15 Best Documentaries To Watch For Beginners  

Documentary movies are a form of non-fiction film. It can be used as a storyteller about an event, issue, or person. 

Public broadcasters and educational institutions usually fund documentaries.

Documentaries have been around for over 100 years and have evolved from silent films to the modern form of the film we know today.

Beyond The Mat (1999)

A 1999 film called Beyond The Mat is about professional wrestler Bret Hart. It was directed by Barry Blaustein and produced by World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).

The film follows Bret Hart from the time he was a child up to his final match with Steve Austin in 1997. It also covers the controversy surrounding him during the 1994 Survivor Series match when he lost to Shawn Michaels.

Where to stream – Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Vudu.

American Movie (1999)

The American Movie is a 1999 documentary film that follows the story of Mark Borchardt and his friends trying to make a horror movie in their hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

It’s a comedy that follows the lives of four aspiring filmmakers and friends trying to make a horror movie on their own.

 It’s an American black comedy film directed by Chris Smith and starring Brian DiGiovanni.

The story of a group of friends in the film making an independent film to make their directorial debut. 

The movie starts as an innocent comedy but soon turns into a dark comedy with some drama and romance.

The movie begins as an innocent comedy but soon turns into a dark comedy with some drama and romance.

Where to stream – iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and Vudu.

Roger And Me (1989)

This documentary is about Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors.

 It shows how he is destroying the company by making it a monopoly and mistreating his employees.

Roger And Me is a documentary about Roger Smith, the CEO of General Motors. The film starts with Roger in his office, where he’s smoking and drinking vodka. 

He talks to his secretary on the phone and tells her to cancel all appointments that day because he doesn’t feel well.

 He then goes to lunch with his wife, who tells him she can’t handle marrying him anymore. The film shows how Roger mistreats his employees and makes GM a monopoly by buying out competitors’ factories, which causes many people in Flint, Michigan, to lose their jobs.

Where to stream – Prime Video, Apple TV

Paris Is Burning (1990)

The film is a documentary about the ball culture of the African American and Latino LGBT community in New York City.

Paris Is Burning is a documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston. 

The film explores the drag ball culture of New York City, focusing on African American and Latino drag queens. 

One of the earliest movies to explore LGBT black culture and the first to do so non-judgmentally, with a positive tone.

The film starts with footage from balls where we see people preparing their outfits for the evening before going out to dance at various clubs. 

We are introduced to Dorian Corey, who tells us she has been doing this for 40 years and has never seen anything like it. 

She also tells us that she is not sure how long it will last as there are not many kids coming up through the ranks anymore because most turn gay or go into drugs instead.

The documentary follows some members of New York’s African American

Where to stream – HBO max

Grizzly Man (2005)

Grizzly Man (2005) is a documentary film that follows the life and death of Timothy Treadwell, who spent thirteen summers in Alaska living with grizzly bears. 

The film accounts for his life and the events leading up to his death.

The movie starts with a brief introduction to Treadwell’s childhood. He was born in California but grew up in New Jersey.

 His parents were young men divorced, yet he did not have much contact with his father after that. His mother remarried when he was still young, but she died from cancer when Treadwell was sixteen. He had no siblings and wanted a family of his own one day, but he never found anyone to fill the void his mother left behind.

Treadwell met Jewel Palovak at a Grateful Dead concert in 1991, leading to their marriage two years later. They moved to Alaska in 1994 for several reasons.

Where to stream – Amazon prime

Quincy (2018)

Quincy (2018) summarises the book “The Emotional Marvin Minsky’s Machine: Commonsense Thinking, The Future of Humanity and Artificial Intelligence Mind.

Minsky argues that human minds are fundamentally emotional and rational.

 He discusses how emotions drive humans to make decisions while rationality guides them to make the right decisions.

Quincy is a documentary that follows the life and work of Quincy Jones. 

It discusses his childhood, his music career, and his philanthropic work. The film also talks about the importance of African-American culture in America.

The documentary was directed by Alan Hicks and produced by Susan Lacy. It was released on Netflix on February 21, 2018.

Quincy has been praised for depicting African-American culture in America through the lens of one man’s life story. 

The movie has also been criticized for glossing over severe allegations against Quincy Jones and his personal life.

Where to stream – Netflix

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011)

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011) documentary is not just about a puppeteer’s life but also a person’s life.

This documentary is about Kevin Clash, who has been behind Elmo since 1978. 

It tells the story of how he became one of the most famous puppeteers and was accused of sexual abuse by a teenage boy and then later cleared.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011) documentary is an intriguing movie that takes you into puppetry and demonstrates what it takes to be one you.

Where to stream – Hotstar, Hooq

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

This documentary film is a story of a group of octopus farmers in Japan. It shows how they struggle to survive in the era when robots have taken over octopus farming.

My Octopus Teacher (2020) is a documentary film about octopus farming. 

The movie follows the lives of several octopus farmers living in Japan whose livelihoods have been threatened by the advent of an automated technology. 

The film explores how these individuals adapt to this new reality and what it means for their future and that of their children and grandchildren.

Where to stream – Netflix

The Act Of Killing (2012)

The film is about the brutal events during the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966 and the subsequent rule of General Suharto.

The Act of Killing is a documentary movie that exposes the human side of the Indonesian genocide. 

It was directed by Joshua Oppenheimer and produced by Signe Byrge Sørensen.

It is filmed in Indonesia and features Anwar Congo, one of the perpetrators of the 1965-1966 Indonesian genocide.

A documentary called The Act of Killing exposes the human side of an event largely forgotten by history. 

The film follows Anwar Congo, a death squad leader from 1965-1966 in Indonesia. The film reveals how he and his friends murdered around 1 million people with their own hands and how they are haunted by what they did.

Where to stream – Hoopla, Fandor, Mubi, Topic, AsianCrush

The Thin Blue Line (1988)

In 1988, a documentary was made about the thin blue line.

 The documentary talked about how the thin blue line is not just a symbol of law enforcement but also bravery and courage.

The Thin Blue Line (1988) is a documentary film directed by Errol Morris.

It explores the murder of police officer Robert Wood in Dallas, Texas, on November 29, 1976.

The film focuses on Randall Dale Adams, convicted of the offense and awarded a life sentence in 1977. He was later exonerated after serving 12 years in prison.

The movie starts with Randall Adams being interviewed by Errol Morris at his home in Texas City, Texas, on June 18, 1985, and ends with Adams being interviewed by Morris at his home in Dallas on November 12, 1987.

Where to stream – Netflix, Hayu

Made In America (2016)

In Made In America, director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) tracks the lives of three American families from the Rust Belt to explore how the 2008 economic recession has reshaped their lives.

This documentary studies three families living in a region that has been deeply affected by the 2008 financial crisis. 

The film follows them over five years and shows how they have been affected by this crisis. It is a very personal film, and it feels like you are walking with these people as they go through these changes in their life.

The film’s title comes from a quote by James Baldwin, who says that America is “the most dangerous nation on earth because we are so afraid.”

Where to stream – iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.

The King Of Kong (2007)

The King Of Kong is a documentary movie that was released in 2007. It follows the competition between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, two players at the top of the high score list for Donkey Kong.

The King of Kong is a documentary movie released in 2007. It follows the competition between Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, two players at the top of the high score list for Donkey Kong. 

The King of Kong follows Steve Wiebe, an unemployed father who has always been interested in video games and has never stopped playing them since he was young. He is also challenged by his wife, who thinks he should focus on his family instead of playing games all day.

The film starts with Steve’s wife telling him to get a job because she doesn’t want to be supporting him anymore.

 He then applies for a job as an engineer but gets rejected because he lacks experience or qualifications. The film then moves on to show how he tries to keep

Where to stream – HBO Max.

The Fog of War (2003)

The documentary The Fog of War by Errol Morris was released in 2003. 

The film is a series of interviews with Robert McNamara, a former defense secretary for the United States. 

It covers his life span, from his early days as a young boy to his position during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

In 1965, McNamara was appointed president of the World Bank. He retired from that position in 1968 to become the Ford Motor Company president. 

After clashing with Henry Ford II over strategy, he left for good in 1979 and became one of the most sought-after public speakers on world issues.

Where to stream – Prime Video.

Wild Wild Country (2018)

Wild Wild Country, a documentary series released in 2018, is a six-part series that tells The history of the ascent and descent ofRajneeshpuram in Oregon. Chapman and Maclain Way directed the documentary.

The documentary starts with the followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also known as Osho, settling down in a commune in Poona, India. 

They are looking for enlightenment through meditation and new ways of living. When they become more popular than their spiritual leader can handle, he asks them to leave India so they can continue their work elsewhere.

The followers bought over 64 thousand acres of land in Wasco County near Antelope, Oregon. 

They started building their city called Rajneeshpuram, which includes a shopping mall, restaurants, and even an airport with its runway. They also build an ashram on this land which houses over 5 thousand people at its peak.

Where to stream – Netflix

The Alpinist (2021)

The Alpinist (2021) is a documentary film about the future of mountain climbing and how it will change as the climate changes.

The film follows a group of climbers who are attempting to summit K2 in 2020.

But as they prepare for this climb, they face new risks that their predecessors never had to deal with.

The Alpinist (2021) is not just a story about the future of mountain climbing but also explores how climate change might affect our everyday lives.

Where to stream – Netflix, ROW8, Prime Video, Apple TV, Vudu or Redbox.c

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