20 Feet From Stardom

2013

20 Feet From Stardom

Critics Consensus

Rich, insightful, and occasionally heartbreaking, 20 Feet From Stardom is an energetic tribute to the passion, talent, and hard work of backup singers.

99%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 122

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,467
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Movie Info

Millions know their voices, but no one knows their names. In his compelling new film 20 FEET FROM STARDOM, award-winning director Morgan Neville shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. Triumphant and heartbreaking in equal measure, the film is both a tribute to the unsung voices who brought shape and style to popular music and a reflection on the conflicts, sacrifices and rewards of a career spent harmonizing with others. These gifted artists span a range of styles, genres and eras of popular music, but each has a uniquely fascinating and personal story to share of life spent in the shadows of superstardom. Along with rare archival footage and a peerless soundtrack, 20 FEET FROM STARDOM boasts intimate interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger and Sting to name just a few. However, these world-famous figures take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and stories take center stage in the film. (c) TWC-Radius

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Critic Reviews for 20 Feet From Stardom

All Critics (122) | Top Critics (34)

  • Artists including Mick Jagger talk about their backing singers -- and the soundtrack is, of course, heavenly.

    Dec 31, 2017 | Full Review…

    Kate Muir

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • An enjoyable arts feature with its heart in the right place ...

    Mar 28, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • Such a great idea for a documentary, and such a surprise to realise that it has never been done before.

    Mar 27, 2014 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A warm and fitting tribute to talented singers.

    Mar 27, 2014 | Rating: 4/5
  • It's that versatility that defines these singers, the ability to make following seem as important as leading.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The documentary tells similarly poignant stories in a fast-paced 91 minutes through interviews, contemporary concert footage and great archival stuff.

    Dec 31, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for 20 Feet From Stardom

  • Oct 25, 2014
    An enlightening and at times heartbreaking salute to the singers who have, in many ways, been the backbone to popular music for decades, and we don't even know their names.
    Jared H Super Reviewer
  • May 13, 2014
    20 feet from Stardom served to remind me that in this life talent alone is rarely enough in itself to succeed. You need a slice of luck and also a doggedness and determination, in short you've gotta want it enough. And that's the thing with this documentary. After all the accolades its received I expected a catalogue of hard luck stories, regret and downright disrespect but that isn't what I saw in this. Admittedly there is some behaviour that can only be described as bang out of order. Like the singer who recorded a track only to hear it on the radio being passed off as being sung by someone else. A kind of pre Milli Vanilli but without the intent. There was also the story of one of Michael Jacksons ex backing singers who seemed to be trying so hard to make a solo career but the harder she tried, the more it just didn't happen. To me there was no reason why this lady (Judith Hill) shouldn't succeed. She not only has a superb voice but is also very pleasing on the eye. So maybe this highlights the opposite of what I am saying in that even with all of the right ingredients, fame and success is still not a given. But what I took from this documentary is that the majority had a big respect with many major artists competing for their services. One very talented lady won a Grammy to recognise her efforts but not all of those featured desired solo success and this struck a chord with me. There did seem to be a stigma attached to this and the aforementioned Judith Hill was certainly a victim of this. And then there is the Waters family. Renowned and revered throughout the industry as some of the best there has ever been. They did the backing vocal to Thriller and bizarrely some animal sounds in the film Avatar (yes seriously). To say that this family annoyed the bejesus out of me is an understatement. They insisted on singing at almost every opportunity throughout the documentary including what felt like singing answers to questions posed to them. I could just envisage in my mind's eye the Waters family going down en masse to their local shop to sing for 40 fags, a cornetto and a can of Red Bull in the style of a Skiffle band. Maybe at dinner they have a riff off for the right to the last piece of bread? Ten minutes in this family's company and I'm sure I'd be searching for a rusty blunt instrument to sever their vocal chords. However, I would deny this thereafter in a court of law.
    Justin F Super Reviewer
  • Apr 28, 2014
    Entertaining look at the world of backup singers, "20 Feet From Stardom" is a treat. The best moments are when the performers' faces are in full frame as they listen to their old recording - the memories flying in their minds. The documentary touches on the highs and the lows of the music business for these performers and never fails to entertain. The only issue with "Stardom" is how it jumps from interview to interview leaving very little time for facts to sink in and to settle - you get to know the major players but the minor players that are extensively interviews aren't given much chance to connect. Yet "20 Feet From Stardom" proves to be an in-tune documentary that proudly wears its heart on its sleeve.
    Tony G Super Reviewer
  • Feb 26, 2014
    Following the lives of background singers of famous artists from the past, "20 Feet From Stardom" is a very inspirational documentary that tells you that whatever your dreams may be, nothing is impossible and you always have to start somewhere, even if that somewhere seems to be getting you nowhere. Sure, the film does not have much of a linear story to follow, but it is more of a feel-good series of stories that drives this pictures to be loved by all. I did not love watching this film as some probably will, but I really really enjoyed it. This film gives me motivation to continue pursuing my passion and not to accept just any job forever. This is a very well-made documentary. A great contender for the Oscars.
    KJ P Super Reviewer

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