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30 Best Documentaries On Amazon Prime [September 2021]

Whether they're in-depth portraits of underrepresented areas of society or detailed accounts of bizarre crimes, documentaries are an indispensable form of entertainment and education. We love them because they can keep us on the edges of our seats like thrillers, warm our hearts like family dramas, and make us laugh like comedies — all while helping us learn something.

While it's perhaps not as well-known as a certain other streaming giant for its library of original documentaries, Amazon Prime Video has a lot to offer in the genre. With these pieces, you can look inside the lives of everyone from famous actors to largely anonymous booksellers and, believe it or not, murder victims. No matter what you're into, Amazon's streaming service has a documentary for you.

Updated on August 26, 2021: There are dozens of compelling documentary films and series available on Prime Video, and that library is constantly being updated. This list reflects the best documentaries you can currently catch on Prime, so be sure to check back each month for new additions to the streaming service!

Val

If you haven't seen Val Kilmer around lately, you might be wondering what he's been up to. The answer may surprise you: Since 2017, he's been public about his diagnosis of throat cancer, a sickness he beat but that has resulted in diminished use of his voice as well as difficulty eating.

That doesn't mean that Kilmer has really lost his voice, though. In a searingly authentic look at his life in his own words — narrated poignantly by his son — we see him at his most vulnerable, and we love him even more. Maybe it's because we're finally seeing him through his own camera lens (which he's been using to document his life since childhood) instead of someone else's.

Long Strange Trip

The title of the documentary "Long Strange Trip" refers to a quintessential Grateful Dead lyric from their 1970 song "Truckin'," but it could also be understood as a nod to the film's four-hour runtime. The line "what a long, strange trip it's been" has taken a journey of its own on the way to cultural immortality: Like many other lyrics and the Dead themselves, it's been referenced, parodied, imitated, and honored more times than we can count.

The 2017 documentary is yet another homage, this time featuring fresh interviews with living band members, relevant colleagues, and friends. Oh, and it's executive-produced by Martin Scorsese: If anyone knows when a long movie is worth watching, it's the director of "The Irishman."

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

When you die, what do you want to leave behind for your children? Both death and legacy are often out of our control. But in the case of Andrew Bagby, who was found murdered after he broke up with a woman named Shirley, he had some friends and family who cared deeply enough about him to create a cinematic scrapbook of his life. This way, his son Zachary — whom Shirley announced she was pregnant with after she became a murder suspect — could one day come to know him.

But "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father" doesn't just chronicle the past; it traces the evolution of Zachary's story as it unfolds, and makes a tragic but important point about how we care for vulnerable children.

Sunshine Hotel

"Sunshine Hotel," the first documentary by filmmaker and photojournalist Michael Dominic, is less about the building located at 245 Bowery in Manhattan, and more about the lives of the people who inhabited it.

The titular establishment was a "flophouse," a single room occupancy residence designed for low-cost lodging. As the Sunshine Hotel's formerly notorious neighborhood became increasingly gentrified, Michael Dominic created one of the last links to its colorful history and the unforgettable people who called it home.

Lorena

Warning: Graphic content in this slide. Which you might have guessed if you associated the name of the documentary "Lorena" with Lorena Bobbitt. Unsurprisingly, the story of a wife who cut off her husband's penis while he was sleeping has sort of been lost in the hurricane of tabloid sensation and off-color humor that immediately sprang up around the scandal when it happened.

"Lorena" offers us a truer, more intimate look at the humans behind the legend — yes, both of them. Lorena claimed she was retaliating against domestic violence and sexual assault. John also details his memory of the events leading up to the incident. Executive produced by Jordan Peele, "Lorena" is both a moral inquiry and a wild ride.

The New Yorker Presents

Did you ever buy one of those super-discounted New Yorker subscriptions (maybe one of the ones with the free tote bag) and then watch the subscriptions pile up each month without reading a single article? Well, now you can get some of that New Yorker content you've been feeling guilty about missing, and you don't have to turn a single page. Instead, try "The New Yorker Presents": a multi-modal exploration of art that blends documentary with poetry and animation.

  • Director: Multiple directors over various episodes

  • Year: 2015

  • Runtime: Multiple episodes, 30 minutes each

  • Rating: M

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%

Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer

There's no shortage of serial killer films in the modern canon, from dramatizations to documentaries. But the true crime docuseries "Ted Bundy: Falling for a Killer" purports to tackle the story of one of history's most infamous killers from a new vantage point.

This work elevates the perspective of Bundy's victims rather than glamorizing him for entertainment value, and also situates his pathological, woman-hating persona in the feminist cultural context he inhabited at the time. It's a look at Bundy as you've likely never seen him before.

Chivas: El Rebaño Sagrado

C.D. Guadalajara, the popular Mexican professional football club, is more often known by their nickname, Chivas. This is the Spanish word for "goat," and it actually sprang out of an insult from fans of Club Atlas (one of the Chivas' chief rivals). But they reclaimed the nickname with affection over time, and rightfully so: The team has all the strength, stubbornness, and adaptability of their namesakes.

"Chivas: El Rebaño Sagrado" follows the team after the death of their legendary owner Jorge Vergara in November 2019. His son Amaury inherits the responsibility, but he also inherits scandals and feuds — just in time for the pandemic to begin. A story of struggle, triumph, and heart, "Chivas" is an unforgettable sports documentary.

  • Director: N/A

  • Year: 2021

  • Runtime: varying lengths (4 episodes)

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

Free Meek

"Dreams and Nightmares" rapper Meek Mill was embroiled in a battle with the U.S. justice system for 12 years beginning in 2007. It is this battle that takes center stage in "Free Meek," which follows the seemingly predatory actions of Mill's judge, who repeatedly sent him back to prison for minor alleged parole violations. Both Mill and rapper Jay-Z executive-produced the project, and they also co-founded the REFORM Alliance, which focuses on reforming the justice and probationary systems.

The Tesla Files

If you're like a lot of modern consumers, you may not have cable anymore, but you can still catch some History Channel specials on various streaming services. Amazon Prime has a particularly interesting option available: "The Tesla Files," which is part documentary, part dramatization, all mystery regarding the man who might have revolutionized the modern world — if not for his untimely and suspicious death.

  • Director: N/A

  • Year: 2018

  • Runtime: 43 minutes per episode (5 episodes)

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

Rewind

Imagine if people could play events of their lives back, looking to reconstruct evidence of abuse. One might want to find the answers, but it would also be incredibly painful to relive. There is one family at the center of "Rewind," but the camcorder footage from the family's past reveals multiple instances of child abuse, as well as the events surrounding these instances.

The documentary is serious stuff, and three prosecutions came out of the ordeal. The documentary leaves us and its subjects with hope that through looking back and gaining closure, survivors of abuse may find the strength to move forward.

The Booksellers

There are a lot of movies based on books, but how many movies do you know of that are actually about books? On the surface, it may not sound like the most exciting premise, but "The Booksellers" offers what amounts to a magical window into the world of rare book dealing in New York City, featuring prominent authors and personalities along the way.

Nas: Time is Illmatic

In April of 1994, Nas released his debut album, "Illmatic." Twenty years later almost to the day, "Nas: Time Is Illmatic" premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and offered a detailed account of the events that led up to the album's release. From his parents' influence to his memories of youth, Nas takes us through the experiences and emotions that went into his landmark achievement.

Sensitive: The Untold Story

If you're reading this with the brightness on your screen turned down ... If you cry easily and can see yourself shedding a tear over some of the items on this list ... If you will let your heart guide you when you choose which one to watch ... You might be a highly sensitive person!

These aren't all of the tendencies that describe a temperament trait that's found in 20% of the population. "Sensitive: The Untold Story" offers both self-acceptance and self-exploration — and does so scientifically — for anyone who might have felt or been told they're "too sensitive," or have someone in their life who fits the description.

  • Director: Will Harper

  • Year: 2015

  • Runtime: 63 minutes

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

Fed Up

On the back of pretty much every package of food in America, there's a little box full of information. At the top of that box, its bold and unequivocal title promises "Nutrition Facts." But in terms of nutrition in America, there are a lot of facts missing — and even willfully hidden — from the public eye.

A label might tell you what's in a product, but you don't know exactly how those elements will affect you. "Fed Up" details how, through lobbying and misinformation, the health of the "Big Sugar" industry won out over the health and informedness of the American people.

Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest

The hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest was a revolutionary force. Though the original members of the group have had their ups and downs, both individually and as an ensemble, their words and their name remain a legend in the alternative hip-hop world.

With a score composed by Madlib, the documentation of the Tribe's travels is sure to please any hip-hop fan. And whether or not the genre is your favorite, this intimate portrait of four pioneering individuals will leave you with lots to think about in terms of art, friendship, and life.

The Mystery of Chaco Canyon

With the tagline "America's Stonehenge?" you can be certain that "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon" will raise all kinds of interesting questions about humanity, civilization, and life on Earth.

Whether it answers those questions is an entirely different issue, but you'll find this documentary about massive ceremonial structures built to align with celestial patterns engaging either way. Even though the documentary is more than two decades old, the millennia-old mystery comes alive in this film. And unanswered questions are part of the magic.

  • Director: Anna Sofaer

  • Year: 1999

  • Runtime: 56 minutes

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump

Before, during, and after his tenure as Commander-in-Chief, members of the public have speculated as to the mental state of Donald Trump. While mental illness itself certainly doesn't preclude a person from the ability to hold public office, the particular behavior exhibited by the former President prompted a lot of conjecture among laypeople.

Now, in "#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump," we get licensed psychologists' take on the questions many members of the public have been asking themselves for years about the seeming narcissism, paranoia, and sadism of the (formerly) most powerful man on the planet.

The Sunshine Makers

The 1960s are basically synonymous with counterculture, and at the center of that counterculture was one "mind-expanding" substance: LSD. During that far-out decade, underground chemists Nicholas Sand and Tim Scully produced millions of hits of acid and awakened a psychedelic revolution in America, all while dodging the law like a real-life Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. "The Sunshine Makers" illuminates an astonishing era of history and two of the people who helped define it.

Citizenfour

One of the closest things to a thriller on this list, "Citizenfour" is riveting cinema whether you're looking to learn or sweat. It is unique because the documentarian behind the narrative actually takes part in it at the same time. The picture that Laura Poitras paints is one of the most intimate looks we get at Edward Snowden in the wake of the NSA spying scandal, and we find ourselves looking on anxiously as the lives of both Poitras and Snowden — and the trust of Americans in their institutions — are turned upside down.

The Imposter

"The Imposter" is the perfect mix of documentary elements: archival TV footage, a peppering of reenactments, and most importantly, interviews with both sides of an elaborate true-crime-style scam. It's quite dramatic for a documentary, told with true narrative cohesion and profound sensitivity to its subject matter.

And that subject matter seems almost too insane to be true: Frédéric Bourdin, while impersonating a missing child (whom he looked nothing like), somehow managed to trick not only several government agencies in the United States and Spain, but members of the child's own family. Getting to know this odd character is one of the most compelling parts of the film, as his childlike charisma clashes with his lack of remorse for taking advantage of a grieving family.

No No: A Dockumentary

On the face of it, "No No: A Dockumentary" looks like a sports treatment — and sports fans will certainly enjoy it for those elements. But its depiction of addiction and fame, buoyed by colorful images and a '70s soundtrack, will delight viewers of any background. Dock Ellis' life and baseball career, including the no-hitter he pitched while on LSD, are just plain interesting, whether you're an avid sports fan or not.

Bones Brigade: An Autobiography

For many years, skateboarding held the reputation of a pastime at best and a public nuisance at worst, and there were definitely people out there who would scoff to consider it a sport. But over time, the passionate practitioners of the craft have earned a place for skateboarding as both an industry and an athletic discipline. The sport even made its debut as an Olympic event at the 2021 Tokyo Games.

In "Bones Brigade: An Autobiography" we get a look into the lives of the skateboarders and entrepreneurs — including Tony Hawk — whose passion and determination helped build the sport into the sensation it is today.

Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton

There are plenty of alleged alien abduction cases that have been summarily debunked, or were never convincing enough in the first place to warrant any further investigation. But this story is different.

"Travis: The True Story of Travis Walton" is not the first film to be made about the titular former forestry worker's alleged UFO abduction. It's become one of the most recognized stories of its kind in pop culture — "Fire in the Sky" famously dramatized the incident in 1993. But this 2015 documentary is better than a dramatic interpretation: We get to hear from Walton himself and decide on our own whether to believe him.

  • Director: Jennifer Stein

  • Year: 2015

  • Runtime: 90 minutes

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes score: N/A

Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie

Who could tell the story of Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, and their family better than the couple's own daughter, Lucie Arnaz? "Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie" is just like any other home movie, except that the firsthand family footage depicts two of the most famous people in the country at the time.

Along with video from Ball and Arnaz's home life, their daughter has compiled interviews with friends (you know, chums like Bob Hope), family, and colleagues to really flesh out the image of a TV couple who seemed larger than life to their "I Love Lucy" audiences but, to the director of the film, were just Mom and Dad.

Time

In a moment of desperation, a husband and wife committed an armed bank robbery. But the American justice system left no room for their side of the story when it sentenced Rob G. Rich to spend a large chunk of his life in prison. Since then, his wife Fox Rich, who served three and a half years, has been campaigning for his release. She helps tell their story — that of their family and their struggle for justice — in the poignant documentary "Time."

Dior and I

Even if you struggle to put together a matching outfit every morning, you'll still get something out of the documentary "Dior and I." (Though if you are into fashion, you'll absolutely love it.) The piece is beautifully put together and features cameos by numerous Hollywood stars, but what really makes it engaging is its indulgent look into a niche world that many people never get access to. And there are even some stakes involved as Raf Simons works to pull together his first collection at the Dior fashion house.

Chicken People

You've heard of show dogs. If you're a fan of "Charlotte's Web," maybe you've even heard of show pigs. But would you believe that there's also such a thing as show chickens? Yep, it's an entire competitive world in which people breed and raise poultry specifically for presentation and competition. The documentary has the zany pitch of a comedy, but that just makes it all the more amazing to realize that the bizarre world it depicts is actually real.

Sour Grapes

Technically, "Sour Grapes" is a crime documentary, but that designation really doesn't do justice to how outlandish its story really is. The tale revolves around Rudy Kurniawan, a collector and enthusiast of wine who apparently knew it better than just about anyone — because he sold cheap wines as super-expensive varieties instead and got away with it simply by forging the labels. He defrauded his customers out of millions of dollars ... but honestly, if you're insisting on the finest wines, shouldn't you make sure you're able to taste the difference?

LuLaRich

From the people who brought you "Fyre Fraud" (need we say more?) comes an equally disastrous four-part saga, this time centering around the most unlikely of villains: leggings. More specifically, "LuLaRich," one of the newest original documentaries from Amazon, surveys the whirlwind rise and ruinous fall of the LuLaRoe multi-level marketing empire.

The documentary features stories from those who were lured into the fiasco by empowering language and promises of self-made riches. Now, these people are struggling to rebuild their lives and lost savings. Dozens are also pursuing lawsuits after "careers" selling leggings on Facebook to other women in the same boat failed to produce the promised rewards.

Is it a comedy of errors or a tragedy by design? You be the judge.