Culture / Film

From ‘Get Back’ to ‘Icarus’ and ‘McQueen,’ these are 20 of the best documentaries to watch

best documentaries

We love a binge watch, especially one of the variety where you learn something from the hours spent on the couch. Documentaries are the educational, fascinating, tangent-inducing features and series' that get us talking and thinking about topics we may not usually seek out. While a definitive list of the best documentaries appears a daunting task, we've tried our hardest to narrow it down to the cream of the crop in our guide. Across 10 categories – we had to narrow it down somehow – these are 20 of the best documentaries to add to. your watch lists over the coming weeks.



McQueen – Ian Bonhote and Peter Ettedgui


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Accompany your viewing of McQueen with a box of tissues as you will be taken on a journey from the designer’s young years through to his death. With commentary from fashion industry insiders and an in-depth exploration of how McQueen cut his teeth at Saville Row, his interpolation of technology into his work and creative directorship at Givenchy.


Valentino: The Last Emperor – Matt Tyrnuaer


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Valentino Garavani has lived numerous lives within his 90 years, from dressing Jackie Kennedy in the 60s, Naomi Campbell in the 90s and still remaining an industry icon to this day. Valentino: The Last Emperor follows Garavani as he prepares to retire from designing in 2007, the lead up to his final show and the interest of a global corporation in purchasing the House. Featuring many fantastic moments with Giancarlo Giametti, Co-Founder of Valentino.



Get Back – Peter Jackson


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A four-part series where each episode is feature-length, Get Back is the ultimate immersive experience in understanding the final days of The Beatles as they were. It’s George Harrison quitting the band and Paul McCartney concocting the tune of Get Back in mere moments. It’s John Lennon’s mastery and eccentricity on show, and Ringo Starr’s fantastic wardrobe rotation for all to fawn over, and truly one of the best music documentaries ever produced.


Amy – Asif Kapadia


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Amy Winehouse’s career as an artist continues to live on in the playlists of many, her ability to sing cross-genre unique to the singer. In Amy, we hear insights from those closest to Winehouse, including her producer Mark Ronson, and view intimate footage of Winehouse from her childhood through to her final days.

Science and Nature


David Attenborough: Life on Our Planet – Sir David Attenborough

A Compilation of the best documentaries would not be complete without a mention to Sir David Attenborough. In Life on Our Planet, Attenborough discusses how humanities destruction of nature may one day render the planet degraded and barren, uninhabitable and biodiversity populations will crash. While this doesn’t sound the most uplifting a documentary, it is a prescient and timely account of what is likely to happen if we don’t take immediate climate action.


Brian Cox: Wonders of the Universe – Professor Brian Cox


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A multi-series documentary rather than a standalone feature, Professor Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe is an ideal choice for those with a penchant for stargazing and musing on worlds outside of our own. Discussing various parts of the universe, the series looks at the nature of time, human life cycles and the effect of gravity across the universe.



The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes – Emma Cooper


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Released in the first half of 2022, The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes takes a similar format to the Andy Warhol Diaries through employing archival footage of the actor alongside reenacted scenes to emulate her experiences. It focusses on the life and untimely death of Monroe, and how she continues to be a cultural icon.


Hitchcock/Truffaut – Kent Jones


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Featuring insights from filmmakers including Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson and David Fincher, Hitchcock/Truffaut centres on Truffaut’s book of the same title and its impact on cinema. The French New Wave director interviewed Hitchcock over eight days in 1962 at the Universal Studios offices while composing the text. First screened at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival, the feature is narrated by Bob Balaban.



Bobby Kennedy for President – Dawn Porter

A four-part series, Bobby Kennedy for President follows is 83-day-long campaign for presidency, cut short by his assassination in June 1968. The series examines the “Bobby Phenomenon” of the 1960s and the influence Kennedy still has decades after his death. Kennedy confidantes and staffers offer intimate insights through the series.


Anne Frank Parallel Stories – Sabina Fedeli and Anna Migotto


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Dame Helen Mirren retraces the life of Anne Frank through the pages of her diary and the lives of five women who were also deported to concentration camps as young girls, yet escaped.



The Andy Warhol Diaries – Ryan Murphy

Whatever Ryan Murphy touches turns to gold, and the Andy Warhol Diaries is no different. The documentary series employs an AI bot to provide the voice of Warhol himself, reading aloud passages from his diary, as scribed by Pat Hackett. Featuring insights from Jeff Deitch, Bob Colacello and Hackett herself, the series is a harrowing account of Warhol’s later years and his death.


Maria Abramovic: The Artist is Present

Following the renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic while she is preparing for a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Furthermore, the documentary explores how the Serbian artist redefined the understanding of her medium and how she continues to permeate the zeitgeist today.



The Life and Death of Marsha P. Johnson – David France

This 2017 documentary film chronicles Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, both prominent figures in the gay liberation and transgender rights movement in New York City from the 60s to the 90s. Centring on Victoria Cruz’s investigation into Johnson’s death in 1992, it is a harrowing account of what was initially ruled a suicide by police despite suspicious circumstances.


Paris is BurningJennie Livingston

An iconic exercise in documentary filmmaking, Paris is Burning focuses on New York City’s 1980s drag queens, their houses and the fashion balls still legendary in contemporary drag culture. The film also tackles pressing issues including racism and poverty and the shunning many queen’s faced socially as a result of performing and is one of the best documentaries produced.



Where’s My Roy Cohn? – Matt Tyrenauer

One of the most well-known lawyers in the history of the United States, this 2019 documentary looks at the career of Roy Cohn and its trajectory from working with Senator Joseph McCarthy to future President Donald Trump. The title itself is alleged to be taken from a Trump quote, as he discussed Attorney general Jeff Session’s recusal from the Mueller Investigation.


Knock Down the House – Rachel Lears


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Focussing on the 2018 American Congressional midterm elections, Knock Down the House looks at four women who challenged powerful incumbents and won, one of the best documentaries in providing insight to the monumental victories. These include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, all who had no corporate support and pulled off a significant upset.

True Crime


Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes


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Utilising archival footage and audio recordings of interviews with serial killer and rapist Ted Bundy, Conversations with a Killer trawled more than 100 hours of footage to create the gripping four-part series. In the series, Bundy analyses his own life and motives and prior to his execution in 1989.


The Keepers

A seven-part series exposing the lengths to which the Catholic Church will conceal abuse, The Keepers is an enthralling true crime documentary. Sister Catherine Cesnik of the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore disappears and is later found dead, leading many to wonder whether members of the institution are capable of murder.



Icarus – Brian Fogel


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An exploration of the insidious side of competitive sport, Icarus begins by looking at Lance Armstrong’s doping efforts at the Tour de France, the biggest cycling race in the world. Director Brian Fogel meets a Russian scientist while learning about Armstrong’s methods, leading him down a much more sordid path than originally anticipated. The film won the Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards, making it a clear inclusion on any list of best documentaries.


Drive to Survive


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Much like Wonders of the Universe, Drive to Survive is also a multi-series documentary taking you into the world of Formula 1. Taking in most Grand Prix’s per calendar year, the series looks at the ins and outs of professional F1 teams and features insights from the likes of Sir Lewis Hamilton, Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. Even those unacquainted with the sport will find themselves on the edge of their seats by the end of each episode.

Royal Families


Diana, 7 Days – Henry Singer


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Commissioned by Princes William and Harry, this 2017 documentary film was produced to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of the Princess of Wales, retelling the seven days after her death and its impact on the United Kingdom. It is the second documentary commissioned by her sons to mark the occasion, providing raw insights into her untimely death and one of the best documentaries for providing a niche insight into her family.


The Last Czars

A docudrama, The Last Czars explores the Romanov family towards the end of their reign over Russia in the early 20th century. The six-episode series employs actors to portray the significant moments in this period of history, interpolating created footage with expert analysis and commentary for historical insight.

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