Who doesn’t love to see their favorite musician behind the scenes? I know I do! And thankfully a lot of them released documentaries about their life or about a phase in their lives. As a musician myself I obviously watched a lot of them so I’m bringing you the 10 best musical documentaries I’ve seen and some honourable mentions.
10. Jonas Brothers: Chasing Happiness
Ok, so I was never really a fan of the Jonas Brothers. I mean I liked some of their songs but wasn’t crazy about them, didn’t follow them. But the music they made after they got back together (What a man gotta do, Sucker), now that was something I actually really enjoyed. So when word got out that they’re releasing a documentary I was excited to learn a little more about them. The film goes back to the basics and shows how they started. I was super impressed that they wrote their own songs even back in the beginnings. They talked about why they broke up and how they decided to get back together. It’s an easy, entertaining watch and it’s guaranteed that you’re gonna like them a little bit more.
9. Gaga: Five Foot Two
Let’s start with the fact that I really love Lady Gaga, I think she’s a fantastic songwriter and singer. Having said that, unfortunately, I wasn’t the biggest fan of her documentary. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it but I remember not being very moved by it. Also, I guess me not remembering it very well means something too. I remember they covered the making of the Joanna album and talked about a chronic pain she has, but that’s about all I remember. If you love Gaga, it’s definitely a must watch, but if you are not a fan, I might skip it.
This documentary is on Netflix and you can watch it here.
8. Shawn Mendes: In Wonder
I think we underestimate the talent of Shawn Mendes. At least I did for sure. I liked some of his songs before but I really started listening in 2018 when he came out with his self-titled album. I loved songs like Nervous, Lost in Japan, Where were you in the morning? and Queen so I was very excited to hear his new music and watch this film. It was a nice mix between some concert performances and behind the scenes footage that gave us a glimpse of who he is and how he works. Even with all that I felt like I was missing the catharsis. I loved seeing how he wrote the new songs for his upcoming album, but when they covered him losing his voice, I kind of felt like I’ve seen this drama covered in many other music documentaries so I guess I was just expecting something different. But it’s definitely a nice film that will give you all the feels, especially when he talks about his love for Camilla Cabello.
This documentary is on Netflix and you can watch it here.
This one is hard. This one is sad. This one is so necessary. Whitney was The Voice. She was someone who was able to make the US National Anthem into a commercial song they played on mainstream radio. If that’s not talent then I don’t know what is. This documentary shows the real Whitney, the troubled Whitney. The woman who tried to have a normal family life but she just couldn’t get away from her demons and they finally caught up to her on the tragic night of February 11th, 2012. Her talent, beauty and poise was undeniable. You could not take your eyes off of her when she was on stage. She was talented not just as a singer but as an actress (The Bodyguard, The Preacher’s Wife, Waiting to Exhale). One of the few women who were able to do that. In this documentary people who were close to Whitney tell her story with their own words, some home footage and interview segments of Whitney herself. It’s a great tearjerker and the story of a legend.
6. Justin Timberlake + Tennessee Kids
Ok, so technically this is more of a concert film than a documentary but it definitely deserves a spot on my list. I am a huge JT fan and this was one of his best albums. I had the privilege to attend this concert in Vienna myself and I was in awe for the whole almost 3 hour concert. YES!! You read that right! This concert was so long that he had an Intermission half way! The singing was perfection, the dancing was flawless and the music was exceptional. He played all his classic hits like Cry Me A Rive, Like I Love You, Rock Your Body, etc. But the best part was that they rearranged all of them to fit his big band era with The 20/20 Experience and it was magical. In this concert film you will be a part of the legend that JT is. Pump up the volume and get ready to dance and sing your heart out!
This one is another tearjerker. Amy Winehouse could’ve had a great and long career but she still became a legend. Her voice was something from another era, but her music was timeless. The soulfulness was out of this world and the topics she covered in her songs were unconventional. Some say her music is dark, I say it’s honest. She didn’t have a filter nor did she need one. Her raw lyrics and talent made her so relatable to millions of people. But like a lot of musicians she also had plenty of demons that she fought as long as she could until she couldn’t anymore. On July 23rd 2011 Amy Winehouse joined the infamous 27 Club. (This term is referring to the legendary musicians who died at the age of 27 including Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, etc.) Her tragic passing shocked fans and musicians all around the world and everybody wanted to know more about her. The documentary walks you through Amy’s childhood and how she worked and also how she struggled with substance abuse and a toxic relationship. If you want a candid look behind one of the most tragic music careers of the 2000s, this is the film to watch.
4. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
I have always liked Justin Bieber. I know he got a lot of hate in the beginning and really all his career but I always thought he had something special. I love pure, feel-good pop music and I thought his first album had some great songs on it. When the documentary came out I was in the movie theater opening week. I was curious. I didn’t really know that much about him other than the fact that he was discovered on YouTube and he was mentored by Usher. So when I finally got to see the real story of how it all began I was very surprised to find out that he taught himself to play multiple instruments and was struggling pretty hard with money. I felt like he was probably exposed to fame too early but we know that lots of times these young stars are just moneymaking machines for greedy adults. In this documentary you get to see the kid that is Justin and how he likes to do pretty normal kids stuff and how he works his butt off. We all know what happened to him later, but this movie is all about triumph and success and it’ll make you love the Biebs a little more.
3. Britney: for the record.
We all watched Britney have a nervous breakdown in 2007 that forever diminished her innocent, girl next door image and painted her as a mentally unstable, even dangerous person. She was just hurt, confused, broken and sad. We all have those days, weeks, months. The only difference is that we don’t have paparazzis in our faces every time we leave our house. So whatever she was going through, the world got a front row seat to watch her mistakes and desperate attempts to get control over anything in her life. This 2008 documentary is shot right after she got under the conservatorship of her father. You see a broken and sad Britney clearly speaking about and acknowledging her mistakes, but also see a fully capable, multi-talented entertainer taking her place back in the music business with her album Circus. She talks candidly about everything but you can’t help but feel bad for her. I think this was probably the last time we see Britney really open up about those bad moments and let’s us see her as a vulnerable human rather than the larger than life pop star she is.
2. This Is It
I don’t even think I have to explain to anyone what this documentary is about. The world literally stopped on June 25th 2009 when the King of Pop died. All day every day that’s what you’d see on the news, that’s what people were talking about. And there was always a lot to say about Michael Jackson. But one thing was undeniable: he was the best entertainer that has ever lived. He was the master of his craft. He was very private and wouldn’t really let people into his world after what happened to him earlier in his life. So when he announced in early 2009 that he was returning to the stage the world went crazy for him once again. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to perform his groundbreaking This Is It concert for the world, so Kenny Ortega, the director of the tour decided to release the rehearsal footage that showed the real and sweet nature of the legendary singer and also his perfectionism and talent even at 50 years old. They show all the new technological inventions and costumes that were gonna be in the show all the while having the classic songs in the repertoire like Billie Jean or Beat it. It’s absolutely captivating and you can’t help but want to watch more videos to see the King of Pop in the prime of his life introducing the Moonwalk for the first time or bringing a giant tank on the stage for dramatic effect to bring awareness to the world’s problems during his performance of Earth Song.
The whole documentary is available on YouTube here.
Part Of Me – This is Katy Perry’s documentary during the California Gurls era. This is at the height of her career but one of the hardest times in her personal life getting separated from her first husband. The show is super fun and colorful and if you liked her hits from that aalbum, I would definitely recommend watching it.
Miss Americana – Taylor Swift released multiple documentaries and concert films throughout her career and I could’ve mentioned all of them here, but I picked this one as this covers most of her career and show her becoming a strong, opinionated woman who’s not afraid to speak her truth. Definitely worth a watch.
Excuse me, I love you – I was pretty surprised about the fact that Ariana Grande hasn’t released a documentary already. But to be fair, this is more of a concert film than a classic documentary, but it’s still fun to watch as Ari sings her heart out – without one flat note, I might add – and freaks out about Mariah Carey calling and including her in one of her projects. Get ready to dance and sing along to this one.
- Backstreet Boys: Show ’em What You’re Made Of
It’s been almost 30 years since the Backstreet Boys first sang together and became one of the most successful boybands of all time. They have been through a lot as a band and as individuals as well. They dealt with deaths, substance abuse, breakups, scandals and health issues all the while gracing mainstream radio with hits like I Want It That Way or As Long As You Love Me. In 2006 Kevin temporarily left the band to pursue other areas of life and the rest of the boys (Brian, AJ, Nick, Howie) kept recording albums and touring the world to keep their career going. In 2013, for their 20th anniversary they decided to go big. Kevin rejoined the band for the album In A World Like This and they went on a world tour, got a star on Hollywood Walk of Fame and released this documentary showing them each going back to their home towns, schools and mentors. Even if you’re not a boyband fan this film will bring you a closer look at how hard they worked for what they achieved.
Tell me what you thought of my list and if I missed any documentaries you like!