Skip to main content

This Black Music Month, stream these 10 documentaries for a real look at history

Everyone knows that Black History Month is in February, but did you know that Black Music Month is celebrated every June? If you’re a fan of history or music, black music documentaries are an excellent way to learn about both, and with so many streaming services out there, the options are pretty much endless. From Netflix to Hulu and Amazon Prime to HBO, all of the major platforms will have offerings in celebration of black music month 2022. Check out our top ten picks and how you can watch each of them below.

Hip Hop Evolution (2016)

Hip Hop Evolution
tv-ma 4 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Cast Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Ice-T
Created by Darby Wheeler
Hip-Hop Evolution is in its second season on Netflix, and host Shad Kabango profiles some of the hottest artists in hip-hop. The docuseries explores how the genre began in the 70s and evolved into the world’s most popular style of music. Featuring artists such as Tupac, Pharrell, Kanye West, and more, this docuseries is a must-watch for fans of the genre.

ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads (2019)

ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads
Genre Documentary, Music
Cast Keith Richards, Keb' Mo', Taj Mahal
Unless you’re a diehard Blues fan, you may not know who Robert Johnson is. Though Johnson’s career only produced 29 songs out of two recording sessions, he is known by many as the master of blues. This Netflix documentary explores Johnson’s short life and what has evolved into many legends regarding it. By studying one of those legends more thoroughly, the 48-minute film attempts to shed some light on who Johnson really was.

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men (2019)

Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast RZA, The GZA, Ol' Dirty Bastard
Created by Sacha Jenkins
To celebrate Wu-Tang Clan’s 25th anniversary, Showtime developed a four-part docuseries that looks back on the group’s past. Wu-Tang fans will tell you they are the best hip-hop group of all time and will love this series’ exclusive look at all nine members. Featuring never-before-heard stories and tons of hit music from the Clan, this series is a fresh look at a very well-known group.

Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019)

Hitsville: The Making of Motown
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Miller London
Directed by Benjamin Turner, Gabe Turner
This documentary film from Hulu takes you on a trip down memory lane with its stacked line-up of classic Motown hits. Featuring interviews with Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, among other legends, Hitsville takes viewers inside the studio for an unprecedented look behind the scenes from its start in Detroit all the way to its eventual relocation to LA.

The Apollo (2019)

The Apollo
77 %
pg 98m
Genre Documentary
Stars Pharrell Williams, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle
Directed by Roger Ross Williams
This HBO original series explores the internationally famous landmark building’s rich history in music and other art forms. Featuring archival footage and access to the theater operators, follow The Appollo’s life story through this 2020 Emmy Award-Winning film.

The Black Godfather (2019)

The Black Godfather
Genre Documentary, Music
Cast Clarence Avant, Quincy Jones, Barack Obama
This documentary follows Clarence Avant and his rise to prominence as one of the most influential but least well-known producers, mentors, and promotors of Black talent throughout pop culture. From movies to politics to sports, in the late 60s, the puppet master was Avant. With a run time of just under two hours and featuring Quincy Jones, this docufilm is packed with history.

Chasing Trane (2017)

Chasing Trane
69 %
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Denzel Washington, Antonia Andrews, Bill Clinton
Directed by John Scheinfeld
If you’re into Jazz music, Chasing Trane is a must-see tale about North Carolina’s own John Coltrane. The man revolutionized jazz for over two decades, and this 2017 film takes a close look at the man’s life and career. Narrated by Academy Award-winner Denzel Washington and featuring interviews with artists like Common and former president Bill Clinton, this documentary is music to a jazz fan’s ears.

ReMastered: The Lion's Share (2019)

ReMastered: The Lion's Share
pg-13 84m
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Rian Malan, Pete Seeger, Rob Allingham
Directed by Sam Cullman
This Netflix original is an investigative look into the writer of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” the iconic song that everyone seems to know. But does anyone know where the song originated? Follow South African journalist Rian Malan as he meets the family of songwriter Solomon Linda and the pursuit of fair compensation.

ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff (2018)

ReMastered: Who Shot the Sheriff
Genre Documentary
Cast Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Philip Agee
This inspirational tale about the iconic Bob Marley is a Netflix original and has a run time of 57 minutes. Part documentary and part crime mystery, this film explores the hunt for the would-be assassin of Marley and the political moves that motivated the attack. A thrilling story and an epic soundtrack combine to earn this a spot on your “movies to watch next” list.

Mavis! (2015)

71 %
Genre Documentary, Music
Cast Mavis Staples, Adam Ayres, Gene Barge
This HBO original is about The Staple Singers and how their voices not created beautiful soul music but advocated for civil rights. Lead singer Mavis Staples was at the forefront of both the group and the accompanying movement. Through interviews, archival footage, and live performances, Mavis! takes you on a journey through a 60-year career and her impact on music and culture. 

With all of the choices for streaming documentaries and movies, it can be tough to figure out precisely what to watch. If you’re looking to brush up on music, history, black history, and more, what better time than Black Music Month? These films and series explore the rich history that is Black Music History — and the soundtracks are all fantastic too.

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from:
Kelly Kaliszewski
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kelly's work has appeared in blogs and on websites. When she's not writing, she is playing with her two dogs, cooking, or…
The 14 best Netflix documentaries to stream right now
From food docs to true crime, these are the best documentaries that you can watch on Netflix right now

Documentaries come in so many different shapes and sizes that any movie fan can find one they're interested in. Documentaries can be about your next great travel destination, or the best ways to find and appreciate great food, or about a murder case that has been unsolved for decades. What unites great documentaries are the stories they tell, and the powerful emotions they evoke. The best documentaries on Netflix also come with the same diversity described here.

It can definitely be overwhelming trying to find the best titles from among their expansive library, though, so we've decided to do some of that for you. These 14 docs are sure to fascinate and entertain any audience. If you're caught up on all of these, you can also check out the best movies or TV shows to watch on Netflix.

Read more
The 10 best Robert De Niro movies to stream right now
From Raging Bull to The Godfather Part II, these are the roles that have defined Robert De Niro's long career
best robert de niro movies bestdeniro taxidriver2

There are few actors working today who can match the career that Robert De Niro has had. Some, like Brad Pitt or George Clooney, have been in plenty of great movies, but even they don't stack up to the kind of career that De Niro has had over the last half century. De Niro's success can be chalked up, at least in part, to his collaboration with great directors. De Niro has been in some of Martin Scorsese's best movies, and Scorsese isn't the only director who knows how to use him.

Really, though, it's De Niro himself who deserves a lot of the credit. Although he's been in plenty of schlock, the best movies of his career are up there with the best movies ever made. When he emerged on the scene, De Niro showed off his ability to play a range of different types, and his skills have only deepened as the years have gone by.

Read more
Loving March Madness? 10 basketball documentaries you need to stream
These documentaries about basketball tell the stories behind the world's greatest NBA stars

Basketball is a worldwide phenomenon in 2023. The sport that started as a desperate idea from Canadian-American physical education teacher James Naismith has evolved into a cultural touchstone for kids and adults alike all over the planet as well as an excellent workout. Some of the most famous celebrities on Earth have played basketball, from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and Magic Johnson. The vibrant personalities and stories behind these prominent basketball figures have led to keen public curiosity about their upbringings, their struggles, and their internal triumphs.

This is where documentary filmmaking comes into the equation. With the influx of streaming on platforms such as Netflix and HBO Max, basketball fans have been able to binge their educational movies about the NBA and college basketball for many years now. The market for these documentaries continues to grow, and it seems more basketball players and coaches are getting their own films. It's time to look at 10 of the best documentaries about basketball you can get your hands on right now!

Read more