15 Documentaries You Should Watch Right Now

Watch: HBO Go (US), NOW TV (UK), iTunes (US/UK)

Robert Durst, a real-estate heir, is the focus of this HBO miniseries directed by Andrew Jarecki. Durst’s first wife went missing, and he’s linked closely to a murder. If you’re unfamiliar with the subject, don’t read up on him first. Just watch.

“This documentary miniseries is gobsmacking. The events that take place feel like something out of a movie, and just as you think it can’t get any more insane? It does.”

2. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Watch: Netflix (US), iTunes (US), Amazon (UK – rent)

This 2008 film consists of Kurt Kuenne interviewing hundreds of friends and relatives about his friend Andrew Bagby, who was murdered. As the film goes on you’ll be more and more outraged about the failures of the justice system that followed.

“It’s the most heart-wrenching and unbelievable story. This film had me emotionally messed up for days. I have never cried so hard or been so angry while watching a film. It is truly a brilliant documentary that everyone needs to watch.”

 

3. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

Watch: HBO Go (US), iTunes (US), Google Play (UK)

Alex Gibney directed this film, which questions the teachings of Scientology and interviews high-profile and long-term members over its practices. The Church of Scientology has repeatedly tried to discredit the contributors to the film.

“This was fascinating and really well-made. There were lots of details and history without being dry, and lots of accounts from people involved.”

4. Blackfish

Blackfish

Watch: Netflix (US/UK/Canada/Australia), iTunes (US/UK/Canada/Australia)

This controversial film documents the death of a SeaWorld employee by a killer whale, Tilikum, and raises important questions on the captivity and care of whales. Since the film debuted SeaWorld has had its attendance decrease significantly,according to Quartz.

“It goes behind the media stories of killer whales in captivity and makes your heart break for these poor animals, over and over again.”

5. The Imposter

The Imposter

Watch: Netflix (US/Canada/Australia), iTunes (US/UK/Australia)

A 13-year-old boy disappears in Texas in 1994. Three years later, a man who claims to be the boy is found in Spain. But is that the end of the story? Far, far from it. This thriller follows what happens next. As with The Jinx, try not to research before watching.

“Maybe one of the best things I’ve ever seen. It’s really creatively made too.”
Submitted by Joey Christou, Facebook

“I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I saw it.”

6. Amy

Amy

Watch: Google Play (US/UK), iTunes (US/UK), Amazon Prime (US), Netflix (Canada)

Amy Winehouse’s rise and fall has been widely documented, but never so powerfully as in Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-winning documentary film, which is interspersed with interviews with those who knew her and footage from her early life.

“I think in a day and age where so many people strive for fame it’s necessary to see it isn’t all glamour and fun – there is a darkness that can go right along with it.”

7. Man on Wire

Man on Wire

Watch: Netflix (Australia), Google Play (US/UK), iTunes (US/UK)

You might already have seen the 2015 Joseph Gordon Levitt movie about Philippe Petit’s crazy attempt to tightrope between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, but make sure you watch this Oscar-winning documentary as well. The miraculous stunt, pulled off in 1974, was achieved without the knowledge and consent of the authorities.

“Combines actual and re-enacted footage from the event as well as testimonies from those who were present.”

8. What Happened, Miss Simone?

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Watch: Netflix (worldwide)

You can’t escape Nina Simone’s music, but it is possible to not know her story. Liz Garbus’s documentary takes us through Simone’s driven, political, complicated, and at times troubled life, with added rare footage musical performances.

 

9. My Beautiful Broken Brain

My Beautiful Broken Brain

Watch on: Netflix (worldwide)

Directed by Sophie Robinson, this touching documentary follows the stages of Lotje’s Sodderland’s recovery from a devastating haemorrhagic stroke at the age of 34, with candid interviews with friends and the doctors who treated her.

 

10. When the Levees Broke

When the Levees Broke

Watch: HBO Go (US), Amazon Prime Video (US), iTunes (US/Canada)

In four parts, Spike Lee documents the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. The interviews with those who couldn’t leave the city will make you not only feel sadness for their plight, but anger at those in power who failed to care for them.

“I know it’s not so topical now but if you haven’t seen it, it is so worth a watch.”

11. Winter on Fire

Winter on Fire

Watch: Netflix (worldwide)

The situation in Ukraine is complicated and difficult to follow even if you are well-informed on world news. This film breaks the situation down while being highly engaging, following 93 days of the revolution in 2013 and 2014 and featuring eyewitness footage.

“One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen on Netflix. It follows all the events from a perfect point of view, and it tells us something that happened so close to us but far from our mind.”

12. Searching for Sugar Man

Searching for Sugar Man

Watch on: Google Play (US/UK), iTunes (US/UK/Canada/Australia)

The late Malik Bendjelloul’s Oscar-winning documentary on the life of the mysterious folklore musician Sixto Rodriguez is engaging as hell. The musician, who became popular in the ’70s, was widely assumed to have died by the general public. But… I won’t say anything more.

“Beautiful music, an incredible twist (if you haven’t heard of the documentary before), and great storytelling.”

13. Life and Death Row

Life and Death Row

Watch: BBC iPlayer (UK), iTunes (UK)

This true crime documentary follows young people who are incarcerated in the United States and the circumstances that led to their imprisonment. Gripping and sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

“It’s such an interesting documentary about prisoners on death row and their trials.”

14. The Invisible War

The Invisible War

Watch: Google Play (US/UK), iTunes (US)

This damning documentary highlights the huge difference in the number of sexual assault victims working in the US military and the number of convictions, and tries to work out why the difference exists.

“It elicits an emotional response and what you learn is horrifying, but it also does a good job of explaining how the justice system works when you’re in the military. As someone who had no connection to the military and not a lot of knowledge on it, I left the documentary feeling angry but also informed.”

15. And…every Louis Theroux documentary

And...every Louis Theroux documentary

Watch: Netflix (UK), BBC Store (UK), iTunes (US/Australia)

He’s the king of documentaries. Able to throw himself into difficult subjects and meet people at the fringes of society and modern life. Many readers suggested different Louis Theroux documentaries. Where to start? Any, but if you’re stuck, try his Weird Weekends series.

“Louis Theroux’s documentary on autism. It’s a real eye-opener and shows just what some parents go through to help a person with autism grow up and how the people themselves handle day-to-day life. It’s touching and sad and insightful.”

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