ICYMI, YouTube Has Tons of Fascinating (and Free!) Documentaries Streaming Right Now
Whether you're into uplifting documentaries, current events, history, or stories of true-crime, at some point, you might feel like you've run out of interesting documentaries to watch. Sure, there are some great options on Netflix and HBO, but without subscriptions, it can be hard to find the ones worth watching between all the conspiracy theories and low-quality footage online. Thankfully, Netflix recently released some of their documentaries on YouTube for free, and with a little digging, we've found some other hidden gems, too. It's time to put on your loungewear, make some popcorn, and get excited, because we've rounded up the 25 best free documentaries on YouTube.
Michael Moore Presents: Planet of the Humans
Michael Moore Presents: Planet of the Humans serves as wake-up call to Americans and how we view climate change. The film argues that corporate America has us convinced that technology will provide alternatives that will slow climate change, when the real issue is our "out-of-control human presence and consumption."
This 2016 doc directed by Ava DuVernay examines the US prison system and shows how racial inequality is the driving force of our mass incarceration. Despite being home to only five percent of the world's population, the US makes up 25 percent of the world's prisoners. The investigation into why is incredibly jarring.
Knock Down the House
This emotional film follows four female candidates (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin) in their race for Congress in 2018, providing a closer look at the intersection of government and female empowerment.
The White Helmets
This shorter documentary follows the story of a group of first responders risking their lives to rescue victims of daily air strikes in Syria.
Period. End of Sentence.
In an inspirational short documentary set in rural India, women challenge sexism and the stigma of menstruation by making low-cost sanitary pads on a new machine.
Incredible camera designers, marine biologists, an ad man, and a coral nerd invent the first lapse camera to record the bleaching of coral reefs as it happens. This film follows the difficult journey and shows the results.
The ancient Chinese game of Go has been considered a touchstone challenge for artificial intelligence. This film shows a legendary master of Go making history by playing against an AI challenger at a challenge match in South Korea.
British artist Banksy and British film director Danny Boyle team up to create a moving (and somewhat controversial) nativity play at The Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, Palestine.
The Next Black
This film explores the future of clothing through innovative brands like Patagonia, Studio XO, and Adidas, as well as Biocouture, a pioneer in using biomaterials for fashion.
The Future of Fashion With Alexa Chung in New York
Filmed by British Vogue, Alexa Chung visits PR guru Brian Phillips, Opening Ceremony retailers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, and fashion blogger Leandra Medine to discuss success and the future of the fashion industry.
Paris Is Burning
This iconic LGBTQ+ film follows drag queens in New York City, and teaches about voguing and "house" culture. It's beautiful, exciting, and heartbreaking all at the same time.
Anonymous: The Hacker Wars
This is the story of "anarchic troll provocateur" Andrew Auernheimer, prodigy hacker Jeremy Hammond, and journalist Barrett Brown, three people whose separate goal of exposing secrets caused collisions with big corporations, the FBI, and each other.
The Facebook Dilemma, Part One
This is part one (continue to the next slide for part two) of the story of Frontline's multiple warnings to Facebook about their negative impact on privacy and democracy, and how those warnings were ignored for the sake of growth.
The Facebook Dilemma, Part Two
In the second half of this two-part documentary, Facebook's failure to protect users' data and sharing of "fake news" come into question, raising concern that Facebook could be causing harm in the real world.
On the Streets
Journalist Lisa Biagiotti follows a homeless data map to have conversations with people who are living without a home, and connects homelessness to other issues in the community at large.
Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos
This documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at how Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos built one of the largest and most influential companies in the world, while also addressing the cost of Amazon's convenience.
True Crime Story: Dangerous Company (Crime Documentary) | Real Stories
This true-crime documentary gives a glimpse of the lives of international drug traffickers in Kentucky. A former undercover narcotics agent (who wasn't making enough money illegally selling the drugs from busts) teams up with a street-smart businessman to form "The Company," as a front to smuggle drugs. The Real Stories YouTube channel has a ton of docs, long and short, to keep you busy for a while.
Human Zoos: America's Forgotten History of Scientific Racism
This horrifying story uncovers the history of how thousands of indigenous peoples were put on public display in America in the 20th century, and how "science" was used to justify harassment and racial inequality.
This informative film gives 23 international thinkers (including government and Wall Street men) a chance to speak about how to establish a moral society. While it can be disheartening to hear about the failed corrupt systems that lead to inequality and poverty, they also provide hope by discussing solutions and new ways of thinking.
Organic Food: Hype or Hope?
While this film is short (43 minutes), it addresses the growing demand of organic food, questions the authenticity of labels, and looks into whether or not organic food is actually healthier for us.
The Official RV Nomads Movie
Curious about small-scale and mobile living? RV Nomads is a channel that showcases the good and bad sides of mobile life, and this is its full-length documentary.
Anonymous: The Story of Aaron Swartz
This film follows the story of programmer and activist Aaron Swartz, the man behind developing internet protocol RSS and cofounding of Reddit. But his social justice and political work, combined with his ability to access information, resulted in a two-year legal battle that ultimately led him to take his own life at just 26 years old.
True Crime Story: Material Witness
As three workers from CBS left the building, they walked into a kidnapping, and were shot and killed for trying to help. This is the story of how police in New York worked with the FBI to find out who the killer was.
3D Printed Guns
This documentary follows Cody Wilson, a college student at the time, who uses a 3D printer to "print" illegal firearms in his home, explaining why the government has no way of stopping him. This is one of many short docs available on Vice's YouTube channel.
Panic: The Untold Story of the 2008 Financial Crisis
HBO's Vice series explains what exactly led to the 2008 financial crisis and what efforts were made by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President Timothy Geithner, and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke to save the US economy from collapsing.