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The best documentaries on YouTube: 13 free titles to watch in 2022
There are plenty of awesome documentaries on YouTube you can watch for free. We’ve rounded up the best ones from different genres including crime, business, and technology, some of which have amassed millions of views.
Unlike the best free movies on YouTube, these YouTube documentaries aren’t geo-restricted, meaning they are available globally.
The best documentaries on YouTube
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best documentaries on YouTube regularly as new ones hit the service.
Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware
This documentary takes you inside the bustling city of Shenzhen, China, which has been dubbed The Silicon Valley of Hardware. Shenzhen is home to various companies manufacturing all sorts of consumer electronics including smartphones, tablets, and TVs, to name a few. It’s also a city where tons of copycat versions of the latest and greatest smartphones are made and sold. For a tech enthusiast, this YouTube documentary is a must-watch.
Inside North Korea
If you want to know more about North Korea, this is the YouTube documentary for you. It takes you on a tour of this isolated communist country, showing you a glimpse of people’s daily lives. It also includes a fascinating interview with a North Korean refugee who fled his country in search of a better life. The documentary is divided into three parts. You can watch the first one on YouTube via the button below, while the second and third parts can be accessed by clicking here and here.
This is the Zodiac Speaking
Back in the 1960s, a serial killer was on the prowl in California. Called the Zodiac killer, this vicious individual managed to outsmart law enforcement and never got caught. The killer even sent a series of letters to the press that included cryptograms believed to contain his identity. This is the Zodiac Speaking revolves around the murders of the serial killer and the person who may be behind them.
World’s Scariest Drug
This YouTube documentary revolves around a drug called Scopolamine, which is also known as The Devil’s Breath. It’s said to be so powerful that it makes you incapable of exercising free will. This documentary examines the drug up close and gives you an idea of the effects it has on one’s body, thanks to interviews made with people who have used it. It’s a very popular documentary that was filmed in Columbia and has amassed over 35 million views so far.
The Story of Aaron Swartz
If you’re into technology, you probably know or have at least heard of Aaron Swartz. He was a programming prodigy who helped develop the RSS web feed and was one of the co-founders of Reddit. He was also an internet activist who got into trouble with the law, which did not end well for him. This YouTube documentary follows the life of Aaron Swartz, showing you all his accomplishments along with his legal troubles.
This 1977 docudrama offers a look at the wild world of competitive bodybuilding, focusing on the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe and 1975 Mr. Olympia competitions. While covering a lot of ground, the film does zero in on the competition between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno for the title of Mr. Olympia. The documentary is a fascinating time capsule, especially for fans of the two men — Schwartzenegger would go on to star in The Terminator and become an action movie icon and governor of California, while Ferrigno became the first live-action Incredible Hulk.
The Extraordinary Genius of Albert Einstein
Learn more about one of the greatest minds of all time in this YouTube documentary. It revolves around a workshop on the Theory of Special Relativity. However, the aim of the documentary is not to make viewers understand the theory, but to use Einstein’s discovery as a case study to guide people through real human thinking. It also covers the topic of how was Einstein able to make his discovery.
Selma director Ava DuVernay takes a look at the current US prison system in this Academy Award-nominated documentary. The movie’s premise is that even after the passage of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, which ostensibly outlawed slavery, Black men and women are still being criminalized and incarcerated in large numbers to keep them oppressed and enslaved.
The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin
Cryptocurrency has been the rage in recent years. This movie follows the life of Daniel, a programmer and Bitcoin enthusiast who makes time for all things crypto while also managing work and family. You’ll get to see stories from different companies and individuals who dove into this world and are changing the way of the future. It’s a great film for those who want to understand how crypto works, as well as how it will affect finances, politics, and more.
Holy Land: Startup Nations
Israel is known as The Startup Nation, as it has the most tech startups and venture capital per capita in the world. This documentary takes you behind the scenes, showing you how technology and innovation are becoming the country’s dominant themes. It’s produced by Wired and shot in various cities throughout the country including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It’s a must-watch for those who love technology.
Life In A Day
The last entry on our list of the best documentaries on YouTube is called Life In A Day and is very unique. It’s aimed at future generations, which can check out what it was like to be alive on July 24, 2010. The documentary was created entirely from footage uploaded by YouTube users and shows various people living their day-to-day lives along with the challenges that come with it.
The September Issue
The Vogue September issue is legendary, as is the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. In The September Issue, director R.J. Cutler gives us a peek behind the scenes, as Wintour works (and often butts heads) with model-turned-creative-director Grace Coddington. The two strong personalities clash but ultimately collaborate on the 2007 issue in this compulsively watchable exposé.
Those are just a few of the free documentaries on YouTube that you can stream today.