1. A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (Richard Lester; 1964) 4 stars

No movie of the 1960s catches that era's exuberance more than Lester's black-and-white Beatlemania saga. Framed as a comically fictionalized day in the life of the Fab Four, it's one of the most excitingly contemporary musicals ever; most rock movies (with the exception of concert films like "Woodstock" or "The Last Waltz") haven't recaptured its magic. (available on DVD and video)

2. WOODSTOCK (Michael Wadleigh; 1970) 4 stars

One of the handful of 1970s films that really catch its moment: the outdoor stage on Max Yasgur's farm, the endless swarming crowd, the streetwise beat of Sly and the family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix's hair-raising National Anthem. (the DVD and video "Director's Cut" adds 40 minutes of concert footage to the original three-hour running time)

3. GIMME SHELTER (Albert and David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin; 1970) 4 stars

The great, chilling rock concert documentary on The Rolling Stones' triumphant but ill-fated 1969 U.S. concert tour, which shows "the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band" at one of their performance peaks, climaxing with the horrifying on-screen murder at the Altamont Speedway free concert. (the DVD and video versions have five extra Stones performances)

4. WATTSTAX (Mel Stuart; 1972) 3 1/2 stars

An evocative and entertaining film chronicling Stax Records' concert commemorating the seventh anniversary of the Los Angeles Watts riots. We see the sights and sounds of black L.A., circa '72, while the citizenry vent their anger and hope, and the Stax artists sizzle on stage. (video)

5. TOMMY(Ken Russell; 1975) 4 stars

The Who's rock opera about a blind pinball champ (lead singer Roger Daltrey) in a mad post-World War II world, performed with fervor by the band, and acted/sung by an all-star cast: Oliver Reed as Tommy's dad, Jack Nicholson as the psychiatrist, Who drummer Keith Moon as Uncle Ernie, Eric Clapton as The Preacher, Tina Turner as the Acid Queen, Elton John as the Pinball Wizard and (in her finest movie hour) Ann-Margret as Tommy's mother. (DVD & video)

Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune movie critic.