Movies transport us to other places and times. They create immersive experiences. Documentaries show other parts of the world in astonishing clarity and humanize stories that might otherwise seem abstract or far-off. In addition, they inspire audiences to take action. And, they can even be funny. 2019 has seen many powerful works of nonfiction on film. The small and happy story in The Biggest Little Farm explored the eternal dream of returning to the land. Humorous tales like that of the ill-fated Fyre Festival provided ample laughs. Epics like For Sama exposed the brutal reality of modern warfare. These films show the highs and lows of the human condition. Here’s a list of 10 of the year’s best documentaries. These movies entertain with true stories of adventure, horror, and romance.
Cover Photo: Netflix
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10. ‘Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened’
The Fyre Festival is perhaps the largest fraud in music history since Milli Vanilli. Streaming on Netflix, this doc captures this bizarre moment in pop culture like a really stupid time capsule.
Photo: Library Films
9. ‘American Factory”
If you think globalized trade will revitalize the American heartland, the documentary
American Factory will quickly set you straight. This is the true story of a Chinese billionaire warring with a small American community. Photo: Higher Ground Productions
8. ‘The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley’
Elizabeth Holmes hoodwinked moron billionaires like Rupert Murdoch, Betsy DeVos and others with her fake blood-testing company Theranos but has never spent a night in jail. This doc tells that story, as well as how wealthy criminals are above the law in America.
Photo: HBO Documentary Films
7. ‘Leaving Neverland’
The story of two underage boys being sexually abused by Michael Jackson is not light viewing. However, this well-made documentary and its astonishing interviews make this the film equivalent of rubbernecking a car wreck.
Photo: Amos Pictures
6. ‘General Magic’
This film is about the ill-fated early '90s Silicon Valley startup General Magic, which developed the concept for smartphones long before IOS or Android existed. It’s no surprise the company failed; when pitched the concept for eBay, they turned it down and even laughed the idea out of the room.
Photo: Spellbound Productions
5. ‘Apollo 11’
This doc cracks open NASA’s archives, showing the efforts to put a man on the moon in vivid color. If you’re an explorer in your heart or dreamer that looks up at the stars, this is definitely worth a watch.
Photo: CNN Films
4. ‘The Biggest Little Farm’
Have you ever dreamed of quitting your job, starting a farm and living off the land? This documentary is the captivating story of a couple from Los Angeles who do just that.
Photo: Diamond Docs
This visually stunning documentary is about a beekeeper in Macedonia who takes only half the honey and tries to live in harmony with nature. Unfortunately for her, a new neighbor seeks to exploit the area’s natural systems, causing tension in the rural community.
Photo: Apollo Media
2. ‘For Sama’
The heart-wrenching story of a Syrian woman’s life over five years of civil war is rendered as one of the year’s most powerful documentaries in
For Sama. This award-winning film goes beyond facts and statistics, showing what modern war looks like firsthand. Photo: Channel 4 News
1. ‘Sea of Shadows’
Coming in at number one is Richard Ladkani’s
Sea of Shadows, which is a real-life action movie about noble warriors battling to save the nearly-extinct vaquita porpoise. These adorable little whales are collateral damage in the hunt for totoaba fish, a species endangered by the millions of infertile middle-aged Chinese men who have apparently never heard of Viagra. Photo: Terra Mater Factual Studios