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Dont Look Back

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Dont Look Back
Theatrical release poster
Directed byD. A. Pennebaker
Written byD. A. Pennebaker
Produced byJohn Court
Albert Grossman
StarringBob Dylan
Albert Grossman
Bob Neuwirth
Joan Baez
Alan Price
Tito Burns
Derroll Adams
Horace Freeland Judson
Edited byD. A. Pennebaker
Music byBob Dylan
Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc.
Distributed byLeacock-Pennebaker, Inc.
Release date
  • May 17, 1967 (1967-05-17)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States

Dont Look Back is a 1967 American documentary film directed by D. A. Pennebaker that covers Bob Dylan's 1965 concert tour in England.

In 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[1][2] In a 2014 Sight & Sound poll, film critics voted Dont Look Back the joint ninth best documentary film of all time.[3]


The opening scene of the film has Dylan displaying and discarding a series of cue cards bearing selected words and phrases from the lyrics to his 1965 song "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (including intentional misspellings and puns).[4] This was the first single from his most recent album, Bringing It All Back Home, and a top ten hit in the UK when he filmed it there (a fact discussed in the film). Allen Ginsberg appears in the background having a discussion with Bob Neuwirth.

The film features Joan Baez, Donovan and Alan Price (who had just left the Animals), Dylan's manager Albert Grossman and his road manager Neuwirth. Marianne Faithfull, John Mayall, Ginger Baker and Allen Ginsberg may also be glimpsed in the background. Notable scenes include:





D. A. Pennebaker speaking at DVD re-release event on February 27, 2007

The original title of this film is Dont Look Back, without an apostrophe in the first word. D. A. Pennebaker, the film's writer director, decided to punctuate the title this way because "It was my attempt to simplify the language".[5] Many sources, however, have assumed this to be a typographical error and have "corrected" the title to Don't Look Back. In the commentary track to the DVD release, Pennebaker said that the title came from the Satchel Paige quote, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you," and that Dylan shared this view.


Dont Look Back was shot in black-and-white with a handheld 16mm-film camera and utilized direct sound, thus creating the template for the "rockumentary" film genre.[6] Production began when Dylan arrived in England on April 26, 1965, and ended shortly after his final UK concert at the Royal Albert Hall on May 10.[7] Pennebaker has stated that the famous "Subterranean Homesick Blues" music video that is shown at the beginning of the film was actually shot at the very end of filming. Pennebaker decided during editing to place it at the beginning of the film as a "stage" for Dylan to begin the film.


The film was first shown publicly May 17, 1967, at the Presidio Theater in San Francisco, and opened that September at the 34th Street East Theater in New York.

A transcript of the film, with photographs, was published in 1968 by Ballantine Books.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Dont Look Back has been very well received by critics. It has a rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 55 reviews. The film received a 5-star review from AllMovie and has a Metacritic score of 84, indicating "universal acclaim".[8] In August 1967, a Newsweek reviewer wrote, "Dont Look Back is really about fame and how it menaces art, about the press and how it categorizes, bowdlerizes, sterilizes, universalizes or conventionalizes an original like Dylan into something it can dimly understand".[9][10]

Kurt Cobain identified it as the only "good documentary about rock and roll" in a 1991 interview with his Nirvana bandmates, a sentiment with which Dave Grohl concurred.[11]

The film has been parodied and paid homage to by many other films and television shows including This Is Spinal Tap,[12] Bob Roberts,[13] and Documentary Now!.[14] The opening sequence featuring "Subterranean Homesick Blues" has likewise inspired many music videos, including INXS' "Mediate",[15] MC Evidence's "The Far Left"[16] and "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Bob",[17] and was cited by journalist Roger Friedman as "the most copied, most revered, music video of all time".[18]

Home media[edit]

Dont Look Back has been released and re-released on home video in many formats, from VHS to Blu-ray, over the decades. A digitally remastered deluxe DVD edition was released on February 27, 2007.[19] The two-disc edition contained the remastered film, five additional audio tracks, commentary by filmmaker D. A. Pennebaker and Tour Road Manager Bob Neuwirth, an alternative version on the video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues", the original companion book edited by D. A. Pennebaker to coincide with the film's release in 1968, a flip-book for a section of the "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video, and a brand new documentary by D. A. Pennebaker and edited by Walker Lamond called 65 Revisited. The DVD packaging was also given new artwork.

On November 24, 2015, The Criterion Collection released a newly restored 4K transfer of the film on Blu-ray and DVD.[20] The Criterion version contained new special features.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hooray for Hollywood (December 1998) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin". www.loc.gov. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  3. ^ "Silent film tops documentary poll". BBC News. August 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Films, Pennebaker Hegedus (April 12, 2013). "DONT LOOK BACK (1967) – Trailer". Retrieved June 20, 2020 – via Vimeo.
  5. ^ Sounes, Howard, 2001, Down The Highway: The Life Of Bob Dylan, Doubleday, p. 171.
  6. ^ "Don't Look Back, Bob Dylan and the invention of the rockumentary". the Guardian. May 17, 2016. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  7. ^ "Still On The Road 1965". bjorner.com. Retrieved February 17, 2022.
  8. ^ Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back, retrieved February 17, 2022
  9. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 40 – Ballad in Plain D: Bob Dylan. [1966] : UNT Digital Library" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  10. ^ "Dont Look Back (1967)". Thefilmchair.com. January 16, 2007. Retrieved April 29, 2011.
  11. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Nirvana - Interview about the movie Singles in 1992, January 15, 2014, retrieved April 10, 2021
  12. ^ "11 Things You Didn't Know About 'Spinal Tap'". HuffPost. March 11, 2014. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  13. ^ "Bob Roberts DVD review | Cine Outsider". www.cineoutsider.com. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  14. ^ "'Documentary Now!' a spoof on docs by 'SNL' alums Seth Meyers, Bill Hader and Fred Armisen". Daily News. August 14, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  15. ^ chrishewitt. "5 best odes to Bob Dylan's iconic cue card video for 'Subterranean Homesick Blues'". Star Tribune. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  16. ^ Weingarten, Christopher R. (March 30, 2010). "Is Bob Dylan Hip-Hop's Godfather? His Ties to Beasties, Roots, More". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  17. ^ "Weird Al's best non-parody songs". We Got This Covered. January 20, 2022. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  18. ^ "Happy 94th Birthday to DA Pennebaker the Greatest Documentary Filmmaker, Lifetime Oscar Recipient". Showbiz411. July 15, 2019. Retrieved August 23, 2023.
  19. ^ Amazon.com: Bob Dylan – Don't Look Back (1965 Tour Deluxe Edition): Bob Neuwirth, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Nico, Albert Grossman, Alan Price, Tito Burns, Donovan,Derroll Adams, Chris Ellis (III), Marianne Faithfull, Terry Ellis (II), Jones Alk, Allen Ginsberg, Brian Pendleton (II),Howard Alk, John Mayall, D. A. Pennebaker: Movies & TV
  20. ^ "Dont Look Back (1967) – The Criterion Collection". Retrieved February 16, 2016.


  • Hall, Jeanne (1998): Don´t you ever just watch? American Cinéma vérité and DONT LOOK BACK. In: Grant, Barry Keith/Sloniowski, Jeannette (eds.): Documenting the Documentary. Close Readings of Documentary Film and Video. pp. 223–236, Detroit: Wayne St. University Press, ISBN 978-0814326398
  • Saunders, Dave (2007). Direct Cinema: Observational Documentary and the Politics of the Sixties. London: Wallflower Press. ISBN 978-1-905674-16-9. (This book contains a lengthy chapter on Dont Look Back and its cultural context and significance.)

External links[edit]