19 of the Best Documentaries on Amazon Prime (2022)

We love documentaries at WIRED, and as this list proves, there are loads of great ones worthy of your time and attention. All the titles here are available to stream in the UK and the US on Amazon Prime. Looking for the best documentaries on Netflix? We've got you covered.

And if you decide you're not in a documentary kind of mood after all, try our lists of the best TV shows on Amazon Prime or the best films on Amazon Prime. We also have a handy list of the best podcasts for curious minds if you need something new for your daily commute.

Grey Gardens

This documentary centers on an upper class mother and daughter both called Edith Beale (Big and Little Edie), who, despite being aunt and the first cousin of former US first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live in poverty and seclusion in East Hampton, New York. The crew shadows them around a derelict house, Grey Gardens estate, as they squabble and reminisce and feed their cats and raccoons. Is the documentary morally dubious? Probably, but it’s captivating nevertheless.

Pumping Iron

Whatever you think of Arnold Schwarznegger, he’s undoubtedly lived one of the more remarkable lives of the 20th and 21st centuries. (As the comedian Bill Burr summarized it: “Anyone else think they can move to Austria, learn the language, become famous for working out, become a movie star, marry into Austrian royalty, then hold public office? How many lifetimes would you need? I’m on my third attempt at Rosetta Stone Spanish!”) Here we see how it all began, in this hypnotic documentary about Schwarznegger’s dominance of the weightlifting scene in the seventies. Even here, it is hard to tell the real Arnold from the act; you just bask in the charisma that made him a star.

McQueen

A deeply personal look back at the life and work of British fashion's enfant terrible Alexander McQueen, this documentary charts his rise from a self-described “East End yob who uses a needle” to the pinnacle of the fashion industry. Featuring archived interviews with McQueen himself, reflections from those who knew him best, and footage from his groundbreaking and often outrageous fashion shows—“I want you to be repulsed or exhilarated, as long as it's an emotion”—directors Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui offer a sensitive and heartfelt look at a once-in-a-generation talent.

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(Video) 10 Best Documentaries on Amazon Prime | Bingeworthy

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Documentarian Adam Curtis argues that computers were built to save humanity—but instead they’ve wrecked society and “distorted and simplified our view of the world around us.” As usual, Curtis picks out a host of characters whose ideas he says you need to understand to comprehend the modern world, from big hitters such as Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan to lesser-known but equally pertinent academics.

Catwalk: Tales from the Cat Show Circuit

Following two cats and their loving, competitive owners, Catwalk takes you through the trials and tribulations of being a participant in Canada’s catwalk show circuit. It's surprisingly sweet and easy to watch, with many moments that are ripe for meme-ing. And the cats aren’t the only draw—there are memorable and entertaining human stars aplenty.

I Am Not Your Negro

A fascinating look at American racism through the eyes of James Baldwin, one of the country’s most important writers. The social critique is searing, and as a snapshot of America in the ’60s it’s fascinating, but the real attraction of the documentary is just watching Baldwin himself. Passionate and profound, he was an electric public speaker. His speech at the Oxford Union remains one of the most affecting pieces of oratory ever.

RBG

This documentary charts the remarkable life of former US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and is told through the moments that defined her both professionally and personally. RBG is an intimate and heartwarming portrayal of a legal and cultural powerhouse.

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(Video) 19 Best Movies on Amazon Prime | Bingeworthy

The Wolfpack

Confined to a cramped New York apartment for their entire lives, The Wolfpack follows six brothers whose only connection to the outside world were the films their father brought home for them to watch. Cut off from the city outside their front door, the brothers escape their stifling environment by reenacting scenes from their favorite films with painstaking detail. But when one of the brothers defies their father's strict instructions to remain inside, the brothers' world slowly starts to open up.

The Act of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer's startling documentary tells the story of the Indonesian genocide of 1965 to 1966, where an estimated 1 million people were slaughtered by so-called death squads in the wake of a failed coup. Unusually—and somewhat controversially—the film closely follows the life of Anwar Congo, the leader of one of the country's most powerful death squads, who, at the time of filming, was still influential in Indonesian politics. Throughout, Oppenheimer asks Congo to recount the killings—many of which he personally perpetrated—and gives him free rein to turn them into films, which results in bizarre gangster, Western, and musical scenes.

Art and Craft

Mark Landis, a prolific art forger, was caught donating his forgeries to museums across the US, and one determined registrar set out to catch him. Full of tiny twists and turns, at once easygoing and exacting, Art and Craft is a compelling look at what we call art, as well as the life of Landis, who morphs into an unlikely protagonist.

My Kid Could Paint That

While Marie Olmstead’s paint-splattered canvases were hailed by critics as prodigious masterpieces, some in the art world weren’t entirely convinced. This documentary follows the journey her parents underwent after a news report accused them of fraud, and what steps they took to try and prove that they were telling the truth.

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(Video) The Best Documentary Films On Amazon Prime ➊

Citizenfour

Documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras was examining the use of monitoring systems in the US post-9/11 when she received an email from someone called “Citizenfour” who thought they would be able to help. Citizenfour, as we now know, was Edward Snowden. The documentary covers the initial meetings between Poitras, Snowden, and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewan McAskill, as well as the aftermath of the explosive revelations about the NSA’s powerful surveillance capabilities.

Three Identical Strangers

In the early 1980s, Bobby Shafan went to college, only to find people greeting him by another name. He soon found out he had a twin, from whom he had been separated at birth, and together they found a third brother. While their unexpected reunion made headlines, the real story behind why they were separated in the first place is far more revealing. Three Identical Strangers is unsettling because of how quickly it becomes something very different from the lighthearted romp it could have been, and perhaps because of how it ends.

Human Flow

In a beautiful combination of conceptual art and activism, Chinese director Ai Weiwei sets out on the ambitious mission of depicting the plight of the more than 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes because of famine, climate change, and war. From the Greek island of Lesbos to Syria, Weiwei’s work tells human stories of displacement and separation.

The Central Park Five

In 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meili was assaulted and raped while jogging in New York's Central Park. Director Ken Burns documents the collective racial hysteria that infected every corner of society, including journalists, police, and lawmakers, and led to the conviction of five young black men—a decision that flew in the face of a large body of evidence pointing in the opposite direction. A searing indictment of a broken justice system, Burns' documentary won a raft of awards, including a Peabody, in 2013.

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(Video) Best Documentaries Streaming Now | Prime Video

Weiner

This fly-on-the-wall documentary follows Anthony Weiner's ill-advised 2013 campaign to become the mayor of New York City after resigning from Congress over a sexting scandal in June 2011. Once seen as a rising star in the Democratic Party, things are going well for Weiner's mayoral effort until details of a second sexting scandal emerge, sending his campaign, and his marriage, off the rails.

Amy

This is a brilliant film that interrogates the complex web of fame, addiction, and family that influenced Amy Winehouse both before and during her rise to stardom. Through his extensive use of archive footage, including video from her childhood, documentarian Asif Kapadia captures the origins of Winehouse's musical genius and songwriting abilities. The perfectly pitched effort won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards.

Jim: The James Foley Story

This documentary tells the story of the life and work of American journalist James Foley, who was killed by Isis in 2014. Foley's childhood friend Brian Oakes gathers compelling stories from Foley's family, friends, and those he was held captive with while a prisoner of Isis. It’s a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking look into the nature of conflict and the bonds between people in impossible circumstances.

Gleason

Former NFL star Steve Gleason played for the New Orleans Saints until his retirement in 2008. A few years later, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, a rare neurodegenerative condition that gradually weakens the body's muscles. This film follows Gleason and his family as they adapt to the condition and strive to keep hope even in the darkest of times.

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(Video) Top 20 Best Netflix Documentaries to Watch Now!

FAQs

What is considered the best documentary of all time? ›

Best documentaries of all time
  1. Shoah (1985) ...
  2. Sans Soleil (1983) ...
  3. The Thin Blue Line (1988) ...
  4. Night and Fog (1955) ...
  5. Harlan County U.S.A. (1976) ...
  6. Dont Look Back (1967) ...
  7. The War Game (1965) ...
  8. Nanook of the North (1922)
22 Mar 2022

Does Amazon Prime have Docuseries? ›

Updated on September 27, 2022: There are dozens of compelling documentary films and series available on Prime Video, and that library is constantly being updated. This list reflects the best documentaries you can currently catch on Prime, so be sure to check back each month for new additions to the streaming service!

Where can I watch documentaries for free? ›

Watch Free Documentaries Online
  • PBS POV.
  • PBS Frontline.
  • PBS American Experience.
  • Filmmakers, Submit Your Documentary To PBS.
  • Top Documentary Films.
  • Internet Archive.
  • Hulu.
  • YouTube.

Where can I watch the best documentaries? ›

  • Kanopy. Best for Educational and Family Content. ...
  • Netflix. Best for Blockbuster Documentaries. ...
  • CuriosityStream. Best for HD & 4K Documentaries. ...
  • Hulu. Best for Celebrity Biopics and Entertainment Insiders. ...
  • Amazon Prime Video. Best for Political Documentaries. ...
  • History Vault. ...
  • MagellanTV. ...
  • PBS Documentaries.

What do you call a person who loves documentaries? ›

The term is a portmanteau of the words cinema and philia, one of the four ancient Greek words for love. A person with a passionate interest in cinema is called a cinephile (/ˈsɪnɪfaɪl/), cinemaphile, filmophile, or, informally, a film buff (also movie buff).

Are there any good documentaries on Netflix? ›

Popular on Netflix
  • Wild Babies.
  • Inside the Mind of a Cat.
  • Inside the World's Toughest Prisons.
  • Our Planet.
  • Worst Roommate Ever.
  • Greatest Events of WWII in Colour.
  • 72 Dangerous Animals: Latin America.
  • Night on Earth.

How does Amazon feel to be free? ›

How It Feels to Be Free takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers—Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier— changed American culture through their films, ...

Does HBO Max have documentaries? ›

HBO Max offers an extraordinary selection of movies, and its documentary library alone has enough gems for hours of compelling viewing. But if you're indecisive, have no fear: We've gone through the hundreds of documentaries on HBO Max and picked out the ones you absolutely have to make time to watch.

Is PBS documentaries included with Amazon Prime? ›

The PBS Documentaries channel on Amazon Prime Video offers 50 years' worth of great content at a very low price. Plus, it has the bonus of Prime Video's top accessibility, parental control, and playback features.

Where can I watch the doc Documentary 2022? ›

Youtube the Documentary, a documentary movie is available to stream now. Watch it on Tubi - Free Movies & TV on your Roku device.

Is CuriosityStream worth the money? ›

If you're looking for documentaries like on the old Discovery Channel, then CuriosityStream is absolutely worth your money since $1.67 per month gives you access to thousands of high-quality and well researched documentaries about nature, science and history that you won't find on Netflix or Hulu.

Where can I find old documentaries? ›

The 10 Best Sites To Watch Documentaries For Free
  • SnagFilms. Launched in 2008, SnagFilms offers more than 10,000 free documentaries, each categorized and graded by users.
  • Crackle. ...
  • The Documentary Network. ...
  • PBS. ...
  • Vimeo. ...
  • True/False Film Fest. ...
  • VICE. ...
  • Viewster.
16 Jan 2015

What is the top 10 on Netflix right now? ›

Most Popular on Netflix: A Look at Today's Top 10
  • Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. Year: 2022. ...
  • El Rey Vicente Fernández. Year: 2022. ...
  • The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist. Year: 2022. ...
  • Cobra Kai. Years: 2018-2022. ...
  • In the Dark. Year: 2019-2022. ...
  • Lou. Year: 2022. ...
  • Father Stu. Year: 2022. ...
  • Do Revenge. Year: 2013.
19 Sept 2022

What is a good documentary to listen to? ›

Storytelling through podcasts can be as compelling as any great book.
...
These 10 series will make you want to put everything else on hold until you finish.
  • Catch And Kill. ...
  • Gangster Capitalism. ...
  • Dolly Parton's America. ...
  • I Am Not A Monster. ...
  • Chameleon, The Hollywood Con Queen. ...
  • Floodlines. ...
  • Uncover NXIVM. ...
  • Rabbit Hole.
15 Feb 2021

Does Netflix have documentary series? ›

Netflix has a bountiful of great documentaries that cover a diverse range of subjects, from true crime to sports to even filmmaking.

Why do people watch documentaries? ›

There are many reasons to watch documentary films. For instance, they entertain, educate, inspire, and challenge. They are said to have the power to change lives. When you watch documentaries, you are bound to reap a lot of benefits.

What does documentarist mean? ›

(ˌdɒkjʊˈmɛntərɪst ) a person who makes documentaries. Collins English Dictionary. Copyright © HarperCollins Publishers.

How do you become a documentarian? ›

How to become a documentarian
  1. Get a bachelor's degree. While some documentarians start their careers without going to college first, many pursue bachelor's degrees in film or cinematography. ...
  2. Identify a documentary subject. ...
  3. Make a documentary. ...
  4. Promote your documentary. ...
  5. Submit your work to production companies.
17 Mar 2022

What documentaries are currently on Netflix? ›

Documentaries
  • Bank Robbers: The Last Great Heist.
  • Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl.
  • Dolly Parton: Here I Am.
  • Return to Space.
  • Fantastic Fungi.
  • Surviving Paradise: A Family Tale.
  • Biggie: I Got a Story to Tell.
  • Black Holes | The Edge of All We Know.

What does a good documentary have? ›

A good documentary shows people from a different perspective than they're used to seeing in the media. It opens people's minds and hearts to the struggles of other people in the world. It makes people question the way things are and the way they should be.

How do I find a documentary on Netflix? ›

How to search on Netflix
  1. Open Netflix, either by starting the app on your mobile device or streaming device, or by navigating to Netflix.com in a browser.
  2. At the top of the screen (or at the top of the sidebar on TV apps), tap or click the search icon, shaped like a magnifying glass. ...
  3. Type your search.
3 Jun 2019

What is the best HBO documentary? ›

  • The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019) ...
  • Fake Famous (2021) ...
  • Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (2022) ...
  • The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020) ...
  • Phoenix Rising (2022) Image via HBO Max. ...
  • Not So Pretty (2022) Image via HBO Max. ...
  • Beanie Mania (2021) Image via HBO Max. ...
  • Allen v. Farrow (2021)
27 Aug 2022

Does HBO have good documentaries? ›

One of the genres where HBO succeeds the most is documentaries. The cable channel is well known for producing many of the most well-researched, thought-provoking, award-winning documentaries. HBO and HBO Max's documentaries are not just compelling, they are also culturally relevant to the times we live in.

What is true justice based on? ›

About the Film

This feature documentary focuses on Bryan Stevenson's life and career—particularly his indictment of the U.S. criminal justice system for its role in codifying modern systemic racism—and tracks the intertwined histories of slavery, lynching, segregation, and mass incarceration.

How much does it cost to add PBS to Amazon Prime? ›

The new streamer, costing $2.99 per month after a seven-day free trial, will offer classic PBS series like The French Chef, This Old House and Antiques Roadshow, along with more recent series like No Passport Required and Christopher Kimball's Milk Street.

How much does PBS cost per month? ›

Typically, the PBS Passport member benefit requires a station donation of at least $60 a year, or $5 Sustainer/Ongoing-monthly gifts. Keep in mind that this donation requirement may vary from station to station.

How much does PBS app cost? ›

The subscription rate for PBS LIVING is $2.99/month with an Amazon Prime or Prime Video subscription. PBS LIVING is also available on Apple TV Channels in the Apple TV app at a subscription rate of $2.99/month with no additional annual fees. Every purchase helps support public television for all.

Is Curiositystream better than Netflix? ›

But if you compare Curiosity Stream's entire library to, say, Netflix's slate of documentaries, Curiosity's 2,000+ catalog more than doubles what you'll find on Netflix. There is a lot of similar content between the two, but there's no cross-over between films.

Where can I watch the doc? ›

Watch The Doc Is 10! Streaming Online | Hulu (Free Trial)

What channels have documentaries? ›

List
NameLaunchContent focus
A&E1984Documentaries, biographies and crime dramas (originally)
ABC1956Mass media, United States cable
Al Jazeera Documentary Channel2007Documentary films
American Heroes Channel1999World War II, U.S. war documentaries
72 more rows

Is CuriosityStream free with Amazon Prime? ›

Q: Is CuriosityStream free on Amazon Prime Video? A: While it is available as an Amazon Prime Video channel, you will have to pay for the service after its seven-day free trial. There are certain programs that are available as free via Amazon Prime Video, however, including A Stitch in Time.

Is Nebula any good? ›

As it stands, due to an overall lack of content, parental controls, and tools, Nebula is far from being useful to either viewers or creators, and is definitely not worth a $5 subscription fee.

What is the difference between Nebula and CuriosityStream? ›

While Curiosity Stream has original content, as far as I can tell all of the Nebula stuff is also available on YouTube. So as a Nebula customer the only real benefit is watching content without ads. This is well and good, but ads aside, Youtube is simply a more convenient platform.

Where can I watch good historical documentaries? ›

  • via amazon.com. One Child Nation. Some history documentaries make us think about disturbing history facts you'll wish weren't really true. ...
  • via amazon.com. The Square. ...
  • via netflix.com. 13th.
24 Jun 2022

What is a historical documentary? ›

NHD documentaries present information about an event, person, place or idea from the past through a ten-minute presentation that showcases documents, images, photographs, and actual footage of the topic you are researching.

Are there any Viking documentaries on Netflix? ›

This documentary series offers a well-rounded portrayal of Vikings, not just as barbarians but also as successful traders, mercenaries and explorers. Watch all you want.

What does a good documentary have? ›

A good documentary shows people from a different perspective than they're used to seeing in the media. It opens people's minds and hearts to the struggles of other people in the world. It makes people question the way things are and the way they should be.

Where can I watch Sans Soleil? ›

Sans Soleil, a documentary movie is available to stream now. Watch it on The Criterion Channel on your Roku device.

Is use me a real documentary? ›

Use Me is a fictional documentary style thriller that's been doing the festival circuit for a while. It's written, directed by and stars Julian Shaw, and adult internet star Ceara Lynch.

How do I find documentary ideas? ›

Another way to find great documentary ideas is to pay attention to the news. Read your local newspaper, follow blogs in your areas of interest, follow thought leaders on Twitter. Keep an eye out for odd bits of information or a nuggets of a story that could lead to something bigger.

What is the main idea of documentary? ›

Defining Documentary

"Documentaries bring viewers into new worlds and experiences through the presentation of factual information about real people, places, and events, generally -- but not always -- portrayed through the use of actual images and artifacts.

What is a poetic documentary? ›

Poetic documentary is a subgenre of documentary filmmaking that uses avant-garde techniques to evoke a certain mood or feeling rather than prove a point through a traditional linear narrative structure.

Do documentaries have to be factual? ›

A documentary filmmaker retells actual events in movie form, but sometimes they add in fictional aspects to their films to maintain the audience's interest.

What makes a documentary real? ›

Documentary film speaks about situations and events involving real people (social actors) who present themselves to us as themselves in stories that convey a plausible proposal about, or perspective on, the lives, situations, and events portrayed.

What is Sans Soleil mean? ›

Sans Soleil (French pronunciation: ​[sɑ̃ sɔlɛj]; "Sunless") is a 1983 French documentary film directed by Chris Marker. It is a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory, and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories is affected.

How can I watch Sans? ›

Right now you can watch Sans Soleil on Criterion Channel.

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