10 Documentaries Everyone Should Watch

I’ve recently been plowing through the documentary section on Netflix and it’s like delicious mind food. Sometimes I get a bit jack of passive viewing and I just want to watch something that makes my brain tingle. This inspired me to write a list of my top 10 documentaries everyone should watch. I’ve seen all of the films listed below and I will highly recommend each one. So make sure you bookmark this page and refer to it next time you want to make use of a quiet Friday night at home.

10 Documentaries Everyone Should Watch

Black Fish

This film follows the tragic death of experienced SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau who was attacked by a killer whale during a routine performance in 2010. Black Fish outlines the tragic life of Tilikum, a show whale that has been shipped around to several sea animal facilities during his time as an animal performer. There’s chilling footage of another experienced whale trainer being attacked by Tilikum and it’s one of the most amazing escapes I’ve ever seen. It’s really good stuff and will make you rethink ever visiting an animal performance park again.

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The Price of Gold

If you remember the knee capping attack on American figure skater Nancy Kerrigan right before the 1994 Olympics and how Tonya Harding was believed to be involved in the attack, then you simply must watch The Price of Gold. It’s about the struggles that Tonya had growing up and the brutal world of figure skating coupled with her resistance to conform. If you’ve ever been even remotely fascinated by figure skating then you’ll really enjoy this.

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Indie Game

If you’ve ever played Super Meat Boy or watched someone play Super Meat Boy, you need to watch this film. It’s adorable. Even if you’re not overly into computer games it’s still a lovely and really interesting doco about the gaming industry and what goes into the making of some of the most popular independent games on the market.

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Man On Wire

This film follows the arguably insane Phillipe Petit as he illegally tight rope walks, without any back up safety measures, between New York’s Twin Towers in 1974. It’s absolutely breathtaking. There’s something extraordinarily satisfying about watching a person achieve their singular life goal. A beautiful film.

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This film is quite simply a joy. It follows the lives of eight American teenagers as they prepare to compete in the National Spelling Bee. It’s worth watching for these kid’s facial expressions alone. It’s an easy watch and it’s really cute too… although some of the parents are a bit much. Creepily like pageant parents.

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Bill Cunningham New York

A beautiful film about a beautiful man. Bill Cunningham is a world famous photographer who doesn’t give a crap about money or fame. He just wants to take beautiful pictures of interesting people. This gorgeous doco outlines his extraordinary life and shows that he is one of the pioneer street photographers of our time.

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Deliver Us From Evil

This is not a very nice film but it’s a very important one that’s worth watching. It follows the life of Father Oliver O’Grady, a Catholic priest who was relocated to several different parishes throughout the US to cover up the fact that he had horrendously raped dozens of children that were under his pastoral care. Definitely not a feel good film but it’s a must watch.

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This is a very cute doco about people who are obsessed with the moon. Interestingly enough this film also interviews the guy who owns the moon. Yep. There’s one guy called Dennis Hope in the US who actually, legally owns the moon. You can even buy land from him on the moon for $19.99.

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This film has since been turned into a television show that I honestly don’t love but the original documentary is definitely worth a look. It follows the journey of photographer Yaniv Shulman as he strikes up a friendship with a young girl called Abby who paints pictures of his photos. The way this film unfolds is fascinating and I can’t say anything more…

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The King of Kong

This is one of my most favourite documentaries of all time. This film follows the journey of Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell as they fight to hold the record of the highest Donkey Kong score in the world. This film is worth watching for Billy King alone. Watching a real life knob operate like a total douche bag completely unwittingly in front a documentary film crew is one of life’s greatest pleasures. 

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Do you love a documentary? Any favourites of yours that I’ve missed here?

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Carly is the founding editor of Smaggle which launched in 2007 back when blogging was weird. She has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Cosmopolitan and Cleo magazines. Hoop earrings are totally her thing and she almost got run over by Myf Warhurst while out jogging one day.


  1. Raquel Moss 2 years ago

    Check out The Imposter, you won’t regret it!

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      So many people recommending it! Def on the list now!

  2. Browny 2 years ago

    The Banksy film Exit Though the Gift Shop. I still don’t don’t know if this is a documentary or a mockumentary (the latter I suspect but Banksy still attests its non-fiction). None the less, i think it’s pretty fantastic, very funny and 2hours well spent

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      I keep forgetting about that! I HAVE to watch it.

  3. Bec 2 years ago

    Oooh these all look great. I want to watch the killer whale one and the ice skating one, but my housemate just borrowed the Spice World the Movie from Civic Video so I guess I’ll watch that first…

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      You DEFINITELY need to do that first.

  4. I love documentaries! I also loved the Vidal Sasson documentary and check out The Vivian Maier story – can’t think of the exact film name. She was a nanny who took thousands of street photography pics but was completely unknown until someone bought a storage locker that was full of her photos. I also recommend The Imposter – really creepy. Oh and look up Jiro dreams of suchi – fantastic film about a master sushi chef in Japan. You have to apprentice with him for 10 years before you even get to touch any fish. Amazing.

    • typo – I mean Jiro dreams of sushi

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      Oh that sounds awesome! We’ve got Jiro on our list but it has subtitles so we actually have to watch it properly… we usually work while we watch stuff!

  5. Nicole 2 years ago

    I’ve watched a few of these – The King of Kong (Billy Mitchell is a giant turd bucket), Indie Game, Spellbound. And would like to see a few more of them – Man on Wire and Blackfish. I pretty much know the details surrounding Blackfish as I looked into it a lot after seeing the trailer. As much as I agree with the filmmakers, I have the sort of brain that will take all that footage and info on and keep it with me, ready to make me a ball of sadness and anxiety with my over-analytical brain aka fuck seaworld!

    P.S. might be helpful to some people to put a trigger warning before the Deliver Us from Evil doc.

    P.S.S. Is Netflix actually available there now?

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      Turd Bucket is the perfect word for Billy Mitchell. It’s not ‘technically’ available here but Mr Smags is very clever… and has an American bank account. :-)

  6. Jo 2 years ago

    Ooh some good suggestions, thanks! The King of Kong is like documentary crack. Every time it’s on telly I MUST watch it.

    Food Inc is one of those films that you shouldn’t watch unless you are prepared to be smacked in the face with a whole new way of living. Another one I’m looking forward to is The Ghosts in Our Machine. And if you liked Blackfish, wait till you see The Cove!

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      The King of Kong cracks me up. I just cannot believe it’s real. I’ll put the Cove on my list!

  7. Mr and Mrs Romance 2 years ago

    Yeah, totally agree with Jo – Food Inc is brilliant but very confronting and downright sad. And Raquel Moss – the Impostor is insane. I’m also a bit of a sucker for ‘soft’ docos like natural world films like Frozen Planet etc. And I enjoyed the Seven Ages of Britain told through Great British art and artifacts. Dorky, daggy but quite interesting!

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      I loved Food Inc, it turned off lots of foods though! I have the Imposter on my list – everyone is raving about it!

  8. Nicole Moore 2 years ago

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched The September Issue because I love Grace Coddington. The Eyes of Tammy Faye is great; also the original documentary of Party Monster before they turned it into the movie with Macaulay Caulkin and Seth Green (although let’s be honest, it’s so campy I love that too). And, of course, Paris is Burning. Classic.

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      I LOVE the September Issue, it’s awesome. What’s Paris is Burning about? I’m sure of heard of it!

      • Nicole Moore 2 years ago

        It’s about drag queens in the 1970s/1980s club scene in New York City, throwing balls and vogue-ing, talking about gay and drag culture at the time. Because I’m a gay man at heart I find it fascinating and amazing.

  9. niki 2 years ago

    I’ve been getting stuck in to docos as well – they’re a great counterpoint to binge-watching drama. Some I don’t think have been mentioned are ‘Tabloid’ which is kinda fun and the one about The National, ‘Mistaken for Strangers’. I haven’t yet watched ‘From the Bottom of the Lake’ (the behind-the-scenes of Top of the Lake) but very keen to.

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      Totally. Sometimes I just need to work my brain properly and actually think about something other than the Crawley’s or the Lannisters.

  10. Sarah 2 years ago

    Bowling for Columbine is a really good documentary, although it can be rather upsetting :)

    • Author
      Smaggle 2 years ago

      It is actually! I saw it years ago and sort of forgot about it but it should certainly be on the list!

  11. Nicole 2 years ago

    I really loved ‘Craigslist Joe’. A guy spends a month depending on the goodness of Craigslist posters and travels America while trying to survive not using any money of his own. Really beautiful and makes you feel all warm and part of a great big community.

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