Where to watch the top streaming documentaries of 2023

Looking for something to watch this holiday season

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Looking for something to watch this holiday season? While Barbenheimer is enticing, 2023 was a great year for documentaries — particularly music documentaries, with titles that span the biggest names in the biz to considered studies of small, independent music communities.

So, hand us the remote: Here are some of The Associated Press' favorite music documentaries of the year — in no particular order — along with where to find them.

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé”

Was there ever a question of this film’s placement on this list? “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” chronicles the superstar's 39-city world tour and the blood, sweat and tears required to make the larger-than-life production happen. It’s a welcome peek behind the curtain, spearheaded by one of music's great perfectionists. And while Bey has been largely mysterious over the last decade — interviews are a rarity — here, she is a master of giving her audience just enough access, including a few moments with daughter Blue Ivy.

As AP's Jonathan Landrum writes in his review, the film doesn't shoehorn in every song; rather, "'Renaissance' is more about getting a glimpse into Beyoncé's life — even for just a little bit."

WHERE TO WATCH: "Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé" is still in theaters. Find a screening here.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour”

Those who managed to snag tickets to an Eras Tour concert are able to relive the experience by watching all three hours of "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour," a near-exact replica of her blockbuster performance compiled from several August shows at Southern California's SoFi Stadium. For those who didn't attend, this film is an opportunity to witness the magic. And for everyone, it gives viewers the best seat in the house. Just don't expect any narrative breaks or behind-the-scenes insights. This is the full concert on the silver screen — no more, no less.

WHERE TO WATCH: "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" is still in theaters. Find a screening here. You can also rent the film at Amazon's Prime Video for $19.89.

“Thriller 40”

A great documentary doesn't ask to be the definitive work on a subject matter; instead, it allows insight and, ideally, a new framework in which to understand its topic. Across a respectable 90 minutes, Showtime's "Thriller 40" is a deep examination of the Michael Jackson record that changed pop music forever, with commentary from Mary J Blige, Usher, Mark Ronson, Maxwell, will.i.am, Brooke Shields and more, and directed by the influential cultural critic Nelson George.

WHERE TO WATCH: “Thriller 40” is streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime.

“All Up in the Biz”

In 2021, the rapper Biz Markie died. The "Clown Prince of Hip-Hop" was just 57. He left behind an incredible legacy, celebrated for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic "Just a Friend." The documentary directed by Sacha Jenkins chronicles the life and talent of Markie, an oft-misunderstood New York native who brought humor to the rap game. Viewers are offered a crash course in Markie through his comedic spirit and loved ones. Any scenes illustrating his final days in the hospital, for example, are done using a puppet — something he'd no doubt get a laugh from.

WHERE TO WATCH: “All Up in the Biz” is streaming on Paramount+ with Showtime.

“The Elephant 6 Recording Co.”

This documentary might be the least recognizable name on this list, and that’s part of the appeal. “The Elephant 6 Recording Co.” is a deep dive into one of the most influential indie rock collectives of the ’90s, the Southern scene that birthed bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Olivia Tremor Control, and Apples in Stereo. It’s a little sprawling and a lot strange, almost mirroring the avant-garde works of its psychedelic subjects. Consider this one, by first-time director Chad Stockfleth, is a welcome alternative to the pop star-focused (and produced) documentaries of the current moment, and a reminder that the most innovative art and music comes from community.

WHERE TO WATCH: “The Elephant 6 Recording Co.” can be rented or purchased via Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video in the U.S. Outside the U.S., it's available to purchase from Vimeo On Demand.

“Little Richard: I Am Everything”

Little Richard laid the foundation for rock 'n' roll; he is the music's history. So why isn't he the biggest name in the genre? Despite his revolutionary talent, Richard is more often than not remembered solely as the mastermind behind "Tutti Frutti." (If, of course, Elvis Presley isn't incorrectly credited.) It's an unfortunate truth of white musicians appropriating the work of Black artists, which director Lisa Cortés works to highlight in the documentary "Little Richard: I Am Everything." The film gets at the heart of Little Richard's work, how he built his incredible persona, and all the ways in which the world chooses to under-celebrate him. With this film, it's impossible to continue down that path.

WHERE TO WATCH: “Little Richard: I Am Everything” is streaming on MAX.

“SUGA: Road to D-DAY”

Released while BTS members are taking turns fulfilling South Korea's mandatory military service, Disney+'s "SUGA: Road to D-Day" follows the K-pop group's most elusive talent as he travels from Seoul to Tokyo, Las Vegas and beyond for his debut solo album under the Agust D moniker. In some moments, it's an expansive exploration of his self and his work; in others, it's a return to the Korean rap underground sensibilities that made him.

WHERE TO WATCH: “SUGA: Road to D-Day” is streaming on Disney+. While there, fans can stream “BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star,” a documentary series spotlighting the entire seven-member group, as well.


Now here's a little something-something to wake you up before you go-go. Netflix released "WHAM!" earlier this year, an extensive documentary about the fabulous pop musical duo of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. It boasts of never-before-seen footage of the pair (collected before Michael died in 2016, of course), charting their explosive journey from teens with dreams to global icons.

WHERE TO WATCH: “Wham!” is streaming on Netflix.

“Wynonna Judd: Between Hell and Hallelujah”

A tragedy befell country superstar Wynonna Judd, which gets an early mention in a new documentary "Wynonna Judd: Between Hell and Hallelujah." Her mom, longtime music collaborator and country music great Naomi Judd, died by suicide, and here, Wynonna works to put her life back together again and embark on her final tour. It's a story of resilience, to be sure, and an opportunity to celebrate the legacy of the Judd family.

WHERE TO WATCH: “Wynonna Judd: Between Hell and Hallelujah” is streaming on Paramount+.

“Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party”

Before Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave was Nick Cave, he was in The Birthday Party, a chaotic Melbourne post-punk band born out of furry and fuzzy guitar pedals in the late '70s. That differed from the U.K. sound, where pop hooks could still be made out atop rhythmic basslines. The Birthday Party favored a rancorous spirit, writing scuzzy songs and descending into mayhem at every turn. Naturally, it makes for a fascinating narrative and viewing experience: how one band's goal to be completely unlikeable and dangerous resulted in cult classic songs about God and death. Plus, it's funny.

WHERE TO WATCH: “Mutiny in Heaven: The Birthday Party” is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.