Music is such an enormous part of our lives, it makes sense to want to learn and experience more about it. Fortunately with streaming services crammed full of excellent performances, fans of any genre can take a deeper dive behind the music whenever they want. Here are
19 streaming music documentaries worth watching, even if you're not as familiar with the artists involved.
You may not even know who The Dandy Warhols or Brian Jonestown Massacre are, but if you've ever been near a local music scene where one band gets a taste of fame, the cattiness, infighting, bitter rivalries and angry tirades of
Dig! will seem awfully familiar. The completely open access of Madonna: Truth Or Dare, meanwhile, will appeal to any reality show fans, even if you're not into the Material Girl's music (but come on now, it's like a greatest hits collection of her work). Fans of early blues will love that former rarity Louie Bluie is back in circulation, but anyone can enjoy Louie's blunt, raucous act and a look at a place and time rarely talked about in America. Whatever genre is your preference, you'll find something you love in the documentaries here, all streaming now. 1 'Hype'
This is the definitive documentary on the entire '90s Seattle grunge scene, hands down.
Available on FilmStruck. 2 'Louie Bluie'
Ghost World, director Terry Zwigoff made a documentary about obscure blues musician Howard Armstrong. Long unavailable, this raunchy, funny film follows this member of the last known black string band as he talks about life and music. Available on Kanopy and FilmStruck. 3 'The Decline Of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years' Decline I focused on music near and dear to Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris' heart; The Metal Years shows up L.A.'s 8'0s hair metal scene for the ostentatious, misogynist, blustering boys club it was. Available on TubiTV. 4 'Style Wars'
An in-the-moment read of New York's burgeoning hip-hop and graffiti scene,
Style Wars is rightly praised for capturing history as it happened. Available on Fandor and Sundance Now. 5 'Stop Making Sense'
The perfect concert film, no question.
Available on Amazon Prime, Vudu, TubiTV, Fandor, and Sundance Now. 6 'A Hard Day's Night'
This is the film that explains why Beatlemania was a phenomenon. Charming, cheeky, and still feeling fresh, this documentary of sorts captures the Fab Four at their most irreverent.
Available on Kanopy and FilmStruck. 7 'Buena Vista Social Club'
An ensemble of Cuban musicians who met to play music became a worldwide phenomenon decades later, as they traveled to New York City to perform.
Available on FilmStruck. 8 'Scott Walker: 30th Century Man'
Ths doc follows enigmatic musician Scott Walker as he turned his back on '60s pop stardom in search of something greater, and features a wide array of the musicians he influenced, including biggest fan David Bowie.
Available on Amazon Prime, Kanopy, and Fandor. 9 'A Band Called Death'
Three brothers in Detroit formed a proto-punk funk band full of aggressive energy, but remained largely unknown due to stubborn refusal to change their name, or their vision.
Available on Vudu, TubiTV, Fandor, and Starz. 10 'Who Is Harry Nilsson'
A film with a history difficult as the musician it documents, following the musician's rise to fame (with a bolster from big fans The Beatles) and trouble dealing with it.
Available on Kanopy, TubiTV, Fandor, and Sundance. 11 'The Last Waltz'
Martin Scorsese directs this all-star farewell concert featuring The Band, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, and many others.
Available on Amazon Prime and TubiTV. 12 'Madonna: Truth Or Dare'
Strike a pose and join Madonna for a no-hold-barred look at her life on and offstage during her Blonde Ambition tour.
Available on Fandor. 13 'This Is It'
The title says it all, as this posthumous documentary captures Michael Jackson as consummate performer and perfectionist on what would be his last tour.
Available on Starz and Amazon Streaming. 14 'Anvil! The Story of Anvil'
The seeming inspiration for
Spinal Tap, this doc shows how Anvil just couldn't catch a break but never, ever stopped trying. Available on Netflix. 15 'Metallica: Some Kind Of Monster'
...And on the opposite side of fame, there's Metallica, a band so burdened by success they have to call in a life coach to try and help them fix it. Will they manage to stop navel-gazing and get an album out?
Available on Netflix. 16 'Finding Fela'
A documentary as intense as its subject, following Afrobeat leader Fela Kuti's uncompromising mix of music and politics.
Available on Kanopy. 17 'The Fearless Freaks'
The Flaming Lips found success later in life, but they were creating truly strange and experimental happenings from the very beginning. This documentary follows the full arc of their work.
Available on TubiTV. 18 'Dave Chapelle's Block Party'
Michele Gondry directs this uplifting, enlivening gigantic block party that brings together an entire neighborhood.
Available on Starz and Amazon Streaming. 19 'Dig!'
Some bands become big, and others... don't. Why? This film follows two bands starting off in the same place moving on wildly different planes of success, with plenty of rivalry as they go.
Available on Fandor. 20 'The Wrecking Crew'
Following a group of under-heralded session musicians behind some of the biggest hits of the '60s and '70s, this documentary finally celebrates The Wrecking Crew's unseen addition to the music beloved by so many.
Available on Netflix.
Consider these movies one excellent mix tape of what's available, as there's plenty of amazing music documentaries not currently streaming. But with titles coming and going all the time, you can cover the full range of music history with a little patience.