8 Inspiring documentaries that artists, designers and creatives must watch

There's quite a few great documentary films on Netflix Instant and YouTube that are perfect for artists, musicians, designers, and other creative professionals to get inspired and discover what's possible.

Artists and creatives in multiple disciplines channel the same passion and never-ending curiousity for their crafts in these documentary films covering street art, typography, industrial design, architecture, graphic design, music, and even food.

Check out the films below and enjoy!

Eames: The Architect and the Painter

Emerging after World War II, Charles and Ray Eames devoted their lives to exploring what's possible with technology. They helped usher modernism into everyday American life and became iconic with their design sensibilities. Their mid-century modern furniture designs still resonate today but it's their dedication to art and design that is endearing and keeps you interested in their professional and personal lives in the film. Narrated by James Franco, 2011

Watch for Free on PBS.org

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Reclusive street artist Bansky tells the story of voyeuristic art groupie Thierry Guetta and his transformation into Mr. Brainwash. It's a hilarious movie and showcases the explosion of street art in the United States and Europe. Features appearances by Shepard Fairey, Space Invader, and others. Directed by Banksy, 2010

Watch on Netflix

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

The Japanese obsession with refinement is shown through the life of an 85 year old Sushi chef that watches his craft grow from simple street food into a worldwide phenomenon. He iterates his simple methods to create the perfect meal for his customers. His process for creating this perfect meal is attentive to every detail and has a refined process that is carried out by his staff. His oldest son is groomed for his whole adult life to someday run the family business It's a personal look at what it takes to not only be successful, but also innovate on a global level. This is the highest rated documentary on Netflix for a reason! Directed by David Gelb, 2011

Watch on Netflix

What Difference Does It Make

Red Bull Music Academy produced this film to mark the 15th anniversary of Red Bull's longest running cultural program. The film by Ralf Schmerberg gives an inside look into the minds of musicians specifically, but much of it applies to the spirit of any artist. Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, Giorgio Moroder, Francois K, Nile Rodgers, Erykah Badu, and over 70 other artists share their insight into the creative process. More info available at RBMA15.com Directed by Ralf Schmerberg, 2014

Watch for Free on YouTube

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster?

A lifetime retrospective of one of the world's most prominent architects, this documentary profiles Norman Foster from his post-graduate education at Yale to the present day. He goes on at length about the problem solving needed for his work, but says his greatest creation is the multi-national practice he started in 1967. His iconic buildings integrate the most modern design, sourcing, construction, and sustainability in an unending quest to improve the quality of life through design. Visit the Foster + Partners website to learn more. Directed by Norberto Lopez Amado & Carlos Carcas, 2010

Watch on Netflix

Just Like Being There

Although a narrow depiction of concert posters in general, it's a personal look at a contemporary artists who were able to work on their own terms to create gig posters for indie bands. Directed by Scout Shannon, 2012

Watch on Netflix


Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which recently celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives.

Helvetica interviews many of the world's trendsetters in the typography / design world, including Erik Spiekermann, Matthew Carter, Massimo Vignelli, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, Neville Brody, Stefan Sagmeister, Michael Bierut, David Carson, Paula Scher, Jonathan Hoefler, Tobias Frere-Jones, Experimental Jetset, Michael C. Place, Norm, Alfred Hoffmann, Mike Parker, Bruno Steinert, Otmar Hoefer, Leslie Savan, Rick Poynor, and Lars Müller. Directed by Gary Hustwit, 2007

Watch on Netflix

The Machine That Made Us

A TV movie from the BBC that looks at the story of Johann Gutenberg and the invention of the first printing press in the 15th century. Host Stephen Fry chronicles how the printing press was created, how it changed the world and where it's at today. 2008

Watch for Free on YouTube

I know there's a lot of other great creativity inspiring documentaries out there. Share your favorites on the DSN twitter and I'll update this post with new selections.