Best Documentaries on HBO Max

The Best Documentaries on HBO Max

Documentaries are making a comeback because of platforms like HBO Max, which is a good thing since there’s so much to tell. At a time when it is more vital than ever to understand other people’s perspectives and acquire an understanding of various circumstances and places, the best documentaries on HBO Max are very relevant to consider. 

Documentary films are no longer seen as tedious, four-hour films that students are required to watch as part of their education. 

The best documentaries on HBO Max have been meticulously crafted, researched, and shot, and some of them don’t even seem like documentaries at all. All of them, however, have a single thing in common: a vital message to convey.

These documentaries educate us about the world and the human condition, provide us with unexpected access to celebrities, and shed light on some of today’s most serious topics. In order to help you learn more about documentaries, we’ve selected the best documentaries on  HBO Max, which you can watch on HBO Max and will please you eventually.

1. Breslin And Hamill: Deadline Artists (2019)

Year: 2019

Director: Jonathan Alter, John Block

Stars: John Avlon, Tony Bennett, Dan Barry, Harvey Araton, Mike Barnicle, Cibella Borges, Jimmy Breslin

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 106 minutes

Documentaries on journalists may be tough to create because it can be tricky to obtain the piercing, affecting words on the page pop in a way that captures the intensity and wit of the writer who has written them. 

The majority of the time, filmmakers are relegated to hiring actors to read the sentences of well-known works over blurry photographs. In the case of the documentary Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists, which is a twin portrait of New York columnists Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, there is plenty of interviews and archival footage to get around this problem. 

The film delves into anecdotes and memories that recall a long-gone golden age of ink-stained journalism, which is explored in-depth in the film.

2. Fake Famous (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: Nick Bilton

Stars: Justine Bateman, Christopher Bailey, Shannon Dee, Osiris Bashir, Dominique Druckman, Sarah Frier, Liz Eswein

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 86 minutes

In “Fake Famous,” the film follows a planned, sociological experiment that reveals exactly how easy it is to manipulate social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter to someone’s benefit, deceiving numerous people for the meantime. 

Three brilliant, but little-known, fame-hungry entertainers are discovered and made famous by the producers by emulating the methods used by several famous individuals, including buying followers and fabricating images. One of the most astounding aspects of all this is that it functions.

3. Everything Is Copy (2015)

Year: 2015

Director: Jacob Bernstein, Nick Hooker

Stars: Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Steven Spielberg, Selfas 

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 89 minutes

Nora Ephron’s son, Jacob Bernstein, wrote and directed Everything Is Copy, a tribute to his mother’s legacy. The film is a great blend of tenderness for his mother and the brutal facts of her situation. However, Bernstein was strong enough to stand back and study the facts behind the stories rather than overwhelming the viewer with a personal letter.

It’s a wonderful film. Some of the biggest names in the business, including Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg, are on board. A few novels and movies’ backstories, the truth about love, and the title’s deeper significance are all revealed, making people appreciate Nora Ephron’s brilliance even more.

 4. LFG (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine

Stars: Becky Sauerbrunn; Jessica McDonald; Kelley O’Hara; Megan Rapinoe; Sam Mewis; Julie Foudy, Christen Press

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 105 minutes

In LFG, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team documents their campaign for wage equality and their subsequent lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation. Besides being a fun sports video to watch, it is also a stressful documentary to watch because of the backdrop of the movement. 

Although the final conclusion may be uncertain or one-sided, it is a documentary that actually incorporates viewers in the struggle, and the viewers find themselves battling with the characters throughout the video. LFG is passionate and encouraging, and it conveys a really powerful lesson in a beautiful and effective manner.

5. Grey Gardens (1975)

Year: 1975

Director: Muffie Meyer, Albert Maysels, Ellen Hovde, David Maysels

Stars: Edith Bouvier Beale · Brooks Hyers · Norman Vincent Peale · Jack Helmuth · Albert Maysles · David Maysles 

Rating: PG

Runtime:  95 minutes

The scope of “Grey Gardens,” one of the roughest and darkest documentaries ever made, is limited. It is almost completely set inside one house, the titular East Hampton manor, which has fallen into disrepair and stars only two characters, a psychologically unhappy mother and daughter who dwell therein appalling misery.

However, “Grey Gardens” has a lot more to say, and the film, which is free of narration and framing devices, reveals the darker reality beneath the Kennedy family’s mystique. “Big Edie” and “Little Edie” Beale, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin, spend most of their time in the deteriorating mansion, surrounded by waste and filth, reliving their long-gone glory days as high society members before life and death dealt them many fatal strikes.

6. Gimme Shelter (1970)

Year: 1970

Director:  David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin

Stars:  The Rolling Stones

Rating: GP

Runtime: 91 minutes

For the most part, the Maysles Brothers’ (co-directed by Charlotte Zwerin) film, which is best known for its tragic plot twist, can be watched blind if you know nothing about rock and roll history or 1960s pop culture. 

Maysles’ trademark observational manner is used to capture Stones’ 1969 US tour finale, focused on the Altamont Free Concert. Prior to serving as the dramatic twist in this legendary film, what occurred there is also a shocker to both the audience and the performers, as well as the entire globe.

7. 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets (2015)

Year: 2015

Director: Marc S. Silver

Stars: Ron Davis, Chris Dunn, Lucia McBath, Russell Healey, Cory Strolla, Michael David Dunn, John Guy, Rhonda Rouer

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 98 minutes

The more concrete it becomes when you see the statistics. A petrol station in Jacksonville, Florida, was the scene of Jordan Russell Davis’ shooting death in 2012. During these three and a half minutes, a total of ten shots were fired into the adolescent. Aside from examining the shooting itself, the documentary follows the trial, demonstrations, and press coverage that accompanied the incident.

Viewers will be able to relate to the characters in this film on an emotional level that is unusual for a documentary. 3 1/2 Minutes is a different kind of film because it doesn’t just focus on one side of the narrative, but also highlights the terrible facts about social and racial profiling that we face today.

8. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018)

Year: 2018

Director: Marina Zenovich

Stars: John Belushi, Robin Williams, Robert Altman, Steve Allen, Roseanne Barr

Rating: NR

Runtime: 116 minutes

An Oscar-winning star and renowned comedian, Robin Williams, was indeed the subject of a documentary made 4 years after his untimely death by suicide as a result of Lewy body dementia. 

In “Come Inside My Mind,” Williams is depicted as a lonesome and frail person who has committed his life to producing his humor; in theater, in movies, and on “Mork & Mindy”, as great and crowd-pleasing as he possibly could.

 9. The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (2020)

Year: 2020

Director: Frank Marshall

Stars: Barry Gibb, David Blackman, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Andy Gibb, Jody Gerson, Mark Monroe, Frank Marshall

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 110 minutes

As a unique historical video from the era illustrates in “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” the Bee Gees were enormously popular in the 1970s. This documentary follows the group’s rise and continuous reputation. 

They are most known for their disco successes and the soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” and they often had a string of Beatles hit songs in the 1960s and then became in-demand composers and producers in the 1980s (if secretly, owing to the massive anti-disco backlash for which the group bore the brunt). 

This movie is also a glance at Barry Gibb’s life and career as the Bee Gees vocalist and onetime sex symbol, who is tragically and fully aware as he is the very last living Bee Gee & Gibb brother.

10. Tina (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: T. J. Martin, Daniel Lindsay

Stars: Angela Bassett, Tina Turner, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Thomas, Carl Arrington, Lejeune Richardson, Katori Hall, Kurt Loder

Rating: R

Runtime: 118 minutes

Tina Turner is among the world’s most successful musicians. Tina, directed by Dan Lindsay, chronicled the singer’s career and life in 2021. The film is a companion piece to Tina Turner’s forthcoming memoir, Happiness Becomes You, and also is devoted to her late son, Craig Turner.

It really is an interesting documentary that has a great deal of emotional heft. It begins with a startling line plucked from a vintage Turner interview: “The good did not outweigh the terrible.” The film eloquently conveys the singer’s suffering, and viewers can never react to her compositions the very same way anymore.

11. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Year: 2018

Director: Morgan Neville

Stars: François Clemmons; Fred Rogers; Tom Junod; Yo-Yo Ma; David Newell; Joe Negri; Joanne Rogers

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 94 minutes

Public television broadcasts of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” influenced the formative years of millions of American children. Emotional intelligence (and the joys of puppetry) were taught to them as they went along the road by an amicable gentleman in a sweater and sneakers. 

In “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Fred Rogers, an ordained priest, and advocate for children and education is revealed as the true Mr. Rogers. In the end, viewers will discover that the TV version of Mr. Rogers and the actual Mr. Rogers was, in fact, very similar.

12. Nanook of the North (1922)

Year: 1922

Director: Robert J. Flaherty

Stars: Nyla, Allakariallak, Cunayou

Rating: NR

Runtime: 78 minutes

Many film scholars consider “Nanook of the North” to be the first contemporary, full-length narrative documentary. It captivated audiences in the early 1920s, transporting them to locations and portraying people they would never have seen or met otherwise, displaying the potential and possibility of cinema in its youth.

This documentary, a silent film with written inter-titles, illustrates the day-to-day life — with a concentration on traditional characteristics — of the Inuit inhabitants of the Ungava Peninsula off the east coast of Canada. The plot revolves around a man named Allakariallak, also known as Nanook, and his family as they travel across waterways, ice floes, and tundra in quest of animals to kill. 

They travel in kayaks and dog sleds and show how to make an igloo. Some moments were produced for the benefit of the film, but this simply adds to the discussion over what a documentary is, especially ‌when the genre was still in development.

13. The Mystery of D. B. Cooper (2020)

Year: 2020

Director: John Dower

Stars: Jo Weber; Duane Weber; Tim Collins; Tina Mucklow 

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 87 minutes

B. Cooper hijacked a plane in the Pacific Northwest over Thanksgiving in 1971, and he parachuted out of the plane with his demanded monetary bonanza in hand. Cooper’s whereabouts and fate were never known, and he was never captured. It’s been a long time since there were any TV episodes or documentaries devoted to the life of D. B. Cooper, but the HBO Max original “The Mystery of D. B. Cooper” focuses on how legends grow and change through time.

In the film’s center are interviews with a variety of people who have progressively hazy memories of persons who entered their lives decades ago, people who they are all positive were D. B. Cooper. Cooper himself appears only briefly in the film. Also, all of their stories are believable.

14. Well Groomed (2019)

Year: 2019

Director: Rebecca Stern

Stars: Nicole Beckman, Angela Kumpe, Adriane Pope, Catherine Opson

Rating: TV-G

Runtime: 58 minutes

Documentaries can be a terrific way to learn about a new culture that you didn’t even know existed. “Well Groomed,” a documentary about competition dog grooming, is a good example. Competitors come from dog grooming salons all around the country. 

Their technical expertise is top-notch, as well as their creative visions are outlandish, so they’re in with a chance of winning some money. Well Groomed is just like “Best in Show” only real… but with a few additional dogs dressed in vividly colorful costumes made of their very own fur.

15. Class Action Park (2020)

Year: 2020

Director: Seth Porges and Chris Charles Scott III

Stars: John Hodgman; Faith Anderson; Alison Becker; Bill Benneyan; Matthew Callan.

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 89 minutes

Action Park was a theme park in suburban New Jersey that was popular with thrill-seeking teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s. This HBO Max Original comes primarily from a not-so-joking nickname for the park, which was called Action Park. 

It looks like most of the rides at Action Park (also known as “Traction Park”) were inadequately or immediately built and unsafe. In this documentary, now-famous people who went to Action Park as kids and came out relatively unscathed tell their stories to still bewildered employees.

16. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

Year: 2003

Director: Andrew Jarecki

Stars: David Friedman, Frances Galasso, Arnold Friedman, Elaine Friedman, John McDermott, Seth Friedman, Anthony Sgeugloi, Jesse Friedman

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 107 minutes

This dark and unnerving film about the evil that may lie next door began as an accident. New York-area birthday party clown Silly Billy, the eccentric persona of David Friedman, was the subject of Andrew Jarecki’s first documentary short. 

Then Jarecki went looking for further evidence and discovered that Friedman’s brother and father both pled guilty to and been sentenced to some very serious crimes. Jarecki produced “Capturing the Friedmans” about the family’s legal problems, dark secrets, and long-term consequences, using interviews and old home movies.

17. The Lady and the Dale (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker

Stars:  Candi Michael, Gerry McGuinness, Gillian Cameron

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 4 episodes, 55-56 minutes each

“The Lady and the Dale,” an HBO original documentary series, not only recounts a fascinating but does so in two parts. Independently owned and operated 20th Century Motor Car Company introduced the Dale in the 1970s, during a time of widespread and expensive gas shortages, a strange appearing three-wheeled car for the future. 

The company’s boisterous and boastful CEO, Liz Carmichael, was a thief and hustler on the run, which hampered the production of the automobile. In addition, she would become one of the first and most courageous transgender public figures in history.

18. Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer (2019)

Year: 2019

Director: Mark Landsman

Stars: Ken Auletta · Malcolm Balfour · Carl Bernstein · Tony Brenna · Iain Calder · Steve Coz · Jerry George · Gigi Goyette.

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 96 minutes

Many people know about the “National Enquirer,” which sits in supermarket checkout lines all over the country with salacious stories about politicians and celebrities behaving so badly that it’s hard to believe any of it is true. The “National Enquirer” has long been a well-known and widely read newspaper in the United States. 

Scandalous claims that some ‌tales that look unbelievable are based on facts, but that they are also juiced or obtained in methods that lack the journalistic ethics of some more credible news sources. As a whole, this documentary offers an interesting look at both how news is gained and how it is presented.

19. Mommy Dead and Dearest (2017)

Year: 2017

Director: Erin Lee Carr

Stars: Clauddine Blanchard, Stephanie Goldhammer

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 82 minutes

Dee Dee and Gypsy Rose Blanchard, mother, and daughter in the terrifying true-crime thriller “The Act,” earned Patricia Arquette and Joey King Emmy nominations in 2019. The Blanchards’ true story, presented in the HBO documentary “Mommy Dead and Dearest,” is much more chilling. 

Gypsy Rose Blanchard killed her mom and primary caretaker Dee Dee, according to filmmaker Erin Lee Carr. It turns out the daughter was never actually unwell but a victim of her mother’s diagnosis of multiple personality disorder by proxy syndrome, bolstered by an extensive network of deceit.

20. Monterey Pop (1968)

Year: 1968

Director: D.A. Pennebaker

Stars: Otis Redding; Jimi Hendrix; Ravi Shankar; Country Joe McDonald; Scott McKenzie.

Rating: NR

Runtime: 78 minutes

“Monterey Pop” is a renowned concert film that features footage of legendary musicians at their ultimate prime. The video is so immersive that spectators will feel like they are there in 1967, seeing artists such as Janis Joplin, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Otis Redding perform. Although it’s Jimi Hendrix who stole the spotlight, he memorably burned down his guitar in Monterey.

21. Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World (2015)

Year: 2015

Director: Dana Nachman

Stars:  Miles Scott, Eric Johnston, Teresa Clovicko, Audrey Copper

Rating: PG

Runtime: 87 minutes

Documentarians are often seen as cultural watchdogs, chronicling atrocities, darkness, and human wickedness. No, “Batkid Begins” is a joyful, life-affirming, tear-jerking look at the goodness and generosity that can arise when big and varied individuals and groups come together over a shared purpose. 

In 2013, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and an army of volunteers helped make Miles Scott’s vision come true–he got to believe in just being Batman as well as solving crimes in such an elaborately renovated San Francisco.

22. The Cold Blue (2018)

Year: 2018

Director: Erik Nelson

Stars: Paul Haedike, V.G. Alexander, Mort Kimmel, William Toombs, Al Villagran

Rating: TV-PG

Runtime: 72 minutes

William Wyler, a three-time Academy Award winner, went to Europe during World War II to capture combat operations on B-17s as they happened. He was integrated with the Eighth Air Force branch. A portion of this visceral, horrific footage was utilized in the 1944 film “The Memphis Belle.” 

However, the raw tape was discovered in the National Archives, and documentarian Erik Nelson reconstructed it to 4K resolution and assembled it into this extraordinary film illustrating the daily life of the young, brave, and fearful American soldiers.

23. A Brief History of Time (1992)

Year: 1992

Director:  Errol Morris

Stars: Stephen Hawking

Rating: G

Runtime: 83 minutes

One of the most extensively read famous science books of all time was “A Brief History of Time,” written by the late Stephen Hawking in 1988, considered one of the greatest minds of our time. He broke down the mysteries of the cosmos and the cosmos’ secrets in simple words. 

There is an inter-cutting of cosmology with a look into Hawking’s personal life, notably his difficulties, which left him completely paralyzed, wheelchair-bound, and dependent on a voice synthesizer. Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning documentary director, translates the book to the big screen.

24. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: Marilyn Agrelo

Stars:  Christopher Cerf, Linda Bove, Frank Biondo, Northern Calloway, Fran Brill, David D. Connell, Evelyn Davis, Joan Ganz Cooney

Rating: PG

Runtime: 107 minutes

TV, kids’ entertainment, and educational media have all embraced “Sesame Street.” The little screen has long been shown to help youngsters grow cognitively and emotionally. The enduring series, based in quite an urban neighborhood full of friendly people, joyful kids, and a wide variety of puppets, has spanned decades. 

Michael Davis’ thorough and interesting book “Street Gang” covers the history of this pretty tough, extraordinary series. “Street Gang” chronicles Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Grover, and the rest’s rise to fame as cultural icons and children’s TV idols.

25. The Forever Prisoner (2021): The Story of Abu Zubaydah

Year: 2021

Director: Alex Gibney

Stars: Stephen Gaudin, Chantell Higgins, Daniel Jones

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1 hour, 59 minutes

Filmmaker Alex Gibney has made a new movie about Abu Zubaydah, who was the first person to be interrogated by the CIA after 9/11. This really takes a look at his narrative. Others outside the CIA eventually labeled these practices as torture.

26. The Slow Hustle (2021): One Family’s Quest for Answers

Year: 2021

Director: Sonja Sohn

Stars: Umar Burley, Jill Carter, Kevin Davis

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1 hour, 28 minutes

The Baltimore Police Department characterized Sean Suitor’s death as a suicide when he was shot in the head. His family was against it. Before he died, FBI investigators claimed to have found evidence of drug smuggling at the site of a tragic car accident seven years previously. 

Originally, he was ‌a witness for the Gun Trace Task Force in the case mentioned above. Was the Suitor killed in self-defense, or was the death staged? The widow of the Suitor and neighborhood reporters are the subjects of this documentary by director Sonja Sohn, who sets out to uncover the truth.

27. Four Hours at the Capitol (2021): An Immersive Documentary About the Capitol Insurrection

Year: 2021

Director: Jamie Roberts

Stars: Nick Alvear, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Igor Bobic

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1 hour, 32 minutes

On January 6, 2021, thousands of people gathered at the U.S. Capitol to challenge the outcomes of the 2020 elections. The documentary is harrowing, although its “just the facts, ma’am” imposition on trying to present some interview sessions without a frame of reference ends up making it an imperfect look at an essential part of recent US history.

28. 15 Minutes of Shame (2021): Exploring the Behavior Behind Cyberbullying

Year: 2021

Director: Max Joseph

Stars: Max Joseph, Monica Lewinsky

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Cyberbullying is now a substantial concern in recent years, and this film examines the social behavior that underpins it. The filmmakers spend time with victims of public shaming and cyber-harassment, as well as the bullies, which include media and politicians.

“15 Minutes of Shame” is a documentary about one of the most demanding and unresolved issues of our time.

29. Hard Knocks ’21: Dallas Cowboys (2021) – An In-Depth Look at ‘America’s Team’

Year: 2021

Director: Shannon Furman

Stars: Liev Schreiber, The Dallas Cowboys

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 55 minutes – each episode

The Dallas Cowboys, dubbed “America’s Team,” are the subject of the latest season of the Hard Knocks documentary series. After falling to the New York Giants in week 17, they missed the playoffs for the second year in a row in 2020. 

The season follows the five-time Super Bowl champions during development camp and the preseason and is narrated by actor Liev Schreiber. This behind-the-scenes glimpse at the NFL will appeal to die-hard sports lovers, particularly cowboy enthusiasts.

30. Small Town News: KPVM Pahrump (2021) – For Fans of Local Television News

Year: 2021

Director: 3 hours

Stars: Vern Van Winkle, Deanna O’Donnell, Eunette Gentry

Rating:  TV-14

Runtime: 3 hours

This six-part series takes viewers inside a large private TV station in Pahrump, Nevada. Illustrated by a colorful ensemble of characters, which shows the team trying to expand their number of viewers into Las Vegas, and more. Fans of news will adore seeing just how broadcasts are put together.

31. Catch and Kill: The Podcast Tapes (2021): A Showcase of Ronan Farrow’s Pulitzer-Winning Journalism

Year: 2021

Director: Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

Stars: Ronan Farrow, Ken Auletta, Fabio Bertoni

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 29 minutes – each episode

Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and A Conspiracy to Protect Predators is inspired by Ronan Farrow’s best-selling book and podcast. It was the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist who helped expose Harvey Weinstein as a sex abuser in 2017. During the course of that investigation, he was subjected to a barrage of threats and intimidation from high-powered lawyers and agents, all of whom wanted the truth to be kept a secret.

32. Between the World and Me: An Adaptation of the Critically Acclaimed Book

Year: 2020

Director: Kamilah Forbes

Stars: Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Courtney B. Vance

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Between the World and Me is centered on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best-selling novel. It’s a visceral account of Coates’ life as well as a distressing look at racial injustice in America. This animated film features Coates, Mahershala Ali, Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, and others. It’s as sharp as its original material and as pertinent in today’s America.

33. David Byrne’s American Utopia (2020): A Joyous Meditation on Art

Year: 2020

Director: Spike Lee

Stars: David Byrne, Chris Giarmo, Angie Swan

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne and Brian Eno’s American Utopia have been translated for the big screen by director Spike Lee, and the result is an exuberant celebration of life and art. As a bonus, the album includes a Janelle Monae cover version of “Hell You Talmbout” by Talking Heads, as well as legendary compositions like “Burning Down the House” and “Once in a Lifetime.” But if you’re not already a fan of David Byrne, this film might change your views.

34. John Lewis: Good Trouble (2020): A Tribute to an Inspiring Activist

Year: 2020

Director: Dawn Porter

Stars: Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 

Rating: PG

Runtime: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Good Trouble examines the life and work of the deceased Congressman John Lewis, a key participant in the American Civil Rights Movement. Thousands of protests were held in his honor, he was detained over 40 times, and he served 3 decades as the congressional representative of Georgia’s 5th congressional district. 

This portrayal of his life is very important considering America’s present socio-political context, and some of the archive material is poignant, especially given how much more of Lewis’ work stays incomplete.

35. David Bowie: The Last Five Years (2017)

Year: 2017

Director: Francis Whately

Stars: David Bowie · Earl Slick · Gail Ann Dorsey · Gerry Leonard · Catherine Russel · Sterling Campbell · Tony Visconti · Zachary Alford.

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 90 minutes

It was not widely known in his later years that he was facing terminal cancer, a fact that made him a living legend and iconoclast who helped represent an entire generation of post-war music. The unexpected last album, Blackstar, revealed that he possessed a laser-like focus, and this documentary brings a new perspective on pop culture’s supreme chameleon.

36. Transhood (2020)

Year: 2020

Director: Sharon Liese

Stars: Avery Jackson, Marci Bowers, Phoenix, Avery, Mildred, Dr. Jill Jacobson, Leena, Caroline Gibbs, David Nachman

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 96 minutes

This documentary, directed by Sharon Liese and produced by Sasha Alpert, has gotten mixed reviews, but it’s a topic worth discussing now that gender identity is a hot problem in America. The video follows four transgender children in Kansas City, Missouri, as they explore what gender identity means these days. As its heroes fight between who society expects them to be and who they truly are, it extends beyond sexual orientation. 

The video goes into the challenges that many LGBTQIIA+ people experience today, such as familial strife, religious disagreements, lack of fair healthcare, and financial restraints. Despite its Missouri emphasis, it’s an honest, no-holds-barred examination of emotional, sexual, and gender identity in America today.

37. Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (2018)

Year: 2018

Director: David Heilbroner, Kate Davis

Stars:  Sandra Bland, Elton Mathis, Cannon Lambert

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 105 minutes

Before George Floyd’s death, there was Sandra Bland. A 28-year-old Black woman reportedly took her own life after being detained for a few days, say directors David Heilbroner and Kate Davis. Her offense was retaliating against a cop after being stopped for an unlawful lane change. It would be fatal. The documentary investigates her case and trooper Brian Encinia’s participation. 

For example, the jail officer who was meant to make hourly check-ins faked the papers. “Someone’s spirit may be crushed in a short length of time,” an independent coroner informed the Bland family, despite the official cause of death being asphyxiation. In this social equality documentary, Heilbroner and Davis lay out the facts so you may decide for yourself.

38. A Dangerous Son (2018)

Year: 2018

Director: Liz Garbus

Stars: Tony Beliz · Creigh Deeds · Thomas Insel · Liza Long · Maria Martinez · Andrew Solomon · Brian Tallant.

Rating: TV-14

Runtime: 86 minutes

Among Liz Garbus’ numerous collaborations with HBO is the true-crime film There’s Something Wrong with Aunt Diane (2011) and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (2020), both of which are now available on HBO Max, and the docuseries I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. To address the urgent issue of children suffering from extreme emotional and mental illness, she created the vital and extremely troubling feature film A Dangerous Son, which can be difficult to watch‌. 

As a frightening exposé and another achievement in Garbus’s dramatic nonfiction narrative, Garbus’s character-driven, emotionally charged film serves as an alternate emphasis on the growing problem of school violence.

39. Allen v. Farrow (2021)

Year: 2021

Director: Kirby Dick; Amy Ziering

Stars: Fletcher Previn, Mia Farrow, Casey Pascal, Dylan O’Sullivan Farrow.

Rating: TV-MA

Runtime: 256 minutes

This four-part documentary, which examines the frightening repeating motifs in director Woody Allen’s work, was immediately contentious. Reopening the scars from Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship would not be an easy undertaking with clear-cut solutions. 

The documentary series, directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, has been criticized for missing essential elements to simplify the intricate subject. It’s terrifying, upsetting, and vital to learn about Allen’s traumatizing Mia Farrow and Dylan during and after their relationship, and how Allen used his popularity to distract from unfavorable news.


Documentaries are one of the categories in which HBO excels the greatest. The cable network is well-known for its award-winning and best documentaries, which are noted for their thorough investigation and provocative themes.

The documentaries that are available on HBO Max are not only intriguing, but they also have a strong cultural resonance with the current era. It’s a well-known truth that whenever you see the HBO Documentary Films label on a documentary, you can be assured that the viewing experience is going to be entertaining.

One thing is for sure, the vintage documentaries are underrated. They should be among the best documentaries on HBO Max such as Grey Gardens, Nanook of the North, Monterey Pop, etc. Most of the 20th-century documentaries made it to the list of the best documentaries on HBO Max.