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338 voters

The Best Documentaries About Music

Updated May 21, 2021 3.3k votes 338 voters 16.5k views129 items

A number of documentaries examine the famous lives of musician or discuss the music industry, genres, or the effects music can have on the brain. The best documentaries about music include Oscar nominees, short films, and those music movies you can find on Netflix, Hulu, or even online.  Music affects the deepest parts of our soul; it can inspire us, relax us, lift us up, fill us with adrenaline, make us angry, or unleash our inner rock gods. The best kind of music speaks the language we’ve always wanted to speak but just didn’t know how! What are the best documentaries about bands? 

This list discusses the top documentary films discussing music, including: Carter, Imagine, Searching for Sugar Man, A Band Called Death, Until the Light Takes Us, Lemmy, Last Days Here, American Hardcore, and The Road to God Knows Where. Vote for your favorites and add any that are missing.
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    Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute

    Dolly Parton, Miley Cyrus

    Released2021

    Directed byLaura Segura

    Dolly Parton: A MusiCares Tribute is a 2021 American concert documentary film directed by Laura Segura. In a star-studded evening of music and memories, a community of iconic performers honor Dolly...  more
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    Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer

    Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alyokhina

    Released2013

    Directed byMike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin

    Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer is a 2013 Russian-British documentary film by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin. The film follows the court cases on the Russian feminist/anti-Putinist punk-rock protest...  more
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    Gaga: Five Foot Two

    Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett

    Released2017

    Directed byChris Moukarbel

    Gaga: Five Foot Two is a 2017 documentary film directed by Chris Moukarbel. In addition to covering the production of Lady Gaga's fifth studio album, Joanne, and her halftime performance at Super...  more
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    Beastie Boys Story

    Adam Horovitz, Mike D

    Released2020

    Directed bySpike Jonze

    Beastie Boys Story is a 2020 American documentary film directed by Spike Jonze. The film offers an intimate look into the lives of Mike D (Diamond) and Ad Rock (Horovitz) during their time in the...  more
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    Billie

    Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett

    Released2020

    Directed byJames Erskine

    Billie is a 2019 documentary film about Billie Holliday directed by James Erskine. Based around interviews recorded on audio cassettes in the 1970s while researching a book on Billie Holiday that was...  more
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    Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry

    Billie Eilish, Finneas O'Connell

    Released2021

    Directed byR. J. Cutler

    Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry is a 2021 American musical documentary film directed by R. J. Cutler. A deeply intimate look at the extraordinary teenage musician Billie Eilish, following...  more
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    Tina

    Angela Bassett, Tina Turner

    Released2021

    Directed byDaniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin

    Tina is an 2021 American-British music documentary film, directed by Dan Lindsay and T. J. Martin. A revealing and intimate look at the life and career of musical icon Tina Turner, charting her...  more
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    Searching for Sugar Man

    Dennis Coffey, Malik Bendjelloul

    Released2012

    Directed byMalik Bendjelloul

    Searching for Sugar Man is a 2012 Swedish–British documentary film directed and written by Malik Bendjelloul which details the efforts of two Cape Town fans in the late 1990s, Stephen "Sugar"...  more
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    Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

    Tommy Flanagan, Samuel E. Wright

    Released1988

    Directed byCharlotte Zwerin

    Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser is a documentary about the life of bebop pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. Produced by Clint Eastwood, Bruce Ricker, and directed/co-produced by Charlotte...  more
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    Jimi Hendrix

    Jimi Hendrix is a 1973 rockumentary about Jimi Hendrix, directed and produced by Joe Boyd, John Head and Gary Weis. The film contains concert footage from 1967 to 1970, including the Monterey Pop...  more
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    50 Cent: The New Breed is a 2003 documentary by rapper 50 Cent....  more
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    Guitarist/composer Ry Cooder teams up with acclaimed director Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas) to bring to life the Grammy Award® winning smash hit album featuring the rediscovered talents of Cuba's...  more
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    Elvis: That's the Way It Is

    Elvis Presley, James Burton

    Released1970

    Directed byDenis Sanders

    Elvis: That's the Way It Is is a 1970 American documentary film directed by Denis Sanders. The film documents American singer Elvis Presley's Summer Festival in Las Vegas during August 1970. It was...  more

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    Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme

    Mos Def, Lord Finesse

    Released2004

    Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme is a 2000 documentary film directed by Kevin Fitzgerald about the art of freestyle, improvisational hip-hop. Taking more than seven years to make, the documentary includes...  more
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    Let's Get Lost

    Chet Baker, Vera Baker

    Released1988

    Directed byBruce Weber

    Let's Get Lost is an American documentary film about the turbulent life and career of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker written and directed by Bruce Weber. The title is derived from the song "Let's Get...  more
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    Message to Love

    Message to Love is a feature documentary film of the Isle of Wight Festival 1970. The film unsparingly, often comically depicts the myriad problems associated with the famously chaotic festival—the...  more
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    Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

    David Bowie, Sting

    Released2006

    Directed byStephen Kijak

    Scott Walker: 30 Century Man is a 2006 documentary film about Scott Walker. The film gets its title from the Scott 3 song "30 Century Man". It is directed and co-produced by Stephen Kijak, with Grant...  more
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    Scratch

    DJ Shadow, Afrika Bambaataa

    Released2001

    Directed byDoug Pray

    Scratch is a 2001 documentary film, directed and edited by Doug Pray. The film explores the world of the hip-hop DJ from the birth of hip-hop when pioneering DJs began extending breaks on records, to...  more
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    Sign 'O' the Times

    Sheila E., Sheena Easton

    Released1987

    Directed byPrince, Albert Magnoli

    Sign o' the Times is a 1987 American concert film written and directed by Prince. In 1987, to capitalise on his growing success in Europe, Prince toured extensively to promote the album of the same...  more
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    Some Kind of Monster

    James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett

    Released2004

    Directed byJoe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

    Some Kind of Monster is a 2004 documentary film featuring the American heavy metal band Metallica. It shares its name with the song "Some Kind of Monster" from Metallica's 2003 album St. Anger. The...  more

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    Stop Making Sense

    David Byrne, Bernie Worrell

    Released1984

    Directed byJonathan Demme

    Stop Making Sense is a concert movie featuring Talking Heads live on stage. Directed by Jonathan Demme, it was shot over the course of three nights at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in December 1983,...  more
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    Style Wars is a 1983 documentary on hip hop culture, directed by Tony Silver and produced in collaboration with Henry Chalfant. The film has an emphasis on graffiti, although bboying and rapping are...  more
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    Tom Dowd and the Language of Music

    Les Paul, Thomas J. Dowd

    Released2003

    Directed byMark Moormann

    Tom Dowd and the Language of Music is a documentary profiling the life and work of music producer/recording engineer Tom Dowd. Historical footage, vintage photographs and interviews with a "who's...  more
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    Woodstock

    Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin

    Released1970

    Directed byMichael Wadleigh

    Woodstock is a 1970 American documentary of the watershed counterculture Woodstock Festival that took place in August 1969 at Bethel in New York. Entertainment Weekly called this film the benchmark...  more

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    Who is Harry Nilsson... is a documentary about the musician Harry Nilsson that premiered at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2006. It was released to theatres and on DVD in the Fall...  more