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These Are the Best Documentaries to Watch on Amazon Prime Video

Feed your brain with something from Amazon for a change

Lena Borrelli

Documentary cinema has exploded in recent years, giving birth to a series of incredible films that offer a dose of reality. Whether they're biographies of famous icons, thrillers about political scandals, or underdog stories about the long, hard road to success, we guarantee these films will leave a lasting impression.

Amazon Prime Video has an expansive collection of eclectic documentaries that are sure to provide all the entertainment you need. Here are the best documentaries available on Amazon Prime Video.   

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Looking for more recommendations of what to watch next? We have a ton of them! And if you're looking for more hand-picked recommendations based on shows you love, we have those too.

Generation Wealth

For fans of: Exorbitant wealth, the shallowness of that exorbitant wealth

Generation Wealth

Generation Wealth

Before becoming a documentary filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield was a professional photographer. Her journeys took her all over the world until she saw her focus move from Mayan jungles back home to Los Angeles, where she found herself aghast at the absurdity of the extreme wealth surrounding her. This film delivers a brutally honest look at Western society's obsession with fame and fortune, focusing on the things people will do and sacrifice to achieve wealth. It also highlights a dark reality -- that the ending of each story is resoundingly the same and for many of America's wealthiest individuals, money is just another means to find love and belonging. Greenfield peeks into the insular world of life with money through first-hand accounts from some of the world's wealthiest people, scattered everywhere from California to Dubai. It's a fascinating portrayal of the endless question: Is the grass really greener on the other side? [Trailer]

Citizenfour

For fans of: Whistleblowers, conspiracy theories

Director Laura Poitras becomes part of her own story in this documentary about Edward Snowden and the U.S. government. Already at work on a documentary regarding post-9/11 U.S. government surveillance, Poitras sees her focus shift when she receives an anonymous encrypted email from the mysterious, self-named "Citizenfour." The email would go on to provide exclusive details regarding illegal wiretapping being done by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other U.S. intelligence agencies. Travel with Poitras and her team, including reporter Ewen MacAskill from The Guardian, as they meet the real Citizenfour, legendary whistleblower Edward Snowden. With Steven Soderbergh serving as executive producer, this film made a splash upon its release, even winning the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. It is a continuation of the two previous films in Poitras' 9/11-centered trilogy, including 2006's My Country, My Country, and 2010's The Oath. [Trailer]

Human Flow

For fans of: Socially impactful docs, a global view of a problem

In this documentary that dives deep into the global refugee crisis, German director Ai Weiwei transports you to over 20 countries, taking an in-depth look at poverty-stricken communities around the world. Perhaps most remarkable after the stories themselves is the way that they are told. Weiwei uses a blend of modern technologies like drones and iPhones to highlight the human struggle plaguing the globe in fresh, new ways. The story begins where it was first inspired, in the Greek island of Lesbos, where Weiwei began filming the many refugees arriving in droves along its tropical shores. It is a loving homage to anyone who has ever had to abandon home and a brutal eye-opener to the rest of the world who has the power to avoid humanitarian crises in the future. [Trailer]

Cropsey

For fans of: Ghost stories, urban legends, horror

If you like a good thrill, this creepy documentary checks all the boxes. After five children disappear in Staten Island, two filmmakers find themselves in the middle of a case with the real-life Bogeyman. Directed and produced by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman, this film will introduce you to serial killer Andre Rand. Dubbed Cropsey, he is named after the old East Coast scary story that has enraptured young ones around the campfire for decades. Holding court among a network of underground tunnels below the abandoned Willowbrook mental institution, Rand lived in the heavily wooded area, lending a very real aura to the campfire legend. In the late 1980s, Rand was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of two young girls and remains the suspect for three more, proving that not all urban legends are just an old wives' tale. [Trailer]

The Endless Summer

For fans of: Catching waves, surf rock

Go back to simpler times with this 1966 documentary that shadows two surfers as they tour the world in search of the perfect wave. Shot by director Bruce Brown, a surfer himself, the legendary film offers a beautiful portrait of competitive surfing as it follows Michael Hynson and Robert August around the globe as they follow summer (and waves) throughout the year. The film takes you from Hawaii and Australia to Ireland and South Africa, visiting the world's best beaches through the appreciative lens of a professional surfer. The Endless Summer was shot on a minimal budget, with footage showing the group hitchhiking their way up and down the coast. There is no fancy Hollywood camera equipment, only what the men themselves could carry, and yet the rudimentary kit still manages to convey the breathtaking beauty and heart-dropping excitement of landing that critical wave. Its simplistic approach only proves that this film is truly a labor of love. [Trailer]

Gimme Danger

For fans of: Rock and roll, writhing around shirtless

Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger

Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger

Subtitled "Story of The Stooges," director Jim Jarmusch calls this documentary his "love story" to legendary rock band The Stooges. Here, Jarmusch brings us the story of James Osterberg, known more popularly as Iggy Pop, and his time as frontman of the 1960s group behind such hits as "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Search and Destroy." He digs deep into the archives for priceless, never-before-seen interviews and footage, and dedicated fans will be thrilled by the sight of a young Iggy Pop. Follow the cameras and let the Stooges take you along on their alcohol- and drug-fueled revelry. This is the story of musicians that would influence the world around them and forever change the art of rock and roll for future generations to come. [Trailer]

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Fahrenheit 11/9

For fans of: Michael Moore doing his thing, holding fat cats responsible

What list of documentaries would be complete without an appearance by Michael Moore? Here, he delivers another film in his signature grassroots-style exposé that checks the temperature of a modern-day, pre-Trump America. Fahrenheit 11/9 looks at poverty and the significant wealth gap in the U.S. with biting commentary as it covers the Flint, Michigan, crisis in detail, even confronting Governor Rick Synder with an attempted citizen's arrest. Moore points the finger at politicians, both Republican and Democrat, referencing America's love affair with violence through a look at school shootings and the federal policies that permit them. The director delivers a cautionary tale of a nation spun out of control with a brutally honest and unapologetic take on the world today. Expect passionate interviews in a film that is sure to tug on the heartstrings and inspire further advocacy and activism throughout our many disadvantaged communities dotting the U.S. [Trailer]

Janis: Little Girl Blue

For fans of: Music, rock and roll, coming-of-age tales

Directed by Oscar-nominated director Amy J. Berg, this documentary takes an insider's look at the rise and fall of one of rock's most iconic musicians, Janis Joplin. Berg combines archival footage with never before seen media to tell the rarely-understood story of this troubled singer, known for her searing lyrics as well as her battles with alcohol and heroin addiction. Her siblings, Michael and Laura Joplin, sit down for honest interviews, in addition to in-depth commentary from other musicians, and people who knew and loved her. Legends such as the Grateful Dead's Bob Weir, Kris Kristofferson, Clive Davis, and her own bandmates all pay tribute to the rocker who paved the way for the women who came after her. Go back to the humble beginnings of Little Girl Blue and follow her remarkable journey until her untimely death at the tender age of 27. Still, the indelible mark she left on music remains forever, and this film delivers a loving memorial. [Trailer]

Gleason

For fans of: Sport stories, overcoming challenges

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) became known as Lou Gehrig's disease, named for the famed baseball player who publicly battled the disease on the national stage. However, Lou Gehrig is far from the only athlete to be affected by this terrible disease, and this documentary pays tribute to one in particular: former New Orleans Saints safety Steve Gleason. The film only follows five years in Gleason's life, but it's more than enough to capture the degenerative disease that renders him entirely immobile by the time it has run its course. It explores the effects ALS had on all facets of his life, and includes interviews with family, friends, and teammates -- his "Badass Unit" -- who have a front-row seat to Gleason's struggle. Directed by J. Clay Tweel, the film made its premiere at 2016's Sundance Film Festival and is sure to leave a lasting impact with its thoughtful, no-holds-barred look at life with ALS. [Trailer]

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

For fans of: Visual poetry, perspective changes

This documentary journeys to Hale County, Alabama, documenting the harsh, unforgiving life of the South in a community stricken with poverty and racism. It marks the directorial debut of RaMell Ross, who compiled footage he shot after his 2009 move to the area. While working as a basketball coach, Ross began collecting images, videos, and interviews with the people around him. He challenges the professional complacency of the Black community as he interviews an older Black man stoking burning tires for work, and places an emphasis on education, hard work, and the importance of dreams. With unblinking clarity, Ross manages to capture the struggles, triumphs, fears, disappointments, and love that makes up this little county that most people have never heard of, but after watching this film, will never forget. [Trailer]

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

For fans of: Tall puppets, heartwarming stories

Everyone knows Big Bird, but so few know the man inside the suit. This documentary aims to change that. Caroll Spinney has always been a fan of puppets, even from a young age before growing up and becoming the real-life embodiment of the famous Sesame Street character for four decades. Spinney played a vital role in the growing education of an untold number of children, continuing to teach, mold, and grow young minds even after his 2019 death. Directed by Dave LaMattina and Chad N. Walker, this documentary blends archival footage with interviews, as well as appearances from the Sesame Street cast, producers, and writers. Visit Sesame Street like you never have before through the eyes of the man who made much of that magic happen. [Trailer]