The Ultimate List of Must-See Documentaries

Documentaries have a unique power to inform, inspire, and entertain. They offer glimpses into real-life stories, uncover hidden truths, and explore the depths of human experience. Whether you’re a seasoned documentary enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, this guide highlights some of the best documentaries to watch, spanning a range of topics from nature and science to history and social issues.

1. “The Social Dilemma” (2020)

Directed by Jeff Orlowski, “The Social Dilemma” delves into the dark side of social media. Featuring interviews with tech experts and former Silicon Valley insiders, the film explores how social networking services manipulate users, fuel addiction, and impact mental health and democracy. It’s a must-watch for anyone interested in the implications of our digital age.

2. “13th” (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s “13th” is a powerful exploration of the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the nation’s prisons. The title refers to the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery but allowed involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime. Through interviews with scholars, activists, and politicians, the documentary highlights the connection between slavery, the Jim Crow laws, and the modern mass incarceration crisis.

3. “Planet Earth II” (2016)

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, “Planet Earth II” is a breathtaking follow-up to the original “Planet Earth” series. This BBC production takes viewers on an awe-inspiring journey across the globe, showcasing the beauty and diversity of wildlife and natural landscapes. The cinematography is stunning, making it a visual feast for nature lovers.

4. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (2018)

This heartwarming documentary by Morgan Neville profiles Fred Rogers, the beloved host of the children’s television program “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The film examines Rogers’ philosophy, his impact on children’s television, and his enduring legacy. It’s a touching tribute that highlights the importance of kindness and empathy.

5. “Free Solo” (2018)

“Free Solo,” directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, follows rock climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without any ropes or safety gear. The documentary captures the sheer determination and skill required for such a feat, offering an exhilarating and nerve-wracking viewing experience.

6. “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” (2011)

David Gelb’s “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” provides an intimate look into the life of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a prestigious restaurant in Tokyo. The film explores Jiro’s relentless pursuit of perfection, his relationship with his sons, and the meticulous art of sushi-making. It’s a fascinating exploration of dedication and craftsmanship.

7. “Making a Murderer” (2015-2018)

This true-crime documentary series, directed by best documentaries on netflix Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, chronicles the story of Steven Avery, a man from Wisconsin who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and attempted murder, only to be exonerated 18 years later. The series then follows his subsequent trial for a different crime. “Making a Murderer” raises important questions about the criminal justice system and has captivated audiences worldwide.

8. “The Act of Killing” (2012)

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, “The Act of Killing” is a harrowing documentary that focuses on the Indonesian genocide of 1965-66. The film features former death squad leaders reenacting their real-life mass killings in various cinematic genres. It’s a chilling examination of guilt, memory, and the power of narrative.

9. “Blackfish” (2013)

Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s “Blackfish” investigates the consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, centering on the story of Tilikum, an orca involved in the deaths of several people while in captivity. The documentary highlights issues of animal rights, corporate practices, and the ethics of the entertainment industry, ultimately leading to significant changes in the operations of SeaWorld.

10. “Apollo 11” (2019)

Todd Douglas Miller’s “Apollo 11” takes viewers on a historic journey with never-before-seen footage of the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that landed the first humans on the moon. The documentary is entirely composed of archival footage, providing a visceral and immersive experience of this monumental achievement in human history.

Conclusion

Documentaries offer a unique lens through which we can view the world, uncovering stories and perspectives that are often overlooked. The selections above represent some of the most compelling and impactful documentaries available, each providing a thought-provoking and enriching experience. Whether you’re interested in social issues, natural wonders, or human achievements, there’s a documentary out there that will captivate your interest and broaden your horizons.

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