From free one-day delivery to music streaming, and of course Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Prime is always trying to be the subscription you can’t afford not to have. Amazon Prime Video is one of the bigger and better streaming services around, too, with TV shows and movies, including some of the world’s best documentaries.
To that end, here’s our list of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime, plus some honorable mentions as documentaries come and go from the platform.
The best documentaries on Amazon Prime:
Editor’s note: We will update our list of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime over time.
1. Chasing Happiness
It’s easy to cringe at the thought of a documentary on the Jonas Brothers. But this is good! I mean, yes, they rose to fame by forming the Jonas Brothers group, accumulated dozens of awards, and sold over 17 million albums worldwide, and so on.
But reality set in for the group. No one was happy, with all three Jonas siblings splitting from the group. Chasing Happiness takes you through the rise of the Jonas Brothers, what led to their break-up, and what led to the three brothers finding their way to each other again.
Sriracha is the cult sauce that’s almost become a staple in households that know. Hot sauce isn’t usually much more than something that’s on the shelf or in the fridge, but Sriracha is more than that. With its green lid, and spicy red contents, the sauce is legendary, but the company behind it, Huy Fong Foods, is hardly a name brand. Until, the Sriracha documentary. It’s just a heart-warming watch and at 33 minutes long, you’ll get through it in a sitting.
That reminds me, am I nearly out of Sriracha?
3. Ken Burns: The Central Park Five
28-year-old Trisha Meili was jogging through Central Park when she was attacked by a group of teenagers. Ultimately, ten suspects were tried for the attack. Among the ten were four African-American and two Hispanic-American teenagers, with one pleading guilty to the attacks.
What seemed like an open-and-shut case was anything but. The five remaining teenagers pleaded not guilty and refused plea deals. Even though they were convicted of assault and rape charges, the group subsequently known as the Central Park Five highlighted what happens when the justice system fails the innocent.
4. 4 Little Girls
Spike Lee’s first foray into the world of documentaries transports us back to 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Rosamond Robertson were in the 16th Street Baptist Church when four members of the United Klans of America placed at least 15 sticks of dynamite under the steps.
Only a few minutes passed when the dynamite exploded. Over 20 people were injured in the blast, with the four aforementioned children dying. The results were expected: groups of black and white youth assaulting each other, lackluster policing, and glorification by white supremacists. However, the incident also marked a significant turning point.
Over a two-year period, Ohio was rocked to its core as 11 women went missing. It wasn’t until October 2009 when authorities finally discovered the 11 women littered around the home of Anthony Sewell. Some were discovered in shallow graves, others were discovered in spaces inside of the home.
However, the focus isn’t on Sewell and his atrocities. The focus is on the surviving victims of his sexual assaults and why Sewell’s killing spree went unnoticed for almost three years.
6. City of Ghosts
It’s not a stretch to say Syria currently faces a humanitarian crisis. An estimated 6.2 million people, including 2.5 million children, are currently displaced within the country’s borders as conflict continues to ravage towns, cities, and families.
Wanting to see the problem firsthand, filmmaker Matthew Heineman flew to Syria and followed the “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” citizen journalist collective. There, Heineman looks to uncover ISIS’ human rights abuses and propaganda.
7. Finding Oscar
1982 was a rough time for Guatemala. The country was going through a civil war between the government and various leftist rebel groups led by Maya indigenous people and Ladino people. It was also when commandos working as government forces entered the small village of Dos Erres and killed over 250 people.
However, a handful of people survived the massacre. One of them is Oscar Alfredo Ramírez Castañeda, who was abducted by one of the commandos and lived with the commando’s family for years. One day, Oscar received a startling email that looks to upend his entire world.
8. Hale County This Morning, This Evening
This Academy Award nominee for best documentary in 2019 is fascinating for the reviews it gets. It’s either a five star or one star watch for many. Those who love it appreciate the simple, honest view it gives of black people in the Historic South. The pace of life is different, and this very true documentary doesn’t apologize for offering the same. What’s challenging is that there’s no narration, or obvious narrative. But you will find yourself thinking about this as you watch, and for weeks and months after. Listen, watch, and give Hale County, a chance, for what it is.
- Citizenfour is an incredible look at “citizen four” aka Edward Snowden from director Laura Poitras, and one of our top recommendations. But until recently, the documentary was available on Amazon Prime Video, but like a bunch of streaming content, is missing from that catalog. The good news? Citizenfour is now free on YouTube!
- Capitalism: A Love Story from 2009 holds up but was taken off Amazon Prime Video in March this year. Again there is good news, because the documentary is free on YouTube in the US, too.
That was our list of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime. In the comments below, let us know if you have recommendations of your own or thoughts on the documentaries in our list!