lots of time and a whole lot money to produce something like that so it just doesn't happen.