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30 Best Documentaries On Amazon Prime [August 2022]

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 1, 2022: 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!

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.

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.

Burning

The year 2020 quickly became infamous for all manner of cataclysmic reasons, from the coronavirus pandemic (and the empty grocery shelves, lockdowns, and stock market woes that came with it) to the U.S. government releasing videos of UFOs.

Amidst all the chaos, it's important not to forget that one of the year's biggest disasters came right up front. 2020 opened with large swathes of an entire continent (millions of acres, all told) on fire. "Burning" tells the story of this rampant destruction, occurring as a result of climate change, that Australians dubbed the "Black Summer."

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.

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

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.

Dear Mr. Watterson

Comic strips still run in hundreds of daily and Sunday newspapers around the world. However, over the last 100 years, only a handful have made a deep and profound impact on readers and popular culture alike, demonstrating that three or so hand-drawn panels of sequential art can be just as powerful and moving as a piece of literature as a novel or poem. "Calvin and Hobbes," which ran from 1985 to 1995, is one of those comics — the wordy, cerebral adventures of precocious, troublemaking 6-year-old Calvin and his best friend, a stuffed tiger that comes to life (probably only in his imagination), with whom he has deep conversations about the universe and human nature. Creator Bill Watterson is an extremely private person, and "Dear Mr. Watterson" finds fan Joel Allen Schroeder attempting to get inside of the head and inspirations of the author, all while talking to other artists and creative types who wax poetic about the comic strip's status and importance.

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.

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.

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.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Narrated by Johnny Depp, who played the notorious writer in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Gonzo" is a spirited depiction of the life and career of journalistic revolutionary Hunter S. Thompson. It's hard to say whether Thompson is better known for pioneering "gonzo journalism," which places the writer front-and-center in the story being told, or for his daily routine, which began at 3 p.m. and included copious amounts of cocaine, psychedelics, and junk food. Either way, this inside look at his life and work is one you won't want to miss.

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.

The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks

Legends of cult comedy and extremely influential on all sketch comics who came after them, the Kids in the Hall emerged from the gritty Toronto club scene in the 1980s to star on their own titular show broadcast throughout Canada and the United States, making legends out of members Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Scott Thompson, Mark McKinney, and Bruce McCulloch. Their history was as tumultuous as it was fruitful, however, akin to that of a great classic rock band, and "Comedy Punks" feels like a rockumentary more than a documentary, tracing the band's rise (with rare early footage) and quantifying their impact with interviews and testimonials. The Kids, despite their punk rock sensibility, were a band of brothers, in art and life, and their story is fascinating, delightful, and even heartbreaking.

A LEGO Brickumentary

It's a documentary about the big impact of something small — LEGO bricks. Heartwarming and even profound, "A LEGO Brickumentary" is not the story of LEGO itself so much as it is the story of the tremendous, overwhelming positive effect LEGO has had on the world. Tens of millions of kids have grown up playing with the Danish-made toy for generations, building whatever they want, brick by brick, or just following the pictogram instructions. This documentary shows just how universal of an experience it is for kids and adults to play with LEGO and make creations, art, and even solutions to problems that are wholly their own. Filmmakers pepper the movie with interviews with real people about their love of LEGO and why it's much an important and personal subject.

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."

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.

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.

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.

A Man Named Scott

Before he was famous, American rapper Kid Cudi was, as this documentary calls him, a man named Scott. That man would become one of the biggest influences on hip hop of the 2010s. Fans of the genre have much to thank him for, especially having the courage to overcome personal and professional struggles and his willingness to address difficult topics like mental illness in his music. This engrossing film chronicles his journey with enthusiasm and skill.

My Name Is Pauli Murray

According to the critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, the subject of "My Name Is Pauli Murray" is an "unsung — yet hugely important — individual." Both of these things are true, but the documentary attempts to remedy the "unsung" part by painting a picture of the gender-nonconforming Black lawyer and activist who championed women's rights under the 14th Amendment. And because it's told for the most part from Murray's own perspective, the documentary treats the activist's nuanced view of (and journey with) gender identity as integral to that activism itself.

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.

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%

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.

Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World

Indigenous musicians have had an undeniable impact on the evolution of music in America, but they're not a group we often hear about in that context. "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World" highlights some of these unsung heroes. It begins this necessary effort by arguing, as Al Hoff of the Pittsburgh City Paper puts it, that "Western forms of music incorporated the rhythm and vocal stylings of traditional Native American music." If this explicit connection and degree of influence surprises viewers, that's all the more evidence for how necessary a documentary "Rumble" is.

  • Directors: Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana

  • Year: 2017

  • Runtime: 103 minutes

  • Rating: Not Rated

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91%

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?

Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley was an actor as a child and young adult, starring in popular, Canadian-produced TV shows like "Ramona" and "Road to Avonlea" and in films like "Go" and "My Life Without Me." In the 2000s, she shifted to filmmaking, and her first documentary is the autobiographical investigation "Stories We Tell," a film compiled via interviews, narration, and achingly nostalgic re-creations shot to look like old home movies. 

Polley's mother died the week the actor turned 11, and she is the one person she can't ask about her chief discovery — that Michael Polley is not her biological father. Instead, it's a Montreal-based producer named Harry Gulkin. "Stories We Tell" is Polley's reckoning with this very personal information, as well as how it affects her identity and her definition of family.

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.

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.

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."

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.