The Best Biographical Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

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It's official: Biographical documentaries are having a moment. Films in the genre have been among the most notable movies in the past few years, including the thought-provoking film RBG (about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg), the heartwarming documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? (about the beloved Mr. Rogers), and the harrowing Whitney (about the late singer Whitney Houston).

Unfortunately, not all of these popular nonfiction films are available to watch from the comfort of your couch, so we culled Netflix's vast documentary library to find watchlist-worthy biographical documentaries that are streaming right now. Ranging from an untold story about the exceptional women who dared to reach for the stars (literally) to an intimate look at the most inspiring musicians of our time, these 15 films are proof that the genre has the power to change your life.

Below, read on to browse the top biography documentaries on Netflix—and learn something new in the process.

01 of 15

Quincy (2018)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

This 2018 Netflix documentary details the life of Quincy Jones, an iconic musician and producer. You're probably familiar with his daughter, Rashida Jones, from her work as an actress and famously loved character Ann Perkins on Parks and Recreation—but she also co-directed her father's biographical documentary with Alan Hicks. Quincy follows Jones' career from both the best-selling single and album of all time to his 79 Grammy nominations and rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) win.

Available on: Netflix

02 of 15

Becoming (2020)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

Michelle Obama's name is known around the globe, but it took a lifetime of work to get there. Discover the former first lady's hopes and dreams, accomplishments, and a close look at life behind the public eye in Becoming. The documentary covers Obama's 2019 book tour after the release of her autobiography of the same name. As you follow her to 39 cities across the nation, you'll learn about Obama's work as a lawyer, her childhood, her life with Barack, and what it's like to be a mother of two daughters while raising them in the White House.

Available on: Netflix

03 of 15

Inside Bill's Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

This 2019 Netflix original documentary series explores the life of Bill Gates, who you likely know as the former Microsoft CEO and tech pioneer. But aside from his work in the industry, Gates is also known for his philanthropy (and co-founding the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation). Learn about his work to fight climate change, dedication to improving living conditions in developing countries, and even his childhood in this three-part series.

Available on: Netflix

04 of 15

Mercury 13 (2018)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

Mercury 13 tells the story of the exceptional women who were screened for space flight, only to have their dreams dashed when NASA selected only men for the mission. These 13 women were bound for Project Mercury: America's first program to put humans in space. Remember the space race with the Soviet Union? It all began here.

Available on: Netflix

05 of 15

Betty White: First Lady of Television (2018)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

America's very first (and arguably, still current) favorite actress is profiled in this informational and heartwarming film. Betty White has earned her title as the First Lady of Television: Not only was she the first woman to star in a sitcom, produce a show, and receive an Emmy nomination, White was actually the first woman ever to appear on television. Betty White: First Lady of Television is an in-depth documentary that explores White's career since her early beginnings on the radio and her first appearance on television in the 1930s.

Available on: Netflix

06 of 15

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

best biographical documentaries

Moxie Firecracker Films

The biographical documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? delves into the life of legendary singer, actress, and activist Nina Simone. The film "may not answer What Happened, Miss Simone?, but it does tell us why the question must be asked and will be asked, for a very long time," observes David Wiegand in SF Gate.

Available on: Netflix

07 of 15

Dolly Parton: Here I Am (2019)

best biographical documentaries

VICE Films

Dolly Parton's humble beginnings in Appalachia set the stage for her lifetime as an American icon—and she's never forgotten her roots. The famous singer/songwriter is known not only for her music, but also for her philanthropy and social justice activism. Dolly Parton: Here I Am begins with the 50th anniversary of Parton's first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Get an intimate look at the singer's life through interviews with her close friends and loved ones, and don't be surprised if you start planning your next trip to Dollywood by the time the documentary finishes.

Available on: Netflix

08 of 15

Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017)

best biographical documentaries

Live Nation Productions

The Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two chronicles the pop star's life at a pivotal moment, coupling the professional pressures of releasing a new album and the personal dilemma of receiving a fibromyalgia diagnosis. "Gaga's current struggle is just a struggle, not a statement about the human condition or about the singer's own career," writes Spencer Kornhaber in The Atlantic. "Inevitably, some will question her suffering—because she's a woman, because of the nature of her sickness, and because of her job as a performer."

Available on: Netflix

09 of 15

Seeing Allred (2018)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

Famed feminist attorney Gloria Allred (the woman behind high-profile cases against Bill Cosby and Donald Trump) is the subject of one of Netflix's latest biographical documentaries, Seeing Allred. The documentary "feels more vital than ever as a microcosm of all of the complexities and contradictions of the current state of feminism in the United States, during a time when forces seem to be conspiring to paint it in large, monochrome brushstrokes," writes Bridget Read in Vanity Fair.

Available on: Netflix

10 of 15

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is a movie buff's documentary dream: a behind-the-scenes look at Jim Carrey's 1999 acting role as the comedian Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Find intimate interviews with Carrey alongside footage during the movie's filming, and fall in love with his humor all over again.

Available on: Netflix

11 of 15

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)

best biographical documentaries

Public Square Films

Those passionate about LGBTQ+ stories will want to add The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson to their watchlist. The subject of the documentary wasn't just a prominent regular in NYC's art and gay scenes and model for Andy Warhol—she was also a transgender activist who played key roles in the gay rights movement and Stonewall Riots in the late '60s and '70s. When her body was found in the Hudson River in 1992, many of her friends suspected foul play when the police labeled her death a suicide, and the film examines the investigation that was opened in 2012.

Available on: Netflix

12 of 15

Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

If you're a fan of true crime, you'll be intrigued by this documentary with real footage of Ted Bundy's interviews while the serial killer was on death row. Get a better understanding of the inner workings of Bundy's mind through modern-day commentary and analysis of this notorious killer. With detailed information on Bundy's most notorious murders, this film is not for the faint of heart—or stomach.

Available on: Netflix

13 of 15

The Black Godfather (2019)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

The 2019 documentary The Black Godfather details the life of Clarence Avant, an influencer in the music, political, and film industries nicknamed "the Black godfather of music." The film was produced in part by Avant's daughter, Nicole A. Avant, and follows a lifetime of his career—mostly focused on his work in music—and his major achievements while working to uplift the Black community in entertainment and the public eye.

Available on: Netflix

14 of 15

Rising Phoenix (2020)

best biographical documentaries

Netflix

If you've ever wanted to learn about the many accomplishments of participants in the Paralympic Games, Rising Phoenix is for you. This Netflix original documentary introduces us to astounding athletes—like a man with no arms who competes in archery—with an inside look at how the games challenge ableism in society. Whether you're a sports fan or not, you'll be captured by this story from start to finish.

Available on: Netflix

15 of 15

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

best biographical documentaries

Parkland Entertainment

Beyoncé pulls the curtain back in her self-directed, Emmy-nominated documentary that chronicles "her diligent, meticulous preparations" ahead of her 2018 Coachella performance, writes Rolling Stone's Brittany Spanos. "[Homecoming] offers insight into the type of hard work it takes to be Beyoncé. As the behind-the-scenes footage in the concert film progresses, her role as director comes with the particular challenge of translating the energy of the massive performance, not only to the live audience but to the people either watching the show’s livestream or even the just-released concert film."

Available on: Netflix

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