THE BEST Documentaries

Welcome to Sumo Island

Welcome to Sumo Island

Ever wonder how to become a pro sumo wrestler? Well, in Japan, growing up on Amami Ōshima gives you a big head start. Great Big Story paid a visit to this island, which is known for its long history of cultivating youth to become some of the country’s greatest sumos.

Fightworld (Trailer)

Fightworld (Trailer)

Hosted by actor and fight enthusiast Frank Grillo, Netflix’s Fightworld is a documentary series that will explore fighting methods and cultures around the world. The featured styles include MMA, Muay Thai, wrestling and Krav Maga. Premieres 10/12/18.

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Dynasties (Trailer)

Dynasties (Trailer)

(Gore) In Dynasties, Sir David Attenborough and the BBC spent four years following five animals – a hyena, a tiger, a lions, an emperor penguin and a chimpanzee – each a leader of their family, as they try to lead their packs amidst changes in nature.

Shirkers (Trailer)

Shirkers (Trailer)

In 1992, then teenager Sandy Tan and her friends made what may have been the first indie film in Singapore. But their director made off with all the footage. They talk about the effect the film and its disappearance had on their life in this critically-acclaimed documentary.

Making Bonsai Scissors

Making Bonsai Scissors

Great Big Story’s short profile of master blacksmith Yasuhiro Hirakawa, “the only traditional scissor maker left in Japan.” It takes him one week – working 10 hours a day – to make his bonsai scissors, which can sell for as much as $32,000.

The Bill Murray Stories (Trailer)

The Bill Murray Stories (Trailer)

A lot of jokes have been made about Bill Murray’s penchant for blessing people’s lives with his presence. But filmmaker Tommy Avallone wanted to capture a more intimate and positive portrait of the actor through these interactions.

Ride of the Dead

Ride of the Dead

Mexico’s Oaxacan highlands play host to the Trans Sierra Norte, a grueling mountain bike race, which ends in Oaxaca City just in time for the Day of the Dead celebration. Red Bull’s exceptional short film invites us to experience both with a rider touched by death.

This Film Used to Be About Rum

This Film Used to Be About Rum

The always compelling documentarians at MEL Films visited Cuba to create a puff piece about the country’s rum production and its plans to repay an old international debt with booze. But things took a dark turn as they attempted to scratch beneath the surface of the story.

Pinball Isn’t Random

Pinball Isn’t Random

They may have lost the war to video games, but we still love the tactile feel and gameplay of pinball machines. In this clip from Vox, a pinball expert gives us insight into some of the tricks of the trade that make it much more of a game of skill than you might think.

Making Mexican Glazed Pottery

Making Mexican Glazed Pottery

A look at how raw clay is pulled from the earth and transformed by hand into beautiful and intricate sculptures by artisans in Michoacan, Mexico. It’s a wonderful, all too brief look into artistic traditions from Mariano Rentería’s fantastic Mexican Handcraft Masters series.

Dave Grohl: Play

Dave Grohl: Play

(PG-13: Language) Dave Grohl may be a veteran at his craft, but he still recognizes that he can always improve. That’s what he celebrates in Play, which culminates – at 8:16 in the video – in a 23-minute performance in which he performs all of the instruments.

Zion (Trailer)

Zion (Trailer)

Zion Clark was born without legs. As a child, he was put up for adoption and bounced from foster home to foster home growing up. But he fell in love with wrestling and used that as his outlet. This documentary follows his story in high school. Premieres 8/10/18 on Netflix.

Cosmos: Possible Worlds (Trailer)

Cosmos: Possible Worlds (Trailer)

“Dreams are maps. Let the best ones point the way.” The amazing documentary series Cosmos is getting a new season. In Cosmos: Possible Worlds, host Neil deGrasse Tyson will take us to hopeful explorations of both inner and outer space. Premieres Spring 2019 on FOX.

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Leatherman: Made of Mettle

Leatherman: Made of Mettle

“This idea would prove more complicated than I initially imagined.” This documentary about  founder Tim Leatherman looks at the inspiration behind the first Leatherman tool, Tim’s years of experimentation, failure, and rejection, and testimonials from satisfied Leatherman owners.

Dark Tourist (Trailer)

Dark Tourist (Trailer)

New Zealand filmmaker David Farrier explores the trend of people actually wanting to visit disturbing, dark, dangerous, infamous, and war-torn parts of the world in search of an adrenaline rush… or something. The first season hits Netflix on 7/20/2018.

Disney’s Worst Attraction

Disney’s Worst Attraction

If you’re fascinated by studying failure, then you need to subscribe to Defunctland, a channel dedicated to theme parks and attractions that didn’t work out. In this episode, they look at one of the many poorly-executed attractions which Disney born out of the 1980s and 1990s.

The Ethics of AI

The Ethics of AI

Artificial intelligence isn’t just powering robots, it’s already making decisions about our credit, work, insurance, safety, and other important aspects of our lives. Dress Code and HPE interviewed experts about some of the issues raised when algorithms wield such power.

Motorcycle Boy

Motorcycle Boy

(PG-13: Slight nudity) Filmmaker James F. Coton introduces us to three very different members of Japan’s underground motorcycle culture. The clip starts out as a documentary, but transforms into a music video for The Legendary Tigerman in its back half.

Anatomy of Goth

Anatomy of Goth

Filmmakers Jordan Hemingway and Alban Adam present an appropriately gritty look at some of the subcultures described as “goth.” The series of vignettes features interviews and imagery of individuals who live on the fringe of what might be considered “normal” in society.

Rock Rubber 45s (Trailer)

Rock Rubber 45s (Trailer)

(PG-13: Language) Influential DJ, streetball legend and sneaker scholar Bobbito Garcia talks about his life and legacy in his upcoming documentary. Featuring interviews with Questlove, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and so many more. Support the production on Kickstarter.

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Medieval Martha Stewart

Medieval Martha Stewart

“I have weapons everywhere, so my guests feel comfortable that they’re always armed.” Josh Brock has a very dark sense of humor and the aesthetic to go with. He’s spent decades outfitting his home with fierce weaponry, armor, and decor, much of which he made himself.

Robin Williams: Come Inside… (Trailer)

Robin Williams: Come Inside… (Trailer)

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. If you lose that, you’re nothing.” HBO’s Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind is a documentary about the late comedian. It features interviews with Williams, his comedian friends, and his family.

Metallurgist

Metallurgist

“The safety rules at our work are written by our blood.” Gornovoy works in cast-iron smelting. Here’s what it’s like at his job. Director Evgenii Bakirov doesn’t teach us much about Gornovoy’s profession, but he does a great job of showing the danger involved in it.

The Lions of Chinatown

The Lions of Chinatown

Chinese lion dancing is a beautiful and vibrant artform that has gradually been fading from existence. In this wonderful documentary by Law Chen, we meet Sara Lai, a dancer who has trained to become the head of the lion in the traditionally male-dominated performance.

Ultra Man

Ultra Man

(PG-13: Language) Ultramarathon is one of the world’s most punishing sports. Ultramarathoner Robbie Britton – who moved to Chamonix, France from London for further training – shares what makes him tick in GoshDamn’s beautiful short film.

A Garbage Story

A Garbage Story

Part trash man, part historian, Nick DiMola has spent the last 30 years sifting through deceased people’s belongings. Through his labor of love he has collected a museum’s worth of old and rare items, to create an intriguing, ongoing tapestry of history.

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