Readers' Poll: The Best Concert Movies of All Time - Rolling Stone
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Readers’ Poll: The Best Concert Movies of All Time

Your picks include ‘The Last Waltz,’ ‘Stop Making Sense’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’

rock films

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Concert movies are often taken for granted at the time of their release but become very valuable over time – especially when they give viewers a chance to witness long-dead icons in their prime or bands who have since parted ways. We asked you to name your favorite concert film of all time and compiled this list of your Top 10 selections. Click through to find out what you picked.

Green Day

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10. ‘Bullet in a Bible’

Bullet in a Bible, Green Day‘s 2005 document of their tour in support of American Idiot, features the youngest band on this list by a significant margin. The movie, which was filmed at two of the biggest headlining gigs of the band’s career at the Milton Keynes National Bowl in England, depicts the punk trio at the top of their game, burning through multipart epics like “Jesus of Suburbia” as well as dipping into their back catalog for gems like “Brain Stew.”

Sign O' the Times Prince

Moviestore collection Ltd/Alamy

9. ‘Sign O’ the Times’

Prince is notorious for keeping all of his videos and live footage off YouTube, so you’ll have to make do with this old clip of Siskel and Ebert reviewing his 1987 concert movie Sign O’ the Times. The picture mostly dropped the narrative devices of the singer’s previous films, instead highlighting footage of Prince playing material mainly pulled from the Sign O’ the Times album with a band that featured some members of the Revolution, who were only recently disbanded at the time.

8. 'Shine a Light'

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8. ‘Shine a Light’

Martin Scorsese’s 2008 film capturing the Rolling Stones‘ 2006 performance at the Beacon Theater in New York City is the essential document of the band in their late period. The group is remarkably vital and present despite their advancing age, turning out amazing versions of classic tunes with and without famous guests like Jack White, Buddy Guy and Christina Aguilera.

7. 'Live at Pompeii'

Bayerische Rundfunk/Ortf/Rex

7. ‘Live at Pompeii’

Pink Floyd‘s Live at Pompeii captures the group performing a set of songs in an ancient Roman amphitheater. The setting is striking and iconic, but the jaw-dropping performances of art-rock classics like “Echoes, Part 1” and “A Saucerful of Secrets” are what make this an essential document for prog fans.

Rolling Stones

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

6. ‘Gimme Shelter’

When Albert and David Maysles began filming the Rolling Stones‘ 1969 tour, they had no way of knowing that it would culminate in total disaster at the infamous Altamont Free Concert, which resulted in breakouts of violence and a handful of deaths. Gimme Shelter mixes documentary footage with live performances from the road, providing insight into both the scene at Altamont and a time when large-scale rock shows were still quite wild and unpredictable.

U2 1988

Moviestore Collection/Rex

5. ‘Rattle and Hum’

U2‘s tour film Rattle and Hum may have flopped when it was released in 1988, but it stands up well today as a document of the Irish quartet at the peak of their powers as a live act. The group would go on to create a remarkable pop spectacle a few years later with Zoo TV, but at this point in time, the focus was placed entirely on the physicality of their performance and Bono’s over-the-top charisma. Sure, some of the documentary footage is serious to the point of being laughable, but the live footage is often mind-blowing. This version of “Bullet the Blue Sky,” which is featured on the soundtrack album, is arguably their definitive take on the song.

4. 'Woodstock'

Warner Bros/Rex

4. ‘Woodstock’

Michael Wadleigh’s documentary about the Woodstock Festival in Bethel, New York in 1969 features a great deal of footage that would later become iconic, not just of that moment, but of the Baby Boomer generation in general. The film includes performances by a variety of bands including Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, the Who and Jefferson Airplane, but the defining moment of the entire festival comes when Jimi Hendrix burns through an unforgettable rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on his guitar.


3. ‘Stop Making Sense’

Jonathan Demme’s Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense is in many ways a reaction against other depictions of live music in film, with many of the visual ideas going against the grain of what was popular at the time in the early Eighties. Demme and the Talking Heads refuse to show the audience until the end of the film, linger on static shots to keep attention on David Byrne’s physicality (and famous “big suit”), eliminate all colored lights and make no attempt to obscure the work of stagehands. On top of all that, the setlist is constructed so that the band is slowly assembled piece by piece over the course of the first six songs, starting with a solo performance of “Psycho Killer” by Byrne and building up to an ensemble performance of “Burning Down the House.”

2. 'The Song Remains the Same'

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2. ‘The Song Remains the Same’

The Song Remains the Same captures Led Zeppelin at the pinnacle of their success during the 1973 tour in support of Houses of the Holy. The film mixes mind-blowing live footage from their three-night stand at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan with sequences in which each member of the band acts out a fantasy – Jimmy Page climbs up a mountain to seek out the Hermit, Robert Plant appears as a knight and John Bonham just chills out at home with his wife and son.

1. 'The Last Waltz'

Michael Montfort/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

1. ‘The Last Waltz’

Martin Scorsese’s 1978 documentary The Last Waltz, which depicts the Band’s final performance at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, 1976, has become the gold standard for concert films. In addition to documentary footage detailing their history and influence, the gorgeously shot concert includes guest appearances from Neil Young, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison and many more.

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