25 Best Hip-Hop Films and Documentaries Streaming on Netflix

Can't make it out to the movies to catch the newest flicks? Not feeling like going to that big shindig? No worries, I got your back like scoliosis.

Or, more accurately, Netflix Instant has your back. Netflix Instant has an impressive selection of films every rap head should see. (Sadly, seminal classics like Beat Street and Style Wars are only available via DVD.)

When picking out the movies for this piece, I widened the field to include documentaries about hip-hop culture and the things hip-hop heads care about. All you need is 89 minutes and your cousin's Netflix login.

These are the 25 best hip-hop films and documentaries streaming on Netflix right now. 

I got the hook up

Year: 1998
Director: Michael Martin
Starring: Master P, Gretchen Palmer, Anthony Johnson
Genre:Action Comedy

You know this movie. It's the one you scoop up from the dollar bin and toss right back. You see it at Red Box and think "I'm not drunk enough for this." Maybe you've watched the trailer and never gave it any serious thought. You're probably right. We're not talking Oscar bait here. But you should see it for the train wreck effect. Watching Master P and C-Murder attempt to act is therapeutic comic relief.

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Year: 1998
Director: Hype Williams
Starring: Nas, DMX, Anthony Bodden, Taral Hicks
Genre: Crime

Turn on the lights. Untie my dog. I'll confess: I actually own a DVD of Belly. And I don't want to be the only man in America with a DVD of Belly on his bookshelf. No matter what film critics say, I think you should see it. Sure, you're not about to mistake Nas and DMX for Denzel Washington and Samuel L Jackson (come to think of it, Belly would be a completely different movie with those guys headlining the cast). But if you like these artists, you'll love Belly. They play exaggerated versions of their rap personas--X as the eccentric character and Nas as the intelligent thug.

30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A.

Year: 2010
Director: Ice Cube
Starring: Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Al Davis, Chuck D
Genre: Documentary

Before Straight Outta Compton, Ice Cube turned the camera on himself in a documentary that explores the intersection of football and gangsta rap. Straight Outta L.A. zooms in on the Raiders' move to South Central  LA in the 1980s. Cube recalls how the sound and image of N.W.A. defined sports culture in those days.

King of Paper Chasin'

Year: 2011
Director: La Monte Edwards
Starring: Dwayne DL Clark, La Monte Edwards, Jason Rivera
Genre: Crime

King of Paper Chasin' is one of the most ridiculous movie titles I've ever heard. I'm glad I didn't judge this one by its title because it's actually a fascinating film. It will reward you, if you give it a chance. The plot--a tale of a drug dealer who tries to leave the game to pursue a rap career--is compelling. Even more surprising is the fact that it's a low-budget film with big budget thinking.

Rap Sheet: Hip-Hop and the Cops

Year: 2006
Director: Don Sikorski
Starring: Yasiin Bey, ric Adams, Dasun Allah, Lloyd Banks
Genre: Documentary

Is the FBI secretly spying on hip-hop artists? Do task agencies keep huge dossiers on rappers and music industry executives? Do police departments have secret Hip-Hop Police units? Don Sikorski's Rap Sheet investigates.

Dont Be a Menace

Year: 1996
Director: Paris Barclay
Starring: Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Vivica A. Fox
Genre: Comedy

The full title is Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. It's the Scary Movie of gritty hood flicks of the 1990s, such as Boyz n the Hood and Menace II Society. Quotable lines for days.

BMF The Rise and Fall of a Hip-Hop Drug Empire

Year: 2012
Director: Don Sikorski
Genre: Documentary

BMF (Black Mafia Family) is a familiar acronym in rap circles. Rick Ross referenced BMF kingpin Demetrius "Big Meech" Flenory on his smash single "B.M.F." So what's BMF and what happened to the organization? This 80-minute documentary chronicles the rise and fall of BMF, with accounts by the agents who brought down the empire.

Crips and Bloods

Year: 2008
Director: Stacy Peralta
Starring: Jim Brown, Tony Muhammad, Forest Whitaker
Genre: Documentary

You hear rap songs about Crips and Bloods all the time. But nothing beats the stories of real-life Crips and Bloods who lived through devastating gang violence. Narrated by Forest Whitaker, Crips and Bloods details the emergence of gangs, their deadly rivalries and their growth beyond the borders of South Los Angeles. What makes this worth watching is the hope for resolve at the end.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson

Year: 2010
Director: Steve James
Genre: Documentary

Allen Iverson was an NBA star whose hip-hop pedigree clashed with the NBA's corporate-clean image. Steve James' documentary zeroes in on the bowling alley brawl that nearly derailed his NBA career, the Hollywood-esque conspiracy theorists and the racial tension it brewed. Oh, and did you know about the S.W.I.S. rap song recorded to galvanize support for Iverson?

Mr Untouchable

Year: 2010
Director: Marc Levin
Starring: Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, Don Ferrarone, Thema Grant
Genre: Documentary

The subject of Mr. Untouchable has been referenced by several rappers. The 2007 Marc Levin documentary is the story of Harlem's Leroy "Nicky" Barnes, a real-life junkie-turned-hustler-turned-multimillionaire. With music by Hi-Tek, Mr Untouchable pulls you deeper into the heroin era of the 1970s and spits you out wiser.

Cocaine Cowboys 2

Year: 2008
Director: Billy Corben
Starring: Nelson Andreu, Jorge Ayala, Griselda Blanco
Genre: Documentary

The sequel to Cocaine Cowboys details the story of Charles Anthony Cosby (aka Real N---a), who starts a relationship with his idol, the Godmother (Griselda Blanco). Blanco is also nicknamed "The Black Widow" because of her propensity to dispose of her men with ruthless indifference after she's done with them. Cosby has no idea what awaits him.

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Year: 2000
Director: Chris Fiore
Starring: DMX, Jay Z, Method Man, Damon Dash, Beanie Sigel
Genre: Documentary

Don't watch Backstage (filmed during the 1999 Hard Knock Life Tour) for the music. Don't watch it for the naked groupies or the drugs. You won't learn anything new about Jay--he's coy and reserved the entire time. Don't watch it to see Red and Meth get blazed out of their minds. Or for Beanie Sigel's unfiltered opinions. The real star of Backstage is Damon Dash. Watch Backstage for his obscenity-flavored rants.

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Year: 2007 - 
Starring: Mike Hefley, Rahul Thakkar, Martin Cox
Genre: Documentary

I don't care how much you benchpress, you'll flee fast if you met any of these characters in a dark alley. Thanks to Netflix and The History Channel, you can watch and learn from the safety of your home. Stream Gangland for a peek into the culture of gangs in the United States--how they shaped the times and impacted the blocks they controlled.

Snow on tha Bluff

Year: 2011
Director: Damon Russell
Starring: Curtis Snow, Young Blo, Curtis Lockett
Genre: Drama

My friend Dee first hipped me to Snow on tha Bluff. Although Dee's taste in movies is usually on point, I questioned his sanity when he explained the premise of Snow. A crack dealer steals a camera from college kids and proceeds to document his life with said camera. Snow on tha Bluff approximates first-person perspective documentary, blurring the line between reality and fiction. I watched it with my jaw on the floor half the time.

Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton

Year: 2013
Director: Jeff Broadway
Starring: Common, Mike D, Daniel Dumile, Mayer Hawthorne 
Genre: Documentary

Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton digs deep into the rich history of Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records. It weaves together rare concert footage, archival images, home video and in-depth interviews with the left-of-center artists who put Stones Throw Records on the map. It features interviews with Kanye West, Common, Questlove, Tyler the Creator and more.

Paid in Full

Year: 2002
Director: Charles Stone III
Starring: Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris, Chi McBride
Genre: Action

Paid in Full is loosely based on the lives of real Harlem kingpins who ran the streets in the 80s. If you've ever wondered what New York City looked like in the 1980s, if you've ever wondered what Harlemites are yapping about when they talk about The Rooftop or The Rucker, if you've ever wondered how people got around with mobile phones the size of a Prius then you have to see Paid in Full.

Rhyme & Reason

Year: 1997
Director: Peter Spirer
Starring: Too $hort, B-Real, Kurtis Blow, Method Man
Genre: Documentary

Rhyme & Reason is the grandaddy of backstage documentaries. It was a one-of-a-kind examination of the rise of rap from the streets of South Bronx to the corporate boardrooms of America. Peter Spirer interviewed over 80 artists for this thing.It's still an enduring portrait of the smart and vibrant world of rap from an insider's view. You get to see some of your favorite 90s rappers, from Too $hort to B-Real, tell their own stories. 

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Year: 1994
Director: Boaz Yakin
Starring: Sean Nelson, Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L Jackson
Genre: Thriller

Sean Nelson is stunning in his debut role as Fresh. Giancarlo Esposito aka Gus from Breaking Bad is chilling in this thrilling crime flick, in which a young Esposito drops this classic line: "Time is money and money is time little homey, and right now you are costing me a lot of both." The kids are disillusioned by the brutal life in the hood. They strive for a better future in an overstuffed housing project by way of dealing drugs. Disheartening and hopeful at once.

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Juice Movie

Year: 1992
Director: Ernest R. Dickerson
Starring: Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, Jermaine Hopkins
Genre: Crime

2Pac was the greatest double threat of his time. What I mean is that he was an unfairly talented rapper who could go to the loo and re-emerge with a fully written hit in 5 minutes, and he was a natural in front of the camera. Pac's role as Bishop in Juice stands as his crowning achievement on the big screen. The film plots the path of troubled inner-city teenagers caught up in a web of tragedy. This pursuit of power and respect is what they refer to as The Juice.

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Hoop Dreams

Year: 2008
Director: Steve James
Starring: Isiah Thomas, William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates
Genre: Documentary

Hip-hop and basketball have historically crossed paths. Rappers and ballers share many common realities. Among them, finding a way out of the hood is almost as tough as making it as a pro baller. Hoop Dreams started out as a half-hour documentary and blossomed into a three-hour tale of pressure and perseverance.

Cocaine Cowboys

Year: 2006
Director: Billy Corben
Starring: Jon Roberts, Al Sunshine, Sam Burstyn
Genre: Documentary

The city is Miami. The era is early 80s. The hottest product on the market is sugarbooger. Cocaine Cowboys is an intense crime documentary that details the rise of the cocaine boom, tracing its origins back to 1970s Colombian traders who smuggled contraband via boats in the Reagan Era. Told by the cops and criminals who lived these dark times.

Biggie & Tupac

Year: 2002
Director: Nick Broomfield
Starring: The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur
Genre: Documentary

If you want a harrowing account of the unsolved murders of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, watch Biggie & Tupac. British filmmaker Nick Broomfield interviews associates of the late icons and follows various threads of clues to try and answer the question: Who killed Biggie and Tupac? Some of the revelations include: Suge Knight's involvement, LAPD's role in the mysterious murders, amid tales of police corruption.

The Art of Rap

Year: 2012
Director: Ice T
Starring: Ice T, Dr. Dre, Chuck D, Rakim, Q-Tip
Genre: Documentary

I rolled my eyes when I learned that Ice T was making a hip-hop documentary titled Art of Rap. I didn't think we needed another hip-hop documentary to explain the process of rapping on beat. And Ice T, despite his admirable repertoire, seemed like an odd choice to direct this thing. I never unwrapped the plastic on my Art of Rap DVD. In fact, I put off watching this thing for as long as I could.

My curiosity eventually won out. With my DVD still wrapped up, I decided to stream Art of Rap on Netflix. I've never seen a better documentary on the creative process of rap. Not only did Ice T excel in his directorial debut, he's also an outstanding narrator. Art of Rap lives up to its title. It pulls back the curtain and reveals the tricks and tools of the trade. It gives you a window into the minds of a diverse range of talented rappers from different eras, including 80s icons you've probably forgotten about. The interviews and eye-opening insights (Rakim's near-comedic writing style, for instance) make this worth a watch for anyone curious about how the best MCs craft their rhymes.

The Black Power Mixtape

Year: 2011
Director: Göran Olsson
Starring: Angela Davis, Questlove, Talib Kweli, Abiodun Oyewole
Genre: Documentary

The title is a tad misleading. The Black Power Mixtape isn't as much a history of the Black Power movement (it doesn't even start getting into the history of the Black Panther until half an hour into the documentary) as it is an emotionally charged depiction of the most radical period in American history through image and sound. In between tales of racism and militant Panthers, we also get insights into how the BPP created the Free Breakfast school program that still exists today.

It's even more fascinating to see these stories through the lens of the Swedish journalists who captured and preserved these remarkable, historic recordings from the 1960s and 1970s. With powerful commentary from Questlove, Talib Kweli, Angela Davis, Erykah Badu, Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets and more, The Black Power Mixtape illuminates a reference point for hip-hop's most socially aware figures. A must-see for everyone, not just hip-hop heads.

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Wild Style

Year: 1983
Director: Charlie Ahearn
Starring: Lee George Quinones, Fab 5 Freddy, Lady Pink
Genre: Drama

Few hip-hop moves are as precious as Charles Ahearns' Wild Style. It is THE classic  hip-hop movie. Released in 1983, Wild Style captured a culture previously misunderstood by outsiders. Although the story centers around graffiti wars, which is compelling enough, it's much more than that. It's also a showcase of iconic 80s figures: Fab 5 Freddy, Cold Crush Brothers, Caz, Flash, etcetera.

We're talking 1980s, South Bronx, New York City hip-hop here, folks. Wild Style is a festival of hip-hop culture: writers, breakdancers, deejays, and emcees. A must-see for anyone who navigates the hip-hop space in any capacity.