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20 Feet From Stardom Review

Other Critics provided by Metacritic.com

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 5.0
    83

    out of 100

    Metascore®
    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    Yes, for every star there are five more also-rans and maybe-next-times. But there is honor and glory in being part of the blend. And, at the film's midpoint, when Clayton talks about the late-night recording session in 1969 of "Gimme Shelter," the memory takes on the glow of myth.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    Village Voice Ernest Hardy

    It does what the most powerful films and music have always done, which is to spark contemplation of our own lives and choices, and our place in the world, while also stoking compassion and empathy for lives far removed from our own.

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  • 80

    out of 100

    Variety Peter Debruge

    For most of its running time, this personality-packed docu is nothing short of absorbing as it recaps the essential role African-American background singers played in shaping the sound of 20th-century pop music.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times

    From front to back stage, 20 Feet From Stardom is a compelling look at the spirit of these giving artists as they navigated the rapid musical and social change of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Audiences meet the most memorable voices in the world of backup singers. They perform with world-famous musical acts, but theirs are not household names. Their stories, however, are inspiring, heartbreaking and enthralling.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Kenneth Turan

    A moving and joyous behind-the-scenes documentary about a world filled with big, bold personalities and the music they make.

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  • 90

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter

    Neville unearths a treasure trove of archival TV, concert and film footage featuring many of these vocalists in their heyday, balancing the material with perfectly-lit contemporary studio interviews and performances shot in pristine digital cinematography, supplemented by more informal scenes depicting the frequent challenges of these musicians' careers.

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  • See all 20 Feet From Stardom reviews at Metacritic.com

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 11+

Smart, thoughtful docu shines light on background singers.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this fascinating documentary takes a look at some of the music industry's most important, and often ignored, performers. These background singers have been on stage with the greats of rock and roll, often providing haunting vocals to classic tracks. Yet until now, many have remained mostly anonymous. 20 Feet From Stardom is an attempt to remedy this travesty. Expect a few drug references, the word "ass," and a few clips featuring women in scanty costumes.

  • Families can talk about how it must feel to be in the background. What do you think about the relationship between the big-name stars and the background singers?
  • How do the lives and careers of background singers differ from the stars they support? Do they seem like the stereotypical rock stars?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Making it in the music industry takes perseverance, talent, and deep commitment. Anyone who has self-doubt may end up quitting before they hit success. But the ones who manage to stay true to their goals can end up fulfilling their dreams.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: The singers in this documentary are amazingly talented, but usually remain unknown. Most, if not all, respond with uncommon grace and a deep belief that making art, not being famous, is what matters most.

What to watch for
  • violence false0

    Violence: Not applicable

  • sex false0

    Sex: Some footage shows singers clad in very short skirts and see-through tops. Discussions about sexism in the industry and about how women are seen as "eye candy."

  • language false0

    Language: "Ass" (as in "kick ass").

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: The entire film is about popular music. Many well-known artists and some of their best-known songs are mentioned. Plenty of bands appear in historical clips and some appear on screen for interviews.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A few drug references.

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