The Velvet Underground is a 2021 American documentary film directed and produced by Todd Haynes that chronicles the life and times of the rock band the Velvet Underground.[3]

It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 7, 2021. It was released on October 15, 2021, by Apple TV+, to critical acclaim.


The Velvet Underground was an influential band that arose from the music, art, and film avant-gardes of early-1960s New York City. Although not a commercial success at the time, it had a significant impact on underground, experimental, and alternative music and the development of punk and new wave music.[4][5] Its core members were Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Doug Yule and Maureen Tucker. Artist Andy Warhol managed and promoted the band—convincing them to add German singer and model Nico to their line-up. Haynes's film examines the cultural milieu of the band and its musical and cinematic influences. It tracks the band's history from formation to the break-up of its original line-up in the early 1970s. Interviews with surviving band members Cale and Tucker and musicians the band influenced are woven with archival music and film material.


In August 2017, Todd Haynes was hired to direct and produce a documentary film about the Velvet Underground.[6] Haynes received cooperation of the surviving members of the band including founding members John Cale[7][8] and Maureen Tucker. Interviews for the film were shot in 2018.[9] Doug Yule, who replaced Cale in the band in 1968, appears in voiceover but was not filmed.[10][11]


In October 2020, Apple TV+ acquired distribution rights to the film.[12] It had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on July 7, 2021.[13] It was released theatrically and on Apple TV+ on October 15, 2021.[14], and in December 2022 it was released on DVD and Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection.[15][16]


Critical reception

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 98% based on 127 reviews, with an average rating of 8.10/10. The critical consensus states: "The Velvet Underground takes a fittingly idiosyncratic approach to delivering a rock documentary that captures the band as well as its era."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted score of 87 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[18]

Some critics felt the documentary glossed over the band's 1969 self-titled album and contributions by Yule.[19][20][21]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef.
ACE Eddie AwardsMarch 5, 2022Best Edited Documentary (Feature)Affonso Gonçalves and Adam KurnitzNominated[22]
Austin Film Critics Association AwardsJanuary 11, 2022Best DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[23]
Boston Society of Film Critics AwardsDecember 12, 2021Best EditingAffonso Gonçalves and Adam KurnitzWon[24]
Chicago Film Critics Association AwardsDecember 15, 2021Best DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[25]
Cinema Audio Society AwardsMarch 19, 2022Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for a Motion Picture – DocumentaryJuliana Henao Mesa and Leslie ShatzNominated[26]
Cinema Eye HonorsMarch 1, 2022Outstanding Non-Fiction FeatureTodd Haynes, Christine Vachon, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, and Carolyn HepburnNominated[27][28]
Audience Choice PrizeTodd HaynesNominated
Outstanding EditingAffonso Gonçalves and Adam KurnitzNominated
Outstanding Sound DesignLeslie Shatz and Jahn SoodWon
Critics' Choice Documentary AwardsNovember 14, 2021Best First Documentary FeatureTodd HaynesNominated[29]
Best EditingAffonso Gonçalves and Adam KurnitzNominated
Best Archival DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated
Best Music DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated
Dorian AwardsMarch 17, 2022Best DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[30]
Hollywood Music in Media AwardsNovember 17, 2021Best Music Supervision – FilmRandall PosterNominated[31]
IDA Documentary AwardsMarch 4, 2022Best Music DocumentaryTodd Haynes, Christine Vachon, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn, and David BlackmanNominated[32][33]
London Film Critics' Circle AwardsFebruary 6, 2022Documentary of the YearThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[34]
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel AwardsMarch 13, 2022Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature DocumentaryLeslie Shatz and Jahn SoodNominated[35]
National Society of Film Critics AwardsJanuary 8, 2022Best Non-Fiction FilmThe Velvet UndergroundRunner-up[36]
Online Film Critics Society AwardsJanuary 24, 2022Best DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[37][38]
San Diego Film Critics Society AwardsJanuary 10, 2022Best DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[39]
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle AwardsJanuary 10, 2022Best Documentary FeatureThe Velvet UndergroundWon[40]
Satellite AwardsApril 2, 2022Best Motion Picture, DocumentaryThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[41]
St. Louis Film Critics Association AwardsDecember 19, 2021Best Documentary FilmThe Velvet UndergroundNominated[42]
Toronto Film Critics Association AwardsJanuary 16, 2022Allan King Documentary AwardThe Velvet UndergroundRunner-up[43]


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External links