Documentaries rarely have sufficient audience to command theater distribution. The types of outlets we focus on for this website allow documentaries to be seen. Following are some documentaries that we recommend available on HBO, Netflix Streaming, Netflix DVD’s, Amazon Prime Streaming Video, CNN and Kanopy.
Recommended HBO – Max Original Documentaries
*The Automat (2021): Narrated by Mel Brooks. With Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collin Powell, Carl Reiner, Howard Schultz and the H&H family. Highly rated.
*In the Same Breath (August 18, 2021) HBO Max Original. Government propaganda, experience of healthcare workers and citizens in Wuhan China (Jan 1 2020) and USA (March 2020) during the breakout of COVID-19. Female Director Nanfu Wang. Rotten Tomatoes rating 96 / 83
*When We Were Bullies HBO Max Original. Nominated for an Oscar. 26 minutes long.
*The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (March 18, 2019): The story of Elizabeth Holmes and the Theranos fraud
*Jane Fonda in Five Acts (Sept 2018): with Robert Redford and lots of historical footage
*Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (July 16, 2018): “An intimate look into the life and work of the revered master comedian and actor, Robin Williams” with Billy Crystal, Pam Dawber (Mork and Mindy) and archived footage.
*The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling (March, 2018): Five hours in two parts. Extremely well done. Great editing of archive footage and Shandlings personal diaries presented by Judd Apatow. With a plethora of celebrity appearances by his comedian friends. Garry died of a heart attack in March 2016.
*If not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (2017): Aging well. Carl Reiner presents successful and thriving people in their 90’s and over.
*Everything is Copy (2016): A look at the life and work of writer/filmmaker Nora Ephron
Recommended ShowTime Original Documentaries
*The Reagans (2020)
*The Fourth Estate (2018): Story of the New York Times in the first year of the Trump administration
Recommended Netflix Streaming Documentaries
*Sr (2022) Documentary created by Robert Downey Jr. with contributions from Robert Downey Sr. (1936 – 2021) about Sr’s life, filmography.
*My Octopus Teacher (2019): Directed by Ms. Pippa Erhlich, starring Craig Foster. Beautiful photography and good story telling. The Great African Sea Forest
*Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (2019): Three parts
*Fyre: The Greatest Festival That Never Happened (2019): Story of Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival.
There is another documentary we haven’t seen on same story on Hulu called Fyre Fraud.
*Wild Wild Country (2018): In 1981, spiritual guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh decides to relocate his ashram from India to an isolated area of Oregon under the watchful eye of his secretary Ma Anand Sheela. Just under 7 hours.
One Strange Rock (2018): National Geographic produced, Will Smith and 7 astronauts narrate. ten 47 minute episodes. Beautiful to watch. Ten 47 minute episodes. Season two approved.
*Money Shot: The Pornhub Story (2023, March 15) Directed by Suzanne Hillinger.
https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/money_shot_the_pornhub_story – a series of good reviews
*Nobody Speak. Trials of the Free Press (2017)
How the Beatles Changed the World (2017)
42 Grams (2017): Chef Jake Bickelhaupt
Liberated, The New Sexual Revolution (2017)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Recommended Netflix DVD Documentaries
RBG (2018): Learn what Ruth Bader Ginsberg has done for women and minorities and how she did it. Bonus feature interviews with her fitness coach and more.
Free Solo (2018): Academy award winner for documentary 2019. This was on Hulu briefly, then Disney.
Recommended Amazon Prime Video Streaming Documentaries
American Playboy (2017): The Hugh Hefner Story Amazon Original Series
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016)
The New Yorker Presents (2016): Season one
Inside Job (2010): Matt Damon is one of the narrators. What brought about the 2008 financial meltdown
Where to Invade Next (2015): Michael Moore
My Friend Rockefeller (2015): Story of German con artist Christian Gerhartsreiter who went by several aliases including Clark Rockefeller. Interviews with friends and the man himself.
You Belong to Me: Sex, Race and Murder in the South (2014): 1952 Live Oak Florida
Recommended Hulu Video Streaming Documentaries
Margaret Atwood (2020): Author of The Handmaids Tale and much more with photos and video clips from the beginning of her career.
Tiny Shoulders, Rethinking Barbie (2018): Interviews with Gloria Steinem; historic footage of Ruth Handler – the founder of Mattel, creator of Barbie and her great story. In the room when the Time Magazine positive article comes out.
Recommended CNN Original Documentaries
History of Comedy (2017): Use CNNgo. On Hulu from winter 2017.
Three Identical Strangers (2018): on Netflix DVD
How to Access CNNgo to Watch CNN Original Documentaries
Connect your device to CNNgo with your cable provider access info. CNNgo is available on CNN.com, iOS and Android apps, and on Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV.
CNN announced in March 2017 that they were creating original content that could be accessed for free even by cord cutters. The first series announced was Mostly Human
Amazon Prime Streaming Video Documentaries We Plan to Watch
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2016)
Life Animated (2016): autism, coming of age, feel good film (7.6 IMDB August 2017)
Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016): More than just a publishing hoax; a deeply relatable tale of an outsider’s desperate bid for respect, relevance and acceptance. (7.2 IMDB August 2017)
Amy (2015): Amy Winehouse (7.8 IMDB August 2017)
De Palma (2015): The renowned director Brian De Palma, a wise and witty raconteur, takes the viewer through his career, film by film
Stories We Tell (2012): by Sarah Polley. About the blurry lines between perception and reality (7.6 IMDB August 2017)
Thank you for Ten Documentary Suggestions from the New York Times. August 2017 (though you missed Hugh Hefner!)
Recommended PBS Documentaries
Ken Burns Vietnam (2017): Catch with your DVR or for now you will pay $50 for streaming.
Ken Burns Documentaries on Kanopy
Except for America and Jazz (which are available on Amazon Prime), all of the following Ken Burns documentaries are available on Kanopy. If you are fortunate to have a public library card from a library that signed up for Kanopy you can access these and many more documentaries for free.
Brooklyn Bridge (also on Amazon Prime)
The Central Park 5 (also on Amazon Prime)
Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War (also on Netflix)
Prohibition (also on Netflix)
The Dust Bowl (also on Amazon Prime)
The Civil War (also on Netflix)
The War (WWII, also on Netflix)
Jazz – only on Amazon Prime
America – only on Amazon Prime
Thank you to NYTimes for the Ken Burns Documentary streaming list.
Connect with Linda Sherman