12 Documentaries That You’ll Actually Want To Watch

Documentaries have an unfair reputation for being boring. Look, just because you were forced to watch a stuffy ol’ documentary about the Roman Empire in class that one time doesn’t mean that documentaries in general suck! Forget those documentaries with the dull narration and not-so-enlightening subject matter. It’s time to check out some docs that you’ll actually care about.

Whether you’re a history nut or just love learning about different cultures, documentaries are one of the most entertaining ways to learn something new. So here are 12 very different documentaries that you might fancy. From facts about outer space to stories of punk rock singers, these are all worth checking out.


20 Feet From Stardom

20 Feet From Stardom tells the story of backup singers. You know, the ones who make your favorite sounds truly sound golden but you never know their names. It's an amazing look into the history of the modern music industry, fame and the struggles that come along with it. This movie even won an Oscar this past year for best documentary, so you should definitely see what all the fuss is about.

Somewhere Between

Somewhere Between follows the lives of four Chinese adoptees who are living their lives as American teens. The film explores their struggles to unpack their identity, which is so important because we rarely hear trans-racial adoption narratives from the stories of the people who were actually adopted.

Blackfish

This documentary showcasing the captivity of whales will make you want to protest SeaWorld for the rest of your life. Seriously, whether you're an animal lover or not, it's impossible not to feel emotional after watching this film.

Cosmos With Neil Degrasse Tyson

I'm going to be honest: I don't really like space. I'm sorry, it just freaks me out. But I hate it a little less when my ultimate science nerd crush, Neil Degrasse Tyson, talks about it. If you aren't watching the Cosmos series yet, you need to look at your life and look at your choices.

Freedom Riders

If you're fascinated by anything and everything about the Civil Rights Movement, this is a must see documentary. It brings out the revolutionary in us all, and it's awesome to hear the stories of young people really making a difference.

Wonder Woman! The Untold Stories Of American Superheroines

Do you think that the heroes we look up to are a little male dominated? This doc will help you find some new heroes--female heroes--that you'll definitely admire.

Good Hair

Okay, as a black woman I'm going to be honest: This movie isn't perfect. I have my criticisms of its depiction of black women, but overall it is incredibly informative and enlightening into the very complicated culture of black hair and the stigma against it. Opinions aside, this film is absolutely worth a watch. Plus, it's pretty funny.

The Drug Years

I saw this documentary series as a teenager and I was obsessed. If you're fascinated by pop culture, politics and history, you'll love this exploration of how drugs have shaped American culture from the '50s to the present day.

The Purity Myth

Why is a woman's worth determined by what happens--or doesn't happen--between her legs? Author Jessica Valenti explores the obsession with virginity in this eye opening documentary.

The Punk Singer

If you're a fan of punk music, especially women in the punk scene, you'll probably love The Punk Singer. The documentary explores the life of Kathleen Hanna, the unofficial queen of the Riot Grrl movement in the '90s.

Paris Is Burning

Do you think Madonna invented voguing just because she did it in that one music video of her's? Pfft, think again. Paris Is Burning is an amazing documentary exploring ball culture in New York City in the '80s and '90s and the black/Latino LGBTQ communities that were a part of it. Seriously, even if this doesn't sound like a documentary you'd be into, you have to check it out.

Mortified Nation

We've all written things in our diaries that are super embarrassing, right? Of course we have. So why not share those mortifying entries to a whole crowd of people? That's what the folks in Mortified Nation did and it's just as hilarious as it sounds.

 

Have you seen any of these docs? What documentaries do you recommend? What kind of documentaries are your favorite? Let’s nerd out in the comments!

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  • Vanessa

    You should watch Makare! Or is it Makari? Anyway, it’s about this guy who becomes a guru, and comes up with all these fake teachings, but people start believing them and following him.

  • Jane

    I used to love documentaries, but i went off them when my parents started watching ONLY history and trains documentaries, and my history teacher made us watch documentaries WAY too often and made us make notes on them and basically said “you’re going to fail your life if you don’t make notes now”. But the last one sounds really awesome.

    • I love documentaries, but it would take a lot to get me interested about a documentary about trains. Check out some about a period of time that you’re interested in or different subcultures. That’s the best bet on finding a documentary that you’ll actually care about. And schools really do their students a disservice when watching boring documentaries replaces teaching.

  • Nia

    Where can you access these documentaries?

    • A few of them are on Netflix! The others are available for download if you check out their official websites. Others can be accessed on YouTube.

  • Brenna

    On the Freedom Riders documentary, the second to last mugshot is Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, an amazing woman who came to my school a while back to talk about the civil rights movement. She is such an inspiring person and her story is incredible.

    • OMG that’s AWESOME! Wow, it would be amazing to hear one of them speak in person. You’re lucky.

  • Dana

    I have to say something about Blackfish – several things have been coming out about how it twisted interviews, footage, etc. to suit it’s purpose. Some former trainers who had taken part in the film have come out speaking against it. The movie contradicts itself in some instances, and there are several items online available to read that shows the movie is not everything it is trying to portray. It was made to affect people’s emotions, but it doesn’t present a both sides of the story, which there is.

    • I’m aware of the controversy and that’s fair enough, but for me personally it boils down to the fact that keeping a massive animal like a whale in a little tank for its entire life is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. At the end of the day Sea World is a corporation and they’re in the business of making a profit off of these animals and their performances no matter what. The documentary might have done some dubious editing, but I don’t think it changes the sketchiness of Sea World.