Best Documentary Movies For Free on YouTube (2023)

If you have already delved into every documentary available on other streaming platforms (or simply don't have or can't afford any), do not fear, because YouTube offers plenty of moving, tense, and interesting documentaries. YouTube ended 2020 with 30 million premium subscribers who are able to buy or rent a wide range of amazing movies and TV shows. But for those who haven’t subscribed, you can still stream content for free, as YouTube is constantly keeping us updated and frequently adding movies and specials to watch for free (though sometimes with ads).

Updated September 13, 2022: YouTube is always adding new documentaries for free, so we've updated this article to reflect some of the best available and to maintain the consistency and excellence we always strive for.

For documentary lovers who enjoy exploring real-life stories, unraveling a compelling true mystery, or even being educated on new and interesting discoveries, these are some of the best documentary movies you can watch for free on YouTube.


10/10 Josef Fritzl's Horrifying Crime

Josef Fritzl's Horrifying Crime is an emotionally painful but perfectly edited documentary about how a father's horrific actions tore a family apart. In 2008, the disturbing case of a woman who had been imprisoned in a basement for 24 years came to light. Elizabeth Fritzl was held captive, beaten, raped and assaulted by her own father, Josef, and gave birth to seven of his children while she was imprisoned.

Related: These Are Some of the Most Eye-Opening Documentaries on Netflix

The documentary explores a real-life monster, explaining how it affected the family and how he managed to conceal his evil actions, including interviews and legal documentation by journalists and lawyers who followed the Josef Fritzl case. It's ironic that this free movie on YouTube would be better than any other telling of the Fritzl case.

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9/10 All Is Self

Proposing that the chaos in our society is a representation of the chaos in our own minds, All Is Self examines how our society is built on the idea that we separate ourselves from nature, allowing us to harm the environment and others without feeling like we are destroying ourselves. We may feel detached from the rest of the world at times, but in this documentary we are shown how spiritual traditions around the world have recognized this for centuries and how modern science has begun understanding this. The documentary makes us aware of the idea of oneness and how these spiritual traditions have led to the belief that all beings are our family, that we are one with nature, and that all is self. Who knew that enlightenment would be free on YouTube?

8/10 A Certain Kind of Death

Directors Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock investigate what happens to someone's body when they die and have no next of kin, in their award-winning documentary A Certain Kind of Death. Following three cases at the Los Angeles County coroner's office, we are taken on a step-by-step day in the life of those who handle these bodies and are shown the process of determining how they died and who to call to claim the remains.

In a race against the clock, they only have a few months to find the next of kin before they are forced to cremate the bodies. Viewers are given an unsettling yet interesting and educating insight into the struggles and importance of this process. This free movie is an important, strange lesson in empathy.

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7/10 The Atomic Cafe

Featuring a sobering look at nuclear warfare and the false information and propaganda implemented by the United States throughout the Cold War, the 1982 documentary The Atomic Café includes chilling narrator-less clips of newsreels and footage released by the government throughout the '40s and the '50s at the dawn of the nuclear age.

The thought-provoking picture premiered during the height of American cynicism and nostalgia when our nation's citizens had diminished faith in the government following both the Watergate Scandal and the Vietnam War. Through the use of military training footage, old television broadcasts and propaganda films, viewers can get a taste of the hysteria and uncertainty running rampant throughout the country during that tense period in history.

6/10 This Is The Zodiac Speaking

The unsolved murders of the Zodiac Killer threw California into a spiral of fear in the late 1960s, as he became one of the most fearsome real serial killers. The case became the most frustrating and difficult murder investigation for the law enforcement community at the time, and when letters, allegedly written by the killer, became part of the mystery, it only added to the panic. The Zodiac Killer to this day remains an enigma and one of the biggest unsolved cases in America, resulting in countless theories (and a great David Fincher film).

Related: The Best Experimental Documentaries, Ranked

In the retrospective documentary This Is The Zodiac Speaking, director David Prior delves into the case once more, covering aspects of the investigation, including interviews with the original investigators and surviving victims. Analyzing the case on a factual basis, the documentary leaves it open for the viewer to conjure their own beliefs and theories of whom the Zodiac really is. While the Fincher film is brilliant, this free movie is a comprehensive, tense, and wonderful look at the killer.

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5/10 A Murder in the Family

When a British businessman is murdered in his sleep in the Philippines in 2002, the mother of the victim, Margaret Davis, attempts to prove that her daughter-in-law was the one responsible. When Davis received a phone call telling her that her son was dead, she had no idea that the mastermind who was behind it all was the most unexpected suspect. A Murder in the Family takes true crime documentaries to a new level of suspense and provides insight into the ins and outs of the case, how a mother uncovered the secrets around her son's death, and takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride as the shocking events unfold.

4/10 World’s Scariest Drug

This Vice documentary investigates a drug called Scopolamine, also known as The Devil's Breath. World's Scariest Drug is extremely enlightening, examining the different effects it can have on one's body — one of which is supposedly the power to make you incapable of exercising free will. The interviews conducted in this documentary are with freaked-out dealers and people's personal experiences with the drug, and it allows viewers to see how the story took a far darker turn than they expected, and the first hand the horror stories surrounding the World's Scariest Drug.

3/10 Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

Kurt Kuenne's 2008 documentary is completely emotionally devastating, as he was friends with the subject of the film and brings an unflinchingly heartbreaking personal touch. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father revolves around Andrew Bagby, who was found dead in a park in Pennsylvania. The viewers get to see how the police investigation begins to suspect his ex-girlfriend, who fled to Canada after his death. Dear Zachary is extremely shocking, and as viewers, we are able to make our own perceptions about the case, particularly when some facts come to light about the woman in question.

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From interviews with family and unsettling archival footage, Kuenne captured their loving memories of Andrew into a film, designed to introduce the child to his father that he never met, and decided to release it publicly when the case took a more tragic turn. It's simply unforgettable, and is one of the best movies for free on YouTube.

2/10 Citizenfour

One of the most important documentaries of the past decade, Citizenfour is available completely for free with ads on YouTube and explores Edward Snowden's disturbing revelations about government surveillance and the invasive behavior of the NSA. At the same time, through the trouble Laura Poitras had in making the film, Citizenfour also chronicles the disturbing antagonism the government has toward whistleblowers, fact-checkers, and truth-tellers. The film is structured like one of the great conspiracy thrillers, except this one is disturbingly true.

1/10 13th

One of the rare documentaries that Netflix has put up completely for free on YouTube (with over 13 million views as a result), 13th is an important film that any American (or student of history) should watch. Ava DuVernay's film dissects the history of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and its relationship to the prison-industrial complex. The film explores how slavery has never truly ended after the Civil War, but has rather been transferred to a massive political, legal, and corporate system which criminalizes Black bodies.


What is considered the best documentary of all time? ›

Best documentaries of all time
  • Shoah (1985) ...
  • Sans Soleil (1983) ...
  • The Thin Blue Line (1988) ...
  • Night and Fog (1955) ...
  • Harlan County U.S.A. (1976) ...
  • Dont Look Back (1967) ...
  • The War Game (1965) ...
  • Nanook of the North (1922)
12 Oct 2022

Where can I find documentaries for free? ›

Below are the 10 best sites to watch documentaries for free:
  • SnagFilms. Launched in 2008, SnagFilms offers more than 10,000 free documentaries, each categorized and graded by users.
  • Crackle. ...
  • The Documentary Network. ...
  • PBS. ...
  • Vimeo. ...
  • True/False Film Fest. ...
  • VICE. ...
  • Viewster.
16 Jan 2015

Where can I find good documentaries? ›

  • Kanopy. Best for Educational and Family Content. ...
  • Netflix. Best for Blockbuster Documentaries. ...
  • CuriosityStream. Best for HD & 4K Documentaries. ...
  • Hulu. Best for Celebrity Biopics and Entertainment Insiders. ...
  • Amazon Prime Video. Best for Political Documentaries. ...
  • History Vault. ...
  • MagellanTV. ...
  • PBS Documentaries.

What is the world's longest documentary? ›

The biggest news about 100 Years Of Chrysostom Documentary is it got introduced as the longest documentary film in the world in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Where can I watch Real documentaries? ›

Watch on July 6
  • Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey. Netflix. ...
  • Our Father. Netflix. ...
  • Bad Vegan. Netflix. ...
  • The Tinder Swindler. Netflix. ...
  • Worst Roommate Ever. Netflix. ...
  • Why Did You Kill Me? Netflix. ...
  • LuLaRich. Amazon Prime. ...
  • The Raincoat Killer. Netflix.
30 Jun 2022

What are some good deep ocean documentary? ›

10 of the Best Ocean Documentaries to Stream at Home
  • Mission Blue. A superb documentary about the life and work of oceanographer and marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earl. ...
  • The Blue Planet. ...
  • Blue Planet II. ...
  • Our Planet. ...
  • Night on Earth. ...
  • Sharkwater Extinction. ...
  • James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge. ...
  • Dolphin Reef.
15 Oct 2020

Who is the most famous documentary narrator? ›

Sir David Attenborough

Attenborough is most well-known for presenting both the Life and Planet Earth series, a nine-part natural history documentary series that spanned decades.

What are the 6 types of documentaries? ›

In 1991, American film critic and theoretician Bill Nichols proposed that there were six different modes of documentary—poetic, expository, reflexive, observational, performative, and participatory—each containing its own specific characteristics.

What are the top 10 on Netflix right now? ›

Most Popular on Netflix: A Look at Today's Top 10
  • The Crown. Years: 2016-2022. Creator: Peter Morgan. ...
  • Love Is Blind 3. Year: 2022. Creator: Chris Coelen. ...
  • Ancient Apocalypse. Year: 2022. ...
  • Manifest. Year: 2022. ...
  • Warrior Nun. Year: 2022. ...
  • Where the Crawdads Sing. Year: 2022. ...
  • Falling For Christmas. Year: 2022. ...
  • The Bad Guys. Year: 2022.
14 Nov 2022

Why documentaries are the best? ›

“Documentary films tell important, often unknown stories and bring awareness to a wider audience, and are some of the best resources for information, inspiration and entertainment. They have also become core elements and prompters of social issue campaigns.”

What is the No 1 movie in the world? ›

All Time Worldwide Box Office
22019Avengers: Endgame
42015Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens
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What is the top 5 biggest movies of all time? ›

Top 10 highest grossing films of all time
  • Avatar (2009), $2.8 billion.
  • Avengers: Endgame (2019), $2.7 billion.
  • Titanic (1997), $2.2 billion.
  • Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015), $2.06 billion.
  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018), $2.04 billion.
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021), $1.9 billion.
19 Oct 2022

What was the first 2 hour movie? ›

In the 1900s, movies were typically around 15 minutes long — that was the length of one reel (depending on playback speed and a few other variables). But in 1913, that changed significantly thanks to the blockbuster Quo Vadis — a two-hour epic that wasn't just long, but had blockbuster ambitions.

What is the top 10 longest movie? ›

Poll: Longest Movies in the IMDb Top 250
  • Gone with the Wind (1939) 238 minutes or 3 hours and 58 minutes. ...
  • Once Upon a Time in America (1984) ...
  • Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001) ...
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) ...
  • Ben-Hur (1959) ...
  • Swades (2004) ...
  • Seven Samurai (1954) ...
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

What is the longest movie name? ›

Titled Night Of The Day Of The Dawn Of The Son Of The Bride Of The Return Of The Revenge Of The Terror Of The Attack Of The Evil, Mutant, Hellbound, Flesh-Eating, Crawling, Alien, Zombified, Subhumanoid Living Dead — Part 5 is a spoof written by James Riffel and released in 2011.

How do I find a documentary? ›

Where to Watch Documentaries For Free
  1. Documentaries on PBS. The main PBS site has a ton of educational and news-related content available for instant free streaming online. ...
  2. Top Documentary Films. ...
  3. Discovering Raw Archive Footage. ...
  4. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. ...
  5. Hidden Category Codes. ...
  6. Doc Alliance Films. ...
  7. Hulu. ...
  8. Discovery Channel.
6 Jan 2022

Are documentaries good for your brain? ›

It's a fun way to keep your brain active – Documentaries keep your brain active by giving your mind new information to absorb and think about. Without active learning and engaging yourself, our minds often stagnate and become stuck in the same patterns of thinking.

What is the most popular true crime story? ›

The Most Searched True Crime Story in Every U.S. State

Simpson murder case, top our list as the most searched in several states. Serial Killer David Berkowitz trails closely behind, while Aileen Wuornos, serial killer, and the Richardson family murders tie for fourth.

What is the best true crime story? ›

25 Great True Crime Stories: True Crime Articles to Read Online
  • Murder. The Body in Room 348 by Mark Bowden. ...
  • Organised Crime. Crimetown USA by David Grann. ...
  • White Collar Crime. The $9 Billion Witness by Matt Taibbi. ...
  • Scams. Only Fools and Horses by Barney Curley. ...
  • Forgery. The Great Paper Caper by Wells Tower.

What are true crime documentaries? ›

Stranger than fiction — and way more unsettling. These documentary films and series investigate the unbelievable stories of true crimes.

What movie has the most beautiful scenery? ›

All are essential viewing.
  • 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' (2013)
  • 'Lawrence of Arabia' (1962)
  • 'House of Flying Daggers' (2004)
  • 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy (2001-3)
  • 'Out of Africa' (1985)
  • 'March of the Penguins' (2005)
  • 'An Inconvenient Truth' (2006)
  • 'Into the Wild' (2007)
31 Mar 2021

What is a most beautiful thing rated? ›

December 4, 2020 | Rating: 8.5/10 | Full Review… Mary Mazzio, writer/director of "A Most Beautiful Thing," takes us on an inspiring 'call to action' voyage - her sharp lens brings us one of the Best documentaries of 2020.

What is the best and most beautiful things in the world Cannot be seen or even touched they must be felt with the heart? ›

Helen Keller Quotes

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.

What is the deepest secret of the ocean? ›

The absolute deepest point of the ocean is called Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench. It's about 11,000m below sea level, which means if we put Mt. Everest at depth of Challenger Deep, you would have to swim at least a mile to get to the surface.

What is the most mysterious things found in the ocean? ›

Eight mysteries from the deep sea
  1. The Baltic Sea Anomaly. The eerie 'Bloop' was once thought to originate from a whale. ...
  2. The Bloop. ...
  3. Underwater crop circles. ...
  4. The 'Atlantis of Japan' ...
  5. Narwhal tusks. ...
  6. The Mary Celeste. ...
  7. The Bermuda Triangle. ...
  8. The unmapped ocean floor.

What is the best shark documentary? ›

6 Great Documentaries About Sharks
  • 6/6 Shark Girl (2014)
  • 5/6 Of Shark And Man.
  • 4/6 Shark Nation (2013)
  • 3/6 This Is Your Ocean: Sharks (2012)
  • 2/6 Sharkwater (2006)
  • 1/6 Galapagos: Realm Of Giant Sharks (2015)
10 Jul 2022

Who made the first documentary? ›

Nanook of the North - by American filmmaker, Robert Flaherty (1922) - Considered the first "original" documentary, this film profiles the lives of a real Eskimo family. 1926 - the first recorded mention of the term "documentary" (by Scottish-born filmmaker John Grierson) to describe a non-fiction film.

Who is the best narrator in movies? ›

The Best Narrators in Movie History
  • Goodfellas – Ray Liotta.
  • Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Robert Downey Jr.
  • Clueless – Alicia Silverstone.
  • The Shawshank Redemption – Morgan Freeman.
  • Taxi Driver – Robert De Niro.
  • Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Boris Karloff.
  • Juno – Elliot Page.
  • Fight Club – Edward Norton.
27 Sept 2022

Who presented Best documentary Oscar? ›

Just know that in 2022, this is not just a 1969 story about marginalized people in Harlem.” He took a pause, saying he was overwhelmed by the moment. Watch the speech below. The award was presented to Questlove by Chris Rock, who had just been struck by Will Smith following a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

What is the most popular type of documentary? ›

Expository Documentary Films

One of the most familiar and popular types of documentary is Expository Documentaries. These are designed to help convince, inform or persuade viewers. It uses a narrator throughout the film and often presents an argument for what is right or wrong.

What is a short documentary? ›

Mini documentaries are essentially short documentaries. Whereas a feature-length documentary can run as long as a full-length motion picture, mini documentaries can be as short as a few minutes long, though they typically run between 10 - 30 minutes in length.

What is new media documentary? ›

New media documentary, with its distinct features, not only enforce documentary filmmakers to think, imagine, design, and develop documentary projects within new forms, but also enable them to make documentary in different ways. In short, it offers new forms of representation and production for documentary filmmakers.

What is the most watched on Netflix 2022? ›

As of October 2022, the most popular English-language Netflix TV show of all time was the fourth season of American science-fiction series "Stranger Things," based on number of hours viewed in the show's first 28 days on the platform. It counted over 1.3 billion hours viewed.

What is the most popular movie today? ›

30 Most Popular Movies Right Now
  • #1. Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022) 93% 89% ...
  • #2. Strange World (2022) 74% 39% ...
  • #3. The Menu (2022) 89% 76% ...
  • #4. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) 84% 85% ...
  • #5. Spirited (2022) 69% 82% ...
  • #6. Bones and All (2022) ...
  • #7. The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (2022) ...
  • #8. The Wonder (2022)

What are the 3 types of documentaries? ›

In this VOD we examine 3 different types of documentaries: Observational, Expository and Participatory. You will see examples of films that have used each of the 3 types of genre successfully.

Has a documentary ever won an Oscar? ›

In 1941, the first awards for feature-length documentaries were bestowed as Special Awards to Kukan and Target for Tonight. They have since been bestowed competitively each year, with the exception of 1946.
Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Film
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What is the greatest trilogy ever made? ›

The 33 Greatest Movie Trilogies
  • The Blade Trilogy.
  • The Millenium Trilogy. ...
  • The Mariachi Trilogy. ...
  • Trilogy of the Dead. ...
  • Mission: Impossible 1-3. Mission: Impossible (1996) ...
  • The Ingmar Bergman Trilogy. Through A Glass Darkly (1961) ...
  • Hannibal Lecter Trilogy. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) ...
  • The Jersey Trilogy. Clerks (1994) ...
4 Jun 2022

What is the greatest year in movie history? ›

1939 is pretty much the consensus for the best year in movie history, and when you look at all the classics that came out that year, it's hard to argue against it. So many classics came out this year. We had Gone With The Wind, which remains to this day the highest earning film of all time, adjusted for inflation.

What's the best documentary on Netflix at the moment? ›

Inspiring DocumentariesExplore more
  • Down to Earth with Zac Efron.
  • Night on Earth.
  • Magical Andes.
  • Chef's Table: Pizza.
  • Our Great National Parks.
  • Last Chance U.
  • Pelé
  • Bigger Than Africa.

What is one of the most successful film series of all times? ›

As of 2022, the 30 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe form the highest-grossing film series even when adjusted for inflation, surpassing J. K. Rowling's Wizarding World (11 films), Star Wars (12 films), Ian Fleming's James Bond (27 films), and J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth (6 films) series.

What is the most successful movie sequel? ›

Highest-grossing sequels
1Avengers: Endgame2019
2Star Wars: The Force Awakens2015
3Avengers: Infinity War2018
4Spider-Man: No Way Home2021
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What are the best movie sequels ever? ›

The 10 best movie sequels ever made
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Trailer. 82 % ...
  • Aliens (1986) Trailer. 84 % ...
  • The Godfather Part II (1974) Trailer. ...
  • The Dark Knight (2008) Trailer. ...
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) Trailer. ...
  • Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Trailer. ...
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) Trailer. ...
  • Creed (2015) Trailer.
10 Nov 2022

Who is the best modern day director? ›

The 25 best directors working today
  • 1 of 25. Martin Scorsese. Colombia Pictures. ...
  • 2 of 25. Spike Lee. Universal Pictures. ...
  • 3 of 25. Greta Gerwig. A24. ...
  • 4 of 25. Jean Luc-Godard. Criterion Collection. ...
  • 5 of 25. Adam McKay. DreamWork Pictures. ...
  • 6 of 25. Pedro Almodovar. Sony Pictures Classics. ...
  • 7 of 25. Quentin Tarantino. ...
  • 8 of 25. Claire Denis.
10 Nov 2022

What do you call people who do documentaries? ›

doc·​u·​men·​tar·​i·​an ˌdä-kyə-mən-ˈter-ē-ən. -ˌmen-, -kyü- : one who makes a documentary.

Who is the greatest movie hero of all time? ›

1Atticus FinchTo Kill a Mockingbird
2Indiana JonesRaiders of the Lost Ark
3James BondDr. No
4Rick BlaineCasablanca
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What are the top 3 movies playing on Netflix right now? ›

Find out what U.S. subscribers are watching right now.
  1. Slumberland (2022)
  2. Where the Crawdads Sing (2022) ...
  3. The Bad Guys (2022) ...
  4. Falling for Christmas (2022) ...
  5. Christmas With You (2022) ...
  6. The Wonder (2022) ...
  7. Sing 2 (2021) ...
4 days ago

What is number 1 on Netflix now? ›

Netflix Top 10 in the United States
1(1)The Lincoln Lawyer
2(4)Wrong Side of the Tracks
3(5)Jackass 4.5
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What are the top 10 movies now playing on Netflix? ›

The 10 most popular movies on Netflix right now
  • Capturing the Killer Nurse (2022) Trailer. ...
  • Enola Holmes 2 (2022) Trailer. ...
  • Christmas with You (2022) Trailer. ...
  • The Wonder (2022) Trailer. ...
  • I Am Vanessa Guillen (2022) Trailer. ...
  • R.I.P.D. 2: Rise of the Damned (2022) Trailer. ...
  • The Bad Guys (2022) Trailer. ...
  • Slumberland (2022) Trailer.
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