G ranted, documentaries were not the first genre of movies or television we'd turn to for a good comfort watch over this last year and a half. But some extremely well-made must-watch documentaries might just surprise you and keep you the kind of company you’ve been looking for.
Documentaries tend to highlight the deepest and truest parts of the world that we usually don’t think about. It can seem like we are relearning what it means to be a human all over again. Our list has it all, from informative (or even mind-bending) tales of communities we never heard about, to geopolitical stunners to films that shattered our notions of the genre.
So without further ado, here’s the list.
This is one of Netflix's more recent murder mysteries documentaries, and it's a superb one. House of Secrets dives into the mystery surrounding one of the strangest murder-suicide cases in recent memory, focusing on the inexplicable demise of 11 family members in one household in Burari, Delhi, India in 2018. It's definitely not one to be missed.
Rita Moreno is a girl who chose to “go for it” and starred in seventy years' worth of tv shows and movies, receiving her EGOT on the way. Moreno's eventful life from her earlier days in Puerto Rico to her climb to becoming a celebrity with a vast portfolio is examined in the documentary. Mariem Pérez Riera is the director, while Norman Lear and Lin-Manuel Miranda are head producers.
True crime documentaries are aplenty, but American Murder: The Family Next Door stands out. It's about Chris Watts, a seemingly ordinary man who killed his wife and children, and decided to go about his life as if nothing happened. The amount of evidence and other material available is incredible. It's produced and presented in a sequence-specific manner, with the tale told via social media postings and text messages. It's a harrowing reminder of domestic violence's all-too-common occurrence.
This short documentary by BBC is one of Adam Curtis' lesser-known films, and it's also fairly new on Amazon Prime. Curtis claims that technology was created to help mankind, but instead has destroyed society's basic fabric, "distorting and simplifying our vision of the world around us”. Curtis, as usual, selects a cast of people whose views he claims are essential to comprehending the contemporary world, ranging from well-known figures like Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand to lesser-known academicians with obscure publications.
Sparks are your favorite band's favorite band, and yet they've remained mostly unknown for the majority of their 5-decade career, which comprises twenty-five albums. The Sparks Brothers, directed by Edgar Wright, is a fantastic look into the full career of Russell and Ron Mael's pop-rock duet. Unlike other music-person based documentaries that try to delve into the personal lives of their subjects, Wright maintains his focus purely on the music (with the band's vast back catalog, there isn't much room for much else), and the result is that by the end of the film, you'll love Sparks as much as he does. That's the gift of paying attention when your friend geeks out over his favorite thing.
Jake Carpenter, renowned skiing founder and creator of snowboarding company Burton, died in 2019 and is the subject of this documentary film. Carpenter's relatives, friends, and other snowboarding legends such as Shaun White are interviewed in the film. It also includes Woody Harrelson, a personal friend of Carpenter's, as the narrator.
Even if you don't think that Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time, this 10-episode insider documentary series about His Airness's last game with the Chicago Bulls is a basketball fan's dream come true. The Bulls sliced through the entire league like a knife through butter in their six-title run in the 1990s. Jordan and his colleagues reflect on the challenges they encountered throughout their farewell lap and provide a fresh perspective into what motivated the great men off and on the court. I understand that ten episodes seem like a long watch, but this one goes by as swiftly as the last moments of overtime.
So those are all the must-watch documentaries to put on your list. Truth, they say, is scarier than fiction. An excellent documentary is the best proof of this statement. No one understands this better than those who love to watch documentaries.