Ok, we'll cut to the chase - we know that you've seen the same types of music documentaries popping up in these lists. That one about Dylan, that one about Taylor Swift, and maybe, that newer one about The Beatles. Don't get us wrong, those are all great and well worth a watch. But the problem that we have is that everyone is talking about those music documentaries already, and if you're interested in music then you've probably already seen them.
So, we wanted to provide you with a list of great music documentaries that you've probably never heard of before. These are what we would define as underrated. Let's get into the list:
This documentary is currently sitting with an impressive 85% rating on the review platform Rotten Tomatoes. It's about Yo-Yo Ma, a cellist who was a child prodigy and has gone on to have a very successful career. This documentary follows Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, a band that he plays with. The music throughout the film is incredible and often moving, but the film is also about the way in which music can unite us and can help us see beyond our differences. You can stream this documentary via Kanopy.
This is another very highly rated music documentary (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) that is very underrated. Big Star was an American rock band, and this documentary is about their massive influence. Even if you've never heard of Big Star, it's highly likely that you've heard of one of the bands or artists that have cited them as an influence - this list includes R.E.M, Jeff Buckley, and Elliot Smith. It's a fascinating documentary about a band that most of you won't have heard of, but for anyone who is already a fan of the band, this documentary is like a love letter to them. You can stream this documentary via Hoopla.
This documentary narrated by Terrence Howard (who also appears in Pride, a swimming movie) is about legends from Stax records and Memphis coming together to pass on their musical knowledge to the next generation of artists and to collaborate on a new record. The film includes interviews with artists and producers who came from the Memphis scene and is a fascinating look at this hub of musical talent. If your idea of bliss is sitting down for 90 minutes and enjoying artists like Bobby Rush, Mavis Staples, and William Bell, then you'll love this. But even if those names don't mean much to you, the soul of the blues music throughout this documentary will be enough to keep you hooked. You can stream this movie via Tubi.
This is a relatively new music documentary, which is why we're including it in this list. From director Edgar Wright (best known for the Cornetto trilogy), this documentary is about the life and career of the band Sparks. We regard this documentary as being doubly underrated, not only because there weren't many people talking about it when it was released (it was overlooked by Peter Jackson's Beatles series), but also because Sparks as a band is underrated. This documentary is a celebration of their music and includes interviews with famous fans of theirs including Flea and Beck. You can stream this documentary via Netflix.
One of our main complaints about the other 'Best music documentaries' lists we looked at was the lack of rap documentaries, so we wanted to put that right. 'Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap' is a documentary that follows Ice-T as he travels across the country to interview rappers about their processes and their love for the genre. It's a pretty straightforward documentary in that it is mostly interviews, but the people in the film are what makes it so interesting. Names like Dr. Dre and Kanye West pop up, as well as many other legends. We love it and so do the critics (this film has a 86% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). You can stream this documentary via Kanopy.
Nick Cave is a name that many of you may not be familiar with, but we would still highly recommend you watch this documentary about him. Filmed entirely in black and white, this documentary follows Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds as they record their new album Skeleton Tree. However what makes this film so interesting and frankly sad is that the album is being recorded in the wake of the death of his son, who was only 15. It's a sad and powerful film that explores how the creative process is influenced by trauma, and how often music can say more about a situation than any spoken words could. This documentary has a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and you can buy or rent it to watch online via Prime Video.
If you enjoyed this music-related article, why not read this article outlining the best movies about drummers or this one about the best Mozart movies.