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15 of the best music-related films and TV shows to watch on Netflix UK

The best music-related films and TV shows to watch on Netflix UK
(Image credit: Netflix)

Having already cast an eye over the best music-related films available to stream on Amazon Prime UK, our attention now turns to Netflix.

The service has produced a volley of its own music TV shows and documentaries (some of which are included in this list), as well as harvesting some absolute treats from elsewhere.

More than there being something on this list for everyone, we think every music fan will find something in each of these picks no matter their tastes.

The Defiant Ones

A four-part series that originally aired on HBO, The Defiant Ones charts the partnership between Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine and rapper and record producer Dr. Dre.

As much as being a music documentary, it's a story of entrepreneurship and how an artform helped build an empire for two pioneering individuals.

The Get Down

Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis's 11-episode drama, cut with real footage from 1970s New York, is a kind of fictionalised retelling of the beginnings of hip-hop.

Executive produced by Grandmaster Flash and narrated by Nas, you tend to feel if these guys don't get it right then there's little hope it'll ever be done.

Song Exploder

This one started life as a podcast before being picked up by Netflix. The idea is that artists pick apart their own tracks, discussing the inspiration and how it was written and recorded; it's the kind of granular insight you just don't get in a normal documentary or biopic.

Now in its second series on Netflix, Song Exploder has featured artists as diverse as R.E.M., Dua Lipa, Alicia Keys, Nine Inch Nails and Lin-Manuel Miranda so far. Long may it continue.

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Opening the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, What Happened, Miss Simone? documents the unparalleled talent and uncontrollable personality of Nina Simone.

Released later the same year by Netflix, the film (and Liz Garbus's light touch), won the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Directing.

Sample This

"When Kool Herc found Apache, he was under heavy guard," Grandmaster Flash told What Hi-Fi?. "You would never see the album cover of where it came from."

Described in the film as the most important record in hip-hop, Incredible Bongo Band's Apache has since been sampled hundreds of times by the genre's most seminal artists. Sample This is both its story and a celebration of the culture it unwittingly helped to create.

Quincy

Quincy Jones is the subject of this two-hour documentary created by Netflix, celebrating his extraordinary life as trumpeter, producer, conductor, composer and arranger as well as discoverer of some of the last century's biggest artists.

It might not tread much new ground for those already well-read on the US icon – you try covering more than 80 years in 120 minutes – but it is an undeniably entertaining watch to which you'll often find yourself singing along.

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese

Though the title of this 2019 Netflix release appears to give it all away, its combination of documentary and fiction is a refreshing take on a music legend who has been the subject of a great number of films already.

Covering Bob Dylan's 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, Martin Scorsese's take mixes real interviews with figures such as Joan Baez, Allen Ginsberg and Dylan himself, with those of actors portraying characters who were not actually involved in the tour.

Supersonic

Whether you love them, loathe them or remain entirely ambivalent, it's difficult to deny Oasis's early rise was rather impressive. Supersonic avoids later spats, headline-hungry barbs and less than cutting-edge artistry to focus on how the band became the biggest in the UK in just a few years.

If nothing else it is a film harking back to a perhaps more hopeful time, when what we're experiencing now would seem too ridiculous even for a disaster movie.

Nas: Time Is Illmatic

Few albums, iconic or not, seem worthy of their own documentary, but Nas's Illmatic is definitely one. In little over an hour, Time Is Illmatic charts the circumstances leading to Nasir Jones's seminal debut album, its creation and its impact on East Coast hip-hop and the wider music world.

Those after more of the Brooklyn rapper might also want to check out Rapture, a Netflix series in which hip-hop artists share their life stories and discuss their work's impact on popular culture.

20 Feet From Stardom

This Academy Award-winning documentary is the work of director Morgan Neville and producer Gil Friesen, a music industry executive hungry to learn about the lives of background singers.

Following the lives of those supporting some of the world's biggest artists, 20 Feet From Stardom stars Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Wonder, as well as featuring archival footage from David Bowie, Michael Jackson and Ray Charles.

Whitney: Can I Be Me

Using archive footage from Whitney Houston's 1999 World Tour mixed with testimonies from the singer's family, friends and musical collaborators, Nick Broomfield's documentary aims deep at the troubled yet celebrated life of its subject.

Though touching upon her beginnings as a gospel singer, as well as breakthrough hits and her role in The Bodyguard, this is more a character piece than chronicling of a career.

Miss Americana

Lana Wilson's Miss Americana spends several years charting the rise of one of the world's biggest pop stars, Taylor Swift.

The kind of biographical filmmaking that usually seems reserved for stars at the tail end of their careers, Swift's story is very much one of the modern day, of a transitional period in a young woman's life as she comes to terms with her success and just what it means. Regardless of your musical taste, the story of the people behind stardom on this scale is always hugely fascinating.

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool

If you think two hours is too short a time to cover the extraordinary life and genius of Miles Davis in anything approaching enough detail, you'd be absolutely right.

Birth of the Cool is in no way an 'everything you need to know' documentary, but as an overview of one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century it does at least inspire further listening and further reading. We'd recommend watching this and then buying Davis's autobiography Miles.

I Called Him Morgan

Kasper Collin's documentary is a love letter to the stormy relationship between jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his wife Helen, who was responsible for his murder in 1972.

It's a documentary that has it all, except for the long list of awards it truly deserves.

What We Started

It's happening with dance music just as it is with hip-hop – a kind of gateway into adulthood and acceptance as a serious genre, rubber-stamped 'serious documentary storytelling'.

With focus on and interviews with stars from the genre's past, present and future, What We Started does as well to juxtapose their various paths over time as it does charting the genre's rise.