It’s not easy to find all the best documentaries on a single streaming service. But with dozens of free offerings as well as movies available for rent and purchase, YouTube comes the closest.
Whether you’re in the mood for an awe-inspiring nature movie or a true crime spectacle for the ages, YouTube’s documentary lineup includes some of the most superior works in the genre. With classics like The September Issue and Hoop Dreams running alongside newer releases like Three Identical Strangers, 13th, and Our Planet, this is the place to learn something new.
To help you get your education binge started, we’ve combed through YouTube’s catalogue and selected both the best free documentaries on YouTube and the best documentaries available for rent or purchase on YouTube. Broken into two categories, but listed in no particular order, here are 17 docs you should make time to see stat.
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The best free documentaries on YouTube
In this Academy Award-nominated documentary feature, filmmaker Ava DuVernay examines systemic racism and the persistent horror of slavery in the United States with thorough, detailed, and astounding reporting. Interviews with public figures, including Bryan Stevenson, Van Jones, Cory Booker, and more provide a wealth of evidence to support DuVernay’s thesis that the Thirteenth Amendment did not make black people free, but instead shepherded them into a criminal system designed to keep them oppressed.
How to watch: 13th is now streaming on YouTube.
2. The White Helmets
Winner of Best Documentary Short Subject at the 89th Academy Awards, Orlando von Einsiedel’s The White Helmets offers a wrenching look at rescue workers in Aleppo, Syria and Turkey fighting to save citizens affected by the war. At once heartbreaking and enlightening, this 40-minute film stands as one of the most impactful examinations of Syrian conflict, with an emotional undercurrent you’re unlikely to forget.
How to watch: The White Helmets is now streaming on YouTube.
3. With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story
For those missing the late Marvel Comics creator, With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story offers an inviting banquet of appreciation. Centered on Lee’s multi-decade career and unceasing desire to enchant the world through super stories, director Will Hess’ delightful portrait includes interviews with comic fans, Kevin Smith, Seth R