best nightlife culture documentaries
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We all want to experience Tomorrowland’s electronic beats and discover what makes Hardwell such a lusted-after DJ. Boundary-pushing and extremely esoteric, those nightlife documentaries bring culture’s most iconic moments onto your screen. 

These documentaries will take you on a groovy journey through some of the most iconic dance cultures in the world, unmask the lives of legendary DJs, and bring the most iconic clubbing destinations throughout modern history. 

1. Better Days: The Story of UK Rave (2021)

More than thirty years since rave culture took the UK by storm and revolutionized the dance industry, Better Days takes a trip down memory lane. 

From the very first wave of illegal warehouse parties to modern-day pandemic raves and everything in between, Better Days explores the hedonistic underground scene brought by the UK’s Second Summer of Love

2. I Am Hardwell: Living The Dream (2015)

This documentary comes as a second edition to 2013’s I AM Hardwell, and gives insight into the renowned DJ’s iconic eponymous concert tour. In 2013, Hardwell was awarded the title of the number one DJ in the world. At the same time, the Dutch DJ was the youngest person to ever receive that title.

In the aftermath of this unprecedented hysteria, the documentary explores what comes after being catapulted into the stardom realm. Yes, behind-the-scenes narratives revolving around his 34 cities tour is included in the package.

3. Paris is Burning (1991)

Also known as one of the most iconic movies for New York’s drag world, this chronicle navigates the 80s’ transgender culture.

Paris in Burning sparked a lot of controversy with its off-the-wall depiction of the African American and Latinx Harlem communities that delved into the culture, lifestyles, struggles, and influences of the iconic movement.

4. The Story of Tresor (2012)

It is anything but a secret that Berlin’s iconic Tresor was a trailblazer for the German capital’s sound.

This documentary follows the club’s rich history, from its bashful beginning in the roaring 90s to the closure of its original location in 2005. 

5. Rave and Resistance: The Birth of Club Culture in 90s Johannesburg (2019)

A 42-minute journey in the early 1990s, this nightlife documentary explores the origins of electronic music in South Africa.

Rave and Resistance teleports you to a time where African youngsters were struggling to find a way of expressing themselves while white people were hunting for the ‘it’ way to connect with the world. 

Although those two worlds were quite antithetical, they meshed seamlessly and produced a sound that would become the country’s anthem later on.

5. Laurent Garnier: Off the Record (2021)

Also known as one of house music’s godfathers, Laurent Garnier was a trailblazer for everything EDM-related. This documentary follows Garnier’s relentless rise, from his Manchester days in the 80s to taking over the decks in some of the most iconic clubbing meccas.

At the same time, the nightlife documentary explores the origins of bullet-hard techno beats by interviewing major league names from the industry, such as Richie Hawtin and Carl Cox.

7. Studio 54: The Documentary (2018)

Back in New York’s disco era, Studio 54 was the epitome of hedonistic clubbing. As the brainchild of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the clubbing temple enjoyed a success that would attract green-eyed glances from other club owners.

Frequented by A-list celebrities such as Cher and The Rolling Stones, the renowned NYC nightclub was exclusive in every sense of the word – from the seemingly uncrackable door policy code to its unapologetic pleasure-seeking.

Studio 54: The Documentary offers a look behind the creation of the world’s greatest nightclub. 

8. Where Love Lives (2018)

Where Love Lives was filmed for six months in some of the world’s biggest party cities: New York, Ibiza, Paris and London. It showcases music’s liberating ability to create inclusive communities on the dance floors. 

This nightlife documentary explores the history of queer-friendly party series Glitterbox by showcasing some of the most iconic LGBT+ performances.

9. This Was Tomorrow (2015)

When the iconic Tomorrowland festival marked its 10th anniversary, this documentary got released to give people a little walkthrough of the world’s greatest electronic festival. 

The documentary takes viewers on an EDM journey by displaying the original edition in Belgium, the (at that time) freshest Tomorrowland edition in Brazil, and the USA monolith TomorrowWorld. Interviews with A-list icons from the DJing realm like David Guetta and Like Mike are also included.

10. Amplify Her (2019)

This unique film is part documentary, part comic, and follows the lives of female electronic dance music artists as they experience the highs and lows of what it’s like to be a woman in the industry.

10. The Boy from Medellin (2021)

The title rings a bell because you probably know this guy – it’s all about the Colombian reggaeton superstar J Balvin. The documentary follows the stardom’s preparation for his 2019 homecoming concert, which is considered to be one of the most illustrious ones of his career. 

The Boy from Medellin is a timely portrayal of modern fame, the power of social media and artists’ struggle to bridge their on-stage persona with their true selves.

12. 20 Years of Jungle Mania (2013)

This documentary takes viewers down a rabbit hole of everything jungle-rave-related, from its early beginnings in the 90s to the present-day comeback.

Featuring all kinds of famous artists, producers and icons of the scene, 20 Years of Jungle Mania is the ‘it’ introduction to the off-the-wall nightlife concept.

13. I Was There When House Took Over The World (2017) 

This is yet another nightlife documentary exploring the origins of house beats – from its Chicago beginning within the walls of underground gay clubs to the international takeover. 

With interviews from icons like Nile Rodgers, Marshall Jefferson, and Honey Dijon among others, I Was There When House Took Over The World recounts how the death of disco brought the iconic house movement.

14. The Sound of Belgium (2012) 

As Tomorrowland’s home, Belgium has always been all about electronic beats. This documentary delves into the splendid but untold history of the city’s electronic music scene, telling an alternative chronicle of the country’s EDM anthem.

15. Scratch (2001)

Showcasing the history of hip-hop DJing, this documentary delves into the world’s best scratchers and turntables. From the 70s’ South Bronx to modern-day San Francisco, the genre’s uber-rich history is explored through some of the industry’s greats.

16. Avicii: True Stories (2017)

Shot over the course of four years, this nightlife documentary puts the spotlight on the highs and lows of one of the most roaring voices from the DJing realm – Tim Bergling, AKA Avicii

While you might expect to witness the glitz, glam and fame that defined his career, Avicii: True Stories is all about the tumultuous stress and chronic anxiety that led to his tragic death.

17. Ibiza: One Season Too Many? (2019)

Iconic partying destination Ibiza is at the top of the clubbing bucket list for any true reveler. We are well-acquainted with its jaw-dropping roaster of electronic DJ and breath-taking partying sessions – but this bad boy is about sustainability. 

The island welcomes anyone and everyone to cherish one of the best sunsets in the world, infused with EDM beats. But this soaring popularity puts more pressure on the island’s fragile sustainability.

18. Sound of Berlin (2018)

A groovy journey to bullet-hard techno’s home, Sound of Berlin explores the capital’s irresistible magnetism – from Germany’s reunification in the roaring 90s to its contemporary musical anthem. 

The nightlife documentary also features one-of-a-kind interviews with techno music heroes and clubbing leaders, such as Tresor’s founder, Berlin-based duo Pan-Pot and American record producer Juan Atkins.

19. What We Started (2017)

The What We Started documentary offers the type of history lesson no lecturer can teach. Roaring names such as Martin Garrix and Carl Cox teamed up to tell electronic music’s story from its humble post-disco beginnings to monopolizing the charts.

This one is a journey worth taking since it bounces between eras and its distinctive beats, delivering a comprehensive image of the EDM movement.

20. Berlin Calling (2008)

Starring one of the most notable names from Germany’s electronic scene as the main character – yes, you got that right, it’s Paul KalkbrennerBerlin Calling explores the many highs and lows (but mainly lows) of touring as a DJ.

DJ Ickarus is killing the game with its masterful mixing and spinning skills, touring around the globe and composing music. Before releasing its much-anticipated album, Ickarus is admitted to a psychiatric clinic after overdosing during a performance. 

These nightlife documentaries memorialise and pay tribute to everything famous DJs to iconic dance music movements that changed nightlife culture.