Documentaries are wonderful for gaining insight into people, events, and cultural topics in ways that are informative and easy to digest. There were a ton of incredible documentaries released this past year. Below are just a few of our favorites.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz continue to be beloved TV stars – even decades after the show’s original airing and long since their passing. Amy Poehler, who admired and looked up to Ball, directed this documentary, which explores the couple’s partnership, from their early days in Hollywood, the height of I Love Lucy, and the end of their lives. The documentary explores the struggles they faced in the industry and gives an intimate look into their lives. Watch now on Amazon Prime.
In 2020, Part 1 of The Vow, a docu-series about the NXIVM sex cult, opened our eyes to the horrific actions and secret goings on of this “human potential development” group and a deep dive into founder Keith Raniere and high-ranking members of the cult, Sarah Edmondson and Mark Vicente, and their escape. In the newly released Part 2, more secrets are exposed. We learn more about the group’s legal trouble and see interviews with devoted members. Watch now on HBO Max.
In this Netflix documentary, we enter the ’90s and early 2000s, the peak era for the preppy fashion brand Abercrombie & Fitch. The film goes behind the scenes of the once-thriving brand and its discriminatory practices regarding race, class, and more. White Hot lets us into all the business decisions executives made that brought Abercrombie to the height of its popularity – and its ultimate fall from grace. Watch now on Netflix.
Though troubling to watch, Leave No Trace is an important documentary, as it explores the epidemic of sexual abuse within the Boy Scouts. The film shares interviews with brave survivors and archival footage through the lens of director Irene Taylor Brodsky, who takes great care to investigate how the Boy Scouts methodically covered up all the wrongdoings within the organization for so long and its failure to help the more than 82,000 scouts who have since stepped forward. Watch now on Hulu.
The Territory is a National Geographic documentary that provides viewers with an immersive insight into the life and struggles of the indigenous Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people of Brazil as they face the intruding deforestation brought upon by farmers and illegal settlers in the Amazon. In the film, we are granted access to the area, with some footage filmed by the Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau people themselves. Watch now on Disney+.