Metascore
83

Universal acclaim - based on 25 Critics What's this?

User Score
7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 28 Ratings

Your Score
0 out of 10
Rate this:
  • 10
  • 9
  • 8
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
  • 1
  • 0
  • 0
  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: Backup singers live in a world that lies just beyond the spotlight. Their voices bring harmony to the biggest bands in popular music, but we've had no idea who these singers are, until now.
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 25
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 25
  3. Negative: 0 out of 25
  1. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Jul 11, 2013
    100
    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.
  2. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Jul 4, 2013
    91
    20 Feet From Stardom spends time as well with Claudia Lennear, Táta Vega and Lisa Fischer. None of the three ever found much success as a solo artist, but you probably can't listen to a classic-rock radio station for a half-hour without hearing one of them backing up Joe Cocker, David Bowie, Tina Turner or the Rolling Stones.
  3. Reviewed by: Dave Hoekstra
    Jul 16, 2013
    88
    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.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Mar 22, 2013
    80
    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.
  5. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 30, 2013
    80
    A crowd-pleaser, through and through.
  6. Jun 13, 2013
    80
    This generous, fascinating documentary about the careers of backup singers, most of them African-American women, seeks to rewrite the history of pop music by focusing attention on voices at once marginal and vital.
  7. 70
    You gasp at the ecstatic convergence of lung power and spirit.

See all 25 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Jun 24, 2013
    9
    This fascinating documentary focuses on the singing careers of 4 or 5 fabulous African American backup singers. Most of them started in the 1960s and were backup singers on some of the most famous records of all time. In a couple of instances, they even sang the lead on some hits but the credit was given to other singers who did not sing on the record at all. These women are legendary within the music industry and certainly have the talent to be stars, but why haven't they? The documentary tries to answer this question by interviewing big named stars that have used these ladies on their own records over the years. The film features a lot of great music, and it makes you think about how many extremely talented people there are in the music industry and yet never become stars, and yet many of the pop stars of today can't sing at all and have to lip sync when they perform. Highly recommended. Collapse
  2. Jul 18, 2013
    8
    This doc looks at the women who sing backup for rock and soul acts. There are profiles of some of the greats (Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer) and interviews with lots of women who've joined them. A few rock stars (Springsteen, Jagger, Sting) offer their comments. It's fascinating to learn about the history and influence of these amazing vocalists. It's fun to hear them riff effortlessly and reminisce about the past. When the focus turns to their failed attempts at moving to the front of the stage, the energy turns dark and drags on too long. Still, it's remarkable to get the chance to appreciate what these amazing women can do. Expand
  3. Feb 15, 2014
    8
    I am not that aware of the artists from the old days, but I recognize them by some of hit tracks I know. Since I don't know much about the musics of before 80s, I just enjoyed the stories they told in this documentary. This movie is about the back-up singers and their's life with achievements and struggles.

    I had no intention of watching this music-documentary film if it was not nominated for the American Academy Awards. And I am surprised the tale they told about what they went through in their life and everything. Particularly a line one of them say as like 'in entertainment business nothing is guaranteed', so true. I have heard about film celebrities who lost everything within, just like that. So I think it is a good movie for young people to study about what to do and what not to do if they choose this same field as their profession.

    Some of them who attempted solo tell their sudden fall before the career taking off. From their perspective, it was heartbreaking because they were awesome. In fact, most of them were better that the lead singers and had an incredible voice. Then those times ethics of the music world were different than now. Those who attempt risk will terribly fail, sometime it put them into the edge of their career.

    One of the sidekick singer says in her interview that she worked as a house maid. She did it just to survive in the world after losing the job. It was a sad but true story of the unsung heroes of the past. It was not a must see, like any documentary movie this one unwraps the untold secrets of the unknown true stars.
    Expand
  4. Apr 4, 2014
    8
    This Oscar winning documentary is both engrossing and fun highlighting as it does the careers and importance of some of the most famous backing singers in the business. Interviews with the likes of Bette Midler, Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen are full of praise for what the likes of Darlene Love, Tata Vega and Lisa Fischer (amongst others) have contributed to the major bands and pop stars over the years. These afore mentioned backing artists, and others, share with us their frustrations, disappointments and the love for what they do. And let's not forget their talent. In many instances they are vocally superior to many of the lead entertainers that they support. However, as Sting so concisely puts it, 'It's not always about the talent'. Circumstances, opportunity and a little bit of luck can play an enormously important part in the transition from background to foreground to star! Expand
  5. Apr 24, 2014
    6
    Another music industry-related feature-length documentary Oscar winner, after last years’ SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012, 7/10), 20 FEET FROM STARDOM homes in on back singers, from the esteemed Darlene Love, a recent Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame recipient; Lisa Fischer, the diva of the line of work, a Grammy winner for her only studio album in 1992; to lesser known veterans like Merry Clayton, Táta Vega, Claudia Lennear, The Waters, till up-and-coming young blood, spearheaded by Judith Hill who is still striving for her breakthrough as a solo artist, a THE VOICE contender last year, her debut album is in the offing.

    read rest of my review at my blog, google cinema omnivore.
    Expand
  6. Mar 2, 2014
    4
    I didn't see 20 FEET FROM STARDOM in the theater because I thought it would be just a lame VH-1 type doc. And guess what, it is! I finally saw it because it has such Oscar buzz. It's a pretty lame unfocused mess. Nice to see so many talented "background" singers but the film can't contain itself when it comes to fame and the big time. So lame. These women deserve to be celebrated for what they brought to music. The film does but then it veers all over the place. Just a big nothing. Expand

Related Articles

  1. The Best and Worst Movies of 2013

    The Best and Worst Movies of 2013 Image
    Published: January 6, 2014
    There were more great movies released in 2013 than in any year in recent memory. Browse our official lists of the year's highest-scoring movies in a variety of categories, and check out 2013's worst films, too.