The Best Documentaries According to Reddit

When it comes to good doco recommendations, you can always count on AskReddit to steer you in the right direction.
  • 5,108 VOTES

    Enron: The Smartest...

    4.5 out of 5 overall
  • 5,656 VOTES

    The Fog of War

    4.5 out of 5 overall
  • 1,064 VOTES

    Capturing the Friedmans

    4.5 out of 5 overall
  • 917 VOTES

    The Barkley Marathons

    3.5 out of 5 overall
Best Documentaries Reddit

Whenever I need a recommendation for a quality documentary, I always ask Reddit. Well, I don’t personally ask Reddit. I am but a humble lurker and a site search of Reddit shows that question has already been asked upwards of 4,000 times. So I trawl the comment sections on the most upvoted threads until I find something I’ve never seen before. To save you the hassle of doing that yourself, I’ve rounded up the best documentaries Reddit has recommended.

To build a coherent list of docos, I’ve only picked threads with 1,000 upvotes or more and taken the top two “best” comments from those threads. I’ve also only included the first appearance of each documentary as there are a few, like Fog of War, that seem to pop up almost every time this question rears its head.

It’s also worth noting that Reddit’s comment sorting algorithm uses a mixture of upvotes and engagement (e.g. comments) to decide which recommendations are best, opposed to simply having the most upvotes.

So without further hesitation, here are the best documentaries according to your anonymous friends on Reddit.

1. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room documents the glorious demise of the corrupt Enron Corporation. The documentary explores the corporation’s many illegal schemes; most notably its hand in instigating an energy crisis to drive up the price on utilities.

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room isn’t currently available to stream in Australia but you can pick up a copy on Amazon dirt-cheap.

Here’s what redditor kalvinescobar had to say:

2. The Fog of War

The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara features interviews with McNamara, the Secretary of Defense under the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. McNamara is largely responsible for America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Documentation Errol Morris uses footage from over 20 hours of interviews with McNamara to weave together a confronting exploration of power and the people that hold it.

The Fog of War isn’t currently streaming on any Australian service, but you can pick up a DVD copy on Amazon.

Here’s what redditor gogojack had to say:

3. The Queen of Versailles

The Queen of Versailles follows the criminally rich Jackie and David Siegel as they attempt to build Versailles, one of the world’s largest and most expensive private residences in history. When the 2008 economic crisis hits, the stupid-rich couple is forced to tighten their belts and their dream is completely derailed. When it comes to guilty pleasures, this doco is the triple fudge sundae for people with an appetite for schadenfreude.

The Queen of Versailles is currently streaming for free on Kanopy and 7Plus in Australia.

Here’s what redditor ennuionwe had to say:

4. Capturing the Friedmans

When filmmaker Andrew Jalecki sets out to create a by-the-numbers documentary on children’s birthday entertainers, he meets Silly Billy (Billy Friedman), a well-known New York Clown and learns of the Friedman family’s criminal past.

Capturing the Friedmans is available on Google Play and YouTube Premium. Alternatively, you can order a DVD copy from Amazon.

Here’s what redditor thatpaperclip had to say:

5. The World at War

Recently remastered, The World at War offers hours of archival footage and a rare insight into World War II.

The high-definition restoration of The World at War is available on Blu-ray via Amazon.

Here’s what redditor JATS11 had to say:

6. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young

The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young documents an annual “cult-like” race held near Tennessee. Based on the 1977 prison escape of James Earl Ray (the man who assassinated MLK Jr.), only 10 people have completed the marathon in its 25-year history.

The Barkley Marathons is available to stream on Netflix.

Here’s what redditor 10flightsatatime had to say:

7. Senna

This award-winning British doco explores the life and death of Brazillian racing champ Ayrton Senna, who passed away at the young age of 34. The film chronicles Senna’s seven-year stint as World Champion and his part in improving the sport’s safety.

Senna is available to stream on Netflix.

Here’s what redditor santanto had to say:

8. Up Series

The Up Series is a long-running series of documentaries by Paul Almond and Michael Apted that chronicle the lives of fourteen Brits from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. The first entry introduced each participant at 7 years old and has revisited them every seven years since. The most recent entry, 63 Up, released recently in June 2019.

The Up Series is available to stream in its entirety on SBS On-Demand.

Here’s what redditor armcandybean had to say:

9. Searching For Sugarman

Searching for Sugarman details the search for American muso Rodriguez by two South African superfans after his rumoured suicide in the 90s. Rodriguez never made it big in his home country but over 14,000 kms away in Cape Town, his popularity skyrocketed amidst the fall of Apartheid.

Searching for Sugarman is currently available to stream on Stan.

If you’re already subscribed to Stan, check out our list of the 50 best movies available to stream. 

Here’s what redditor Waffencheese had to say:

10. Connections with James Burke

This BBC docuseries first released in 1973 but has since had two follow-ups Connections2 (1994) and Connections³ (1997). The series is famous for its interdisciplinary and digestible approach to explaining complex topics on science and invention.

All three seasons of Connections are available to stream for free on Archive.org

Here’s what redditor ProstetnicVogonJel had to say:

11. Dark Days

Released in 2011, this black and white documentary explores the cavernous abandoned portion of the New York City subway system and the folks that live there. Director Marc Singer, who lived on and off with the community inside The Freedom Tunnel, filmed most of the documentary throughout the 90s but it was only released in 2000.

Dark Days is available to stream for free on Kanopy or Prime Video with a subscription.

Here’s what redditor danrennt98 had to say:

12. The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst

Andrew Jarecki sure has a knack for stumbling upon a killer story. The man responsible for Capturing the Friedmans directed the 2010 crime drama All Good Things starring Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst, a movie inspired by the life of accused murder Robert Durst.

The real-life Durst loved the film and agreed to sit down with Jarecki over 20 hours of interview, which is how we got The Jinx, an HBO documentary series that led to arrest of Robert Durst just days before the release of the finale.

The Jinx is available to stream on Foxtel Now or available for purchase on Google Play, iTunes and the Microsoft Store.

Here’s what redditor LegendOfBigBoss had to say:

13. Planet Earth

You know it, you love it. Let David Attenborough’s commanding voice fill the room as you show off your new 4K/HDR television to family and friends.

The original Planet Earth is available to stream on Stan and the more recent TV series, Our Planet, is available to stream in 4K on Netflix. But if really want the best version available, you can order Planet Earth II in 4K/HDR from Amazon.

 

Jamiejay64, a redditor of few words, had this to say:

14. The Woman Who Wasn’t There

In the aftermath of one of America’s greatest tragedies, the rousing and heartbreaking story of survivor Tania Head made international headlines and she was made the President of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network support group. There were just a couple of issues: her name wasn’t Tania, and she wasn’t there during the attack. She wasn’t even in the country during the attacks.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There is available to stream for free on TubiTV.

This recommendation comes from redditor Jenniult, who had this to say:

15. Paris is Burning

Paris is Burning is a phenomenal documentary that details the mid-80s drag and ballroom house culture. It’s a colourful origin story on the rise of vogueing (for those unfamiliar, think Ru Paul’s Drag Race) but it isn’t afraid to address the serious socio-economic issues of the time.

Paris is Burning is available to stream on Netflix.

This recommendation comes from redditor Tawny_Frogmouth, who had this to say:

Bonus recommendations:

In my search for the best documentaries according to Reddit, I found the most gracious redditor of, maybe, all time. A self-described documentary junkie, magtig noticed a lot of their favourites had gone unmentioned. So they created their own megalist of recommendations, which I’ve embedded below.

Have at it.