Music Documentaries About Taylor Swift, Beastie Boys & More Eligible for Oscar Nods

Beastie Boys Story
Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

'Beastie Boys Story' top from left: Mike 'Mike D' Diamond, Adam 'Ad-Rock' Horovitz, Adam 'MCA' Yauch at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, 1985; bottom from left: Adam Horovitz, Mike Diamond, 1986, 2020.

There are also eligible music docs about Billie Holiday, Chuck Berry, The Go-Go's & Frank Zappa, among others.

Beastie Boys Story, the Taylor Swift doc Miss Americana and Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President are among the music docs eligible for best documentary (feature) at the 93rd annual Academy Awards.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences released a list of the 238 films that are eligible in the category on Thursday (Jan. 28).

Beastie Boys Story, which Spike Jonze directed and co-produced, is nominated for a Grammy for best music film. The Grammys will be presented on March 14, the night before the Oscar nominations are announced.

Other music docs that are eligible for best documentary (feature) include Billie (about Billie Holiday), Chuck Berry, Creem: America’s Only Rock n Roll Magazine, Dave Grusin: Not Enough Time, The Go-Go’s, Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, Harry Chapin: When in Doubt, Do Something, On the Record (about a rape charge against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons), Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band and Zappa (about Frank Zappa).

Non-music docs that are competing in the category include Becoming (about Michelle Obama), Belushi (about John Belushi), John Lewis: Good Trouble, MLK/FBI (about Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.), and #Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump.

Eight music-themed docs have won in the documentary (feature) category over the years, including three in the last decade: Searching for Sugar Man (about mysterious 1970s rock ’n’ roller Rodriguez, 2012), 20 Feet From Stardom (about backup singers, 2013) and Amy (about Amy Winehouse, 2015). The previous music docs to win were Arthur Rubinstein - The Love of Life (1969), Woodstock (1970), From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1980), Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (1986) and In the Shadow of the Stars (about the world of opera, 1991).

Miss Americana includes the new Swift song “Only the Young,” which is a contender for a best original song nod. The songwriting nod would go to Swift (and her collaborator, Joel Little), but the nod for documentary (feature) would not, because she didn’t produce or direct the film, as the rules require.

Two non-music docs include songs that are thought to have a good chance at a best original song nod.

All In: The Fight for Democracy, which looks at the history of voter suppression in the U.S., includes "Turntables," which was co-written by Janelle Monáe, Nathaniel Irvin III and George “George 2.0.” A. Peters II.

Giving Voice, which follows the annual August Wilson monologue competition in which high schoolers compete for the chance to perform on Broadway, includes “Never Break,” which was co-written by John Legend, Nasri Atweh, Benjamin Hudson McIldowie and Greg Wells.

Once in Oscar history, a song won best original song that was featured in a doc that won best documentary (feature). That happened 14 years ago when Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need to Wake Up” and the doc An Inconvenient Truth both took top honors.

The Academy notes that some of the 238 eligible docs have not yet had their required qualifying release and must fulfill that requirement and comply with all the category’s other qualifying rules to advance in the voting process.

The Academy also notes that documentary features that have won a qualifying award or have been programmed at qualifying film festivals or have been submitted in the international feature film category as their country’s official selection are also eligible in the category.

Films submitted in the documentary (feature) category may also compete in other categories, including best picture.

Members of the documentary branch vote to determine the shortlist and the nominees. A shortlist of 15 films will be announced on Feb. 9. Nominations will be announced on March 15. The Oscars will be presented on April 25.

In a sign of the times, the Academy notes that all dates and rules for the 93rd Academy Awards “are subject to change based on national guidelines, state-mandated government orders and Academy-determined best practices.”

The Academy also announced that 27 films are eligible for best animated feature film and that 93 countries have submitted films that are eligible for best international feature film.