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A young Michael Jackson
A young Michael Jacksonvia

The music documentaries you need to watch in 2016

From Michael Jackson’s ever-lasting influence to Missy Elliott’s hip hop legacy, these are the docs you shouldn’t miss this year

Last year was the year for insightful, agenda-setting and occasionally shocking music documentaries, from Asif Kapadia’s heart-breaking and controversial Amy to Brett Morgen’s ambitious Montage of Heck and Liz Garbus’ startlingly intimate portrayal of Nina Simone in What Happened, Miss Simone? But that was then and this is now, and there’s an infinite amount to learn about music’s endless universe.

So what exactly makes a good music documentary? Trying to stay close to the ‘truth’? Incredible footage? Entertainment? The best, of course, are a winning combination of all three. To that end, here are five unmissable upcoming music docs to press play on this year.


There’s probably not a single musician who has graced this earth who is more interesting, and therefore more worthy of a documentary, than Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop’ with a thousand faces (both figuratively and literally speaking). While super-fan director Spike Lee has already made a doc about Jackson (2012’s Bad 25) he has decided to explore the artist further in Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall. This second film will follow the star from Jackson 5 member to 70s disco king, tracing the first half of his prolific career with personal archive footage, interviews with both family members and notable performers. The documentary will receive its world premiere on January 24 at the Sundance Film Festival, so it’ll be on our screens in no time.


Amazingly, iconic hip hop queen Missy Elliott has never received her own authorized documentary film – until now, that is. Fresh off the back of her much-welcome comeback and clearly still in the garb from her “WTF (Where They From)” video, the rapper revealed in a video (below) that the doc would be released later this year. “Right now I’m on the set of my documentary,” she explained, addressing the camera. “You’re going to get all the insight (into) what it takes to be an artist and just my journey, as well as my videos, my music and ups and downs.” In the meantime, read our definitive guide to all her best looks in the “WTF” video here and a rundown of all her greatest guest features here


As the first all-girl punk band, the story of the Slits is an important one. Before iconic frontwoman Ari Up passed away in 2010, she and Jennifer Shagawat, the band’s tour manager and friend, began to work on a film that would document the band. When Up died, Shagawat decided that she couldn’t finish the film herself. According to the Kickstarter campaign, she contacted her longtime friend and producer William E Badgley and the two of them started working on “making Ari’s visions a reality”. Despite not reaching the fully required funds, the filmmakers are still pushing ahead with the much-anticipated doc, which will be made up of never-seen-before archival footage and interviews with their punk contemporaries. We can’t wait!


Here at Dazed, we’re obsessed with film soundtracks, from indie classics like Air’s Virgin Suicides score to the sound of cult horror via Eraserhead and Candyman. In Score: A Film Music Documentary, the sheer power and necessity of music is discussed in reference to a slew of blockbuster masterpieces from E.T. to the Star Wars franchise. “Score is a first-of-its-kind documentary that dives into the creative process of film scores,” the filmmakers explain. “Plunging into the tricks composers use to make a powerful moment stick in our hearts, SCORE will detail how well-timed melodies and unconventional sounds can turn heroes into villains and tension into triumph.”


You might not have heard of X Japan, but their neon-coloured glam rock aesthetic, pioneering of the visual kei movement (flamboyant Japanese shock rock) and never-ending discography have inspired a cult, almost manically devoted fan base since their inception in 1982. As ever, it’s not really the band that is the most interesting aspect, but the bizarre, brilliant and sometimes outlandish world created around them. “As glam rock’s most flamboyant survivors, X Japan ignited a musical revolution in Japan during the late 80s with their melodic metal,” director Stephen Kijak explained. “Twenty years after their tragic dissolution, X Japan’s leader, Yoshiki, battles with physical and spiritual demons alongside the prejudices of the West to bring their music to world.” The film will premiere early this year at Sundance Film Festival.