I've always enjoyed documentaries. For some, it may not seem like the most exciting way to spend an hour or two of your day. But some are filmed beautifully. They show sides of humanity that not all of us get to see. They open our eyes to the reality of what is going on in the world.
Here are 11 documentaries available on streaming services that you should watch.
1. Paper Children (2020) - YouTube
Every year, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children flee violence in Central America to seek asylum in the United States. Paper Children documents one family's struggle to build a better future in America despite overwhelming circumstances.
2. LA 92 (2017) - YouTube, Netflix
Twenty-five years after the verdict in the Rodney King trial sparked several days of protests, violence and looting in Los Angeles, LA 92 immerses viewers in that tumultuous period through stunning and rarely seen archival footage. The film looks at the events of 1992 from a multitude of vantage points, bringing a fresh perspective to a pivotal moment that reverberates to this day. It's currently streaming free on YouTube and Netflix.
3. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (2019) - Netflix
Notorious serial killer Ted Bundy was unique in that he ultimately didn't confess to his crimes—which include the murder of at least 30 women—until days before his execution. So the four-part docuseries Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes pulls from an interview series in which Bundy agreed to speak in the third person, analyzing the kind of person who may have committed the crimes attributed to him.
4. Hot Girls Wanted (2015) - Netflix
This film earned the 2015 Sundance breakout documentary selection and inspired a miniseries from Netflix. The doc follows eighteen and nineteen-year-old girls into the amateur porn industry while showing how damaging the career can be.
5. Who Is Dayani Cristal? (2014) - Kanopy
Who Is Dayani Cristal? tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of desert known as "the corridor of death" and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration. As the real-life drama unfolds we see this John Doe, denied an identity at his point of death, become a living and breathing human being with an important life story.
6. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (2020) - Netflix
The Netflix docuseries covers the downfall and conviction of New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, but it also goes into some unexpected places, including speculation of his mental health and sexuality. The documentary features interviews with friends, NFL players, and insiders that tell the story of how a football player turned into a deadly criminal.
7. Requiem for the American Dream (2015) - YouTube
Requiem for the American Dream evaluates the economic and social structures that have allowed income disparity to reach the staggering heights too many American have been forced to accept.
8. Fed Up (2014) - YouTube
Fed Up takes an unforgiving look at the forces behind the United States' obesity epidemic. Soechtig opens up viewers to the reality that high-sugar sales frequently motivate public representatives to place their bottom line above the health of their constituents.
9. Living On One Dollar (2010) - YouTube
Living on One Dollar features four friends who experience what it is like to live on less than $1 per day in rural Guatemala.
10. A Certain Kind of Death (2003) - YouTube
In A Certain Kind of Death, filmmakers Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh ask a much simpler question: what literally happens to a deceased person's body if they have no next of kin?
Dead bodies in various stages of decomposition are seen, but not played for shock factor. Instead, you learn a little about each person, both what they were before death and what will happen to them afterward. They are followed from the discovery of the body to the final disposition of the remains, and each step in between.
This documentary is extremely graphic.
11. Chasing Coral (2017) - Netflix and YouTube
Incredible camera designers and marine biologists invent the first lapse camera to record the bleaching of coral reefs as it happens.