There might be affiliate links on this page, which means we get a small commission of anything you buy. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Please do your own research before making any online purchase.
In this age, information has become so accessible. It’s a challenge to sift what’s real from what’s false. Thus, it’s more crucial than ever that we get our information from reliable sources. And in this regard, documentaries are the perfect tool.
Well-made documentaries captivate us and promote discussion of the topics that they feature. They are a great resource for educating ourselves on topics and issues that matter.
Watching documentaries benefits you in the following ways:
Simon Kilmurry, Executive Director of the International Documentary Association, sums up the social importance of documentary films:
“Documentary film is a form that allows us to walk in another’s shoes, to build a sense of shared humanity, that gives voice to the marginalized and scorned, that strives to hold those in power to account. In these challenging times… it is all the more important to support the ever-risky endeavor that documentary filmmaking is becoming.”
And YouTube provides one of the best venues for watching documentaries for free. So we’ve chosen 38 of the best documentaries on YouTube and collected them for today’s post.
These films are selected for their ability to promote a new way of thinking. All these let you learn something new about social issues, notable personalities, and the world we live in.
Best Crime Documentaries on YouTube
WARNING: Some films featured in this post are extremely disturbing.
1. The Crime of Josef Fritzl
Discover how a family has been torn apart because of the evil actions of the father.
In 2008, the world was horrified to learn that a woman has been kept prisoner in a basement for 24 years. But what truly shocked the world was the identity of the perpetrator. Elizabeth Fritzl’s own father, Josef, kept her locked in a basement, raped her, and fathered 7 children by her.
How this man concealed his abominable actions and how it affected the members of the family, their community, and the world is the subject of this 53-minute documentary that features interviews from family members, psychology experts, lawyers, and journalists who followed the case of Josef Fritzl.
2. The Iceman Tapes: Conversations With a Killer
Do you want to know what goes on in the mind of a killer?
This documentary allows you a glimpse into the mind of hitman Richard Kulinski. He is known for the calm, detached way he dealt with his victims, thus earning him the nickname “The Iceman.”
The most unbelievable aspect of the documentary is that despite the hundreds of murders Kulinski committed, his family did not have an inkling of his double life and he appeared to be a loving, devoted family man.
3. The Hacker Wars
This film features the US government’s targeting of hacktivists and several journalists who are critical of the country’s administrative body. The story revolves around 3 hacktivists who battled against the government over the control of information in the age of the Internet.
4. Meet the Scammers Breaking Hearts and Stealing Billions Online
In this documentary, you’ll meet teenagers who establish online romantic relationships with people and scam them out of thousands of dollars.
Reporter Sean Rubinsztein-Dunlop uncovers that what the teenagers are doing is merely small-timer crime compared to the drug trafficking and money laundering he uncovers while doing this film.
Best YouTube History Documentaries
5. Finding Atlantis
Over the years, a lot of scientists have gone on a quest in an effort to find the ancient city of Atlantis. This documentary follows a group of scientists as they search for Atlantis using state-of-the-art equipment.
Their search brings them to Spain, where some scientists and scholars believed that Atlantis was located.
6. Why the Romans Were so Effective in Battle
The ancient Roman army was known to be highly effective system in battle. It was this ability that allowed Rome to become a superpower in historic times.
This documentary showcases the genius of the Roman army in battle. It shows how its strategies and equipment were used to great effect in defeating enemies and conquering new and larger territories.
7. The Extraordinary Genius of Albert Einstein
Do you want to know how geniuses arrive at a breakthrough that deepens our understanding of our world and of life?
Produced by History.com, this 1 ½-hour documentary centers on Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity, not for viewers to comprehend the theory itself, but to serve as a case study for demonstrating how humans think.
The film attempts to show how the real thought processes of human beings happen beyond opinions and perceptions.
8. Picasso’s Last Stand
Do you love art? This documentary features one of the greatest artists of all time.
The film reveals the life of Picasso a decade before his death. At that time, he was faced with criticism for his output and for his lifestyle. However, in the midst of this turmoil, he found impetus to bring forth his wittiest, most profound work.
9. The First Human
In this evolution documentary, we travel through time to uncover a new theory about the approximate time, the reason, and the way human beings began walking upright.
This film presents the story of scientists’ new discovery of a fossil much older than “Lucy” who was initially thought to be humans’ ancestors. This discovery challenges a lot of set ideas about how human beings have evolved.
10. Hidden Killers of the Victorian Home
What is the price of increased wealth and consumerism? For many Victorians, they paid for the luxury of their homes with their lives. In this film, Suzannah Lipscomb takes viewers on a tour of Victorian houses and reveals killers hiding in plain sight in the place where we are supposed to feel safe.
11. Human Zoos
This documentary tells the heartbreaking story of how indigenous people were put on display in 20th century America. The human zoos had the backing of prominent scientist. The film reveals how some people still channel Social Darwinism for them to oppress others.
This film also features eugenics and the tragedy it caused as some people attempted to breed humans using Darwinian principles.
12. The Real Jesus Christ
After Jesus’ death, there was a power struggle among his followers. This resulted into a split between Paul’s group and those of Jesus’ family and closest disciples. This latter group left no written references that could point to their version of the Christ’s message.
This documentary explores what could have happened if Jesus’ story was told by those who actually knew him: his family and closest followers.
Interesting Things to Watch on YouTube
13. Laos Wonderland
This documentary is about the glorious natural wonders of Laos, a country in Southeast Asia. It shows many of the unexplored spots in the country, as well as the wildlife that flourish there.
The film also features some festivals and traditions observed in Laos, which are strongly tied to the surroundings where they are celebrated. This film is treat for those who are interested in world cultures.
14. All Is Self
This documentary shows us that we are one with the whole creation. It proposes that the state of our thoughts and emotions is reflected in the state of our society. The film shows the concept of unity of all creation through different belief systems all over the world.
15. The Human Brain
If you’re interested to learn about the human brain, this documentary can supply you with the information you need. The creators of this film show viewers the physical features and structure of our brain. It explores the different areas of our own gray matter, and identifies the function of each.
16. The Truth About Sugar
Thinking about quitting sugar?
Many nations have an obesity crisis among its citizens. In this documentary, BBC pinpoints sugar as a major culprit. The film also reveals the amount of sugar in our meals and drinks. It also reports on the reasons for our sugar addiction.
17. Food Choices
This film by Michal Siewierski is an exposé on the impact of our food choices on our health, our planet, and the lives of other species.
The documentary was three years in the making, and features interviews with 28 of the world’s leading experts in various fields. Misconceptions about diets and food are discussed in the film, too.
18. Mat Fraser: Making a Champion
Ever wondered how top athletes go about their day?
In this documentary, Mat Fraser – winner of the CrossFit Games in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 – shares a day in the life of a CrossFit champ. He also shares his personal backstory. This serves as an inspiration for those who aspire for greatness in the realm of sports.
19. SEALFIT 20X SLTC
SEALFIT 20X is a documentary about the challenges that members of the Southeast Lineman Training Center encountered when they volunteered for the 20X program of SEALFIT. The goal of the program is to train apprentice lineworkers to become better qualified, physically, for the job.
The film shows the grit and determination of these lineworkers as they struggled to overcome the challenges of the grueling training to become the best at what they do.
20. The Cola Wars
This film showcases the intense marketing campaigns of the two leading soft drink companies, PepsiCo and The Coca-Cola Company. The competition between these two companies reached a peak in intensity during the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, and this period was dubbed as the “cola wars”.
In recent times, the rivalry between the two companies is still strong, with no sign of letting up as consumers are still almost equally divided in their soft drink preference.
21. Where Dreams Go to Die
People are saying that this is a magnificent running documentary.
This inspirational documentary is about Canadian ultrarunner Gary Robbins and his attempts to complete the Barkley Marathons. The Barkley Marathons has a full course of a hundred miles and is considered one of the toughest ultramarathon races in the world.
Learn about the sacrifices Robbins made to participate in this grueling test of strength, stamina, and spirit.
22. Self-Medicated: A Film About Art
While we’re on the topic of art, here is another documentary featuring art and artists.
In 2000, several artists who got fed up from getting excluded from the fine art scene formed a movement in defiance to this exclusivity. They called themselves The Antagonists, and they preferred to express their art through physical media – walls and the outdoors. The movement has spread throughout the globe.
This documentary tracks several Antagonists. We get to know them through their stories often of loneliness and depression and how art helps them cope.
23. The Next Black – A Film About the Future of Clothing
Do you want to know what clothes will look like in the future?
In this film, sustainability advocates, clothing companies, and a bio firm all give their opinions and forecasts about the clothes we’ll be wearing in the future. One interesting thing to see in this documentary is the way living organisms are being made to grow wearables.
24. The Reality of Truth
This film was created by spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and entrepreneur Mike Zappolin. It introduces viewers to the ways by which people throughout history have transcended into an alternate reality, such as through meditation, music, and the use of psychotropics.
The content it features makes this film controversial. Top scientists, spiritual gurus, and thought leaders discuss the common understanding of reality, as well as the methods for transcending that and reaching an alternate reality.
25. Organic Food – Hype or Hope?
These days, we are made to believe that eating organic food is healthier, so people are willing to pay a higher amount to get these products on their tables.
In this DW documentary, viewers are taken behind the scenes of the organic food industry. The lack of consistent testing, quality control, and monitoring of organic food products makes the consumers vulnerable to labeling fraud.
26. Four Horsemen
This documentary, produced by Renegade Inc. and directed by Ross Ashcroft, explains how the world works and what could be done to create a better society.
The title refers to what the film creators identify as American-led ills: financial misconducts, violence, appalling poverty, and the environmental crisis. The film hopes to inspire the audience to take action for change.
27. The Power of Meditation
If you’re not new to this blog, you’ve probably come across several articles about meditation and mindfulness. We believe that these practices have a positive effect on health and well-being.
The Power of Meditation features various practices of meditation for achieving relaxation, healing, and happiness, as well as developing positive emotions. The film is a good starting point for those who want to gain a deeper understanding about meditation
This film, produced by Anthony Chene, attempts to find answers to the question, “Who are we really?”
If you are looking for ways to develop self-awareness, this movie is a good jump-off point to find answers. The film contains insightful interviews that create modern-day interpretations of our true purpose here on earth.
29. A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity
More and more people are waking up to find solutions to global crises. Some of these individuals formed an off-the-grid community in Australia, living a simpler lifestyle to help save the planet.
This documentary was made by several members while they stayed in the community for a year. During that period, they built tiny houses, planted vegetable gardens, and experienced what it’s like to live in a sustainable community.
30. Without Bound – Perspectives on Mobile Living
This film features people who made a choice to trade the comforts of living in a house for the freedom of living on the road. In this documentary, you’ll get to know a group of people who live in trailers, RVs, and other vehicles of their choice to experience freedom through mobile and minimalistic living.
Without Bound attempts to answer the question: “How much do we need?” The documentary focuses on people who live in mobile homes by choice, and not on people rendered homeless by various social and economic circumstances.
The subjects have significantly scaled down their possessions, living day to day with the most basic essentials.
31. Real Value
These days, the demand for business enterprises that give back to society is rising. This inspiring documentary explores the concept of social enterprise.
Various notable personalities are interviewed in this film, to give the viewers a better understanding of what happens when businesses truly consider the welfare of the people and the planet.
32. Poor Kids of America
Poverty is on the rise in the United States. Many families are affected, the children more so.
This award-winning documentary shows the negative effects of a flagging economy, widespread unemployment, and poverty through the perspective of the most vulnerable members of society: the children.
33. New Money
In this documentary, former stock broker and hedge fund manager Dr. Steve Sjuggerud reveals a great money-making opportunity in a very unlikely place in the world: China.
The documentary reveals how people’s perception of China and what is actually happening there right now are completely different. In the film, Dr. Sjuggerud shows a China that is far more sophisticated than most business districts in the US.
34. Modern Day Miracles
This documentary follows 3 children with correctable disabilities who were treated by CURE International medical team in the countries of Niger, Philippines, and the Dominican Republic.
The documentary features the work of non-profit and Christian organization CURE. It is inspirational in the sense that we get to see people investing their time and effort to reach out and help others who are in need of healing and hope.
35. The Science of Acupuncture
Produced by BBC, this documentary features the traditional Chinese treatment of acupuncture.
There are many who are skeptical about this alternative treatment. The documentary explores how acupuncture is used to cure a host of ailments. Moreover, in the film, acupuncture is used on a patient in lieu of general anesthetic during open-heart surgery.
Scariest & Disturbing YouTube Documentaries
WARNING: Again, some of the films featured in this section can be extremely disturbing.
36. Child of Rage
In this CBS documentary, we see the far-reaching and destructive impact of sexual abuse. The film is based on the life of Beth Thomas who, as a young child suffered from sexual abuse. She was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder as a result of what she had experienced.
One bone-chilling scene shows her calmly telling the interviewer that she’d like to kill her new adoptive family.
37. The Great Plague (Black Death Documentary)
This documentary paints a grim and disturbing portrait about the Great Plague as it happened in London in 1665.
Through reenactments and a riveting narration, this film brings to live the terror lived by the residents of Cock and Alley parish as they fought for survival against a pandemic that eventually claimed more than 100,000 lives in their parish.
38. Beware the Slenderman
This documentary is about the 2014 attempted murder of a 12-year-old girl by two of her best friends. When the two suspects were apprehended and interrogated, they insisted that the death of best friend had to happen in order to appease the Slenderman.
The Slenderman was a character developed for an online Photoshop contest in 2009. Its gained popularity as a character in online horror stories, creepy art features, in forums, and social media.
The film shows just how unclear the line is between reality and fiction for children. And this is often exacerbated by other factors (e.g., neurological, social, etc.).
Final Thoughts on the Best Documentaries on YouTube
Are you ready to binge-watch these films soon?
Self-education can be enhanced by watching quality documentaries. As your knowledge about topics that interest you increases, so does your potential for personal success.
Can’t get enough of learning new things? Here are some articles you might want to check out:
- 21 Best Tools To Learn Something New Every Day
- CuriosityStream Review: Is it Worth the Price?
- 7 Best TED Talks on Procrastination: Tim Urban and Others