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Best Documentaries 2020: The Best Documentaries Of The Year

Photograph of the blog post author, Carla Johnson

Carla Johnson

27.1.2021

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Reality in 2020 — where do you start! It’s fair to say that real life in 2020 was possibly more shocking than the movies. However, documentary filmmakers have always understood this notion. With most of us ‘Staying At Home’ there was nothing better to do than dive into Netflix or Amazon Prime and watch some of the best documentaries 2020 style. 

best documentaries

We saw some of the best crime documentaries including the infamous Tiger King – possibly one of the best documentaries on Netflix so far! The best documentaries of the year didn’t only excite and educate us; they managed to do it with a fresh perspective. 

This brings us to some of the highlights for the best documentaries 2020. Stay tuned to see if we included your favourite! 

Best Animal Documentaries

The Truffle Hunters

the truffle hunters

Foodies might be delighted with the concept of fresh truffles on their pasta, but not many know the labour which is involved.

Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, who made the 2018 award-winning The Last Race, capture the covert truffle hunts in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy carried out by elderly gentlemen and their loyal dogs. 

The film demonstrates the heartfelt study of the love that exists between old men and their dogs. The Truffle Hunters develop sympathy for arts (and artists) who may be disappearing.

It’s clear that “Truffle Hunters” offers a lot more than just mushrooms. You don’t have to watch it for very long to appreciate that truffles aren’t the main attraction – dogs are. 

It offers a passionate devotion to dogs and will leave a smile on your face. 

This movie reinvents the concept of ‘food porn’ and offers a new sense of sophistication and purpose. 

A great watch for a different take and making it one of the best nature documentaries.

Gunda

gunda

This astounding documentary offers a close look at the lives of a sow, her high-spirited piglets, a one-legged chicken, and a herd of cows. 

Gunda is a creative outlook for veganism and is shot in black-and-white. Russian filmmaker Viktor Kossakovsky’s fascinating film eliminates humans from the picture to amplify the small moments in the lives of various farm animals, with his pig at the center. 

In 90 minutes, you watch Gunda and her piglets, a handful of chickens, and a smattering of cows simply going about their lives on farmland. 

Without music or any other obvious pretense, Kossakovsky prompts us to look at animals honestly to think about what we have done. 

A truly inspirational animal documentary.

Best Sport Documentaries

The Last Dance

the last dance

One of the best Netflix documentaries is The Last Dance. Netflix and ESPN produced this documentary together. 

For both those who got to watch Michael Jordan play and those that have only heard about it, The Last Dance has been an incredible watch. 

With input from Jordan and his peers, it gives us a look behind the scenes at some key moments in his life and career, his supposed gambling addiction, and the death of his father. All with never before seen footage. 

This is a must-see for all basketball fans and has to be one of the best sport documentaries of 2020.

Cheer

cheer

Another one you may already have heard of. The Navarro College Bulldogs Cheer Team is considered one of the best teams. 

With 40 members overall, being selected is just the start. The series takes you on a journey from ‘making the mat’. Also known as selecting the 20 team members to compete in the finals. 

By the time we get to the National Cheerleading Championship, you’ll fall in love with half of the team. 

It’s a good, upbeat watch in comparison to some of the heavier options on the list. A great take for one of the best sport documentaries.

Best Music Documentaries

Miss Americana

miss americana

For one of the best music documentaries you can count on Taylor Swift! 

She took the stage, and was named Artist of the Decade, at the 2019 American Music Awards. Her opening performance was ‘The Man’ while dressed in a white shirt dress with the names of her six albums in large black lettering, evocative of a prison uniform stripe. 

The outfit and song are both a nod to what the artist had revealed on social media. Scoot Borchetta and Scooter Braun, founders of Big Machine Label Group, her former label, were preventing her from performing songs from her archive. 

Director Lana Wilson, followed Swift for the highly anticipated documentary, top choice for one of the best documentaries on Netflix. 

It’s been a crazy few years in the well-known singer’s life and one of the best HBO documentaries has been created.

Blackpink: Light Up the Sky

blackpink

If you’re a music fanatic, this is definitely a must see.

Light Up The Sky shows months of gruelling training that the girl group had to endure before becoming the K-pop sensations that they are today. Being a trainee is just like going to university to study your favourite subject. Blackpink joined a school in the hopes of becoming the K-pop star.

The documentary turns the clocks back to the very beginning. We sit with Blackpink in a cinema and react with them to sneak peaks of their top-secret auditions and trainee videos. This really sheds light on how incredibly far they have come over the years. You can’t help but watch without absolute admiration for these girls. Their talent is just something else.

They end the documentary with their performance at Coachella 2019. It blew everyone’s minds (including ours!) that they were the first K-pop girl group to perform at the festival. However, it’s clear that the group is nowhere near reaching the peak of their career. They have so many incredible plans in the works, and we can’t wait to see what they do next!

Best History Documentaries

All In: The Fight For Democracy (2020)

all in: the fight for democracy

One of the best historical documentaries on Amazon Prime. The lead-up to the 2020 election was one of the most contentious periods in recent American history. 

From the coronavirus pandemic to the fight for racial justice. To the astounding economic downturn impacting millions around the country, it’s never been more significant to make sure your voice is heard and vote. 

That’s the message behind All In. An Amazon Original released in September, less than two months prior to Election Day. 

The filmmakers get their message across by zoning in on the subject of voter suppression. Concentrating on the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia, where Stacey Abrams allegedly lost due to voter suppression.

Abrams has since founded Fair Fight Action, an organisation devoted to addressing the issue.

City Hall

city hall

One of the best documentaries of 2020 is City Hall. This 2020 American documentary film was directed, edited, and co-produced by Frederick Wiseman. 

Wiseman, now in his 90s, has continued to shock us for the past half-century. Narrating social institutions since 1967’s ‘Titicut Follies,’ many of his projects informally drift through three or four hours of dense, layered portraits following the people behind various organisational forces. 

City Hall explores the government of Boston, Massachusetts. At four hours and 32 minutes, Wiseman’s submerges into Boston’s city services and ignores the pressure to dumb things down. 

He’s a mastermind at portraying the difficulty of a system intended to make the world run right.

76 Days

76 days

This has to be one of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime. It’s where it all began in Wuhan, China.  

The city was shut down for 76 days in an attempt to contain the virus that’s now killed over two million people worldwide. It is, at times, traumatic. 

The film doesn’t hide away from grief at its rawest, fear at its most paralyzing. There are scenes where the swollen fingers of an elderly patient clinging to the hand of a stranger invisible behind layers of PPE – that are incredibly upsetting. 

But critically, there’s also an element of hope and even humour in this moving tribute to healthcare workers everywhere.

The director of a new documentary is trying to look past the tragic statistics and remember the humanity of the frontline workers and patients at the centre of the outbreak. 

Hao Wu’s ’76 Days’ was filmed inside four Wuhan hospitals during its lockdown – by his two co-directors. Aimed to be a documentary which will go down in history. 

This moving fly-on-the-wall documentary from Wuhan conveys the fear – and bravery – that the unknown virus generated. 

This is bound to be one of the best history documentaries in future years to come.

Best Food Documentaries

Taste The Nation With Padma Lakshmi

padma lakshmi

Former model and Top Chef judge Padma Lakshmi’s idea to do a docu-style food travel series developed in an indirect way. 

Lakshmi originally hoped to create a show covering immigration. Subsequently, she decided to combine her passions for immigrant justice and food into a single project. 

Thus, Taste the Nation was produced–a complex, civilizing look at the United States as she takes the road, interviewing Americans of all political stances who commit their lives to keep the nation well-fed. 

Check this out for one of the best documentaries on Hulu!

Best True Crime Documentaries 

World’s Most Wanted

worlds most wanted

Since Making A Murderer, Netflix has produced some of the best serial killer documentaries. 

This five-episode crime documentary series follows the lives of five notorious criminals from around the world. Specifying the shocking crimes they committed, and why they’ve been so hard to capture. 

Episode three details the crimes and life of Samantha Lewthwaite also known as ‘the White Widow’. The widow of the 7/7 London terrorist bomber Germaine Lindsay, who is now the world’s most wanted female terrorist.

This is one that will definitely keep you on the edge!

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness

tiger king

You have probably seen the memes which came with this one, but it was by far one of the most talked-about and best true crime documentaries on Netflix. 

The series follows Joe Exotic, the eccentric polygamist musician and presidential candidate who owned and operated a zoo of big cats. It is just as bizarre as it sounds. Not forgetting the driving narrative of how he is in jail for a murder for hire plot.

The documentary has experienced some backlash from interviewees and animal rights activists. However the journey of seeing the crazy world of big cat owners is fascinating to watch. 

It is an absolute eye opener into the terrible conditions the animals suffer at the hands of egotistical people. 

It was definitely one of the best documentaries on Netflix and one which people will talk about for years to come!

The Pharmacist

the pharmacist

Following the tragic death of his son, Dan Schneider, a Louisiana pharmacist goes to extreme lengths to expose the rampant corruption of opioid addiction. 

His son was killed in a drug-related shooting and although Schneider set out to get the killer off the streets. He then changed direction when he started to see healthy young people filling prescriptions for OxyContin in his work as a pharmacist. He began to see the signs of addiction in his community. 

What follows in one of the best Netflix documentaries with one well-informed, broken-hearted, determined man. 

Seeing that the opioid epidemic remains a thing, it’s an important watch to understand the inner workings of the pharmaceutical drug industry.

The Painter & The Thief

the painter and the thief

One of the best crime documentaries last year was The Painter and the Thief. 

Benjamin Ree’s documentary on a somewhat unexpected friendship ends up exploring the past of both subjects, and unearthing lifetimes of pain, trauma, and decisions (good and bad). 

Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova exhibited her work in an Oslo gallery when two paintings got taken. Kysilkova subsequently confronts one of the thieves, Karl Bertil-Nordland, who explains he stole them “because they were beautiful.” 

Kysilkova asks if she can paint him, and the two become unpredictably entangled in each other’s lives. 

This is a wonderful look into how art can heal. Check it out, it’s one of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime!

Those Were The Best Documentaries 2020 Edition!

best documentaries

As we were stuck indoors last year was full of amazing documentaries, giving a fresh slate of enthralling films from Cheer to Tiger King. 

Some of the most talked about films of 2020 weren’t those of fiction and were in fact documentaries you won’t want to miss!

Netflix and Amazon Prime have created a streaming culture that has given rise to a new generation of documentary lovers.

It has been hard to select a shortlist of the best documentaries of 2020. But, as you know it can be difficult to navigate your way through a sea of choice. 

With that said, every film on this list offers something either completely revolutionary, incredibly important, or artistically genius!

We have listed just some of the best picks to get a rounded view on the problems of today as well as potential solutions. 

There have been so many good films, not to mention countless more we’ve all yet to see because their releases have been postponed by the pandemic. But I guess that just gives us more to look forward to!

This was our list of the best documentaries of 2020, let us know in the comments if you agree or if you think we missed any out! We want to hear your thoughts!

If you enjoyed this article, then you are bound to love some others on our blog! We recommend the Best Comedy Movies Of All Time and The Best Musical Movies Of All Time to help you get started!

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