Last Updated: March 13th
Whether they’re about an artist, a band, or maybe just a particular place and time, music documentaries have a unique ability to let their soundtrack be a central aspect to their storytelling. With a selection varying from artist biographies, music history lessons, and those gripping testaments to the creative spirit, Netflix has a wealth of worthwhile films to choose from. Here are the 10 best music documentaries on Netflix right now.
The History Of The Eagles (2013)
An authorized work about the legendary Southern California band, The History of the Eagles was first planned as an oral history of the band, set to be released in 2011 alongside the band’s 40th anniversary. Instead, the work evolved and grew into two distinct parts, the first covering their early career and breakup, and the second covering their reunion and the resurgence in popularity that followed. While former Eagles guitarist Don Felder thought the film ignored too much of their shared history, focusing too much on frontmen Glenn Frey and Don Henley, Henley saw the film as an instruction manual on how bands of their size need leaders to function.
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
A Netflix original directed by Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World ), What Happened, Miss Simone? examines the life and career of the High Priestess of Soul herself, Nina Simone, emphasizing her desire to devote herself to the Civil Rights movement while maintaining her artistry. Assembled from hundreds of hours of audio recordings and interviews, What Happened examines one artist’s towering ego and how it clashed with the absurdity of American culture of the time.
Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017)
A Netflix original documentary that debuted at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, Five Foot Two is a cinéma vérité-style look into the world of pop superstar Lady Gaga, giving viewers candid access that includes some frank and personal moments of her life on and off stage. Capturing what went on behind the scenes with the production of her fifth studio album, Joanne; her halftime performance at Super Bowl LI; and her ongoing feud with fellow pop icon Madonna, the film was largely praised by critics for showing the performer at her most unfiltered.
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Hip-Hop Evolution (2016)
This four-part Canadian documentary chronicles the rise of hip-hop through interviews with some of its most influential artists, from DJ Kool Herc to Grandmaster Flash to Public Enemy and Ice-T. Starting with the early days in the Bronx and going through to the rise of Gangster Rap, Hip-Hop Evolution is a fascinating look at how an underground movement slowly eclipsed the mainstream music world.
Keith Richards: Under The Influence (2015)
What was originally conceived as a promotional video for Keith Richards’ solo album Crosseyed Heart, Under the Influence evolved into an 80-some minutes hang with the seminal Rolling Stones guitarist and songwriter. The doc follows Richards across America where he recounts his love of roots music in places like New York, Nashville, and Chicago, where he traces the origins of the Rolling Stones sound. While there’s some archival footage throughout, the film focuses on the guitarist’s current state of mind, ignoring large, unpleasant parts of Rolling Stones history.
The Winding Stream (2014)
The importance of the Carter family to American music cannot be understated and Oscar-winning director Beth Harrington traces the history to the group’s earliest incarnation through to the descendants that are keeping their legacy alive. Loaded with interviews from the biggest names in country (and alt-country), The Winding Stream is a fundamental crash course in one family’s monumental impact on folk and country music.
Hired Gun (2016)
Rather than focus on the superstars, Hired Gun takes a look at the unknown musicians who are found on stage and in the studios with some of the biggest names in music. Even though they’ve helped to shape some of the greatest moments in pop music history, they’ve done so without the fame, recognition, or adoration of the fans. From their demanding schedules to living life outside the spotlight, Hired Gun shines a light on an unsung corner of the music industry.
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Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014)
A film that has yet to attract a single negative review, I’ll Be Me follows country artist Glen Campbell on his worldwide 16-month farewell tour, which he pulled together, in part, because of a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Despite some initial concern about his health, I’ll Be Me shows how Campbell was not only energized by life on the road, but proves he’s at his best when playing sold out stadiums night after night.
Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child (2010)
Widely heralded as the greatest guitarist of all time, even 47 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child attempts to tell the late musician’s story in his own words. Delving into Hendrix’s writings, drawings, personal items, as well as archived interviews, director Bob Smeaton creates an intimate portrayal of the man behind the legend. Parliament-Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins, and avowed Hendrix fanatic, lends his voice to narrate some of Hendrix’s letters and journal entries used in the film.
Co-produced by Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, Jaco is about the life, and untimely death, of bassist Jaco Pastorius, the man credited with recording the best jazz bass album of all time, 1976’s Jaco Pastorius. The film also looks into Pastorius’ personal life, particularly his struggle with a chemical imbalance, and how that may have impacted his passion.