SXSW 2014: The Best of the Fest's Music Movies - Rolling Stone
Home Music Music Lists

SXSW 2014: The Best of the Fest’s Music Movies

From André 3000 as Jimi Hendrix to docs on everyone from Lennon to A$AP Rocky, we highlight the cream of SXSW’s sounds + vision offerings

It was a music festival first, kicking off its inaugural edition in Austin, Texas, in 1987 and bringing bands from all over the States (and eventually, the world) to the boho capital of the Lone Star State. Once the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival added an interactive component and a film festival in 1994, however, it started to establish itself as free-for-all media hotspot, one that prided itself on bridging the gaps between movies, technology and the rock/punk/rap/anything-goes sounds of the bands they'd book.

SXSW 2014: 25 Must-See Acts

Not surprisingly, the connection between film and music at SXSW has always been especially strong: The film fest has an entire section devoted to the "sounds, culture and influence of music and musicians"—the "24 Beats Per Second" sidebar—and you can always find music-related and/or inflected movies in the Narrative and Documentary sections. Here's 12 films playing at this year's SXSW that turn the lens on some  real (and some semi-fictional) musicians, from guitar heroes and country-and-western legends to next-gen hip-hop superstars. By David Fear 

Courtesy Open RoadXLrator Media

‘Jimi: All Is By My Side’

Recent Oscar winner John Ridley (screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave) said that, from the moment he started working on the script of a Jimi Hendrix biopic, the only person he ever envisioned for the role was Outkast's André 3000. According to reports and reviews coming out of the Toronto Film Festival after the film's premiere there last fall, the actor does justice to the sixties icon's flamboyance and freakery, tracing Hendrix's arc from session musician in New York to the eve of his Monterery Pop performance. The Hendrix estate denied the filmmakers permission to use any of his music, which means we're looking at a movie about the consummate guitar hero without a songle of his licks actually in it. We're still curious to see if André, covering several non-Hendrix songs, will be bold as love. Check out a clip here.

Courtesy John Carter Cash

‘The Winding Stream’

You do not get more old-school—and we mean old-school—country music than the Carter family, a clan of Virginians who'd go on to be the genre's first bona fide stars and influence everyone from Bill Monroe to Bob Dylan. Documentarian (and one-time member of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers) Beth Harrington digs deep into both the family's legacy and the first-couple-of-country union of June Carter and Johnny Cash, and how the music of the Carter-Cash connection continues to influence contemporary musicians. Check out the trailer here.

Chuck Stewart

‘The Case of the Three-Sided Dream’

Hendrix idolized him; Thurston Moore wore a t-shirt with his picture on it; everyone from Eric Burdon to Jonny Greenwood have given him props as one of the most inspiring jazz musicians of all time. So it was high time someone gave Rahsaan Roland Kirk the docu-profile treatment, and filmmaker Adam Kahan digs through the blind multi-instrumentalist's early life, his musical career and his penchant for fuelling his far-out improvisations on wax with a sense of social justice.

Courtesy Magnolia Pictures


Loosely based on the real-life story of Chris Sievey—a musical genius who created an alter-ego named Frank Sidebottom and wore a huge paper-mâché head at all times—this comedy about a hapless keyboard player (Domhnall Gleeson) who gets caught into titular eccentric's orbit features the fictional Frank's band playing at SXSW. (Synergy!) It also proves that Michael Fassbender may be the one working actor who can still emote beneath a massive, parade-float-size noggin.

Marissa Murdoch

‘God Help the Girl’

Three misfit Scottish teens decide to start an indie-pop band; cue bubbly musical numbers that might have been lifted from a Fifties musical and a soundtrack bursting with Belle and Sebastian tunes that will leave you giddy. Writer, director and B&S frontman Stuart Murdoch claims he was inspired by the Sixties daydream-believer classic Billy Liar and John Hughes' teen comedies, but the real influence seems to be the same Glasgow that Murdoch has been detailing in the band's songs for almost two decades: a sometimes dour place that's still pockmarked with pinprick moments of astounding beauty.

Courtesy Johnny Winter

‘Johnny Winter: Down and Dirty’

Known as much for his long, shock-white hair as for his red-hot blues licks, Texas-born guitarist Johnny Winter used to play with Muddy Waters, performed at Woodstock and co-wrote the immortal "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo"; now in his seventies, he's still touring and living the traditional life of a bluesman. Filmmaker Greg Oliver tagged along for the result and, well…the movie has that subtitle for a reason.

Courtesy Swedish House Mafia

‘Leave The World Behind’

Yes, that title is apt, given that's what Nordic EDM powerhouses Swedish House Mafia did when they announced they'd be splitting up for good. Before they'd go their separate ways, however, they were going to embark on one last tour called — wait for it — "One Last Tour." Director Christian Larson was there, capturing every blinking light, offstage fight and the last of the group's body-rockin' pyro-heavy concerts. Play this film loud.

Courtesy Mateo


He was just a guy named Matthew Stoneman, who wanted nothing more than domination of the pop charts. Naturally, he learned Spanish and how to become the world-class mariachi singer "Mateo," then ended up going to Cuba in order to record an album. So how did a fortysomething Caucausian redhead frm New Hampshire end up becoming a minor Latino music sensation? And where can we get the soundtrack to this documentary?

Isaac Sterling

‘Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton’

From the Notes-From-the-Underground dept.: Way back in the day, a DJ named Peanut Butter Wolf decided  to start a label devoted to the below-the-radar hip-hop his friends and fellow artists were making. He called it Stone's Throw, and the imprint introduced the world to such lysergic lyrical crackpots as MF Doom and Madlib. See how a young man with a dream and a shitload of records managed to turn a sub-subset of the rap game into a modest musical empire.

Courtesy Jon Lefkovitz

‘Rubber Soul’

Everyone remembers the legendary December 1970 Rolling Stone interviews between Jann S. Wenner and John Lennon, as well as the interview that Lennon and Yoko Ono gave to Playboy while they were recording Double Fantasy. Jon Lefkovitz's doc juxtaposes the two interviews via archival footage and audio tape, creating a near-seamless portrait of an artist wrestling with his work, life and legacy.

Courtesy Spandau Ballet

‘Soul Boys of the Western World’

We know this much is true: Spandau Ballet is a band that people tend to write off as a one-hit wonder, just pretty London boys who provided the soundtrack to your prom. In fact, they were musicians who were capable of being funky when they wanted to be (listen to "Chant No. 1") and prior to becoming lounge-lizard crooners, they demonstrated some serious New Romantic chops. This archival doc brings you right back to that moment when guys with great bangs could impress Chris Blackwell, sing about cutting long stories short, play Live-Aid and have a top ten hit.

Jake Burghart


From mixtape hero to the future of hip-hop to gloebtrotting superstar: This no-holds-barred look at A$AP Rocky and his crew — A$AP Mob — goes behind-the-scenes as the Harlem rapper deals with the perks and pitfalls of success. 

Arrow Created with Sketch. Calendar Created with Sketch. Path Created with Sketch. Shape Created with Sketch. Plus Created with Sketch. minus Created with Sketch.