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When You're Strange is a 2009 music documentary film about the American rock band the Doors. It was written and directed by Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp. The film begins with the band's formation in 1965, its development over the next two years, release of their debut album and subsequent albums and Jim Morrison's use of alcohol and drugs and subsequent death in Paris in July 1971. The film features archival footage of rehearsals, TV and concert performances, private cine-film and the background to Morrison's arrest at a 1969 Miami concert and later trial.[1] The film also includes the first public release of material from Morrison's 1969 film HWY: An American Pastoral.[2]

When You're Strange
When You're Strange.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byTom DiCillo
Produced byJohn Beug
Jeff Jampol
Peter Jankowski
Written byTom DiCillo
Narrated byJohnny Depp
Music byThe Doors
CinematographyPaul Ferrara
Edited byMicky Blythe
Kevin Krasny
Distributed byRhino Entertainment
Release date
  • January 17, 2009 (2009-01-17) (Sundance)
  • April 9, 2010 (2010-04-09) (United States)
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States

Doors' keyboardist Ray Manzarek stated that "This will be the true story of the Doors,"[2][3] and that the film will be "the anti-Oliver Stone,"[2][3] referring to the 1991 film about the group that Stone directed, and which drew criticism from many Doors fans and several people who knew Morrison.


The documentary was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 17, 2009.[4] It received somewhat favorable reviews from that showing, but the narration (by director DiCillo) was singled out by most viewers as very seriously flawed for its monotonous delivery. Due to the rash of complaints about the narration, Johnny Depp was hired to redub it. A few months later, DiCillo pronounced the film "just about locked" and announced that there would be a showing of the new "redux" version. It debuted at the Los Angeles Film Festival on Sunday, June 21, 2009.

The completed film was also shown at the London Film Festival on October 16–18, 2009. The film was released in theaters on April 9, 2010,[5] with a soundtrack release on April 6, 2010. It was released in Canada on April 15, 2010. PBS showed this film as part of its series American Masters on May 12, 2010.[6] The film was released on DVD on June 29, 2010.[7][8] In France the film, distributed by MK2, was released under its original title and received an excellent reception.[9]


Doors guitarist Robby Krieger believes that the film puts together a more accurate portrayal of Morrison than the 1991 biopic: "I think when you see the Oliver Stone movie – I'm amazed how good Val Kilmer did – but, you know, the problem with that movie is that the script was kind of stupid. It doesn't really capture how Jim was at all. This gives you a much better insight into how his mind worked, I think."[10]

Overall Krieger felt "really happy" about how the film has turned out, crediting in particular the editing work. The surviving members of the band decided not to get too involved in the project to try to get the right neutral balance that an outsider would try to achieve.[10]

The film was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series following its airing on American Masters on PBS.[11] In December 2010 the film was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Video and subsequently won the award in February 2011.[12]


  • Jim Morrison as himself (archive footage) – vocalist for The Doors
  • Ray Manzarek as himself (archive footage) – keyboardist for The Doors
  • John Densmore as himself (archive footage) – percussionist for The Doors
  • Robby Krieger as himself (archive footage) – guitarist for The Doors
  • Paul A. Rothchild as himself (archive footage) – producer (first five albums)
  • Bruce Botnick as himself (archive footage) – sound engineer (on all studio albums) and co-producer for L.A. Woman
  • Johnny Depp – narrator


A film soundtrack entitled When You're Strange: Music from the Motion Picture featuring 14 Doors' songs and Morrison's poetry read by Johnny Depp was released to coincide with the film's release.[13]


  1. ^ David Gritten (1 July 2010). "When You're Strange, review". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Cohen, Jonathan. "Doors Documentary Revisits 'Strange' Days". December 18, 2008.
  3. ^ a b Prato, Greg. "Manzarek Eyes Doors Documentary, Other Projects". May 27, 2008.
  4. ^ When You're Strange|Sundance Film Festival 2009. Accessed on January 26, 2009.
  5. ^ Welcome to When You're Strange | When You're Strange
  6. ^ "When You're Strange, a film about The Doors: About the Film". PBS. April 9, 2010. Retrieved May 15, 2010.
  7. ^ "Eagle Rock Entertainment to Release DVD and Blu-ray of "When You're Strange"". 2010-05-11. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  8. ^ "The Doors | When You're Strange (Soundtrack)". Rhino. 2002-07-22. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  9. ^ When you're strange, l'hymne à la gloire des Doors
  10. ^ a b Patch, Nick. "Krieger Interview". The Canadian Press. June 30, 2010.
  11. ^ Welcome to When You're Strange | When You're Strange
  12. ^ "86. GRAMMY NOMINATION |". 2010-12-02. Retrieved 2012-03-23.
  13. ^ Paul Whitelaw (2010). "The Doors When You're Strange: Songs From the Motion Picture Review". BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2018.

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