If you’re a diehard music fan, chances are you’ve already come across some of the best music documentaries out there. From stories about legendary musicians to behind-the-scenes looks at how classic albums were made, music documentaries offer a unique and engaging way to explore the world of music. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive guide to the best music documentaries of all time, including where to find them and what makes them so special.
What are Music Documentaries?
Music documentaries are non-fiction films that are focused on a particular aspect of music or musicians. They can be about almost anything related to music, from the creation and production of an album to the life and career of a musician or band. The aim of these films is to give viewers a deeper understanding of the music they love by offering an inside look into the creative process, the inspiration behind the music, and the lives of the artists behind the music.
The Best Music Documentaries on Netflix
Netflix has a great selection of music documentaries that cover many different genres, eras, and musicians. Here are some of the best music documentaries on Netflix right now:
- Searching for Sugar Man – This 2012 film tells the story of singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who was unknown in America but became a cultural icon in South Africa. The documentary follows two fans as they try to uncover the truth about what happened to Rodriguez.
- What Happened, Miss Simone? – This film explores the life and career of legendary jazz musician and civil rights activist Nina Simone. Through rare archival footage and interviews with Simone’s family and friends, the film examines the highs and lows of her remarkable life.
- Hip-Hop Evolution – This series chronicles the evolution of hip-hop music, from its origins in the Bronx to its current global domination. The series features interviews with some of the genre’s biggest names, including Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and LL Cool J.
- 20 Feet From Stardom – This film shines a light on the incredible talent of the backup singers who have supported the biggest names in music, from The Rolling Stones to Bruce Springsteen. The documentary features interviews with some of the most accomplished backup singers in history, including Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and Lisa Fischer.
Music Documentaries for Middle School
Music documentaries can be a great way to teach kids about music history and inspire them to explore new musical genres. Here are some of the best music documentaries for middle school students:
- The Wrecking Crew – This film tells the story of the group of studio musicians known as “The Wrecking Crew,” who played on some of the biggest hits of the 1960s and 1970s. The documentary features interviews with the musicians themselves, as well as some of the artists they played with.
- Muscle Shoals – This film explores the unlikely story of how a small town in Alabama became one of the most important music capitals of the world. The documentary features interviews with some of the most iconic musicians of all time, including Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, and Keith Richards.
- The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years – This film takes a deep dive into the early years of the Beatles, from their days playing in clubs in Liverpool to their explosive rise to fame in America. The documentary features rare archival footage and interviews with surviving band members.
- Standing in the Shadows of Motown – This film tells the story of the legendary Funk Brothers, the group of musicians who played on some of the most iconic Motown records of all time. The documentary features interviews with surviving Funk Brothers and some of the artists they worked with, including Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.
Where Can I Find Music Documentaries?
Music documentaries can be found on a variety of platforms, from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu to cable networks like HBO Max. Here are some of the best places to find music documentaries:
- Netflix – Netflix has a great selection of music documentaries, from recent releases to classic films.
- Hulu – Hulu also has a good selection of music documentaries, including some exclusive titles.
- Amazon Prime Video – Amazon Prime Video has a mix of classic and newer music documentaries available for streaming.
- HBO Max – HBO Max offers a curated selection of music documentaries, including original content.
The Best Music Documentary Series
Some music documentaries are so expansive that they are broken up into multiple parts or episodes. These series offer a deeper dive into the world of music and can be great for binge-watching. Here are some of the best music documentary series:
- The Defiant Ones – This four-part series tells the story of the partnership between music industry titans Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, tracing their careers from the beginning to the present day.
- This is Pop – This eight-part series explores the history of pop music, from ABBA to Auto-Tune. Each episode focuses on a different aspect of pop music, from the origins of boy bands to the impact of streaming on the industry.
- ReMastered – This ongoing series from Netflix explores some of the most intriguing mysteries and scandals in music history, from the murder of Sam Cooke to the disappearance of Johnny Cash’s infamous album “Out Among the Stars.”
The Best Music Documentaries of All Time
There are some music documentaries that have stood the test of time and are still considered classics decades after their release. Here are some of the best music documentaries of all time:
- Woodstock – This 1970 film documents the legendary music festival of the same name, which took place in upstate New York in 1969. The documentary features performances by some of the biggest names in music history, including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and The Who.
- Gimme Shelter – This 1970 documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their 1969 tour of the United States, culminating in the ill-fated Altamont Free Concert. The film captures the violence and chaos of the concert, including the stabbing death of a concertgoer.
- Stop Making Sense – This 1984 film documents a live performance by the Talking Heads, filmed over three nights at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles. The film is notable for its inventive cinematography and staging, as well as the incredible energy of the band’s performance.
- The Last Waltz – This 1978 film documents the final concert of The Band, featuring guest appearances by some of the biggest names in music, including Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Neil Young.
The Netflix Doc on Studio Musicians
“Hired Gun” is a 2016 documentary film that explores the careers of some of the most in-demand studio musicians in the music industry. The film features interviews with some of the biggest names in music, including Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, and Steve Vai, as well as the musicians themselves. The film explores the role of studio musicians in the music industry and the challenges they face in an ever-evolving industry.
Music Documentaries Streaming
Many music documentaries are available for streaming on a variety of platforms, from Netflix to Amazon Prime Video. Streaming platforms offer an easy and convenient way to access a wide range of music documentaries from the comfort of your own home. Some of the best music documentaries currently streaming include “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years,” “20 Feet From Stardom,” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
What Streaming Service Has Music Documentaries?
Most streaming services have a selection of music documentaries available for streaming. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Max are all great places to find music documentaries. Some services, like Qello Concerts and Stingray Karaoke, are dedicated solely to music programming and offer an even wider selection of music-related content.
Best Music Documentaries 2022 and 2023
While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds for music documentaries, there are a few highly anticipated films set to be released in the coming years. Here are some of the best music documentaries to look out for in 2022 and 2023:
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) – This documentary, directed by Questlove, tells the story of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, a music festival that featured performances by some of the most iconic musicians of all time, including Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, and Sly and the Family Stone.
- What Drives Us – Directed by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl, this documentary explores the experience of touring from the perspective of musicians who have been there. The film features interviews with several famous musicians, including Ringo Starr, St. Vincent, and Slash.
- Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage – This documentary takes a deep dive into the chaotic and controversial Woodstock ’99 festival, which took place in Rome, New York, in 1999. The film features interviews with attendees, organizers, and musicians who performed at the festival.
Music documentaries offer an incredible opportunity to explore the world of music in new and exciting ways. From behind-the-scenes looks at how classic albums were made to in-depth explorations of the lives and careers of iconic musicians, these films provide a window into the creative process and the inspiration behind some of the greatest music of all time. Whether you’re a diehard music fan or just looking to learn more about the history and culture of music, there’s a music documentary out there for everyone. So grab some popcorn, settle in, and start exploring the world of music through film.