Calling All Audiophiles—These Are the Best Music Documentaries, Hands Down

Updated 01/30/18
best music documentaries
Original Graphic by Viviana Duron

You don't need to be an audiophile to appreciate a great music documentary (although, an interest in the subject matter makes it all the more enjoyable, of course). With all the streaming services out there producing excellent content—Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO, for example—it can be difficult to narrow down a list of films to the truly watchlist-worthy.

So we're calling it—these are the best music documentaries of all time. From Lady Gaga and Kurt Cobain to Tupac and Metallica, these films are as much about the music as they are about the people who create it. Whether you're a fan of country, pop, rock, or even heavy metal, we're willing to bet you're going to want to watch every documentary on this list, no matter what your preferred genre is.

Ahead are 12 must-watch films every music lover needs to see at least once.

The Winding Stream

The Winding Stream

Filmmaker Beth Harrington traces the history of "the Carters, the Cashes, and the course of country music" in this folksy documentary.

What Happened Miss Simone?

What Happened Miss Simone?

Composed of never-before-seen interviews and archival footage, What Happened Miss Simone? delves into the life of the iconic Nina Simone.

I Called Him Morgan

I Called Him Morgan

The brilliant jazz musician Lee Morgan was performing on stage when he was shot and murdered by his common-law wife. While it may sound unbelievable, it's true.

Metallica Some Kind of Monster

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

This documentary follows the heavy metal band as they go through group therapy and attempt to grapple with their intrapersonal issues for the sake of the music.

Janis Little Girl Blue

Janis: Little Girl Blue

A must-watch for all music fans, Janis: Little Girl Blue follows the woman who broke into the boys club that was rock in the '60s and '70s.

George Harrison Living in the Material World

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Martin Scorsese's three-and-a-half-hour documentary explores the quirky Beatle's life and works through the artist's own video archive.

Gage: Five Foot Two

Gaga: Five Foot Two

Get a glimpse into the life of the pop provocateur by streaming this documentary on Netflix. Made over the course of a year, you'll see Gaga at her most talented and at her most vulnerable.

Eagles of Death Metal Nos Amis

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends)

The rock band reflects on the night of November 13, 2015, when nine terrorists opened fire at their Paris concert.

The Defiant Ones

The Defiant Ones

This four-part documentary series showcases the relationship between two music visionaries, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, and explores how the two changed the music industry.

Cobain Montage of Heck

Cobain: Montage of Heck

Filmmaker Brett Morgen delves into the Nirvana frontman's life, music career, and untimely death in this rockumentary.

Biggie & Tupac

Biggie & Tupac: The Story Behind the Murder of Raps Biggest Superstars

Documentarian Nick Broomfield's examination of hip-hop's biggest feud is definitely controversial, but it's a must-watch for any music fan in our book.

20 Feet From Stardom

20 Feet From Stardom

In this Academy Award–winning documentary, insanely talented backup singers finally get their moment in the spotlight.

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