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    The 13 Best Music Documentaries Streaming Right Now

    The Velvet Underground, Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, and 11 other documentaries that are essential viewing for any music lover.

    Music documentaries are one of the best subgenres in the world of documentaries, functioning as windows into the inner lives of musicians as they are rising, falling, fighting, or simply playing some kickass tunes. But knowing where to start can be difficult, which is why we've put together a list of 13 music documentaries that are streaming right now. Check them out and get started on your musical education.

    1. The Velvet Underground (2021)

    Lou Reed playing guitar.
    Apple TV+

    Making a documentary about a band as influential, unique, and mythical as The Velvet Underground is no easy task, as the straightforward rock doc approach that we've seen over and over again simply would not work. Thankfully, director Todd Haynes is well aware of that and instead delivers an unconventional and compelling glimpse into a band that helped steer the culture from traditional rock and roll into punk and new wave in the late '60s. The nearly two-hour documentary features interviews with surviving band members John Cale and Maureen "Moe" Tucker that will delight new fans and diehards alike, along with providing the necessary context to understand how one-of-a-kind the Velvet Underground really were.

    Watch it on Apple TV+.

    2. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

    Beyoncé fixing her hair before going on stage.
    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    It's impossible to hyperbolize how revered Beyoncé is at this point, as her iconic status in the culture at-large has reached levels usually only reserved for a select artists and musicians. And that level of iconography comes with a certain level of mystique, as she has often made herself less accessible to the public than most popular musicians in the 21st Century. That is a huge part of what makes Homecoming such a thrilling viewing experience, with fans getting unprecedented access to Beyoncé as she prepares for her legendary Coachella performance in 2018. It's also a viscerally arresting film that demonstrates how committed Beyoncé is to her craft both as a performer and an artist.

    Watch it on Netflix.

    3. Don't Look Back (1967)

    Bob Dylan holding up a sign that says 'Fleet Foot.'
    Leacock-Pennebaker, Inc.

    Sometimes, a documentary captures a subject at the perfect moment in time and that is unquestionably the case with Don't Hold Back. Covering Bob Dylan's concert tour in England in 1965, the documentary gives a fascinating insight into an artist who is changing in real time as he is also reaching new levels of success. Along with fantastic musical performances, the movie is packed with unforgettable moments, including Dylan's iconic verbal sparring with journalist Horace Freedland Judson and Dylan interrupting Alan Price's backstage performance of "Little Things" to discuss Price's decision to leave the Animals. The reputation of the documentary has only grown over time, so much so that in 1998, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

    Watch it on HBO Max.

    4. Beastie Boys Story (2020)

    Mike 'Mike D' Diamond and Adam 'Ad-Rock' Horovitz speaking in front of a photo of the Beastie Boys.
    Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

    The Beastie Boys are an anomaly in the world of hip-hop, as three goofy white dudes managed to become megastars in a way that has never quite been replicated since. And Beastie Boys Story gives fans a comprehensive look back into the group's formation and meteoric rise without getting too self-aggrandizing, instead simply inviting the viewer along to enjoy the unexpected journey. Spike Jonze is the natural fit to direct the film, as he has a long-established relationship with the group due to directing several of their music videos in the early '90s. The result is a fun blend of nostalgia, reflection, and, of course, some of that trademark irreverence that made the hip-hop trio so beloved in the first place.

    Watch it on Apple TV+.

    5. What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

    Nina Simone speaking into a microphone.
    Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Nina Simone was a singer whose talent was matched only by her own intelligence and conviction as a Black woman trying to make it in an industry that had no place for her. And in What Happened, the viewer is taken on a journey of Simone's perseverance in the face of racism and misogyny, as well as her entrance into the world of activism during the Civil Rights movement in the '60s. Seeing the triumphant yet tragic life of Simone is a rewarding experience and, of course, every time you get to see her sing, it's impossible to take your eyes off the screen.

    Watch it on Netflix.

    6. 20 Feet From Stardom (2013)

    Darlene Love singing with Jo Lawry, Judith Hill, and Lisa Fischer in the background.
    RADiUS-TWC / Courtesy Everett Collection

    All too often, we lose sight of the collaborative effort involved in music production and focus on the marquee name, but 20 Feet From Stardom invites the viewer to consider the backup singer as having just as much heft. It's genuinely riveting to see the focus put on people who, by definition, are usually relegated out of the spotlight and while it's easy to think of them as aspiring stars who never quite made it, 20 Feet From Stardom offers a more balanced and nuanced approach. Longtime backup singer Lisa Fischer may have summarized it best when she explained, "Some people will do anything to be famous. I just wanted to sing." No wonder the 2013 film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

    Rent it on Apple TV.

    7. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)

    Q-Tip performing in front of a crowd.
    Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    A Tribe Called Quest was one of the most intelligent and innovative forces in hip-hop in the '90s but by the end of the decade, they had broken up. And while they have dabbled in reunions and touring together since, they've never fully recaptured the spirit of what made them such a powerful presence in their initial run as a group (with Phife Dawg's death in 2016 putting a permanent end to the group). Beats, Rhymes & Life features no shortage of great musical performances and people expressing their admiration of Tribe but it's when Q-Tip, Phife, Ali, and Jarobi speak openly about the struggles and frustration they experience together that it becomes a must-watch documentary.

    Rent it on Apple TV.

    8. Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014)

    Nas looking to the side.
    Tribeca Film / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Illmatic remains one of the most celebrated hip-hop albums of all time and so it was fitting that Time Is Illmatic was released 20 years after its initial release. Diving into the build-up to the album's release and its subsequent success, Time Is Illmatic ignores many of the cliches you may expect and instead really gives the viewer insight into what went into this album to make it such a masterpiece that still resonates today, including the environment Nas was raised in and his soft-spoken, thoughtful persona that feels like a fascinating contrast to the figure most of us are familiar with on the album.

    Watch it on Peacock.

    9. David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017)

    David Bowie looking at the camera.
    HBO

    Following the making of his final two albums, Black Star and The Next Day, The Last Five Years gives longtime David Bowie fans an in-depth look at what turned out to be the final years of one of the most brilliant artists of the last half-century. The most compelling parts are also among the more difficult to watch, as Bowie is forced to wrestle with his own impending mortality, even while continuing to make music. It's impossible to encapsulate the spirit of a figure like Bowie, who was larger than life, but Last Five Years succeeds in allowing us all to say goodbye to someone whose legacy will continue to last long after their death.

    Watch it on HBO Max.

    10. Amy (2015)

    Amy Winehouse playing guitar.
    Altitude Film Distribution

    Amy Winehouse's death in 2011 is one of the great tragedies in the history of music, as the singer and songwriter was at the peak of her powers creatively when she died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27. Released only a few years later, Amy manages to walk the razor-thin line of examining what led to her early death while still celebrating her life as a person who meant so much to so many. It's simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming to get to see Winehouse find her voice as an artist, as well as watching her discuss her complicated relationship with things like success, fame, addiction, and love.

    Watch it on Amazon Prime with Showtime.

    11. Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry (2021)

    Billie Eilish looking down pensively.
    Neon / Courtesy Everett Collection

    In just two years, Billie Eilish has gone from a virtual unknown to one of the biggest names in the entire music industry, and The World's a Little Blurry gives viewers a glimpse into the singer-songwriter's journey to stardom. There are moments of celebration, like when her parents wake her up to reveal that she's been nominated for Grammys in all four major categories, but the documentary also shows the struggles Eilish has experienced, including her setbacks with her physical and mental health. The result feels like an honest examination of a rising star who may just be beginning to reach her peak and it's an exciting viewing experience for both casual listeners and fanatics alike.

    Watch it on Apple TV+.

    12. Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)

    Paramount / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Documentaries about modern pop stars can often feel like glorified PR stunts stuffed with cliches like "believe in yourself" and "follow your dreams." And while there are elements of that in Part of Me, what sets it apart is how the documentary really dives into Perry's personal life in a way that is truly vulnerable. Most notably, the crumbling marriage between the pop star and Russell Brand, culminating in a genuinely difficult moment to watch where Perry breaks down crying just moments before going on stage. But once she is on stage, she's a consummate pro, putting on a performance so good that the audience likely had no idea what had just been happening backstage.

    Rent it on Amazon Prime.

    13. Summer of Soul (2021)

    Sly Stone performing on stage.
    Searchlight Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

    During the summer of 1969, Harlem hosted a six-week music festival to celebrate African American music and to promote Black pride in the larger culture. Nearly 300,000 people attended to watch some of the biggest names in music, including Nina Simone, B.B. King, Sly and the Family Stone, and Stevie Wonder, perform. And yet, it is rarely mentioned in pop culture. Why? That is the question that Questlove, who directed the documentary, is looking to answer, by showing footage from the festival that was restored. The result is one of the best music documentaries in recent memory, with critic and documentarian Mark Kermode calling it "the best music documentary I've ever seen."

    Watch it on Hulu.