A Closer Look at the Grammys’ Best Music Film Category


Beyoncé is an instant front-runner for best music film, a category in which she has never won. Who has?

Beyoncé's Homecoming is a front-runner in the upcoming Grammy contest for best music film. The star has been nominated in the category three times, but has yet to win.

This category doesn't get as much attention as the Big Four, but it's an important award that has gone to everybody from The Beatles to Michael Jackson. So let's take a closer look. The category dates to 1981, when it was called "video of the year." The first winner: Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts, a collection of comedy skits and music videos by the former Monkee.

Sting, Madonna and Paul McCartney are the only artists who have won twice in this category. Sting won for Bring on the Night (1986) and Ten Summoner's Tales (1993). Madonna won for Blonde Ambition World Tour Live (1991) and The Confessions Tour (2007). McCartney won as part of the Beatles for The Beatles Anthology (1996) and on his own for Live Kisses (2013). (The Beatles have been the subject of three winning films in this category, but The Beatles Anthology was the only one where the group members received the award.)

Three directors have won twice in the category. David Mallet won for co-directing Madonna's Blonde Ambition World Tour Live (1991) and for directing U2's Zoo TV—Live from Sydney (1994). Jonas Åkerlund won for directing Madonna's The Confessions Tour (2007) and McCartney's Live Kisses (2013). Bob Smeaton won for co-directing The Beatles Anthology (1996) and for directing Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys – Live at Fillmore East (1999).

Two Oscar-winning directors have won in this category. Martin Scorsese won for Bob Dylan's No Direction Home (2005). Ron Howard won for The Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years (2016). An Oscar-nominated director, Peter Bogdanovich, won for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Runnin' Down a Dream (2008).

Two recent Oscar winners for documentary (feature) also won in this category — 20 Feet from Stardom (2014), a look at the life of backup singers, and Amy (2015), a doc about Amy Winehouse.

Three major rock artists won their only career Grammys in this category. They are: Lou Reed for American Masters — Lou Reed: Rock and Roll Heart (1998); The Clash for Westway to the World (2002); and Petty & the Heartbreakers for Runnin' Down a Dream (2008). (Petty won two other Grammys, but this was the only one for the band.) Likewise, 20 Feet from Stardom (2014) marked the only Grammys to date for Darlene Love and Merry Clayton.

Several other artists won their long-awaited first Grammys in this category. After nearly a decade of success, Madonna finally won her first Grammy for Blonde Ambition World Tour Live (1991). Janet Jackson was also overdue for a Grammy when she won for Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989).

Two of the winners in this category have chronicled the making of classic albums. Director Andrew Solt won for Gimme Some Truth—The Making of John Lennon's Imagine Album (2000). Bruce Springsteen won for Wings for Wheels: The Making of Born to Run (2006). (Interestingly, neither of those albums was nominated in any category when they were released in 1971 and 1975, respectively.)

Three other winners have chronicled the making of classic videos, Broadway cast albums and stage extravaganzas. Michael Jackson won for Making Michael Jackson's Thriller (1984), which focuses on the making of the epic, John Landis-directed video. Mel Brooks won for Recording the Producers — A Musical Romp with Mel Brooks (2001), which documents the recording of the cast album to that Broadway smash. Director Adrian Wills won for The Beatles Love — All Together Now (2009), a doc about the creation of the Beatles/Cirque du Soleil collaboration, Love.

Mumford & Sons is the only act to win album of the year and best music film the same year. They took the 2012 awards for their album Babel and their film Big Easy Express, a collaboration with Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros and Old Crow Medicine Show.

Only two artists have won best music film and best music video in the same year. The Beatles doubled up when they won for The Beatles Anthology and "Free As a Bird" (1996). Duran Duran achieved the double for Duran Duran and "Girls on Film"/"Hungry Like the Wolf" (1983).

If Homecoming wins, it will be the first film directed or co-directed by the artist to win since Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill—Live (1997). Morissette co-directed that film with Steve Purcell.

The first woman to win in this category was Oli Newton-John for Oli Physical (1982, when it was called "video of the year"). The first woman to win as a director in this category was Valerie Faris, who won for co-directing Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 (1989). The first woman to win for directing on her own was Sophie Muller, who won for her work on Annie Lennox's Diva (1992).

The only siblings to have separately won this award are Michael and Janet Jackson. In another family connection, the winner at the Feb. 10 telecast, Quincy, was co-directed by actress Rashida Jones, the daughter of the film's subject, Quincy Jones.

Other winners of best music film, not already mentioned, are: The Defiant Ones (2017), a doc about the partnership of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre.; Foo Fighters' Back and Forth (2011); When You're Strange, a doc about The Doors (2010); Concert for George (2002), a live tribute to George Harrison; Legend, a doc about Sam Cooke (2003); Peter Gabriel's Secret World Live (1995); M.C. Hammer's Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em — The Movie (1990); The Prince's Trust All-Star Rock Concert (1987, best performance music video); and Huey Lewis & the News' The Heart of Rock 'n' Roll (1985).