The 10 Best Music Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Add Blondie's New York to your queue.
Add Blondie's New York to your queue. By Private Stock Records, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

You've seen Wonder Woman. You spent the dough and ate some popcorn and thought, "Wow, Gal Gadot is great." What to do with the rest of your summer movie fun time? We've got four words for you:

Music documentaries on Netflix.

Right now, there's a plethora of good music documentaries available on everyone's favorite streaming service. While some classics like Dig! (2004), which told the tale of the tenuous relationship between the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and A Band Called Death (2012) aren't currently available, there's definitely enough good stuff to keep you entertained for a while. In fact, choosing the 10 best was nearly impossible, so consider these a jumping off point for your music documentary viewing.

This Is The Life (2008)
While there's an inaccurate stereotype that all rap songs are about “bitches and hos,” and some mistakenly think the fans of the genre prefer to celebrate violence over real emotion and intelligence, This Is The Life presents the story the highly influential but definitely underground 1990s scene at The Good Life Café in Los Angeles. That's where substance outshone flash and no swearing was allowed. It's the same scene that spawned the Jurassic Five.

The Zen of Bennett (2012)
Who doesn’t love Tony Bennett? This moving portrait of the 90-year-old crooner who left his heart in San Francisco digs deep and is beautifully shot. The film also features a particularly interesting look at the late Amy Winehouse when the singer needed some words of wisdom from Bennett to keep pace with his level of professionalism during their duet.

Mad Tiger (2015)
Sometimes a behind-the-scenes look at a mysterious band gives away too much. Anyone who’s seen Peelander Z live has to be somewhat curious about what makes the band tick, even if it reveals some seriously bitter individuals who teeter on the edge of resenting the zaniness that defines their stage show. While it’s not always happy go lucky, it’s hard to take your eyes off this documentary.

Blondie’s New York (2015)
Like a movie version of a 33 1/3 book, Blondie’s New York chronicles the making of Parallel Lines. The album truly introduced the New York new wave and proto punk band to the world. Killer interviews abound, as well as insight into the history of the record.

Los Punks (2016)
The burgeoning Mexican-American punk rock scene in and around Los Angeles is a site to behold. In the tradition of the first Decline of Western Civilization film, Los Punks provides a stirring look into the lives of the fans, bands, and promoters who keep the DIY scene alive and well. This one is definitely not for the faint heart.

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined A Generation (2012)
In this day and age, it’s hard to believe that something as seemingly benign as folk music was once thought of as subversive and maybe even dangerous. This film is both entertaining and informative, featuring some of the best interviews of any of the films on this list. And the excellent rare footage will take the viewer on a great time machine ride.

Sinatra: To Be Frank  (2015)
Frank Sinatra cultivated a mix of talent, attitude, charisma, and, now, legend. Those who knew the man well tell his story. So there's a certain feeling that this might be as close to the real story of Sinatra as you’re going to get. Sinatra knew how to live, that’s for sure.

The Wrecking Crew! (2008)
For musicians, this is documentary is a must-see. For older music fans, it’s a look behind the curtain of of the songs they grew up with, perhaps shaking the foundation of perceptions about their favorite songs. The Wrecking Crew! tells the tale of a mighty band of session musicians who played on just about everything worth listening to from the 1960s.

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
As mesmerizing as Nina Simone’s amazing voice and talent were, and they were monumental, this documentary attempts to scale the heights of her life and career. It almost succeeds. While this may seem like condemnation, it definitely isn’t. The film is worth watching, even if it doesn’t quite do her justice. After viewing, What Happened, Miss Simone? you’ll be happy that you spent some time with this classic artist.

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014)
This is as much a movie about the horrors of Alzheimer’s Disease at it is about the genius of Glen Campbell. A riveting documentary, I'll Be Me will definitely make water come out of your eyes, even if you're not a fan. It is unflinching in its honesty and a beautiful reminder of Campbell’s wealth of talent.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon