A little something for the film buffs who crave alternatives to this year's Oscars selections.
We’ve all dived deep into a world of binge-watching, where hours and hours go by without a care in the world.
Want a better way to be a couch potato? Expand your knowledge of the “oohs and aahs” of club music and culture through a selection of films, documentaries, history lessons and more. Here we present you with over 3,200 minutes of binge-worthy content to keep you occupied.
With selections from the '80s and '90s heydays to picks from today’s more recent generations, these options will leave you with an all-rounded view into dance music’s influences, problems, instruments, personal stories, guides, genres, festivals...or just simply let you enjoy several minutes of good music and visuals.
Scroll down to find both well and lesser-known titles such as Berlin Calling, Trainspotting, Better Days: The Story of UK Rave, Paris / Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno, Hanoi Awakening: The Rise of Underground Music in Vietnam, Yellow Magic Orchestra Propaganda and more to enjoy on your own or with the mates.
Butter up that bucket of popcorn, stretch out those restless limbs and pick your flick from the visual feast we’ve lined up for you.
Duration: 1h 47m
Come every August 8, expect the music industry to announce their love for the beloved Roland TR-808 drum machine. If you’re unsure why, this documentary would provide you with a vivid history of one of the most influential pieces of equipment used not only in dance music, but in other genres as well. Released in 2015, the documentary dates back to when this little piece of technology was created back in the 80s to its strange demise when Ikutaro Kakehashi discontinued the TR-808 as it was still booming.
Steve Aoki: I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
Duration: 1h 19m
Get deep into the life of that one DJ that loves to waste cakes as Steve Aoki gives Netflix an insight into his upbringing, goals, family and career. Aoki breaks down his life into small milestones of who he is today and how he grew up behind the shadows of his father’s acceptance and traditional Asian high expectations. We generally see artists high up on a pedestal, rather than seeing them as regular human beings and this documentary does just that — it turns this crowd-surfing, energetic DJ into a relatable person.
Midnight Asia: Eat – Dance – Dream
Duration: 3h 38m (total series time)
Hitting major cities in Asia such as Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Taipei, Bangkok and Manila, the series dives into a nightcrawler’s world with clubs, bars, drinks, entertainment, food, cultures and the in-betweens. The documentary also showcases a flurry of unique characters that will bring the viewer into part of their routine with captivating stories that will trigger the travel bug in you.
Duration: 1h 24m
Raving Iran speaks of a reality for musicians that is quite unlike what the rest of the world is used to. Following the lives of two techno DJs, Anoosh and Arash aka Blade&Beard bring us through their world of restricted music due to the oppressiveness of Iran and avoiding police raids through underground events in the desert. The duo finally scores a spot at a big techno festival in Switzerland which soon brings up the question of leaving their country behind for asylum.
Burning Man: Art on Fire
Duration: 1h 30m
No stranger to the spectacular presentation on the Playa, everyone and anyone into dance music would have either gone to Burning Man or wants to head there to witness it in all its costumed glory. This documentary dives into the organizer's POV with behind-the-scenes moments of love, sweat and tears poured into the desert just 18 days before gates are opened. Also included in the documentary is a look at artists that have contributed their installations for Burning Man and how this cultural movement has grown since 1990.
Duration: 1h 40m
Berlin Calling follows a working DJ that tirelessly churns out shows at techno clubs while working on his upcoming album which in turn falls due to drug use. Ickarus (played by an actual DJ, Paul Kalkbrenner) goes through turmoil as his life crumbles when he gets checked into a psychiatric hospital and his label puts his album on an indefinite pause. While trying to get back into his career, his past habits are put to the test and Ickarus finds his way back to finish the album.
Break the Wall
Duration: 1h 07m
Break the Wall provides you with a view into China’s dance music scene from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Chengdu. The hour-long documentary created by Toast City Productions takes you back to its origins where it began — when it was unheard of — to its current booming popularity in cities big and small. Expect a huge array of mentions from some of the country’s local leading names along with foreign DJs that have been playing around China as they circle around the country diving into China’s club scenes. The film was recently screened at Vault Bali for their new community event series.
Desi on the Dancefloor: Women at the forefront of India's underground music communities
Produced by women in the underground dance scene from India, Desi on the Dancefloor follows inspiring tales from a few key figures and a British-Indian artist on tour in India. Filmmaker Mia Zur-Szpiro taps into the underground music culture outside India’s norms to create this short documentary that spans a little over 20 minutes. The piece touches on racial issues, mental health, spirituality and India’s very male-dominated music industry.
Daft Punk Unchained
Duration: 1h 25m
Everyone knows who Daft Punk is, but what do you really know about them? This Daft Punk Unchained documentary takes us on an in-depth musical journey of the duo from their beginnings in the 90s til 2014. Since both Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have stayed out of the public limelight without their faces being shown (most times) and the rare occasional interview, this documentary mainly features other artists who have worked with the duo with some rare ‘unseen’ clips of Daft Punk.
Yellow Magic Orchestra Propaganda
Duration: 1h 22m
Amongst the many achievements and projects that the Japanese trio Yellow Magic Orchestra has gifted us over the years, this musical film is more of a visual piece of work that’s directed by Shin Saito with cut-out recordings from their 1983 concert in Budokan, Tokyo. The film also uses cut scenes of a young boy’s adventure as he ventures into a strange twilight zone in search of the Yellow Magic Orchestra trio. Definitely a trippy one to watch.
What We Started
Duration: 1h 34m
Tales from the old and the new come together in this dance music documentary as it centres around two DJs from opposing genres from two generations — Carl Cox and Martin Garrix. The documentary also includes many heavyweights from both spectrums of dance music such as David Guetta, Afrojack, Seth Troxler, Richie Hawtin and many more. This piece is definitely more reflective of the direction in which electronic dance music has been headed in recent years.
It’s All Gone Pete Tong
Duration: 1h 30m
A classic dance music film that takes you on a journey to the rise and fall of a DJ that spirals to his demise of becoming deaf. Frankie Wilde finds himself heading towards an upward trajectory in his career with many years of playing in Ibiza while being heavily induced in drug use, which in turn damages his ability to produce his upcoming album. He overcomes his roadblocks with help and makes his way up the channel again…but was it enough?
Duration: 2h 11m
Eden is a French film based in the early 90s about a young man named Paul who loves to frequent parties and raves while building his DJ-ing career with his friend, Stan. As a light touch to the film, it also shows that Paul was friends with Thomas and Guy-Man who form a duo, Daft Punk, at the same time. Scenes with underground raves, cryptic messages, abandoned buildings, drugs and more leave viewers at home with a sense of how dance music was building back during those days.
Doku: Minimal China - Techno im Reich der Mitte
Techno is no stranger in China and this documentary Minimal China digs into the history of the underground genre that has been brewing in Beijing and Chengdu. It touches base on the influences that blossomed the underground culture of dance music along with the traditional Chinese culture. The documentary also reports on raves happening at the Great Wall of China from the 90s til the recent ‘YinYang Festival’ that’s been ongoing until the pandemic hit in 2020.
If I Think Of Germany At Night
Duration: 1h 45m
Following five different techno DJs in Germany (Ricardo Villalobos, Roman Flugel, Sonja Moonear, Ata and David Moufang aka Move D), dive into the stories of how the club scene used to be when they started and its changes over the years. The documentary is primarily German with subtitles and showcases both behind-the-scenes and on-stage action on how each artist hones their craft.
Diving into the Seoul's electronic scene: Les Siestes in Seoul
Les Siestes Electroniques is an event promotion company and festival from France that has created a short documentary into the capital of South Korea’s underground dance scene. The documentary features a few key people and venues that have been part of the growing scene that is slowly gaining traction in international eyes.
Junglist Is A Way Of Life
Released in 2021, Indonesian collective Javabass Soundsystem celebrates 20+ years of drum’n’bass in the country with a short documentary titled ‘Junglist Is A Way Of Life’. Discover the uphill battles of the collective as they pave their way to promote d’n’b within the local scene since 1999. Today, they share their successes with countless events under their belt, an underground rave and their own recording label.
Duration: 1h 27m
Focusing on women in the dance scene, this documentary takes a look at a few leading female producers and how they’ve succeeded in a male-dominated industry. These first-hand stories from TOKiMONSTA, Rezz, Alison Wonderland, Anna Lunoe, Nervo and more explore elements of inequality within gender, race and sexuality. Dance music’s core fundamentals were based on inclusivity, so why is today's dance music industry so male-driven? Learn more about the issue by watching Underplayed.
‘Stream It If You’ve Got it (我要当主播)’
Community radios have been all the rage over the past few years and Subtropical Asia explores one in particular from Asia. The short film talks specifically about Shanghai Community Radio aka SHCR and how the founders have provided a space for subcultures in the city to blossom while battling China’s censorship issues.
A Life In Waves
Duration: 1h 14m
If you’ve heard of the coke bottle pop sound effect noise, Atari’s main intro or even the sounds that a pinball machine creates, these are all the works of an unsung pioneer in electronic music; Suzanne Ciani. This documentary centres on the life of one of the first female synth wizards — from her classical piano upbringing, popular million-dollar advertising ventures, showcasing her involvement with the Buchla synth to having five Grammy nominations.
The Summer of Rave
A fun historical documentary of the summer in 1989, where genres were explored through the explosion of rave culture in the UK. BBC delves into the acid house scenes and the historical events that led to this boom of clubs, fashion, dance music, drugs and love. Clips of rave footage and interviews from DJs, promoters and partygoers back in the day bring you towards a colourful chronicled past that paved the way to what we know and love today at music festivals.
20 YEARS OF JUNGLE MANIA
Duration: 1h 25m
20 years deep into the scene of jungle, DJ TeeBone takes you on a journey of the drum’n’bass/jungle world that thrived in the UK. This documentary showcases some of the key pioneers that have brought the underground sound to many heights, along with the raves that brought junglists together over the years.
Duration: 1h 38m
The rise and fall of Studio 54 — a cultural phenomenon that swept night owls off their feet in the 70s. This story focuses on the revolutionary space that called for inclusion for all (for those who could get in, that is). Not only a nightclub, Studio 54 is a historical moment that speaks volumes towards the rise of partying, social freedom, disco and drugs that dominated the era.
Duration: 1h 27m
Getting past these particular bouncers may have been a hurdle for some, but if you do — it’s most likely that you’ve got just the right qualities. This documentary goes into what people don’t necessarily pay attention to when heading out but an important role within the Berlin underground clubs. It follows the stories of three bouncers — Sven Marquardt, Frank Künster and Smiley Baldwin, that have been working the doors since the 80s and are still calling the shots on who makes it into the clubs.
Duration: 1h 34m
Noted as one of the best films gifted to us in the 90s, Trainspotting follows a group of young men from Edinburgh that are addicts while they shuffle through life’s struggles. As the main character Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) finds himself trying to get his act together, he finds that his surroundings and environment create many roadblocks that showcase the darker shades of addiction.
E is for Ecstasy
Documented by BBC, this documentary dives into the effects of ecstasy and the different users back in 1990. The piece features personal accounts from ecstasy users, health professionals and ravers by exploring questions such as what it does to you, why these individuals have been using these recreational drugs, how it's connected to the rave scene and the long-term effects on the body.
B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989
Duration: 1h 32m
This documentary follows the story of Mark Reeder from Manchester who resides in Berlin. This was during a time when Europe’s young adults are enticed by its underground scene, edgy culture and cheap standards of living in the 80s when Berlin was at its Cold War split. The archived footage showcased how the city’s late-night party culture evolved the notion of living in the moment and the freedom from the rigidness of society.
Duration: 1h 39m
Human Traffic is a collection of memories from a wild weekend fuelled with parties, dancing, music, substance and social bonds. Mundane weekly jobs bring out a ‘go hard or go home’ mentality during the weekend as an escape mechanism which is quite relatable for many of us. This coming-of-age movie could bring back memories for some.
Duration: 2h 23m
This French film is based on the AIDS epidemic in the late 80s as Paris in particular surrounds itself with queer activism through one of its chapters — ACT UP. While it's based around important issues, glimpses of club culture showed how communities felt safe throughout those tumultuous times of fragility within those who were affected.
Better Days: The Story of UK Rave
Exploring the good ol’ rave days in the UK, Amazon Music presents Better Days as they go back 30 years into rave culture with nostalgic rave clips, interviews and a look into the progression of audio equipment. This 30-minute documentary also goes into a timeline that reaches out to today’s struggles within the dance music scene, right up to the pandemic. From illegal raves of the past to the ones of today, looks like not much has changed.
Duration: 1h 41m
Set in the 90s in Scotland, two best friends, Johnno and Spanner, find a way to continue raving to the grave after a new law banned outdoor raves in the UK. This monochromatic film builds around the love of techno and a final coming-of-age hoorah to finally step foot into their very first rave. Look out for their soundtrack which is a treat filled with club classics featuring beats from The Prodigy, Plastikman to Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Where Love Lives
Exploring and embracing nightlife and dance music, Glitterbox presents a documentary that gives us a glimpse into the family that has welcomed many on the dancefloors. From their New York, Ibiza, Paris and London locations, this piece was documented over a six-month period which also includes moments from industry titans such as Billy Porter, Honey Dijon, Kathy Sledge, Kiddy Smile, Lucy Fizz, John ‘Jellybean’ Benitez and many more.
I Was There When House Took Over the World
This documentary from UK’s Channel 4 network shows the birth of house music and how it took over the world in an instant. It features many big names such as Honey Dijon, Nile Rodgers, Marshall Jefferson and many more as they talk about how the social and cultural situation of the 70s paved the way for one of the most iconic genres in dance music to shine — house music.
Watch Part 1 above and Part 2 here.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Duration: 1h 37m
A sad reality, but Fyre was the biggest scam in dance music and this tell-all explains everything you need to know about what happened with Billy McFarland’s grand scheme. Billed as a luxury, top-tier festival experience in the Bahamas, Fyre festival was 95% sold out due to its heavy-weight selection of influencers promoting the event via social media. However, when festival-goers landed at the private island, there was absolutely nothing there that resembled a festival…or a way out of the island.
Duration: 1h 43m
An oldie but a goodie, this movie is about a drug deal that goes awry as two individuals working for a narcotics agent try to purchase ecstasy but end up on a wild goose chase. The story is then further explained through clips of friends living carefree lives, getting high and going on adventures that happen around Christmas til New Year's.
Paris / Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno
The evolution of techno for 20 years is explored in this documentary from the eyes of two cities: Paris and Berlin. The features many shared stories from producers, labels, promoters, DJs to record shops as it dives into dance music history, highlighting secret parties to the rise in mega clubs.
Glastopia: Glastonbury After Hours
Duration: 1h 15m
An alternate view of the famous Glastonbury Festival comes with a piece from BBC as Julien Temple explores the after-hours grounds outside from the popular acts and main stages. The footage was almost entirely taken from the 2011 festival and includes areas such as Arcadia, Block 9, Shangri-La, Strummerville, the Unfair Ground and the Common areas. Temple showcases a POV that is usually unseen and unheard with this section dedicated to those “who don’t normally have a voice in the media; a radical and alternative voice”. See the full documentary above.
Duration: 1h 11m
Coming in from Hong Kong, this documentary focuses on over 14 DJs who dive into what it’s like being a DJ in the city. Some may think it easy, but these stories will explain the various struggles and hard work it takes to make it in the nightlife arena for locals in this small metropolitan city.
Duration: 1h 26m
This film was created in 2002 with an ode to the cinematography of classic Japanese films — this includes anime references, an eccentric storyline, unconventional comedy and martial arts (obviously). However, one of the biggest pulls of this film is the soundtrack of amazing house music that follows the story of a record shop clerk as he comes of age. With tracks by Kerri Chandler and Crystal Waters and scenes of the works of a bedroom DJ, this would be a fun one to catch in the midst of your binge session.
Watch here (sans subtitles).
Duration: 1h 59m
A story that looks back into the past of how a club hostess in Taipei lost herself as she was going through the pains of adulthood and she finds herself intertwined between two lovers. Millennium Mambo takes you along Vicky’s journey that beats to the drum of a techno-fuelled soundtrack while travelling through a blurry haze in the luminous nightlife scene of the city.
Everybody In The Place: An Incomplete History of Britain 1984-1992
Duration: 1h 11m
Showcasing Britain’s societal and political upheaval in the 80s and 90s, this documentary created by Jeremy Deller dives into a world of acid house and the illegal raves that emerged during this time. As house music was born in the queer clubs of Chicago, another realm was emerging from the second summer of love from those recovering from a new liberal movement and freedom that was limited by society.
Industrial Soundtrack For The Urban Decay
This documentary directed by Amélie Ravalec (who also created 2012’s Paris / Berlin: 20 Years of Underground Techno) realized the trends towards the darker sounds of techno came from an influence of industrial music from the 70s. During the hard economic and social environments of that era, an uprise of creative musicians paved the way for a new sound throughout Europe and America. With features of the key originators and personal stories, Industrial Soundtrack contains a colourful musical history lesson — for all genres.
Hanoi Awakening: The Rise of Underground Music in Vietnam
Duration: 1h 14m
Recently released in conjunction with Mixmag Asia Vietnam, DJ and independent filmmaker Toby Dobson digs into Hanoi’s new but growing underground dance music scene. The documentary follows the journey of two homegrown talents, Di Linh and Trinh Nu as they reach between topics of the capital’s DJs, venues, collectives and community.
Duration: 1h 37m
One that’s quite different from the rest, this psychological thriller is the nightmare of trips — acid trips, to be precise. Inspired by real events, a French dance troupe comes together for a night of choreography and soon a celebration turns sour after a punch bowl of sangria is spiked with LSD. The director Gaspar Noé fills the movie with unique cinematography choices and plants the first half in a polar opposite direction to the second half — one that was worthy of an Art Cinema Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2018.