It seems everyone has been in a documentary kind of mood lately, especially with the release of the Joan Didion piece, The Center Will Not Hold, on Netflix (directed by Didion’s nephew, no less). We love the options that Netflix has to offer, but there happen to be other ways to catch these informative works of art, including by watching the best documentaries on YouTube. One major perk? The docs on the streaming site are completely free—no subscription necessary—which is pretty major if you’re anything like me and have a holiday shopping list that’s a mile long.
And as for our selection of must-sees? There is certainly something for everyone. They range from a biography of physicist Stephen Hawking to an in-depth look at serial killers and even a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the life of singer Demi Lovato. Start working your way down the list tonight with the twelve best documentaries on YouTube out right now. We promise you won’t be disappointed.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME
If you cried through The Theory of Everything, the movie portraying astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, then you will undoubtedly like the documentary about his life. It’s titled A Brief History of Time and is named after the best-selling book penned by Hawkings himself. Director Errol Morris talks to close colleagues and loved ones to find out more about this scientific pioneer, although it focuses more on the personal than the professional.
Next Up: A Certain Kind of Death
BREWED IN THE BURG
The beer scene in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is booming right now, with nearly two dozen breweries opening in the past two years alone. This fairly new documentary features tons of interviews with local brewers, including some of the area’s greats. If you’re into craft beer, we guarantee this pick will be worth skipping happy hour for.
Next Up: Madness In the Fast Lane
What happens when you find out that the author of a best-selling memoir about her best friend’s honor killing isn’t true? Such is the topic of Anna Broinowski’s documentary Forbidden Lies, which digs deep to try to get into the psyche of author Norma Khouri. Expect a lie detector test, reenactments from Khouri, as well as a trip back to Jordan as the author insists that her claims are the truth.
Next Up: Capturing the Friedmans
THE ICEMAN TAPES
Things are not always as they seem, and this chilling documentary about a serial killer/family man will prove this point. It’s not for the faint of heart, as you’ll hear about some of the 100 murders Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski reportedly committed from police officers, medical examiners, and his wife. Oh yeah, and you’ll hear from Kuklinski himself as to exactly how he did it.
Next Up: Wisconsin Death Tapes
THE NEXT BLACK
In this age of technology and innovation, what’s next in the world of fashion? In this 45-minute documentary, home appliance manufacturer AEG taps some of the most forward-thinking design labels to see how they’re changing the future of clothing (Patagonia is one name you’ll recognize). With things like health-monitoring sports uniforms and cloth dyeing without water, your mind will be blown.
Next Up: The Family That Walks on All Fours
DEMI LOVATO: SIMPLY UNCOMPLICATED
We all know how hard it can be to grow up, but imagine having to do it in the spotlight. Singer Demi Lovato uses her documentary, Simply Complicated—which dropped in connection with her latest album—to let her fans and naysayers in on the addictions she’s been battling over the years. How’s that for bravery? (PS: Expect some Nick Jonas cameos.)
Next Up: The Bridge
This was originally published on November 22, 2017, and has since been updated.
Subscribe to our newsletter for more reading lists and book reviews.