21 excellent music documentaries that you can stream right now
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21 excellent music documentaries that you can stream right now

For serious music obsessives, listening to great tunes just isn't enough. Fortunately, there's a ton of excellent documentaries that dig into the lives, works, and controversies behind the greatest musicians in history.

From a look behind the scenes at the making of David Bowie's final albums to profiles of icons like Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton, and Whitney Houston, these 21 music documentaries are perfect for fans of all genres.

 
1 of 21

“ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas”

“ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas”
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

If you don’t know much about legendary Texas southern rock band ZZ Top other than that “Legs” is one hell of a song, “ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” is an excellent glimpse into the band’s history and its impact on rock, folk, and country music today. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
2 of 21

“Gaga: Five Foot Two”

“Gaga: Five Foot Two”
Walter McBride/FilmMagic

Offering a truly intimate portrait of what it is like to be one of the world’s largest superstars, “Gaga: Five Foot Two” follows Stefani “Lady Gaga” Germanotta as she produces her acclaimed 2016 album “Joanne,” plus her decidedly over-the-top performance during the Super Bowl LI halftime show. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
3 of 21

"Hip Hop Evolution"

"Hip Hop Evolution"
Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for Triller

This docuseries offers a crash course in hip-hop history via interviews and archival footage of some of its most legendary artists, including Kool Mo Dee, Too Short, Notorious B.I.G. and so many more legends. For folks who aren’t exactly familiar with the genre’s rich history, this series is a must. Stream all episodes on Netflix. 

 
4 of 21

Dolly Parton: Here I Am"

“Dolly Parton: Here I Am"
Valerie Macon/Getty Images

There’s probably nobody more candid on earth than country superstar Dolly Parton, and that candor provides endless charm in “Dolly Parton: Here I Am.” Learn about her rise from poverty in rural Tennessee to Nashville stardom, straight from the icon’s mouth. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
5 of 21

"ReMastered: Devil At The Crossroads”

"ReMastered: Devil At The Crossroads”
Getty Images

Digging into one of the most enduring legends in music history, “Devil At The Crossroads” tells the story of the mysterious life of bluesman Robert Johnson, who many have said sold his soul to the devil at a literal crossroads in Mississippi in order to obtain his prodigious guitar talent. It features interviews with artists like Keb Mo and Eric Clapton, who were heavily influenced by Johnson’s music. Stream on Netflix. 

 
6 of 21

Keith Richards: Under The Influence"

“Keith Richards: Under The Influence"
Rich Fury/Getty Images

There’s probably no rock n’ roller who’s had a wilder life than Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, and fans can enjoy some of his most unbelievable tales in “Keith Richards: Under The Influence." Directed by Morgan Neville, the film follows Richards as he recorded his 2014 solo album “Crosseyed Heart,” and is positively packed with juicy details for Stones fans. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
7 of 21

"Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce"

"Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce"
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Coachella

Known as a tireless perfectionist, that’s really exemplified in “Homecoming,” a film that goes behind the scenes of Beyonce Knowles-Carter’s iconic performance at the 2018 Coachella music festival. It offers a rare glimpse into the life of the notoriously private Carter and offers proof as to why she’s the world’s greatest living performer. Stream on Netflix. 

 
8 of 21

“ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke”

“ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke”
Jess Rand/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Killed under mysterious circumstances at the height of his powers in 1964, Sam Cooke’s death has always been a controversy. “The Two Killings of Sam Cooke'' digs into why Cooke, a devoted civil rights activist and endlessly talented musician, ended up shot and killed by the manager of a Los Angeles hotel. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
9 of 21

"What Happened Miss Simone?"

"What Happened Miss Simone?"
David Redfern/Redferns

A civil rights activist and soul legend who led a tumultuous life, Nina Simone possessed one of the most compelling voices in modern music history. Featuring interviews with Simone’s daughter, who also executive produced the film, it offers an unflinching look at a woman who struggled with personal demons while advocating for the liberation of her people and producing some of the best soul music ever recorded. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
10 of 21

“David Bowie: The Last Five Years”

“David Bowie: The Last Five Years”
Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In the final years of his life, Starman David Bowie continued to be ridiculously prolific, releasing two acclaimed albums and producing his own Broadway musical. “David Bowie: The Last Five Years” is a much-watch for Bowie fans, but also for music fans in general who aren’t fully aware of his contributions to the genre and dedication to his craft. Stream the film on HBO Max. 

 
11 of 21

Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On”

“Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On”
Roy Rochlin/WireImage

Across five episodes, viewers get a glimpse into the world of one of the hardest-working, most successful entertainers in music history. “Garth Brooks: The Road I’m On” charts Brooks’s path from a college student in Oklahoma to selling out stadiums more than three decades later via intimate, revealing interviews with Brooks, his family, and those who watched him ascend to the top. Stream the series on Netflix. 

 
12 of 21

“Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell”

“Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell”
Tim Mosenfelder/ImageDirect

One of the most influential rappers of the 1990s, Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace’s life was tragically cut short in a 1997 shooting that remains unsolved. “Biggie: I Got A Story to Tell” includes never-before-seen footage of Wallace as a young man, plus interviews with his friends and family, including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Wallace’s mother Violetta, Mary J. Blige, and producer Clive Davis. Stream the film on Netflix. 

 
13 of 21

"ReMastered: Tricky Dıck and the Man In Black"

"ReMastered: Tricky Dıck and the Man In Black"
White House Photo Office/PhotoQuest/Getty Images

This 2018 documentary explores the attempts of disgraced former president Richard Nixon to woo the support of Johnny Cash in the early 1970s. Suffice it to say, the “Man In Black” wasn’t exactly interested in supporting Nixon’s policy initiatives, and this film digs into why. Stream on Netflix. 

 
14 of 21

"Tina"

"Tina"
Rob Verhorst/Redferns

This groundbreaking new documentary about the life and trials of rock and roll legend Tina Turner is an excellent look at her career, from the very beginning performing alongside Ike Turner to her massive comeback in the 1980s. Speaking candidly about many of these topics for the first time ever, Turner tells her own story in the most compelling way possible across five episodes. Stream the film on HBO Max. 

 
15 of 21

“20 Feet From Stardom”

“20 Feet From Stardom”
Twenty Feet From Stardom Official Facebook page

Superstars get all the credit, but this documentary about the world of ridiculously talented backup singers like Judith Hill, Tata Vega, and Jo Lawry is a must-watch for anyone who loves great music. “20 Feet From Stardom” is currently available for rent via YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu, among other services. 

 
16 of 21

"Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck"

"Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck"
Frank Micelotta Archive / Contributor

Following the life of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain from his birth in Washington to forming Nirvana to his tumultuous relationship with wife Courtney Love and struggles with heroin addiction. It’s unflinching and at times difficult to watch, but a must for lovers of either Nirvana or rock music history. 

 
17 of 21

"Amy"

"Amy"
Epsilon/Getty Images

The tragic life of British chanteuse Amy Winehouse ended too soon, and “Amy” digs deep into exactly why. Packed with rare footage of Winehouse and interviews with her collaborators, friends, and family, it’s a tear-jerker that will stick with viewers long after the credits roll. Stream the film on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. 

 
18 of 21

“Madonna: Truth or Dare"

“Madonna: Truth or Dare"
Kevin Mazur/WireImage

It may not have the critical acclaim of other music documentaries, but there’s no denying the cult appeal of Madonna’s 1991 documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare.” Following the artist as she embarked on her Blond Ambition tour in 1990, the film paved the way for so many of the great music documentaries that exist today. Watch on Pluto TV, or rent via Apple TV, YouTube, or Vudu. 

 
19 of 21

“Amazing Grace”

“Amazing Grace”
Val Wilmer/Redferns

With shot direction from Sydney Pollack and the always-incredible pipes of the Queen of Soul, “Amazing Grace” was filmed in 1972 but didn’t get its release until 2018. It’s perhaps one of the most compelling concert films of all time, following the live recording of her gospel album of the same name at a Los Angeles church. Even though you couldn’t be in attendance, like Mick Jagger, this film is decidedly the next best thing. Stream on Hulu, or rent via YouTube or Apple TV. 

 
20 of 21

"Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back"

"Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back"
Cyrus Andrews/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

One of the all-time great documentaries covering any subject matter, “Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back” is the definition of iconic. It follows Dylan as he tours across England in 1965, and features cameos from ‘60s legends like Joan Baez, Marianne Faithfull, and poet Allen Ginsberg along with raw footage of the man himself at the height of his powers. Watch on Hulu or HBO Max. 

 
21 of 21

Whitney: Can I Be Me?

Whitney: Can I Be Me?
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

This 2017 film works its way backward, starting from the date of singer Whitney Houston’s tragic death in 2012, then digs deep into Houston’s tumultuous life. It’s based mostly on archival footage of Houston and her family, along with more controversial figures in Houston’s life like husband Bobby Brown and friend Robyn Crawford. Stream the film on Showtime Anytime, or rent on Vudu. 

Amy McCarthy is a Texas-based journalist. Follow her on twitter at @aemccarthy

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