Muscle Shoals (2013) - Rotten Tomatoes

Muscle Shoals (2013)



Critic Consensus: Essential for soul fans and entertaining for novices, Muscle Shoals offers a compelling, warts-and-all glimpse at one of the most fascinating stories in modern American music.

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MUSCLE SHOALS is a documentary about a place filled with magic and music, legend and folklore, where the river is inhabited by a Native American spirit who has lured some of the greatest Rock and Roll and Soul legends of all time, and drawn from them some of the most uplifting, defiant, and important music ever created. In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music runs through the hills, the river, and the spirit of the people. It is a place where, even before the Civil Rights Movement really took shape, the color of your skin didn't matter inside the studio. (C) Magnolia
PG (for thematic elements, language, smoking and brief partial nudity)
Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
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Critic Reviews for Muscle Shoals

All Critics (80) | Top Critics (26)

Hall's backstory, riddled with tragedy, gets the proper attention and respect here. But it's the music that won't let you stop watching.

Full Review… | April 21, 2014
New York Daily News
Top Critic

The movie is more a collection of cool people telling great stories than it is a structured documentary (despite Camalier's attempts in that direction). But in this case, that's enough.

Full Review… | October 24, 2013
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Director Greg "Freddy" Camalier augments the talking heads with unusually evocative vistas ...

Full Review… | October 24, 2013
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

Occasionally baggy, always sincere, this is an essential document of a defining era when 'soul' really meant something.

Full Review… | October 22, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Even casual music fans will enjoy behind-the-hits doc.

Full Review… | October 18, 2013
Hollywood Reporter
Top Critic

Greg Camalier's debut feature offers a worthy if sometimes ponderous take on a significant slice of U.S. popular music history.

Full Review… | October 18, 2013
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Muscle Shoals


Very good movie, very interesting story about a little town that was the center for so much great music. I'm not a big fan of music documentaries, but this movie was very good.

Dorianator Fournier
Dorianator Fournier

"It's like the songs come out of the mud." That's Bono, trying to explain how a small Alabama town of 8,000-the titular town of Greg 'Freddy' Camalier's documentary-could produce some of the best, most soulful music in humankind's history. Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Etta James, Clarence Carter-not to mention rock acts like The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and The Allman Brothers-are among Muscle Shoals's most influential and well-known alumni, and they're all on hand to pay deference to a place that's given them, and all of us as listeners, an unforgettable sound. Muscle Shoals (the movie) is exceptional. It's simple in execution-famous talking heads reminisce about their favorite Muscle Shoals memories. But what it's missing in, say, originality or style, it more than makes up for in heart and soul. Rick Hall is the town's most influential music proprietor. He has the mustache of a Disney villain, but an ear like no other. He covers his own personal history in great detail, and it's fascinating. He lost a wife, brother, and father all tragically, and his career went through many ups and downs, but his success needs no further explanation. Hall runs FAME Studios, which for years was also the home of the Swampers-the rhythm section that deserves as much credit as Hall does for hits like "When a Man Loves a Woman" and "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)". One of the story's most compelling moments occurs when the Swampers recount the time they told Hall-a tough dude by any definition of the word-that they were leaving FAME to start their own studio. "You'll fail," he told them. They didn't, but the competition seemed to do wonders for the Muscle Shoals sound in general. Both FAME and the new Muscle Shoals Sound Studio reinvented themselves, and today, artists (like Alicia Keys) still flock to Alabama to record in these renowned studios. Muscle Shoals isn't afraid to discuss race in the context of music. What it has to say-that it's surprising the all-white Swampers could churn out such soulful tunes-is far from deep, but during an era when and in place where black and white were separate and very much not equal, it's nice to see race set aside in the name of creating beautiful art. The reason to watch the film, though, is the music. Camalier's film is overflowing with it from a craft standpoint, and story-wise, it's everything. To compensate visually, Camalier plays up the idea that Muscle Shoals is a "magical land," and as such, we're treated to some breathtaking outdoor photography. It's a tenuous claim, of course, but there are enough great minds involved in the film to make you wonder: what exactly is going on down in Muscle Shoals? While it's impossible to say with any certainty, the results-the music-speak for themselves.

John Gilpatrick
John Gilpatrick

There have been a tremendous amount of music documentaries created over the last five years and Muscle Shoals adds to that memorable list. Here deep in Alabama, a unique sound emerges causing all the big names in music to come, record and pay homage. This is also a homage to those individuals who stayed in the community and contributed to that greatness.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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