The Best Documentaries on HBO Max Right Now

The Best Documentaries on HBO Max Right Now

Share:

twitter
facebook
reddit
pinterest
link

As is true for fact-based films from many other streaming services and networks, the HBO documentary has become a brand of its own. Combining high-quality journalism, extensive access to sources, and the production values you’d come to expect from the premier American network, HBO docs often strike a tone that avoids gossip and speculation and elevates their subjects into something urgent and significant. Here at agoodmovietowatch, we’ve listed the best HBO Max documentaries available for streaming. And while these films might not always make for easy viewing, they’re still essential, challenging watches that deserve to break up your usual routine.

9. The Weight of Gold (2020)

7.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Brett Rapkin

Actors

Bode Miller, Lolo Jones, Michael Phelps, Sasha Cohen

Moods

Instructive

The Weight of Gold is an extremely impactful insight into what goes through the mind of the highest performing athletes in the world, and focuses how their governing body (the US Olympic Committee) disregards care about their mental health. While it could benefit from going even deeper at times, it does benefit from having some narrative surprises in store—rarely seen in a documentary of this nature. When you least expect it, that gut-punch of a reveal at the end will truly shock and sadden viewers, and will leave one thinking about the film for ages to come.

8. Capturing The Friedmans (2003)

7.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Andrew Jarecki

Actors

Arnold Friedman, David Friedman, Elaine Friedman, Jesse Friedman

Moods

Dramatic, True-crime

This documentary… man, where do I even begin? It captures the lives of the Friedmans and how their world turned upside down when their father, Arnold, and brother, Jesse, were both convicted of sexually abusing children. The filmmaker interviews victims, family members, and experts to strike you with the two sides of the story. The Oscar nominated film shows real footage from the family which makes it even more of an authentic experience. I won’t tell you much more about it- but let me just say, this documentary will leave you speechless.

7. Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (2015)

7.3

Country

Denmark, Finland, France

Director

Stig Björkman

Actors

Alan Marshal, Alberto Sordi, Aldo Fabrizi, Alfred Hitchcock

Moods

Instructive

A wonderful homage to the woman, actress, and mother based largely on her own archives and interviews with her four children. Bergman was an avid photographer, filmographer and letter writer. What emerges is a loving portrait of an adventurous, driven, complex, and loving woman. Not to be missed.

6. David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Spike Lee

Actors

Angie Swan, Bobby Wooten Iii, David Byrne, Jacqueline Acevedo

Moods

Uplifting

Legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne returns with this enigmatic stage show, and with Spike Lee in tow, the film reaches for the heights of the iconic concert doc Stop Making Sense. For those unfamiliar, Stop Making Sense directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the Talking Heads’ invigorating live show in their early eighties prime, and is often considered one of the best concert films of all time.

Now nearly forty years later Byrne attempts a resurrection of that spirit or a form of it given his former bandmates notably absent from the project. His propellant energy is on full display as he goes through the ‘Heads catalog with a backing band that dances in intricately choreographed sequences around him. Most notable, however, is the sparseness of the stage production which brings to mind a dirge-like atmosphere. Byrne’s righteous thrashings against Reagan’s America carry renewed weight in the despondency of the Trump-era. So despite his attempts at optimism, aching futility runs through the heart of the show; most pointed when Byrne sings the famous lines from in Once In A Lifetime: “Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.”

5. In the Same Breath (2021)

best

8.1

Country

China, United States of America

Director

Female director, Nanfu Wang

Moods

Instructive, Thought-provoking

The culture of propaganda and cover-ups that kicked off the pandemic is the subject of this compelling documentary by award-winning director Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation). Wang, who traveled with her family to China in January 2020, saw and filmed the pandemic firsthand, and wrote to major newspapers like The New York Times to convince them to write about it. They never did. 

Media and government in both China and the U.S. played down the threat, and this documentary asks how different everything would have gone otherwise. More dauntingly, it’s an examination of how the Communist Party in China managed to use the event to its advantage. 

4. Diego Maradona (2019)

best

8.4

Country

UK, United Kingdom

Director

Asif Kapadia

Actors

Alberto Bigon, Ciro Ferrara, Claudia Villafane, Corrado Ferlaino

Moods

Inspiring, Instructive

Asif Kapadia, the genius of biopics who gave us Senna, is back with this documentary on an even bigger sports personality: Argentinian soccer player Diego Armando Maradona. Considered as possibly the best soccer player of all time, Maradona’s footage on the pitch is pure wizardry, and you’ll feel that way whether you are a soccer fan or not. But that’s not the focus of this documentary. What happens outside the pitch is more interesting: from Maradona’s modest beginnings to the passionate hatred (and love) that entire countries develop of him. And it doesn’t make his story less interesting that during his time in Naples he was affiliated with the mafia.

This is an excellent documentary that distills 500 hours of footage into 2, giving you all you need to know about a character who captured the imagination of a big part of the world for decades. 

3. Cameraperson (2016)

best

8.5

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Kirsten Johnson

Actors

Jacques Derrida, Kirsten Johnson, Michael Moore, Roger Phenix

Moods

Original

In Cameraperson, documentarian and cinematographer Kirsten Johnson creates an incredible patchwork of her life—and her life’s work. Johnson has been behind the camera of seminal documentaries like Citizenfour, The Invisible War, and The Edge of Joy. Here, Johnson stitches together fragments of footage, shot over 25 years, reframes them to reveal the silent but influential ways in which she has been an invisible participant in her work. 

In one segment, Johnson places the camera down in the grass. A hand reaches into the frame briefly, pulling up weeds that would otherwise obscure the shot. Cameraperson is a must-see documentary that challenges us to reconsider and reflect upon how we see ourselves and others through the camera lens, and beyond it.

2. McQueen (2018)

best

9.0

Country

UK, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui

Actors

Alexander McQueen, André Leon Talley, Bernard Arnault, Charlie Rose

Moods

Instructive, Sunday, Thought-provoking

If you don’t know much about him or high fashion, don’t fret because this intelligent and informative film by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui will chaperone you into this world with ease. Simply titled McQueen, this documentary is a poignant portrait of the British fashion icon that goes to great lengths to do him justice. With a reputation for shock tactics and controversy, McQueen grew from humble beginnings in a British council flat with three sisters into a world-famous enfant terrible of the 1990s for his quote unquote unwearable fashion and extravagant shows. Music fans might recognise his designs from Bjork’s album Homogenic or the music video to her song Alarm Call. Despite the documentary’s scope and depth, this is the type of film that leaves you wanting more and you might find yourself browsing through Wikipedia and YouTube for another hour to stay in the vibe. Alexander McQueen died of suicide in 2010.

1. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)

best

9.2

Country

Canada, United States of America

Director

Chris Smith

Actors

Andy Dick, Andy Kaufman, Bob Zmuda, Carol Kane

Moods

Dark, Discussion-sparking, Emotional

After his first serious role in The Truman Show in 1998, Jim Carrey got a shot at playing his idol, the late comedian and performance artist Andy Kaufmann, in Man on the Moon in 1999. When he got the role, a role of a lifetime, Carrey decided to honor Kaufmann’s legacy by transforming into him (and his alter ego Tony Clifton) and, in true method-acting fashion, never to leave character. Jim & Andy is the result of 100 hours of behind-the-scenes footage shot at the Man on the Moon set, which was withheld for 20 years over fears of Universal Studios that people would think Carrey was an a**hole. While Carrey was a complete and utter imposition to the film’s director, Miloš Forman, and everybody else on set, including Danny DeVito, his transformation (or obsession) was a unique, transformative experience for Carrey, who had been sick of fame and acting before he took on this gig. Whether you buy into this view or see it as a vanity piece of a complete maniac, this is one of the most unique and insane documentaries on Netflix. A mind-blowing portrayal of a complex mind.

agmtw
eu

© 2022 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.

We are home to the best film and TV on popular streaming services. Supported only by readers like you and by public grants.