Best Documentaries

Few stories are as affecting and inspirational as the true ones that take place in the world every day. The documentaries on this list prove that point and then some. Whether it's a film about astronauts, babies, or climate change, you can learn something new from any movie on this list, but you'll also be entertained and moved along the way. These filmmakers do an amazing job of exploring cultures, exposing issues, and telling stories small and large. You'll cheer, you'll cry, you'll rage, and you might even be inspired to change the world.

Browse Best Documentaries

 
A Beautiful Planet Movie Poster Image
Stunning look at Earth -- and man's sobering impact on it.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2016)
Continue reading Watch review
 
The Elephant Queen Movie Poster Image
Big-hearted, beautiful docu about matriarchal elephant herd.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading Watch review
March of the Penguins Movie Poster Image
Stunning, loving documentary; some intense peril.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2005)
Continue reading
 
Pick of the Litter Movie Poster Image
"Dog"umentary fetches empathy, enlightenment, warm fuzzies.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
 
A Reindeer's Journey Movie Poster Image
Captivating reindeer docu has natural beauty, perils.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Babies Movie Poster Image
Mesmerizing film for kids and parents who adore wee ones.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2010)
Continue reading Watch review
 
Wonders of the Sea Movie Poster Image
Docu beautifully highlights oceans' delicate balance.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
 
Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable Movie Poster Image
Inspirational docu has themes of perseverance, gratitude.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
 
The Biggest Little Farm Movie Poster Image
Poignant, thought-provoking docu about sustainable living.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
 
Imba Means Sing Movie Poster Image
Vibrant, uplifting docu about African children's choir.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading Watch review
Mad Hot Ballroom Movie Poster Image
Enchanting dance documentary hits all the right beats.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2005)
Continue reading
Spellbound Movie Poster Image
Families should see this m-a-r-v-e-l-o-u-s film.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2003)
Continue reading
 
Chasing Coral Movie Poster Image
Awe-inspiring, poignant docu tracks decline of coral reefs.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
 
Kindness Is Contagious Movie Poster Image
Warm, feel-good docu about being nice is uplifting.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
Aquarela Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu captures beauty and devastation of water.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Brian and the Boz Movie Poster Image
Smart docu about controversial football player's redemption.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
 
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet Movie Poster Image
Attenborough's stark documentary is essential viewing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
 
Far from the Tree Movie Poster Image
Touching docu about parents raising uniquely different kids.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
Fed Up Movie Poster Image
Informative, engrossing docu about saying no to sugar.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
I Am Eleven Movie Poster Image
Charming, thought-provoking global docu about childhood.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
I'll Push You: A Real-Life Inspiration Movie Poster Image
Touching friendship docu is full of positive messages.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
 
John Lewis: Good Trouble Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, timely biography of Congress' legendary activist.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
The Last Man on the Moon Movie Poster Image
Awe-inspiring, insightful docu spotlights American astronaut
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
 
Legends of the Knight Movie Poster Image
Stirring docu sees superhero as powerful motivator for good.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Living on One Dollar Movie Poster Image
Earnest, inspiring docu shows realities of rural poverty.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Make Believe Movie Poster Image
Teens chase magical dreams in inspiring documentary.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2010)
Continue reading
Most Valuable Players Movie Poster Image
Moving, engaging docu about high school musical theater.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2010)
Continue reading
No Small Matter Movie Poster Image
Early education awareness docu offers insight, tips.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
On the Way to School Movie Poster Image
Stirring docu explores school journeys around the globe.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2009)
Continue reading
 
River City Drumbeat Movie Poster Image
Uplifting, heartfelt docu about life-changing drum corps.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Under the Turban Movie Poster Image
Informative docu sheds light on oft-misunderstood religion.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
Underwater Dreams Movie Poster Image
Inspiring story about an underdog high school robotics team.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
The Fight Movie Poster Image
Compelling documentary about the ACLU and its attorneys.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
I, Pastafari: A Flying Spaghetti Monster Story Movie Poster Image
Irreverent docu challenges religion; violent news clips.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Inequality for All Movie Poster Image
Engaging economics docu encourages equality, activism.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Jiro Dreams of Sushi Movie Poster Image
Subtitled docu about sushi chef inspires and enlightens.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2012)
Continue reading
 
Liyana Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, unique film tells two stories of perseverance.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
 
Maiden Movie Poster Image
Poignant, thrilling tale of groundbreaking female sailors.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
The Roosevelts: An Intimate History Movie Poster Image
Lots of historical detail in evenhanded, traditional docu.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
 
Runner Movie Poster Image
Stirring, inspiring sports docu about overcoming adversity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
The Way I See It Movie Poster Image
Hopeful, lovely docu on former White House shutterbug.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Advanced Style Movie Poster Image
Docu about senior fashionistas promotes positive body image.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
Behind the Curve Movie Poster Image
Excellent, relevant docu about conspiracy theories.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
 
A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story Movie Poster Image
Outstanding role model urges kids to stand up to bullies.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading Watch review
Buck Movie Poster Image
Powerful profile on horse whisperer has mature themes.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2011)
Continue reading
Bully Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu addresses critically important issue for kids.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2012)
Continue reading Watch review
Dancing in Jaffa Movie Poster Image
Uplifting docu promotes religious tolerance via dance.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football Movie Poster Image
Excellent docu on Muslim high school football players.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2011)
Continue reading
 
He Named Me Malala Movie Poster Image
Inspiring, deeply affecting docu explores teen icon's life.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading Watch review
Knock Down the House Movie Poster Image
Outstanding docu about underdog congressional hopefuls.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
The Most Dangerous Year Movie Poster Image
Affecting documentary speaks up for trans kids.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
 
Shake the Dust Movie Poster Image
Poignant docu about B-boys and B-girls around the world.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
Time for Ilhan Movie Poster Image
Docu follows Somali American's first political campaign.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Wonder Women! The Untold Story of American Superheroines Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu explores female heroes in comics, real life.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2016)
Continue reading
The World According to Sesame Street Movie Poster Image
Serious adult docu about Muppets in developing nations.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2006)
Continue reading
 
The All-Americans Movie Poster Image
Lovely documentary digs into football dreams in East L.A.
In Theaters Now
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Anita: Speaking Truth to Power Movie Poster Image
Riveting docu may inspire discussion of sexual harassment.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Becoming Bulletproof Movie Poster Image
Lovely, big-hearted docu about disability inclusion.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
 
Boys State Movie Poster Image
Teens make like political pros in insightful documentary.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Cowspiracy Movie Poster Image
Provocative docu has some graphic scenes of animal cruelty.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones Movie Poster Image
Stellar docu on influential punk band; talk of drugs, drink.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2005)
Continue reading
Fantastic Fungi Movie Poster Image
Fabulous docu finds hope in "magic" mushrooms.
In Theaters Now
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Flint: The Poisoning of an American City Movie Poster Image
Toxic water supply devastates Michigan city in earnest docu.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Forks Over Knives Movie Poster Image
Engaging docu promotes a vegan diet in nonjudgmental way.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2011)
Continue reading
Hoop Dreams Movie Poster Image
Stunning documentary addresses race and class issues.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 1994)
Continue reading
Gather Movie Poster Image
Docu on food sovereignty has positive messages, role models.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
If You Build It Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu shows young people capable of great things.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
An Inconvenient Truth Movie Poster Image
Moving, earnest documentary on global warming.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2006)
Continue reading
Inocente TV Poster Image
Affecting true story of homelessness and the human spirit.
Network: MTV
(2012)
(2012)
Continue reading
Keepers of the Game Movie Poster Image
Engaging sports docu addresses deeper societal issues.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2016)
Continue reading
A Kid from Coney Island Movie Poster Image
Inspiring sports docu shows value of perseverance.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Maidentrip Movie Poster Image
Excellent docu about teen sailor; some brief profanity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Mudbloods Movie Poster Image
Underdogs rule in real-life Quidditch docu; some profanity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
This Changes Everything (2018) Movie Poster Image
Compelling, entertaining docu about women in film and TV.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
Viral: Antisemitism in Four Mutations Movie Poster Image
Uneven but undeniably powerful documentary about hate.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Who Will Write Our History Movie Poster Image
Powerful Holocaust docu has disturbing images, stories.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
American Factory Movie Poster Image
Engaging doc about Chinese firm opening U.S. plant; cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
The Black List: Vol. 1 Movie Poster Image
Profound docu explores African-American racial identity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2008)
Continue reading
 
Can You Dig This? Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu about urban gardening; some profanity, drugs.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
The Champions Movie Poster Image
Profoundly moving docu about dog rescue and recovery.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
The Cove Movie Poster Image
Gruesome, powerful, and inspiring dolphin documentary.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2009)
Continue reading
G-Dog Movie Poster Image
Inspiring docu about gang intervention program in LA.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce Movie Poster Image
Concert film of Queen B's Coachella set has salty language.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
The Ivory Game Movie Poster Image
Powerful docu shines light on efforts to save elephants.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2016)
Continue reading
Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower Movie Poster Image
Docu about brave teen taking on oppressive government.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
Lady Valor Movie Poster Image
Transgender soldier docu portrays bravery, strength.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
The Latino List TV Poster Image
Top-notch documentary features strong Latino role models.
Network: HBO
(2012)
(2011)
Continue reading
Miss Representation Movie Poster Image
Earnest, illuminating documentary about women and the media.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2012)
Continue reading Watch review
The Out List TV Poster Image
Poignant LGBTQ docu highlights respect, acceptance.
Network: HBO
(2013)
(2013)
Continue reading
Rebuilding Paradise Movie Poster Image
Intense disaster docu highlights resilience, humanity.
In Theaters Now
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Social Animals Movie Poster Image
Insightful docu looks at pros, cons of Instagram; language.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
Stonewall Outloud Movie Poster Image
Highly original, affecting docu about iconic LGBTQ uprising.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Storied Streets Movie Poster Image
Thoughtful, moving homelessness docu shatters stereotypes.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
A Thousand Cuts Movie Poster Image
Thought-provoking docu about freedom of the press.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Waste Land Movie Poster Image
Inspiring documentary portrays the dignity of the poor.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2010)
Continue reading
When We Were Kings Movie Poster Image
Thrilling boxing docu covers race, politics; some profanity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 1997)
Continue reading
The Whole Gritty City Movie Poster Image
Vibrant, poignant, inspiring music docu; some profanity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Desert Runners Movie Poster Image
Intense, awe-inspiring docu about extreme marathoners.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2013)
Continue reading
Eating Animals Movie Poster Image
Farm docu's stomach-churning stories offer food for thought.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
Feels Good Man Movie Poster Image
Shocking subject matter in disturbing but powerful docu.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened Movie Poster Image
Mature doc about outrageous scam is funny, sad, instructive.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Healing from Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation Movie Poster Image
Former alt-righters break good in compelling documentary.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2020)
Continue reading
I Am Santa Claus Movie Poster Image
Docu about holiday helpers has mature themes, profanity.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
Icarus Movie Poster Image
Eye-opening docu on Russian doping scandal; some cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
Jawline Movie Poster Image
Eye-opening docu about rising social media star has cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Most Likely to Succeed Movie Poster Image
Docu follows four promising students; some cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
The Rape of Recy Taylor Movie Poster Image
Awful crime becomes civil rights flash point in moving docu.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading Watch review
Seahorse Movie Poster Image
Important transgender pregnancy doc has strong language.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Untouchable Movie Poster Image
Weinstein's alleged sex crimes explored; language, violence.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Always in Season Movie Poster Image
Lynching docu is chilling but effective; horrifying images.
In Theaters Now
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Citizenfour Movie Poster Image
Bold docu explores Edward Snowden's controversial actions.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
For Sama Movie Poster Image
Powerful, intense docu about young mother's war-torn life.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
Last Men in Aleppo Movie Poster Image
Gripping docu shows real-life footage of ongoing Syrian war.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2017)
Continue reading
Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine Movie Poster Image
Moving documentary brings hate-crime victim to life.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
Minding the Gap Movie Poster Image
Skateboarders try to overcome childhood abuse; language.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
My Scientology Movie Movie Poster Image
Riveting and tense docu has frequent cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
People's Republic of Desire Movie Poster Image
Shocking docu reveals dangers of China's livestream trend.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2018)
Continue reading
Tell Me Who I Am Movie Poster Image
Intense docu about twin brothers has violence, cursing.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
They Shall Not Grow Old Movie Poster Image
Astonishing, groundbreaking, graphic images of WWI.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2019)
Continue reading
 
Virunga Movie Poster Image
Outstanding but shattering docu set in war-torn Congo.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2014)
Continue reading
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts TV Poster Image
Spike Lee's masterful and disturbing Katrina docu.
Network: HBO
(2007)
(2006)
Continue reading
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom Movie Poster Image
Brutal but inspiring docu about 2013-'14 Ukrainian uprising.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2015)
Continue reading
Bowling for Columbine Movie Poster Image
Must-see gun violence documentary is brutal.
On DVD/Streaming
(Release Year: 2002)
Continue reading

Other great lists from our editors