Elon Musk, unions and JLo: the most anticipated documentaries of 2024

<span>Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA</span>
Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA

As usual, much of the year’s documentary fare has yet to be announced. But between the Sundance film festival in January and the evergreen draw of celebrity vanity projects, the documentary slate for 2024 is already filling up – and that’s not even getting into numerous docu-series. (There’s a 10-parter coming on Apple TV+ about the New England Patriots football dynasty, which seems, ironically enough, a little inflated).

Related: From Megalopolis to Joker 2: the 2024 films Guardian writers are most excited about

From overdue retrospectives on Luther Vandross and June Carter Cash, to an on-the-ground account of the first successful unionization effort at Amazon, to the distant prospect of finally seeing Amazon’s Rihanna documentary, here are 11 of the most anticipated documentaries of 2024:

Luther: Never Too Much

The first authorized documentary on the legendary R&B singer, who died in 2005 at age 54, will premiere at Sundance in January and include access to his “never-before-seen personal archive”, according to the logline. Named after his seminal 1981 album, this documentary treatment from Dawn Porter, who has profiled such national figures as John Lewis (Good Trouble) and Lady Bird Johnson (The Lady Bird Diaries), will “capture the intensely private Grammy-winning artist’s passion for music, global rise and personal struggles”. And, surely, delve into the music by “one of our GOATs”, as producer Jamie Foxx put it. Colin Firth, notably, also serves as producer.


Also premiering at Sundance this year, an experimental documentary befitting the influential and boundary-pushing musical artist Brian Eno, known for his production work with David Bowie, U2 and Talking Heads as well as his pioneering contributions to electronica. German director Gary Hustwit has used generative software designed to sequence new scenes from his interviews with the English musician for a film that, supposedly, is different with each viewing. The infinitely iterative film, with different scenes, order and music each time, offers “a groundbreaking new approach that suits a groundbreaking artist like Eno”, says Hustwit.


Perpetually busy documentarian Alex Gibney, the director behind such films as The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, has set his sights on the world’s richest man. Musk, an HBO production first announced at last year’s Cannes film festival, will purportedly provide “a definitive and unvarnished examination” of the mercurial billionaire, Tesla and SpaceX founder and now owner of the service formerly known as Twitter. Universal snapped up the international distribution rights, with a release date yet to be announced.

JLo’s This Is Me … Now: The Film

Amazon, meanwhile, will release a new Jennifer Lopez film via Prime Video in February, because no year is complete without a major pop diva documentary. This Is Me … Now: The Film will be a companion piece to This Is Me … Now, her first studio album in 10 years and a “sister” to the 2002 album This Is Me … Then. According to a press release, the album will be Lopez’s “most honest and personal yet” while the film, directed by Dave Meyers (who has worked with such pop luminaries as Janet Jackson, Ariana Grande and Britney Spears), will serve a “musical and visual reimagining of her publicly scrutinized love life” and a “heartfelt ode to JLo’s journey of self-healing and everlasting belief in fairytale endings”. No word on how much Ben Affleck will appear or approve, but he is credited as a co-writer.


Fresh off of what some have called Hot Labor Summer, which saw some of the most ambitious and successful collective organizing in decades, comes a feature-length documentary on one of the most significant labor victories of the last few years: the founding of the Amazon Labor Union in Staten Island in 2022. The film, directed by Brett Story and Stephen Maing, recounts how the nascent union, formed by former and current warehouse employees without backing from an established labor organizer, overcame a multimillion-dollar campaign by the multibillion-dollar corporation to bust efforts to form the first union at the company. It will premiere at Sundance with distribution to be announced.

Still-untitled Rihanna documentary

I am obligated, as I have now previewed documentaries for five years, to note that we are still waiting for the still-untitled, forever-delayed Rihanna documentary, which was sold to Amazon for $25m in 2019. The director, Peter Berg, reportedly amassed over 1,200 hours of footage of the Barbadian superstar, and that was before her gravity-defying Super Bowl halftime performance last year or the birth of her second child in August. I had hoped the Super Bowl would mean an easy doc promo tie-in, but alas. We have received no update since last January, when Berg confirmed the film was “done and sold” and just waiting for her approval, which means I will probably write this entry again next January.

Girls State

Film-makers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine drew acclaim, and a Sundance grand jury prize, back in 2020 with their Apple TV+ documentary Boys State, which followed the surprisingly moving, cutthroat jockeying between 1,100 17-year-old boys tasked with electing and running a mock state government in Texas. This year, Moss and McBaine are back with Girls State, a companion piece (also from Apple Original Films) about a similar program for teenage girls in Missouri, which I have to assume will have less Lord of the Flies-esque chaos but just as many power games.


June Carter Cash, late wife of country legend Johnny Cash and a trailblazing artist in her own right, takes center stage in her own documentary, premiering on 16 January on Paramount+. A member of the Carter family of country singers, Carter Cash opened for Elvis Presley, co-wrote Ring of Fire and charted numerous duets with her husband before her death in 2003, at age 73. Produced by two of her children, June purports to feature never-before-seen footage of the singer as well as interviews with such figures as Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Kacey Musgraves and Reese Witherspoon, who won an Oscar for playing her in the 2006 film Walk the Line.

Black Box Diaries

The journalist Shiori Ito caused waves in Japan with the publication of her sexual assault memoir Black Box in 2017, which is credited with kickstarting Japan’s #MeToo movement. The book, which recounted her experience of assault, attempts to prosecute her high-profile assailant and flaws within the Japanese criminal justice system, became a bestseller translated into several languages, including English. Now, Ito’s directorial debut, which premieres at Sundance, traces what became a landmark legal case in Japan with secret investigative recordings, verité footage and emotional first-person testimony.

Super/Man: The Christopher Reeve Story

From directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui, Super/Man uses home videos to tell the story of Christopher Reeve, the action-film star and original Superman who was paralyzed from the neck down during an equestrian competition in 1995. After his accident, Reeve lobbied for disability rights and care, as well as spinal injury research via embryonic stem cell technologies, until his death from complications in 2004. The film reportedly examines Reeve’s double life as an action star and disability advocate using a wheelchair and ventilator, with participation from his children, family and friends.

As We Speak

In an interesting twist on the standard music documentary, Bronx-based rap artist Kemba explores how criminal justice systems have weaponized rap lyrics against Black people in the US and abroad as evidence in criminal cases. Directed by JM Harper, who also worked on Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy, the Sundance pick aims to shed light on “the intersection between the weaponization of rap lyrics and threats to freedom of speech”, according to the logline. While exploring the origins of gangster rap, drill and more as well as studies on racial bias in music, As We Speak includes “candid conversations” with artists such as Killer Mike to “reveal a profound history of targeting Black music and artists”.