The Last Waltz

Critics Consensus

Among one of, if not the best rock movie ever made, The Last Waltz is a revealing, electrifying view of the classic band at their height.



Total Count: 47


Audience Score

User Ratings: 13,855
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Movie Info

Martin Scorsese chronicles the most legendary night in rock history, as an unparalleled lineup of rock superstars -- including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison -- take the stage for "The Band's" 1976 farewell concert.

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Critic Reviews for The Last Waltz

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (15)

  • The Band's music has such intrinsic strength and resilience that it can't help but break through those self-imposed barriers and set itself and the audience free.

    Jan 8, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A heady time capsule.

    Dec 1, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's arguably the most beautiful of rock movies, while the musical highlights - 'The Weight' with the Staples Singers, Van Morrison's firebolt 'Caravan', every Levon Helm vocal - still astound.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • There is a dazzling array of talent on display here, and the film surely has its memorable moments. But it articulates so little of the end-of-an-era feeling it hints at.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2.5/5
  • The greatest rock concert movie ever made -- and maybe the best rock movie, period.

    Jul 20, 2002 | Rating: 4/4
  • The Last Waltz is our best insight to a moment when the giants of the previous decade raged against time, in the shadow of an age that changed them all inalterably.

    Jun 15, 2002 | Full Review…

    Bill Wyman
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Last Waltz

  • Jun 23, 2013
    "This is our last waltz, this is our last waltz, this is ourselves... under pressure!" I suppose I could have quoted the Engelbert Humperdinck song, but I feel that that 1980s Queen/David Bowie pop-rock collaboration was more fitting for this discussion about The Band, because this film was the last chance to take the load, or rather, pressure off of Annie, like The Band had been asking for, like, a billion times, or for however many choruses there are to "The Weight". No, "The Weight" is a good song, and it's not the only good song by The Band, as this film will definitely tell you with one heck of a concert that I'd imagine was even better for many of those involved in this concert and film, due to this event's great importance... and all of the cocaine. Yeah, I know a concert in the mid-'70s without any drugs is no real concert at all, but come on Martin Scorsese and Neil Young, this isn't Woodstock '99, even though I do like the idea of seeing Scorsese tweaking out with his eyebrows frizzed up. Maybe Bob Dylan didn't want to be filmed because he was worried about people making cocaine-related jokes about his nose, seeing as how he couldn't have honestly been worried about this film driving attention away from "Renaldo and Clara", even though it was bound to be a huge success, what with its experimental structure, low-profile limited release, weak critical reception and four-hour runtime. They say that Dylan was finally convinced to give the okay for his being filmed because he was informed that this film would be released months after "Renaldo and Clara", but by the time January 1978's "Renaldo and Clara" was finished, this film would have been a week into its April release, so that white hat and possible fear of jokes involving white powder had to have been the only things on his mind at this time. I mean, he had to have known that this film was going to be the success that it ended up being, and justly so, because, again, this is a heck of a show, and it makes for a heck of a film, which isn't to say that "Renaldo and Clara" is the '78 film featuring Bob Dylan that has problems. The film tacks on some interview material, which certainly adds to the entertainment value with some interesting information, but if Martin Scorsese is going to go as far as to incorporate more depth to this documentary, then he may as well go further, yet ultimately doesn't, or at least not as much as he probably should, putting no real structure to the interviews that ultimately give you only so much information to digest. The problems within the usage of the interviews are very light, yet they do dilute momentum a smidge by thinning out certain areas in depth that probably shouldn't have been present to begin with, even if their purpose is kind of noble. Scorsese attempts to break up the repetition of straightforward concert footage with the backstage material, yet ends up making that structural concept formulaic, to where, after a while, the documentary ends up feeling more repetitious than it probably would have been if it had just stuck with the aimless concert material, which does indeed still taint the focal structure of this film as a documentary. Jeez, speaking of monotony, I'm really trying to crowbar in discussions of flaws, but either way, the fact of the matter is that this ambitious project incorporates somewhat unnecessary aspects that end up being flawed by their own right, to the detriment of the final product that it was trying to ameliorate with the flawed questionable touch-ups. In all fairness, in a lot of ways, the additional touches to this documentary do, in fact, color things up, but they add a few light blemishes that don't really belong, and that actually leaves you to focus upon the final product's natural shortcomings, because at the end of the day, it's all about the concert, which is, of course, a strong show, but not quite strong enough to make a feature film all that terribly upstanding. There's not a whole lot that's wrong with this film, but that's partially because there's simply not much at all to the film, which is rewarding, - partially because of the theatrical touches that work, and largely because it simply revolves around a good show - but not quite with enough kick to be all that strong of a film. With that said, while the lack of meat emphasizes what shortcomings there are, it all emphasizes what strengths there, and let me tell you, there are plenty of strengths to this documentary, not just as a showcase of fine musicianship, but as a well-polished cinematic effort. The first of several post-"Taxi Driver" Michael Chapman/Martin Scorsese collaborations, this film, at the very least, looks really good, for although the feature production-grade quality of Chapman's cinematography dilutes some of the realist documentary immersion value, but still catches your eyes with rugged coloring and lovely sparse plays with the stage lighting that give the film a distinguished look that makes it, not just a concert flick, but a visual treat. The film isn't exactly stunning, but its handsome photographic value reflects the theatrical value of this distinctive rockumentary/concert film, thus livening up the entertainment value that, of course, mostly rests on the shoulders of the center focus of this film: the concert that marked a grand finale for The Band. Like I said, The Band's Thanksgiving farewell concert of 1976, which drives this film, isn't quite strong enough to make the final product truly upstanding, and it doesn't help that some of the performances kind of run together, if not feature the occasional monotonous spell within themselves, but on the whole, it's hard to deny that this is a heck of a show, featuring a generally dynamic and plentiful set of classic and thoroughly entertaining songs that go brought to life by the charismatic presence and sharp musicianship of The Band and its guest collaborators. Not every song is strong, but most every piece of this concert presented in this documentary proves to a thoroughly entertaining display of what people would be missing once The Band broke up, so as a showcase of inspired, well-done and all around fine live performances, this film excels. Of course, there is a bit more to this film than just good songs, and as I said earlier, that's not always a good thing, as the non-musical theatrical supplements to the range of this documentary often get to be a bit too undercooked for their own good, but just as much as, if not more than they are problematic, such touches as backstage material breathe some life into this film, whether when it's charmingly displaying The Band merely hanging out, or presenting interviews that, while superficial in their depth, give you some degree of insight into the history of The Band through plenty of interesting, maybe even humbling stories. There's a certain heart to the musicians as they tell their tale, and such a heart goes matched only by the heart within Martin Scorsese's direction, which structures scenes in a way that keeps the liveliness of the music pumping the film with consistent entertainment value, broken up by a degree of resonance, summoned from the warmly well-presented more soulful numbers. Not all of Scorsese's touches work, but the ambition within his direction backs genuine inspiration that brings enough of the entertainment value to life for the shortcomings to go overcome, maybe not to where you end up with an excellent film, but certainly to where you end up with quite the thoroughly enjoyable rock film. When the waltz is done, somewhat superficial interviews and a repetitious structure prove to be light issues that go a long way in emphasizing the natural shortcomings that secure the final product as far from excellent, but not so far from enjoyment that lovely cinematography, generally interesting backstage filler, heartfelt direction and a strong concert that stands at the end of it all aren't able to make Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" a rewarding and thoroughly entertaining tribute to and showcase of the talent of a group as legendary as The Band. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Apr 16, 2013
    Just saw this on the big screen for the first time in 2013. What an amazing lot of talent on one stage at one time. I saw it as a series at a local art house and there was a film professor from Local U pontificating before the film about how this movie made him hate Martin Scorsese--said he was a big egomaniac--so I was interested to see what that was all about and all I can say is I'm glad I didn't become a film major if all film profs are such jackasses. Scorsese was basically invisible--he was just the guy the Band members were talking to, in fact he seemed a little nervous--the cinematography was beautiful and the music was out of this world. I had never heard Joni Mitchell sing Coyote. Wow. It was a real story, too, about why the band was breaking up after 16 years on the road. Probably the best documentary about a band I've seen.
    Bathsheba M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    Thursday November 25th, 1976: Thanksgiving Day. On that night, one of the most momentous events in music history took place. For on that night, The Band decided to call it a day as a group and have a farewell concert at the Winterland in San Francisco to mark the occasion. They brought along with them some of their friends, influences, and collaborators. Martin Scorsese was brought along to document the occasion. This film, released two years later is the result. Well, not to diminish the impact, but it's only part of the result. All in all, the full uncut concert was five hours long. Man, I'd kill to see all of it. Too bad I'll probably never get the chance. Anyway, let's get on with it shall we. The guests musicians who all show up for varying lengths to jam include, among others: Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond, Van Morrison, Dr. John, Neil Young, and Eric Clapton. Even poets like Michael McClure and Lawrence Ferlinghetti show up to perform. I think it's pretty fair and obvious to say that obviously Robbie and Co. were familiar with the phrase "if you're gonna go out, go out with a bang". Not only is this an epic and brilliant concert, it's just a wonderful celebration of an interesting period of music during an even more interesting time for both music and society. The mid 70s were a curious time, and this film really helps capture the essence. All of these people onstage love msuic, but you can just tell they're all weary and burnt out, and in need of revitilization. If you only jsut listen to this great music, you can't tell it, but seeing it being performed, you can just tell that there's a lot of pain, frustration, and bitterness going on.Interspersed between the footage are typical interview/documentary type footage with help provide further insight into the msuic, the people, and the times, and it too, like the stage stuff, though great, is very bittersweet. You'd think that because I am a huge fan of Scorsese, a fan of 60s and 70s rock music (thus a fan of most people that are featured here), and have both a scholarly and general interest in the 70s that I probably would have already seen this movie lke 100 times by now. Surprisingly no. For whatever reason, I didn't get around to this until now. Obviously I'm happy I finally did it, but still, I can't help but feel like I'm less complete for having waited so long. Don't be like me and make that mistake. Go out and see this film as soon as you can. It's got great music, is fascinating to watch, and is shot and directed superbly. It easily earns all the acclaim it gets about being one of (if not the) finest concert film ever made.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 28, 2011
    A great document of a great band.
    Graham J Super Reviewer

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