The 20 Best Documentaries Streaming Right Now, According to Critics

Fact can be stranger than fiction and documentaries can also cast real-life in unexpectedly funny and profound ways.

For this list, Newsweek scoured review aggregator Metacritic, which ranks movies by their composite critical reception, scoured major streaming sites to see what was available, and checked out the Rotten Tomatoes reviews.

Here, below, are the critics' favorite documentaries available to stream right now—covering subjects as diverse as true crime, sports and even filmmaking itself.

King in the Wilderness (2018) | TV-14 Direct TV, HBO

King in the Wilderness
King in the Wilderness presents a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. Kunhardt Films LLC

This documentary presents a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. during the final few years of his remarkable life and features interviews with many of his colleagues and friends.

King in the Wilderness won an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Documentary and Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus states: "Refreshingly frank and soberingly insightful, King in the Wildnerness goes beyond the myth and finds the human being who inspired the world."

Virunga 2014 | Not Rated, Netflix

Virunga
Virunga follows a team risking lives to protect the last remaining mountain gorillas Grain Media

This 2014 British documentary film follows a team risking lives to protect the last remaining mountain gorillas.

Virunga has won several awards including the Peabody Award, while Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus states: "Virunga offers a heart-rending glimpse of natural wonders vulnerable to the atrocities of greed—and the people devoting their lives to defending them."

I Am Not Your Negro (2016) | PG-13

I Am Not Your Negro
I Am Not Your Negro explores racism through the stories of three legendary activists Velvet Film, Close Up Films, Artemis Productions

This visual essay exploring racism through the stories of activist Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. is based on James Baldwin's unfinished book.

The documentary was nominated for numerous international awards, while Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus states: "I Am Not Your Negro offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin's crucial observations on American race relations—and a sobering reminder of how far we've yet to go."

Collective (2020) | Not Rated Hulu

Collective
Collective documents health care fraud in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire HBO Europe, Radio Télévision Suisse, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk

A Romanian reporter exposes health care fraud in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest.

The documentary won Best European Documentary, becoming the first-ever Romanian film to achieve that feat, and Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Collective presents a darkly effective overview of the cycle of political corruption and public cynicism that takes hold when government abrogates its responsibility to the people."

Amazing Grace (2018) | Not Rated Hulu

Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace is a rediscovered 1972 movie documenting Aretha Franklin recording arguably the most successful gospel song of all time Bristol Bay Productions, Roadside Attractions, Walden Media, Walden Media

This is a rediscovered 1972 movie documenting Aretha Franklin recording the most successful gospel song of all time.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Brilliantly capturing a remarkable performer near the peak of her prodigious power, Amazing Grace is a thrilling must-watch documentary for Aretha Franklin fans."

We Were Here (2011) | Not Rated Amazon Prime

We Were Here
We Were Here lays bare the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco David Weissman

This American documentary film lays bare the HIV/AIDS crisis in gay and lesbian haven San Francisco.

We Were Here boasts a 100 percent "certified fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 94 rating on Metacritic, the highest among films of 2011.

First Cousin Once Removed (2013) | Not Rated Amazon Prime

First Cousin Once Removed
First Cousin Once Removed documents Poet Edwin Honig as he battles debilitating Alzheimer's disease Light & Motion

This tender movie documents the filmmaker's relation, Poet Edwin Honig, as he battles debilitating Alzheimer's disease.

Metacritic gives the documentary a score of 94, based on six overwhelmingly positive critic reviews.

Sherpa (2015) | Not Rated Netflix

Sherpa
Sherpa documents the Himalayan guides who risk their lives to support climbers tackling Mount Everest Arrow Media, Felix Media

This documentary turns to the Himalayan guides who risk their lives to support climbers tackling Mount Everest.

Patrick Peters of Empire magazine wrote: "[...] this is a spectacular, intimate and politically provocative exposé of the dangers, racial tensions and harsh economic realities on the world's highest mountain."

Time (2020) | PG-13 Amazon Prime

time
Documentary Time follows a woman spending two decades campaigning for the release of her husband Concordia Studio The New York Times Outer Piece Hedgehog Films

This documentary follows a woman spending two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, who is serving a 60-year prison sentence for a robbery committed in a moment of desperation.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Time delivers a powerful broadside against the flaws of the American justice system -- and chronicles one family's refusal to give up against all odds."

I Called Him Morgan (2016) Netflix

I Called Him Morgan
Documentary I Called Him Morgan has been praised as doubling "as a seductive tribute to its subject" Kasper Collin Produktion

Decades after serving a prison sentence for killing jazz musician Lee Morgan, his common-law wife, Helen, reflects on his extraordinary legacy in this documentary.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "I Called Him Morgan doubles as a seductive tribute to its subject's jazz passion as well as an absorbing look at a fatally doomed relationship."

Minding the Gap (2018) | Not Rated BBC iPlayer

Minding the Gap
Minding the Gap documents three teens bonding with skateboarding Kartemquin Films, ITVS, American Documentary, Inc.

Three teens bond via skateboarding to escape their chaotic family lives in this documentary.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Minding the Gap draws on more than a decade of documentary footage to assemble a poignant picture of young American lives that resonates far beyond its onscreen subjects."

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (2006) | TV-MA Sky Go, Now TV

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts documents how New Orleans was affected by Hurricane Katrina 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks

New Orleans discuss how they were impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

The documentary received a Peabody Award in 2006 for being an "epic document of destruction and broken promises and a profound work of art" and "an uncompromising analysis of the events that precede and follow Hurricane Katrina's assault on New Orleans" that "tells the story with an unparalleled diversity of voices and sources."

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) | PG-13 Netflix

Dick Johnson Is Dead
Dick Johnson Is Dead douments a filmmaker staging her father's death Big Mouth Productions

Documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson stages her father's death in unusual and hilarious ways.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Dick Johnson Is Dead celebrates a life with bittersweet humor and grace, offering a deeply resonant perspective on mortality in the bargain."

Shirkers (2018) | Not Rated Netflix

Shirkers
Shirkers documents a teen's road movie recovered 20 years after it was filmed Titmouse, Inc.

A teen's road movie is recovered 20 years later, sparking a personal odyssey.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Shirkers uses one woman's interrogation of a pivotal personal disappointment to offer affecting observations on creativity, lost opportunity, and coming to terms with the past".

The Farthest (2017) | Not Rated Amazon Prime

The Farthest
The Farthest chronicles the history of NASA's Voyager deep-space program Crossing the Line Productions HHMI Tangled Bank Studios

This Irish documentary film chronicles the history of NASA's Voyager deep-space program.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Informative, enthusiastic and accessible, The Farthest will inspire even the most grounded of viewers to look up in wonder once in a while."

Jane (2017) | PG Disney Plus

Jane
Jane offers an unprecedented, intimate portrait of pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall National Geographic Studios Public Road Productions

This documentary offers an unprecedented, intimate portrait of pioneering primatologist Jane Goodall.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Jane honors its subject's legacy with an absorbing, beautifully filmed, and overall enlightening look at her decades of invaluable work."

Particle Fever (2014) | Not Rated Amazon Prime

Particle Fever
Particle Fever follows the inside story of six scientists re-creating conditions from the Big Bang Anthos Media

This documentary follows the inside story of six scientists re-creating conditions from the Big Bang at the Large Hadron Collider.

Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "The concepts behind its heady subject matter may fly over the heads of most viewers, but Particle Fever presents it in such a way that even the least science-inclined viewers will find themselves enraptured."

42: Forty Two Up (1999) BritBox

42: Forty Two Up
42: Forty Two Up continues the series periodically profiling people since 1964 Granada Television for ITV, BBC

The original seven-year-olds are now aged 42, in the saga series periodically profiling people since 1964.

The documentary received a score of 86, based on 22 overwhelmingly positive critical reviews.

Chasing Coral (2017) | Not Rated Netflix

Chasing Coral
Chasing Coral documents the disturbing disappearance of the world's reefs Exposure Labs

Divers and scientists collaborate to document the disturbing disappearance of the world's coral reefs.

The movie won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, while Rotten Tomatoes' critical consensus reads: "Chasing Coral offers a breathtakingly beautiful look at some of the Earth's most incredible natural wonders while delivering a sobering warning about their uncertain future."

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019) Netflix

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story
Scorsese’s documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story is composed of both fictional and non-fictional material Sikelia Productions, Grey Water Park Productions

This pseudo-documentary film, composed of both fictional and non-fictional material, covering Bob Dylan's famous 1975 performance.

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times described Rolling Thunder Revue as, "at once a celebration and a rescue mission (it draws heavily on restored film footage), as well as another chapter in Scorsese's decades-long chronicling of Dylan."