Whether you’re looking for information on iconic events, a profile on one of your favorite celebrities, or a story from pop culture, documentaries are a great choice for movie night. This eclectic genre of TV and film provides factual records and reports on a variety of topics that are entertaining and fascinating. Read on for a list of the best documentaries we’re watching right now.
The Last Blockbuster (2020)
Before streaming, video rental stores were the place to find movies, shows, and documentaries—and there was no bigger rental chain than Blockbuster. At its peak, the company had over 9,000 stores, but today, only one remains. In the educational flick, Netflix (ironically!) follows the store’s manager as she tries to keep the Bend, Oregon, location alive. Included in those efforts is a history lesson on the rise and fall of the company and interviews with famous faces, like actor and director Kevin Smith and comedian Paul Scheer. Satisfying both those nostalgic for the store and those wondering how the last one is still standing, The Last Blockbuster is one of the best documentaries for a Netflix night, with no rewinds required.
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal, & Greed (2021)
Episodes of the PBS series The Joy of Painting have gone viral over the past decade, creating a new generation of fans for host Bob Ross. Passing away from cancer in 1995, Ross’ legacy lives on with his new-found popularity online, but the story of how his brand has grown since his death isn’t as happy as the lovable persona he’s remembered for. This Netflix documentary investigates the fight for Ross’ business following his death, as his son Steve tries to stop his father’s name, image, and likeness from being exploited. Ideal for fans of Ross, you’ll be reminded of why you love the mild-mannered painter while also seeing why his resurgence may not be as good as it seems.
Summer of Soul (2021)
The most recent winner of Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards, Summer of Soul chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The festival featured some of the biggest African American musical acts of the time, including Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone, but its publicity was scarce, and footage of the performances was left unreleased for decades. This documentary changes that, showcasing some performances while also exploring why the event was forgotten and how it compared to Woodstock, which took place around the same time. A deep dive into music and culture, Summer of Soul is one of the best documentaries on Hulu and, with its big award win, possibly one of the best documentaries of all time.
Woodstock 99: Peace, Love, and Rage (2021)
Speaking of Woodstock, Woodstock 99 looks at what went wrong when a new festival was created to celebrate the original’s 30th anniversary. Part of HBO Max’s Music Box series, promoters, performers, employees, and attendees all share their experiences from the chaotic, three-day event in 1999. From intense heat to looting, vandalism, and violence, the documentary covers everything people had to deal with at the festival and reveals how times have changed since the 1969 original. The perfect documentary recommendation for the period and the music associated with it, Woodstock 99 is great whether you grew up on grunge or you’re just finding out there was a sequel to the iconic festival.
The New York Times Presents (2020-)
A series of documentaries available on Hulu, The New York Times Presents is excellent if you love to binge a range of documentaries. From pop-culture events to politics and crime, the docuseries covers a lot of ground in its one-hour episodes, opening your mind to ideas and events you may have never known. Whether you want to discover more about the life and career of Brittney Spears, the controversy surrounding Juul cigarettes, or America’s influencer culture, there’s likely an episode description that’ll catch your attention.
Looking for something romantic and hilarious after your latest documentary discovery? Check out our list of “The Five Holiday Rom-Coms We Can’t Wait to Rewatch” for suggestions that are also perfect for getting Valentine’s Day ready.