In Celebration of the Best Metal Documentaries

Categories: Metal Mondays

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Christopher Victorio
Metallica performing at Outside Lands 2012
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Heavy metal fans are a tenacious bunch. Plenty of music fans will settle for a download or live television performance from their favorite acts, but metalheads are dedicated, compiling endless reels of footage into scrappy bootleg DVD collections, cataloging YouTube clips, generally devouring anything and everything they can get their hands on with obsessive passion.

The metal documentary is an art form in and of itself. Different from a performance document, the best docs dig into the heart of their subject matter, and in the case of metal, it's a strange, powerful place. Don't know where to start? Allow me to help.

An early classic of the genre revels in the gonzo, bone-headed idea of metal: Though This Is Spinal Tap was a (loosely scripted) mockumentary, its status as a legit document of the dazed and confused metal lifestyle is secure: Eddie Van Halen claimed "Everything that happened in that movie happened to me." Though it's clearly a joke -- a thoroughly and mercilessly funny one -- the film "taps" into what makes metal fun, while cleverly skewering the idea of anyone taking it too seriously.

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Spinal Tap "Break Like the Wind"
Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) is a classic, a testament to the youthful spirit of metal, with such scenes as a spandex-wearing adolescent shouting that Madonna's "a dick" and punk rock "should be on Mars."

Penelope Spheeris' Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years (1988) looked at the Sunset Strip scene that gave rise to such glam metal bands as Poison and Guns N' Roses. Favorite part? A surprisingly coherent Ozzy Osbourne cooking breakfast in a bathrobe, and Paul Stanley of Kiss doing his interview from a satin-covered bed, covered in a tangle of lingerie-clad groupies.

The 2000s saw the art form expand and grow: Metal: A Headbanger's Journey (2005) was created by 31-year-old headbanger-turned-anthropologist Sam Dunn as he explored heavy metal's cultural impact and its fans' devotion. I love how it breaks through heavy metal stereotypes. Heavy Metal in Baghdad (2007) flips the concept of the Decline of Western Civilization 2: The Metal Years, showing a different side of heavy metal -- the other side of the world. In Iran, wearing one of your favorite heavy metal band's shirts could get you thrown into jail.

Also, I can't forget DimeVision, which presents Pantera's Dimebag Darrell as a sort of heavy metal Walt Disney who showcases home videos, pranks and mind-blowing riffs with constant access to an open bar. Or Pantera: 3 Vulgar Videos From Hell, a hell-raising collection of Pantera's home videos, live concerts, and everything in between.


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