Top 10 documentaries to stream in 2023
Although documentaries often used to be perceived as being merely educational — or worse yet, boring — that's shifted with streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO taking streaming platforms by storm, producing action-packed, entertaining non-fiction films. Here is our pick of 10 new documentaries you won't want to miss.
1. ‘Bill Russell: Legend’
The two-episode documentary with a total run-time of 3 hours and 20 minutes tells the story of NBA legend and civil rights activist Bill Russell. Russell is known as the greatest champion in the history of American sports with two back-to-back NCAA titles, a Gold Medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, and 11 championship titles in his 13-year career as a Boston Celtic, having won two of those championships as the first Black head coach in NBA history. The documentary features interviews with NBA stars Larry Bird, Satch Sanders and Bill Walton to shed light on the legacy of Russell both on and off the court. Netflix’s ‘Bill Russell: Legend’ was released on January 25, 2023.
2. ‘Full Swing’
Netflix’s 8-episode docu series ‘Full Swing’ focuses on the PGA Tour golf players during their wins and losses with behind the scene footage. It follows professional golf players both on and off the course through the season’s biggest competitions including the Masters/Augusta National, PGA Championship, US Open and Open Championship and has received positive feedback from the audience for its inclusion of emotional ups-and-downs of players as well as suspense during the biggest competitions.
3. ‘African Queens: Njinga’
Narrated and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, ‘African Queens: Njinga’ tells the story of warrior Queen Njinga of Angola with expert interviews and reenactments in four episodes. ‘African Queens: Njinga’ hit Netflix on February 15, 2023 and the docudrama focuses on 17th-century African female rulers of present-day Angola. It has received mixed reviews, having been regarded as “highly educated and well-informed" by audiences but as “a mediocre Channel 5 show” by a Guardian critic. But watch it to judge it for yourself!
Directed by Canadian documentary director Daniel Roher, ‘Navalny’ focuses on the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and events in the aftermath of his poisoning. In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with a lethal nerve agent and survived the attack. The documentary was produced by HBO Max and CNN films yet can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. It was nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and has already won BAFTA Award for Best Documentary and Best Political Documentary award at the 7th Critics’ Choice Awards. A serious Oscar Contender, it is a must-watch for political documentary lovers.
5. ‘Pamela, A Love Story’
Netflix’s ‘Pamela, A Love Story’ hit the screens on January 3, 2023 and traces the life story of Canadian-American model, actress and popular culture icon Pamela Anderson with never-before-seen footage, tracing her rise to fame through intimate footage and diaries. Directed by Ryan White, the documentary runs for 112 minutes to give Anderson and her sons a chance to offer a different perspective of her life and fame. A must watch for popular culture fans.
6. ‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’
‘Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal’ hit Netflix on February 22, 2023. The three-episode docuseries is considered a true crime drama and tells the story of the famous Murdaugh family of South Caroline’s Lowcountry and their rise to fame and power — which crumbled following the death of 5 people. The Murdaughs were a respected family with a legacy of a century-old law firm, which became intoxicated with power, wealth and privilege, and abused their position to the extent of murder. Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal is “morbid” and “very well told” according to reviewers online.
7. ‘All The Beauty and The Bloodshed’
‘All The Beauty and The Bloodshed’ is a 2022 American documentary directed and produced by the Academy Award-winner Laura Poitras. The documentary premiered at the 79th Venice International Film Festival where it won the Golden Lion award. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 95th Academy Awards. The documentary focuses on American photographer and activist Nan Goldin’s career, and her struggle to expose Purdue Pharma owned by the Sackler family for the opioid epidemic. The documentary includes Goldin’s photographs, slideshows and never-before-seen footage as well as interviews and has received positive feedback with 8.7/10 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. All The Beauty and The Bloodshed is set to stream on HBO in 2023.
8. ‘Moonage Daydream’
‘Moonage Daydream’ is a musical documentary about the life and career of David Bowie. The documentary directed, written, and produced by American documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen is the first film to be officially and legally authorised by Bowie’s estate, so it includes never-before-seen footage such as live concert footage from Bowie’s personal archives. The documentary premiered at the 75th Cannes Film Festival, and was shortlisted for the 2023 Academy Awards. The New York Times praises the documentary for its depiction of Bowie as “a thoughtful, lucky man. And perhaps surprisingly, given the mythology that surrounds so many of his contemporaries, a happy one.” ‘Moonage Daydream’, which shares the same title as one of Bowie’s well-known songs, is a must-watch for Bowie lovers and can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
9. ‘Fire of Love’
Fire of Love is a National Geographic documentary that had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary tells the life and career story of French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft who lost their lives while capturing amazing images of volcanoes, which was their biggest passion. The documentary has received positive feedback with the magazine Rolling Stone referring to the documentary as “the greatest lava-fueled love story ever told.” Fire of Love runs for Best Documentary Feature at the 95th Academy Awards against ‘Navalny’ and ‘All the Beauty and the Bloodshed’. ‘Fire of Love’ is streaming on Disney+.
10. ‘All That Breathes’
‘All That Breathes’ is a documentary directed by Indian filmmaker Shaunak Sen and focuses on two siblings from New Delhi, India as they run a bird hospital dedicated to rescue injured black kites. The documentary is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 95th Academy Awards against Navalny, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, and Fire of Love. All That Breathes is currently streaming on HBO.
If you enjoyed our recommendations for the best documentaries to see, discover how documentaries have taken streaming platforms by storm.
Credits for the Main photo: © IMDb
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