10 Essential Dance Music Documentaries
As dance music has exploded into mainstream culture, the ways we consume it have grown and changed as well. Yet, there is so much more to dance music than late-night raves with mesmerizing lights and lasers. There is culture, history, icons, and a depth of knowledge that can be obtained through a variety of sources.
In the last decade, documentaries on dance music have become ever prevalent. They cover a wide array of subjects from our favorite artists, to the history behind sub-genres, to issues within the dance music industry today. Below are ten must-watch documentaries about dance music.
Music’s Dirty Secrets: Women Fight Back
Investigative journalist, Tamanna Rahman of BBC, presents a history of our scene that strips out the glory and reveals the often overlooked but relevant stories on the darker side of the scene. She highlights brutal accounts of sexual abuse and assault within the music industry. The film is a must-watch. It’s a glimpse into how the music industry, specifically individuals in dance music, have covered up sexual crimes and often pushed victims out while propping up the abuser.
Although the last few years have seen an increase in diversity on dance lineups, the reality is that the proportion of white men to everyone else is still staggering. Outside of the handful of female headliners, it is rare to see women make up more than 20% of a festival or club billing. Pioneered by Rezz, Underplayed features frank conversations with Sherelle, Alison Wonderland, Nervo, and other women who share their personal experiences of being dismissed in studios, hated online, and threatened in real life. It is a crucial watch for anyone involved in the industry.
Where Love Lives
Produced by Defected’s Glitterbox, Where Love Lives is an homage to the club world before the COVID pandemic and, more importantly, an insight into the importance of club culture to queer communities. Glitterbox is known for its LGBTQ+ friendly events worldwide, so it is only fitting that the team behind Glitterbox tells this story. In addition, the film touches on the AIDS crisis, club culture overall, and the figureheads behind the creation of Glitterbox.
I Was There When House Took Over the World
I Was There When House Took Over The World is one of the most definitive documentaries on the origins and birth of house music. The film follows the roots of house, exploring the gay underground disco scene in major US cities like New York and Chicago. Mainstream backlash began to erase the disco scene during a period of significant social change and negative views towards the gay community. The film traces the lines to dance music’s return to the mainstream and widespread acceptance.
Don’t Forget to Go Home
Filmed in 2006, this documentary covers a subject of immense interest, way ahead of its time. Don’t Forget to Go Home is a deep dive into the underground techno world of Detroit. Filmed through the perspective of party-goers and rising DJs (specifically Ricardo Villalobos and Luciano), viewers are given a raw perspective into the immense highs and lows of being a part of this addictive scene.
High Tech Soul: The Creation of Techno Music
A genuine expose on the history and creation of techno music, this documentary features extended interviews from heavy hitters like Kevin Saunderson, Derrick May, Carl Craig, and Richie Hawtin. The OGs weave a tale of how techno was born out of the race riots in 1967. Then slowly evolved through the underground American party scene in the 1980s.
Daft Punk Unchained
The French duo, Daft Punk are one of if not the most important electronic act of all time. Their 2006 Coachella set inspired many of the world’s biggest DJs today. Their body of work is undeniable, game-changing, ahead of its time, and still relevant. They revolutionized dance music, bringing it into the modern era. Daft Punk Unchained tells their story. Daft Punk Unchained is available on Netflix.
What We Started
For anyone new to electronic music, looking to get a base understanding of the big players and names, as well as some feel-good moments, this is the documentary for you. Featuring interviews from dozens of topline DJs, promoters, and festival owners, What We Started follows Martin Garrix ahead of his first headliner performance at Ultra, and Carl Cox heading into his 10-hour, marathon closing set for Space Ibiza. The film tracks these stories side by side while also giving a history lesson into rave culture. What We Started is available on Netflix.
A tale of one of the greatest artists of our generation who died too soon, any fan of electronic music has heard the name Avicii. As the term, EDM was coined, and America was slowly falling in love with electronic music, Avicii released “Levels” in 2011. The track immediately catapulted him into the mainstream, and his continuous delivery of high-quality music kept him there. Quickly the most prominent DJ on the planet, Avicii, began to tour aggressively. Unfortunately, he struggled with mental health issues, had crippling anxiety on stage, and ultimately passed away due to an overdose. His story is crucial for any fan of music to hear. Seeing the tremendous impact one individual can have and understanding how quickly it can go away.
We Call It Techno
Similar to High Tech Soul, We Call It Techno is a deep dive into the history of techno. Although the film recognizes the birth of techno in Detroit, it primarily focuses on how the sound came to Germany (the modern epicenter for techno). Featuring footage from early parties in Frankfurt, Berlin, and The Love Parade, the documentary traces how the fall of communism led to a country that birthed some of the greatest artists and nightlife centers the world has ever seen.