- Taylor Swift’s new Netflix documentary, “Miss Americana,” tracks the singer’s public political awakening and is the latest of many celebrity documentaries to reveal new sides of their well-known subjects.
- Artists like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga have also released Netflix documentaries about their careers and personal lives, while other stars such as Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers have documentaries available to stream on YouTube and Amazon Prime.
- Here are 10 enlightening celebrity documentaries that you can stream right now.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
In recent years, ever-present internet fandoms and social media have made A-list celebrities open to scrutiny in a way they’ve never been before, so it makes sense that many of these stars choose to hide their private lives and retreat behind carefully curated public personas.
Documentaries, however, can give audiences a peek behind the curtain (often coinciding with the release of a major new project) and are an increasingly popular mode of celebrity revelation – providing a look into their everyday lives and artistic processes, while generally promoting their work and shaping their star narratives as they see fit.
The latest of these movies, Lana Wilson’s “Miss Americana,” explores Taylor Swift‘s public political awakening and was released on Netflix on Friday.
To commemorate the release, here are 10 enlightening celebrity documentaries available to stream right now.
Beyoncé’s 2019 concert documentary “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé” gives viewers a behind-the-scenes look at her historic “Beychella” shows.
Where to watch: Netflix
Beyoncé made history when she became the first black woman to headline Coachella 22 years after its inception, and “Homecoming” seamlessly intercuts between the singer’s two 2018 performances there.
“Homecoming” gives audiences brief glimpses of the singer’s personal life to which general viewers usually aren’t privy. Beyoncé served as writer, director, and executive producer for the film, personally approving the dancers, lighting, choreography, and more. It’s an impressive feat for any performer, let alone one who gave birth to twins less than a year earlier.
Like her previous films (such as 2016’s “Lemonade”), she presents her intricate artistry in conversation with black American history – particularly through her celebration of historically black colleges and universities throughout the show.
“Above all, ‘Homecoming’ is about Beyoncé asserting, yet again, her power and control,” wrote Aisha Harris for The New York Times. “It’s Beyoncé exactly as she wants us to see her and has always wanted us to see her: as a perfectionist, and as the hardest-working person in show business.”
Netflix’s new Taylor Swift documentary “Miss Americana” tracks the pop star’s public political awakening, and the development of her album “Lover.”
Where to watch: Netflix
One of the first things that Taylor Swift tells audiences in Emmy-winning director Lana Wilson’s “Miss Americana” is that she feels a need to be liked, thanks to the “good girl” persona that she’s felt pressured to maintain since the singer shot to fame at 16 -and how events unfathomable to the general public, like feeling as if she was getting booed when Kanye West interrupted her 2009 VMAs acceptance speech, felt devastating for a young Swift.
“Miss Americana” tracks the artist’s emerging political advocacy (including her denouncement of Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn in 2018), reveals her history with an eating disorder and briefly touches on her private relationship with Joe Alwyn. By mixing personal, “relatable” footage with sobering reminders of Swift’s staggering public persona, Wilson paints a portrait of a 30-year-old woman just beginning to reconcile with her reputation.
“‘Miss Americana’ emerges, ultimately, as a chronicle of Swift letting go of that need for approval, and growing into a woman more confident in her own voice,” wrote Angie Han for Mashable.
HBO’s 2016 documentary “Bright Lights” centers on the relationship between mother-daughter duo Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher.
Where to watch: HBO
For decades, Hollywood superstars Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, “Star Wars” actress Carrie Fisher, had a symbiotic, bickering bond that lasted until the pair unexpectedly and suddenly passed away in December 2016.
Originally conceived by Fisher to pay tribute to Reynolds’ long-lasting career, “Bright Lights” focuses on preserving the mother and daughter’s legacies, taking viewers into the eccentric home they share together. Fisher’s brash sense of humor is on full display, and she continues to be candid about her experiences with mental illness and addiction in the documentary.
“‘Bright Lights’ plucks [Fisher’s] star and that of her mother down from distant heights and lets us gently hold them for a time, reassuring us that their brilliance and humanity was real, their mutual endearment unbreakable,” wrote Melanie McFarland for Salon.
Netflix’s “Gaga: Five Foot Two” chronicles Lady Gaga’s time recording her album “Joanne” and preparing to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Where to watch: Netflix
“Why is there a football game before the Lady Gaga show?” one of the singer’s friends asks her near the end of the 2016 documentary.
The movie tends to take that view of the artist’s Super Bowl performance (which bookends “Five Foot Two”), framing it as the latest culmination of Gaga’s musical efforts, alongside her work on her 2017 album “Joanne.”
In particular, the documentary further explains why she chose the name “Joanne” to commemorate her late aunt, who died of lupus at 19. Gaga and her family describe her as someone who “had a lot of talent, but she didn’t have enough time,” and are shown going through some of Joanne’s old art work and poems.
“[‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’] manages to create a sense of intimacy and revelation, even as we sense that there is really no such thing as an unguarded moment for Lady Gaga,” wrote Peter Sobczynski for RogerEbert.com.
Released in full on YouTube, the 2017 documentary “Simply Complicated” features candid interviews with Demi Lovato about navigating childhood stardom and addiction.
Where to watch: YouTube
Released ahead of her 2017 album, “Tell Me You Love Me,” the film intersperses footage of her recording the music with raw interviews about Lovato’s experiences with bullying, drug addiction, and heartbreak.
“This fusion of commercial with contrition doesn’t always work [in ‘Simply Complicated’], but it’s surprising how much brutal honesty we get,” wrote Associated Press critic Mark Kennedy.
“One Direction: This Is Us” is a nostalgic rendering of the boy band’s explosive success in the early 2010s.
- TriStar Pictures
Where to watch: Amazon Prime (free with IMDb TV)
Released at the height of “Directioner” fever in 2013, “One Direction: This Is Us” follows the band on their 2012-2013 tour. This documentary is more unabashedly a promotional venture than many of the movies on this list, yet it remains a charming time capsule for those nostalgic for the One Direction days – particularly as its members, like Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson, are currently releasing new solo albums.
“Unabashedly an upbeat, snazzily shot infomercial that accentuates and overdoes the positives of this well-scrubbed quintet, ‘Us’ still manages to capture the lads’ refreshing ability to remain basically who they were while coping with life-altering changes,” wrote Stephen Schaefer for The Boston Herald.
The 2012 movie “Katy Perry: Part of Me” follows the pop singer on her yearlong California Dreams tour.
Where to watch: Tubi
Speaking of nostalgia, remember the days when Katy Perry’s “California Girls” and “Firework” were constantly playing on the radio? The singer’s immense popularity around the release of her 2010 album, “Teenage Dream,” is immortalized in “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” which takes place over her 124-show world tour.
“It’s difficult to assess the authenticity of Perry’s big-screen portrait, shaped by handlers, friends, family and gushing Katy Kats,” wrote Edna Gundersen for USA Today. “But her zeal, geeky enthusiasm and generous spirit feel genuine.”
“Jonas Brothers: Chasing Happiness” is a 2019 documentary that follows the brothers’ recent reunion as a band.
Where to watch: Amazon Prime
Before the release of the Jonas Brothers‘ 2019 album, “Happiness Begins,” they reflected on the ebb and flow of their sibling-turned-bandmate relationships, and what led them to make music together again in their documentary, “Chasing Happiness.”
Viewers might remember the “purity rings” that the brothers were mocked for back in their initial hayday, but the film provides more context for how their pastor father’s church shaped their upbringing, and brings a slightly new perspective to cliché “price of fame” narratives by touching on how Disney stardom tested their familial ties.
“Chasing Happiness has a familiar and pleasing rise-and-fall-and-rise arc from ungodly success to grim disillusionment to triumphant rebirth,” wrote Mashable critic Rob Harvilla.
“Amy” includes rare home footage of the late Amy Winehouse, and won an Academy Award and BAFTA for best documentary in 2016.
Where to watch: Netflix
Unlike many of the stars on this list, the late British singer/songwriter Amy Winehouse (who died from alcohol poisoning at 27) didn’t play a role in shaping how she was perceived in her celebrity documentary. Instead, an array of exclusive home videos, voicemails, and interviews with her inner circle speak for themselves.
Directed by Asif Kapadia, “Amy” tells the story of the singer’s early success and tragic substance abuse issues and death that is bolstered by Kapadia’s initiative to not present Winehouse and the figures in her life as stark villains or victims.
“[‘Amy’] doesn’t depart from the standard behind-the-music template, but it does deepen the format immeasurably, through the intimacy of its archival materials and the focus of its approach,” wrote Ty Burr for The Boston Globe.
Travis Scott’s 2019 Netflix movie “Look Mom I Can Fly” offers snippets of the rapper’s Houston roots, love of amusement parks, and love of the craft.
Where to watch: Netflix
Travis Scott might be one of the most well-known figures in hip-hop right now, but “Look Mom I Can Fly” takes pains to emphasize that he’s just a kid from Houston who loves his family, his then-girlfriend Kylie Jenner, their daughter Stormi, and… amusement parks.
The 85-minute Netflix original jumps around dozens of moments in Scott’s life sporadically, from the beginning of his career to the birth of his first child to the Grammys. Along the way, footage of his excitement at collaborating with names like Drake and Kanye West bolster the expected record studio footage that makes up most music documentaries.
“Moments of intense craftsmanship are countered by scenes displaying unbridled excitement, both for his own work and the way it intersects with others,” wrote Frazier Tharpe for Complex. “[‘Look Mom I Can Fly’] is far from a perfect documentary, but it excels when it gives us a rare look at Travis Scott’ creative process.”