Must-Watch Music Documentaries on Netflix and Beyond

Streaming: The best indie music documentaries

The sheer breadth of artists, genres and visual styles on offer makes music documentaries one of the more exciting sections of the video store (or, let’s face it, online streaming services). The best examples of the form will make us care about bands we’d previously dismissed or illuminate music scenes we never knew existed. 

With that in mind we offer a selection of docs and live films that are sure to please even the most casual indie fan. 

Beware of Mr. Baker


Director: Jay Bulger
Availability: Netflix Canada

Ginger Baker is best known as the drummer for super groups Cream and Blind Faith and for being a bit of a son-of-a-bitch. This doc captures all sides of the man who remains the living embodiment of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll while making the case for Baker as one of the most restless and ground-breaking musicians of the rock era.
 

Dave Chapelle’s Block Party


Director: Michel Gondry
Availability: Netflix Canada

Part concert film, part comedy show, all awesome, this oddball film captures Chappelle at the height of his pre-retirement fame, following him across the country as he recruits guests for the block party he’s throwing in Brooklyn. Featuring performances from a host of early 2000s hip hop and neo soul luminaries, including College Dropout ere Kanye West. The highlight is undoubtedly the reunion of the Fugees, but it’s Chappelle’s winking charm that holds the whole thing together. 
 

The Devil and Daniel Johnston



Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
Availability: iTunes

Daniel Johnston is the living embodiment of an outsider artist. His child-like four-track tapes brought him an international cult following with music luminaries like Kurt Cobain, Connor Oberst and Lou Barlow. While all that is covered in this moving portrait of the Austin, TX musician, its heart lies in the struggles he and his family and friends experience stemming from Johnston’s mental illness. Just like there is no musician like Daniel Johnston, there is no film like the Devil and Daniel Johnston.
 

Dig!


Director: Ondi Timoner
Availability: Vimeo

Never before has there been a film like Dig and it is unlikely there ever will be again. Filmmaker Ondi Timoner followed the Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre for seven years, charting the former’s successes the latter’s missed opportunities and the love-hate relationship that develops between these onetime brothers in arms. 
 

Ken Burns: Jazz


Director: Ken Burns
Availability: Netflix Canada

Few filmmakers have so eloquently captured U.S. history on film the way Ken Burns has. And in this 10 part series, he turns his (slowly zooming) lens to document the first truly American style of music. Dry as it might sound, Burns has a way of bringing the mundane to life and he doesn’t fail the faithful here. 
 

Neil Young: Journeys


Director: Jonathan Demme
Availability: Netflix Canada


It’s not Neil Young’s best live film, or even his best collaboration with filmmaker Jonathan Demme (that would be Heart of Gold). But Journeys will resonate more with Torontonians than anything else in his live catalogue as Young and his brother drive from their hometown of Omemee to a two-night solo stand at Massey Hall. 
 

The Punk Singer


Director: Sini Anderson
Availability: Netflix Canada

Even if you’ve never heard her music you’re undoubtedly familiar with the influence of Kathleen Hanna. From seminal riot grrrl group Bikini Kill through her time with disco punks Le Tigre, Hanna remains a social and political force for women both on and off stage. If that’s not enough to convince you (and really, it should be), she also gave Kurt Cobain the name of his most famous song.

 

Radiohead: Meeting People is Easy


Director: Grant Gee
Availability: iTunes

As much a treatise on what it takes to sell a band as it is a document of Radiohead’s OK Computer tour (some would argue the two are one and the same) Meeting People is Easy goes a long way to explaining the group’s anti-establishment politics while hinting at the massive changes that were about to come for both the band (Kid A) and the industry at large.
 

Searching for Sugar Man


Director: Malik Bendjelloul 
Availability: Netflix Canada

There are countless docs about long-lost ahead of their time artists who never got the credit they deserve. But none manage to instil the drama and intrigue of Searching for Sugar Man, a profile of enigmatic Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez and the social revolution he helped spark half-a-world away. 
 

Talking Heads: Stop Making Sense


Director: Jonathan Demme
Availability: iTunes

Often regarded of as the greatest concert film of all time, this document of Talking Heads three-night stand at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre in 1983, it’s the single greatest document of the ground breaking New York band’s sense of theatricality and visual flare while simultaneously showcasing the group as a live force to be reckoned with for the ages. From the moment David Byrne saunters onstage and presses play on his boom box, you’re hooked.
 

Under Great White Northern Lights


Director: Emmett Malloy
Availability: iTunes

When the White Stripes set out on a cross Canada tour that saw the band hit every province and territory – not to mention some oddball secret gigs along the way – few realized the jaunt would produce such an intimate portrait of Jack and Meg White as well as proving to be the band’s swan song. The film’s final scene sums up their break-up more than any explanation ever could.