Heads up: Documentaries are having a moment. Films in the genre—some of which premiered mere months ago—are already among the most notable movies and television series of 2019. So far, we've seen an uplifting biographical documentary about renowned sex therapist and Holocaust survivor Dr. Ruth Westheimer and not one, but two documentaries about the now infamous unraveling of Fyre Festival—and it isn't even June yet.
With even more highly anticipated documentaries poised to come out in 2019, like One Child Nation and Salvatore Ferragamo: The Shoemaker of Dreams, now is the perfect time to call out the critically acclaimed films that have already hit screens this year. Spanning an eye-opening look at our planet (narrated by David Attenborough, of course) to an insider's view into four groundbreaking 2018 political campaigns, these are without a doubt the best documentaries of 2019 so far.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Two documentaries about the failed Fyre Festival came out earlier this year—this one, which premiered on Netflix, and Fyre Fraud, which is available for streaming on Hulu. "If you love a story of absolute, no-holds-barred, extravagant disaster, you'll probably want to watch both," writes Linda Holmes in a review for NPR. "But if you just want a better idea of what the heck happened here, the truth is that either film will serve."
Surviving R. Kelly
This six-part documentary series sheds light on previously suppressed accounts of R. Kelly's predatory misconduct by giving survivors a platform to share their harrowing experiences. "Surviving R. Kelly calls on music fans to consider how their support, while seemingly innocuous on an individual level, is one of the many threads upholding a predator's web—and how, in some cases, it can be the catalyst," writes Briana Younger in a review for The New Yorker.
Lorena recontextualizes a notorious case from 1993 in which Lorena Bobbitt cut off her husband's penis in the Me Too era, revealing the abuse she'd suffered at her husband's hand prior to the severing. "One of the many striking elements of Lorena, though—despite the film's unflinching examinations of the ways the American culture of the '90s failed its star and subject—is that it offers no such assurances," notes Megan Garber in a review for The Atlantic.
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
In The Inventor, acclaimed documentarian Alex Gibney delves into the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes, the world's youngest self-made billionaire, and her supposedly groundbreaking health technology company Theranos. "Like a lot of Gibney documentaries, it compresses a juicy, complicated story into a smooth, coherent retelling that occasionally glances at that story's deeper implications," writes Justin Chang in a review for The Los Angeles Times.
The Case Against Adnan Syed
The case that captured the attention of millions via the hit podcast Serial gains renewed interest in the form of a four-part documentary series, courtesy of HBO and director Amy Berg. "In refusing to shy away from the less savory aspects of our cultural obsession with true crime, Berg deliberately uses the camera's lens as a way to illuminate the humanity of everyone who was affected by the murder," writes Arielle Bernstein in a review for The Guardian.
Boasting footage captured across all seven continents and 50 different countries, Our Planet captures the incredibly rich biodiversity of Earth—and its fragility. "David Attenborough's Netflix series offers a strange waltz between wonder and melancholy," writes John Powers in a review for NPR. "The show thrills us with the marvels of nature, and then saddens us that we are rapidly wiping them out."
Knock Down the House
Netflix's Knock Down the House offers a behind-the-scenes view into the grassroots campaigns of Democratic hopefuls Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin. "Try making it through Rachel Lears' documentary, about four fearless working-class women challenging powerful incumbents in the 2018 primaries, without getting fully fired up," challenges Mary Sollosi in her review of the documentary for Entertainment Weekly.
At the Heart of Gold
Featuring heartbreaking interviews with dozens of survivors, At the Heart of Gold shines a harsh light on the win-at-all-costs culture that enabled a sexual predator to abuse young Olympic athletes for years. "What [director Erin Lee Carr] manages to indict in the film is both a specific environment and a more general culture disinclined to believe what women say about their own body," writes Sophie Gilbert in a review for The Atlantic.
Ask Dr. Ruth
Holocaust survivor and sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer is the subject of this Hulu documentary. "The experience of watching Ask Dr. Ruth is a bit like that of meeting someone unaccountably delightful and almost being knocked backward by the gale-force strength of her personality, and then wanting to go out and buy one of her books so as to actually learn something about her ideas," writes Justin Chang in a review for The Los Angeles Times.