The Velvet Underground
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Haynes
Produced by
CinematographyEdward Lachman[1]
Edited by
Distributed byApple TV+
Release date
  • July 7, 2021 (2021-07-07) (Cannes)
  • October 15, 2021 (2021-10-15) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States

The Velvet Underground is a 2021 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, 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 co-operation 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]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. 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."[15] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted score of 88 out of 100 based on 30 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

Some critics felt the documentary glossed over the band's 1969 self-titled album and contributions by Yule.[17][18][19]


  1. ^ "Every Story Has its Own Language". British Cinematographer. 12 June 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  2. ^ "The Velvet Underground". Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  3. ^ Strauss, Matthew (October 21, 2020). "The Velvet Underground Documentary, Directed by Todd Haynes, Is Coming to Apple TV+". Pitchfork. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  4. ^ Kot, Greg (October 21, 2014). "The Velvet Underground: As influential as The Beatles?". BBC. Retrieved November 25, 2016.
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Velvet Underground – Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  6. ^ Kreps, Daniel (August 7, 2017). "Director Todd Haynes Plans Velvet Underground Documentary". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  7. ^ Siegel, Tatiana (May 15, 2019). "Cannes: Todd Haynes to Direct Doc on The Velvet Underground (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  8. ^ Day-Ramos, Dino (January 27, 2018). "Todd Haynes To Direct And Produce 'The Velvet Underground' Feature Docu For Polygram, Verve". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  9. ^ Radish, Christina (December 6, 2019). "Director Todd Haynes on 'Dark Waters' and His Upcoming 'Velvet Underground' Documentary". Collider. Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  10. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (October 15, 2021). "The Velvet Underground Meets Its Match in Todd Haynes". The New York Times. The New York Times Company: C1. Archived from the original on October 15, 2021.
  11. ^ Richardson, Mark (October 12, 2021). "'Velvet Underground' Documentary Review: Rough-Edged Rockers". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Archived from the original on October 12, 2021.
  12. ^ Donnelly, Matt (October 21, 2020). "Todd Haynes-Directed 'Velvet Underground' Documentary Lands at Apple (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved October 21, 2020.
  13. ^ "The films of the Official Selection 2021". Cannes Film Festival. June 3, 2021. Retrieved June 3, 2021.
  14. ^ "The Velvet Underground". Apple TV+. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ The Velvet Underground, retrieved 2021-10-15
  16. ^ The Velvet Underground, retrieved 2021-10-15
  17. ^ Glieberman, Owen (July 7, 2021). "'The Velvet Underground' Review: Todd Haynes' Music Documentary Is a Dazzling Historical Collage, but Not a Definitive Portrait". Variety. Penske Business Media. Archived from the original on July 7, 2021.
  18. ^ Golsen, Tyler (October 23, 2021). "The Velvet Underground album that Todd Haynes' documentary ignored". Far Out. Archived from the original on October 23, 2021.
  19. ^ Power, Ed (October 26, 2021). "The Velvet Underground owe so much to Doug Yule – why was he written out of history?". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Archived from the original on October 26, 2021.