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The 21 best rockumentaries to stream on Netflix and Prime

Alice Cooper watching TV
Alice Cooper, possibly watching 'Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon' on Netflix
(Image credit: Robert Knight Archive \/ Getty Images)

With Netflix now consuming over a third of all US domestic bandwidth, there’s no doubt that streaming video services are here to stay. So if you fancy a night in with a virtual box of rock-docs, we’ve weeded out the best for you on the two biggest services, Netflix and Amazon Prime. VPNs at the ready…

Keith Richards: Under The Influence (2015)

A Netflix original, working on the accurate basis that if you drive Keith Richards around Muddy Waters’ house, get him shuffling vinyl and cackling about the blues, solid entertainment will follow.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Downloaded (2013)

Not so much a rock-doc as a tech-history-cum-organised crime exposé, Downloaded is Alex Winter’s Napster movie, so expect lots of flickery 90s PC screens and Lars Ulrich shouting outside a courtroom.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Nick Cave: 20,000 Days On Earth (2014)

This provocative kind-of-spoof docu-drama about a semi-fictional day in the life of Nick Cave (co-written by its star) won five international film awards and co-stars Kylie Minogue and Ray Winstone.

Availability: Prime US

Janis: Little Girl Blue (2015)

Bittersweet insights into the life, wit and vulnerabilities of the woman behind the raucous voice and liberated spirit, a captivating celebration told through poignant family letters and archive interviews.

Availability: Netflix US

Good Ol’ Freda (2013)

A refreshingly down-to-earth take on the career of The Beatles as seen through the perspective of their long-serving secretary (and “family member”) Freda Kelly, sharing her story for the first time.

Availability: Netflix US

David Bowie: Five Years (2013)

The five years are 1971, 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983. Each reveal something different and unique about Bowie’s work, mind and soul in this BBC doc, with brilliant unseen footage, outtakes and interviews.

Availability: Netflix UK

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon (2013)

Mike Myers’ directorial debut is an unashamed hagiography about this “quintessential manager” (dubbed by Myers “the nicest man I ever met”) whose clients included Alice Cooper, Blondie - and Groucho Marx!

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

We Are Twisted Fucking Sister (2014)

The full story of the divisive, outrageous American metal institution, with copious reams of footage and fevered reminiscences from their early years on New York’s 1970s club circuit.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Muscle Shoals (2013)

The moving, highly-acclaimed story of an unassuming soul studio in Alabama during the civil rights era, branded ‘Hit Recording Capital Of The World’ for its association with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Rolling Stones and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Kurt & Courtney (1998)

This evergreen conspiracy reportage from Nick Broomfield, controversially implicating Courtney Love in the murder of her husband, retains its power to grip and chill nearly 20 years on.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US, Prime US

History Of The Eagles (2013)

Doing exactly what it says on the tin, this three-hour mini-series features perspectives from all seven bandmates - although ‘mates’ maybe isn’t the best description for these feuding egotists.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey (2013)

The “Cinderella story” of struggling Filipino singer Arnel Pineda - “David Lee Roth and Bruce Lee put together!” - spotted on YouTube and headhunted for superstardom as frontman of Journey.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir (2015)

A Netflix exclusive to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Grateful Dead, this is an honest and amiable look at the career of the founding guitarist/vocalist who wasn’t Jerry Garcia.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

I am Thor (2015)

Epic triumphs and heartbreaking agonies as bizarre 80s bodybuilding metal phenomenon Thor attempts a career revival, in this award-winning, Anvil-on-steroids exploration of a fascinating and oddly loveable character.

Availability: Netflix US

Jaco (2014)

Co-produced and co-written by Rob Trujillo, Jaco shines a compelling spotlight onto the life and bizarre death of troubled jazz bass legend Jaco Pastorius, with Joni Mitchell, Flea and Santana among the eulogists.

Availability: Netflix US

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King (2015)

The batshit excesses of late 70s American obsession are writ large in this intriguing tale of a masked Elvis soundalike who had many grief-stricken fans believing the King was still with us…

Availability: Netflix US

Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me (2014)

An unflinching depiction of the highs and lows of the 76-year-old Rhinestone Cowboy, embarking with his family on a 150-date ‘Goodbye Tour’ after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (on camera).

Availability: Netflix US

The Wrecking Crew (2008)

An overdue panegyric to a small band of “stone cold rock ’n’ roll professionals”: LA session musicians who backed up Elvis, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Byrds, Phil Spector and many more.

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

20 Feet From Stardom (2013)

A similar concept, but this one’s for the soul lady backup singers, and it’s a multi-award winner, including Academy Award for Best Documentary and a Grammy for Best Music Film.

Availability: Netflix UK

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2012)

The story of the audaciously-named Tennessee power-popsters, prophets without honour in their 70s lifetime but rediscovered by later alt-rock generations (they “got lost in the mail,” muses Robyn Hitchcock).

Availability: Netflix UK, Netflix US

Ain’t in It for My Health: A Film About Levon Helm

If a life ever lent itself to documentary, it’s that of Band drummer Levon Helm, who’s done it all and then done it all over again, leaving viewers to wonder why careers in music don’t come with a prominent health warning attached. As always with these things, there’s hope amidst all the turmoil .

Availability: Netflix US

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