Director: Anne Bogart, Holly Morris
They say art imitates life, but nothing gets to the heart of humanity like documentary filmmaking. Whether you want to flex your history knowledge or binge a true crime, here are the best documentaries and docuseries available to stream now.
Director: Anne Bogart, Holly Morris
On par with the best documentaries of the 21st Century thus far, “Requiem for the American Dream” is an essential viewing for the discerning viewer in search of a more complete understanding of how American society has evolved to such a dramatic point of polarization, and how both politics and big business have played a role in this process. In his introductory remarks to the film, celebrated intellectual and linguistics professor Noam Chomsky expounds: “Inequality has highly negative consequences on society as a whole, because the very fact of inequality has a corrosive, harmful effect on democracy.” Chomsky spells out his perspective regarding the modern political machine and the downfall of democracy, with a keen eye to the historical decisions and influences that have sabotaged the “common good” and shaped America’s current political, financial and social landscape.
Actor: Noam Chomsky
Director: Jared P. Scott, Kelly Nyks, Peter D. Hutchison
Arguably Werner Herzog's most renowned film, Grizzly Man is a thought-provoking documentary about Tim Treadwell, a man who, as the title suggests, lived among bears. While he remained only known for how his story ended, by one of the bears turning on him, Grizzly Man is the exploration of the man's complex mind, unlimited energy and love for nature. It could be because of the subject matter or because of Herzog's mesmerizing monotone narration, and maybe it is because of both - but Grizzly Man becomes a supremely beautiful look at psychology and how it collides nature. Also like most of Herzog's other work it's a hunt for the peculiar, so expect many funny, absurd, and charming moments.
Actor: Amie Huguenard, Carol Dexter, David Letterman, Franc G. Fallico, Larry Van Daele, Marc Gaede, Marnie Gaede, Sam Egli, Timothy Treadwell, Val Dexter, Warren Queeney, Werner Herzog, Willy Fulton
Director: Werner Herzog
Actor: Andrea Dovizioso, Ben Spies, Casey Stoner, Colin Edwards, Dani Pedrosa, Ewan McGregor, Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden, Valentino Rossi
Director: Mark Neale
Actor: Agnès Varda, Amaury Bossy, Jean-Paul Beaujon, Jeannine Carpentier, JR, Yves Boulen
Director: Agnès Varda, JR
A documentary about the rise and fall of the Enron Corporation, the energy-trading and utilities conglomerate that gained worldwide attention in 2001 upon its headline-grabbing bankruptcy. Detailing the massive amount of fraud and malfeasance committed by the organization’s top executives, the film delves into the many intricate strategies and "special purpose” entities that were manufactured in order to hide enormous losses and debt from shareholders and the general public. It’s a fascinating and distressing examination of hubris and greed, with so many ethical considerations laid aside in the pursuit of financial gain. The film is as pertinent today as it was when it was released in 2005—perhaps even more so in this post-financial collapse era of increased distrust in corporate agendas.
Actor: Al Kaseweter, Amanda Martin-Brock, Andrew Weissmann, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Boxer, Bethany McLean, Bill Clinton, Carol Coale, David Freeman, Dick Cheney, Gray Davis, Henry Waxman, Jim Chanos, John Beard, Joseph Dunn, Kevin Phillips, Max Eberts, Peter Coyote, Peter Elkind, Philip Hilder, Reggie Dees II, Tim Belden
Director: Alex Gibney
A fascinating kernel of certainty is padded out with giddy speculation in this documentary about a pair of unlikely art thieves. The facts are as such: 32 years after a $160 million painting by abstract artist Willem de Kooning was crudely cut from its frame in an Arizona gallery, a trio of small-town antique dealers discovered it in Jerry and Rita Alter’s estate sale. The Thief Collector is less interested in the painting itself — in fact, it's openly dismissive about its artistic value — and more curious about how it fell into the hands of the mysterious couple, who frequently took exotic trips around the world despite their modest teacher incomes.
There are certainly intriguing questions raised by the Alters’ possession of the painting and compelling evidence that places them as the thieves, but this documentary can’t offer any convincing original theses of its own. It does try, by suggesting that the short stories Jerry wrote — about more thefts and gorier crimes — were thinly disguised autobiographical recollections, but it finds nothing to back these theories up except for a few loosely relevant anecdotes from relatives. With too many what-ifs to go on, it all makes for an intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying deep dive.
Genre: Crime, Documentary, Drama
Actor: Glenn Howerton, Sarah Minnich, Scott Takeda
Director: Allison Otto