Gimme Shelter - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Gimme Shelter Reviews

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½ December 2, 2016
The second Merry Clayton screamed about rape and murder being just a shot away in The Rolling Stones's "Gimme Shelter" did the 1960s really feel like they were abruptly coming to an end. With the free love generating the counterculture movement slowly disintegrating into disillusionment following frustrating years of war and political turmoil (oft said to have been made worse by the Manson family murders of the same year), America was headed in a direction more pessimistic, more wary, than it had ever crept toward.
1970's "Gimme Shelter," a documentary chronicling the final few weeks of the Stones's 1969 US Tour (and, more infamously, their cataclysmic Altamont Free Concert that resulted in the deaths of four people), is a powerful inside look into the crumbling in of the hopeful days of the 60s - here do we see a band who once thrived on carefree fun suffering from plights of ennui, and here do we see audiences who'd rather cause a commotion than be the people they once were when America finally seemed to be a promising place in which to live.
It wasn't initially planned to be the cultural summarizer that it has grown to become over the years. Originally were directors Charlotte Zwerin and Albert and David Maysles hired by the band to document their antics a la Dylan's "Don't Look Back" (1967) or Elvis's "That's the Way It Is" (1970), with "Gimme Shelter" planned to be used as an advertising tool of sorts. (They had already flirted with documentary filmmaking through 1968's "Sympathy for the Devil," which was directed by Jean-Luc Godard and shined a light on the iconic song's recording.)
But from the start is it clear that something is amiss, that tension is thickly spread and urgently needs to be broken. From the footage of the stretch of '69 shows does everything seem perfectly fine, cameos from Ike and Tina Turner, for instance, reassuring us that all in store is a conventional tour we'd perhaps wish we'd been able to attend. But when the planning for the free show is underway - the size of the area is massive, and the Hells Angels are hired for security - we can feel an inexplicable, but very much there, foreboding that almost promises future artistic dystopia.
From the assault on one of opening band Jefferson Airplane's members within the first few minutes into the show to the brief but chilling flash of a knife during the Stones's first song does it become clear that "Gimme Shelter" is hardly a rollicking rockumentary a la "Stop Making Sense" (1984) or "Truth or Dare" (1991) but a cultural artifact hardly about its focal musicians at all. It's about the almost startlingly quick shift in the collective mood of a society switching decades and switching ideals - the documentary is merely a small scale exemplification of the widespread phenomenon.
In watching was I taken aback - "Gimme Shelter," purposely filmed without documentary staples (like talking heads, romanticized voiceovers, and cobbled together sequencing), is so in the moment, so perturbingly real that I found myself feeling as though I were definitively part of the year in which the movie was filmed, able to empathize both with the reality of the general population and with the reality of the prosperous Stones. In watching could I feel the disaffection of the crowd, the horror of musicians inadvertently responsible for bringing together uncontrollable chaos. "Gimme Shelter" is so mightily effective because it's more than just a concert movie; it's also an unaffected record lucky to have been filmed. One wishes it were longer - it's more eye-opening than any fictional account of its decade.
½ July 6, 2016
Record of the time and very innovative, the emotioneless expressions of the members of the Stones were the best part. Great editing.
½ May 10, 2016
Great capture of rock's darkest day.

A documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1969 US tour and the tragic events that concluded it. We see footage of their concerts and of them making the Sticky Fingers album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. However, the main focus of the film is on one concert - Altamont Speedway, outside San Francisco, 6 December 1969. A free concert, it is the Stones' idea and it was meant to be the Woodstock of the West (Woodstock having occurred four months earlier). Other bands performing included Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Ike and Tina Turner, Crosby Stills Nash and Young and Santana. However, it is far from being the peace and love of Woodstock. Part of the problem is that the Stones hired the Hells Angels as security. The other problem was that a large portion of the crowd were high on drugs. Friction ensues. During the Stones' set, Meredith Hunter, high on methamphetamine and armed with a gun, makes a lunge for the stage and is stabbed to death by the Hells Angels. The peace and love era of the 60s was over.

A very well made documentary, especially considering the limited material the producers had to work with. We don't just see the concert footage but also the Stones and the film makers sitting in the studio going through the footage. We see their thoughts and reactions to what occurred. Some of this feels contrived or staged but for the most part it provides a narrative to what happened. Otherwise we would just have concert footage with no explanation of what to expect or what was going on.

The fact that the Meredith Hunter incident is mentioned early on in the film helps the tension in the movie. You know something is going to happen, but you don't know when. You see the friction preceding the incident and there's now an inevitability to it all. It plays out like a thriller, ultimately.

The camera work at the concert contributes too. The roughness of the shots adds an edginess and feeling of anarchy to the proceedings.

The footage preceding the Altamont concert is quite interesting too. We see some Stones concert footage from other concerts, and get complete songs from these concerts. These are probably the only enjoyable live music moments from the movie, as the Altamont songs are too soaked in tension and the threat of violence to fully enjoy.

The Sticky Fingers footage is great too, seeing a classic album being formed. In the movie it only lasts a few minutes but it deserves a documentary of its own. The highlight was seeing Jagger and Richards listening to an early take of Brown Sugar. Quite illuminating to see artists' views of their own work.

Overall, one of music's most infamous incidents, quite accurately captured.
February 15, 2016
Seeing Mick "tremble dancing" when the most psychotic HA security dude was staring him down reminded me of an episode on Boardwalk Empire when Chalky White and a partner sweated "Eddie Cantor" down to give Knuckie's main squeeze a leading role. They made him tap dance and he was sweating bullets....Of course Keith Richards kept on jammin' even as Jagger was shutting down the band after the horrible incident was recorded on film...e docu.
January 7, 2016
The filmmakers are able to use real footage in a way that steers clear of the type of pseudo-reality that "reality" shows and some soft documentaries have moved to and instead, creates a striking narrative structure and provides a candid look at the night in which a concert gone wrong destroyed the counterculture dream. Also featured is some great footage of Rolling Stones concerts and some great music, of course!
½ December 7, 2015
I did not view Gimme Shelter as a Rolling Stones fan. I am not a fan of the band, and think they are actually the most overrated and overhyped band that ever walked the face of this earth. But I did enjoy this documentary. The film is less about a Stones concert and more about what happened during the concert and also showcases the end of an era. The hippie peace and love movement was slowly coming to an end during this period, and the murder during this show by the Hells Angels pretty much put the nail in the coffin. What I came away thinking about this documentary is. The Rolling Stones cheaped out hiring the Hells Angels for security at the show. Most likely in exchange for some drugs and partying and what resulted is typical animalistic behavior by the infamous biker gang. To have absolutely no respect for human life by not only killing someone, but killing them in front of thousands of people in the middle of concert really is something. A great documentary.
August 16, 2015
With great music, imagery, and filmmaking, this is an astounding documentary! The film truly captures the intensity and horror that went on during this greatly tragic concert. It gets so intense, that it should be classified as both a concert film and a THRILLER! One of the best documentaries of all time!
May 21, 2015
Like other DVD from our collection, we find this one in a bargain. An extraordinary documental about the disastrous Altamont Free Concert given by The Rolling Stones at the end of their USA 1969 tour. Special mention to the fragments of Tina Turner presentation for her sensual singing "I've been loving you too long"
February 20, 2015
A landmark in filming music concerts, but it doesn't really hold up well today.
December 16, 2014
An almost flawless documentary.
December 5, 2014
In "Gimme Shelter" the viewer can't help but being dragged into the madness with the band and concert goers in this electrifying and moody piece of moviemaking from the Maysles brothers who are determined to make this documentary raise questions about the outcome of Altamont concert, documentaries, and the responsibility of the concert goes, both in-front and behind the camera.
November 11, 2014
The greatest rock concert film of all time, and one of the most brutal documentary film experiences.
½ September 5, 2014
The infamous free Stones concert held in December of 1969 at The Altamont Speedway filmed by Zwerin and The Maysles Brothers captures a tragic moment signaling the end of the Happy Hippie Generation. I wonder if it held the same impact then as it does now. There is something both chilling and almost comical as we watch a very young Mick Jagger watching the tragic clash between a concert-goer and a member of Hell's Angels. He looks at it as if dazed, hung-over and not quite able to fully comprehend what had happened right in front of him. A time capsule film if ever there was one. This is no Woodstock. This is the dark-glooming post-Manson side of the 1960's. A fascinating film. It is too bad that Criterion was unable to have The Stones sit down and discuss the experience some 46 years later.
August 10, 2014
Pretty much a cautionary tale type of film. You can tell jagger was meant to be a performer from this film and the talent of their entire band. Such a shame that this concert was utterly ruined and someone lost their life bc of poor choices by the stones in particular hiring the hells angels as little more than thugs disguised as security guards. After just watching Woodstock this film is depressing to say the least in comparison. As the film builds up you can tell it's only a matter of time before something disastrous happens. The caustic combination of drug fueled zealous hippies fans and white trash angry motorcycle gang members is a ticking time bomb. People note this film as the starting of an end to an era and I can see to a degree how. It showcases the good intentioned naivety and carelessness of that era gone awry.
August 9, 2014
An incredibly well made documentary that puts us right into the thick of things; first with great concert footage and giddy joy of The Stones at Madison Square Garden, then the developing disaster of their concert at Altamont Speedway. The only thing I felt was missing was the ending of The Stones' set at Altamont. It felt like a gap. I really wanted to see, given how difficult a time they were having, how things played out and I didn't get that.
July 29, 2014
Quite simply the best rock documentary ever made. Telling the story of the tragic free concert at Altamont were the Rolling Stones performed. Mick Jagger is punched in the face as soon as he steps foot off the plane. Hells Angels biker gang were hired as security and stabbed a concert-goer to death after he brandished a gun. The unruly crowd is pictured in various states of intoxication. The Rolling Stones were at the peak of their powers. The music sounds as wonderful as it did then. Chronicling the end of the 60's peace and love era. Hypnotic.
½ July 19, 2014
Gimme Shelter is one of those "great movies of all time" that I've always heard about and always meant to see but never got around to. I can't say I've seen a ton of music docs in general. Most of my connection the Stones come from when my parents listened to them when I was a kid, too, which meant my motivation was slightly low.

Having seen it, now, I can see how silly waiting has been. I doubt there's much I could add that hasn't already been said at this point, other than to say I thought it was fascinating and incredibly well done. It also reminded me of how fantastic some of their songs were. And it made me wish they'd captured all of Ike and Tina's performance because that was mesmerizing.
July 16, 2014
The best rock and roll documentary ever. A spectacular whirlwind of emotions and rock-and-roll.
June 27, 2014
I never saw this one
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