The Best Music Documentaries on Netflix
Learn the stories behind your favorite music.
You don't need to know the difference between a flugelhorn and a flumpet to appreciate a good music documentary. With the right mix of charismatic and offbeat personalities, rigorous attention to detail, and a judicious limitation of outright hagiography, the result can be simply a great movie (see: Dont Look Back).
Of course, loving the subject only makes a music doc more enjoyable, and Netflix has a solid selection of music docs to help you wile away the hours pondering what it would be like if you had become a rock 'n' roll star.
Want even MORE documentaries? Check out the best docs and docuseries available to stream on Netflix, and the best documentaries of 2021.
Biggie: I Got a Story To Tell (2021)
Die-hard rap fans have known since The Notorious B.I.G.’s second and final studio album Life After Death that the legendary Brooklyn rapper had a story to tell, but this Netflix’s documentary about the hip-hop icon reveals how so much of his story has actually gone overlooked. Thanks to rare footage captured by Biggie’s childhood friend Damion “D-Roc” Butler and archived in-depth interviews, Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell offers an expansive look at Christopher Wallace’s meteoric rise as a rapper, his evolving psyche, and his unrealized ambitions. Rather than yet another doc focused on the lead-up to his still unsolved murder, this must-watch feature celebrates his life and adds a bit of light to the dark cloud surrounding his untimely death.
BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky (2020)Unless you've been living under a rock, you should be at least slightly aware that K-pop is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, phenomenon in music right now. It's not necessarily new, but it's still new to some—and this documentary about the current reigning queens of the genre, BLACKPINK, is an excellent entry point. Documentarian Caroline Suh (Salt Fat Acid Heat) chronicles their rise in this film, from their early days being primed by their agency YG Entertainment with archival footage to today with contemporary interviews. For those curious about the dynamics of YG and its business model of more or less manufacturing stars from young ages, you won't find that here; Light Up the Sky is more interested in turning the stage lights on these four artists to spotlight their individuality, struggles, and triumphs. It'll certainly give you a newfound respect for the girl group, or if you're already a Blink, expect to love these girls even more.
Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives (2017)Director Chris Perkel's documentary on Clive Davis is the equivalent of a greatest hits package. Literally: The music biz exec famously signed and brought success to some of the biggest acts in history, including Janis Joplin, Barry Manilow, Billy Joel, Whitney Houston, and many others. It's also a sweeping, loving overview of the life and career of the influential former Columbia and Arista Records president and RCA chair, with many iconic talking heads singing his praises. Though the doc veers into hagiography rather than a strictly informational look, seeing how Davis touched decades upon decades of popular music is a hit in itself.
Echo in the Canyon (2018)Few documentaries capture the beauty of a specific moment quite like this one. Examining the brief era between 1965 and 1967 when musicians rushed to Laurel Canyon, Echo in the Canyon examines the explosion of folk rock and the influence of artists like Beach Boys, The Mamas and the Papas, and others who made poetry into enduring pop. Featuring interviews with the artists who pioneered that Cali sound, as well as contemporary names who were influenced by it, and a lovely soundtrack that takes you back to the era, it should be required viewing for all rock doc fans.
Everybody's Everything (2019)Lil Peep, nee Gustav Elijah Åhr, was a big deal among certain music circles, yet unknown entirely to others until his death via an accidental overdose of fentanyl and Xanax on November 15, 2017, not long after his 21st birthday. Achieving the true definition of 'cult status,' the emo SoundCloud rapper left behind a career on the verge of a major breakout and a legion of fans clamoring for some sense of clarity—which is what the documentary Everybody's Everything aims to do. Executively produced by his mother and Terrance Malick (A Hidden Life), the film sincerely brings light to who Peep was outside of his persona and the mental illness that he suffered from. It is essentially the perfect tribute to one of music's most dearly departed, recent geniuses.
Excuse Me, I Love You (2020)
Need to be immersed in a world of sexy, saccharine pop perfection? Let Ariana Grande help you with that. This tour documentary sits you in the front row on the London stop of Ari's Sweetener World Tour to see her dazzling performances of hits like "God Is a Woman," "7 Rings," and many others. Because the concert doc, directed by longtime music documentarian Paul Dugdale, can at times feel manufactured to tailor to Grande's controlled image—she is credited as an executive producer—you won't find much unveiled about her personality or the music industry beyond what appears under the spotlight. That doesn't deny the pop star's allure or talent, though: Fans of her music will be served a bubblegum pop delight on a silver platter.