The best documentaries of 2017 you can stream right now


So far 2017 has been a strong year for documentaries, particularly on the major streaming outlets: Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Many documentaries have a hard enough time breaking through on a theatrical level, and having so many worthy options available at home has breathed new life into the form. The back half of the year is sure to deliver more interesting films, but now is as good a time as any to take stock of the year so far. From true crime stories you have to see to believe to stunningly shot nature films to football drama, heres a rundown of some of our favorite documentaries from of 2017. Eddie Strait

The best documentaries of 2017

1. The Defiant Ones (HBO)

HBO’s The Defiant Ones, a four-part documentary series, reaches soaring heights by getting vulnerable. Director Allen Hughes locates the necessary trust from the two towering men, masterfully finding their humanity. The intertwined stories of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are the tales of Beats headphones’ billions, unaddressed heartache, and big risks. Their stories are about everyone else, too, including the rock stars who show up to tell this story. You learn about Trent Reznor’s contract issues, Tupac’s moral dichotomy, Bonos regrets, and the rise of Eminem. Thats just the beginning. Kahron Spearman

Screengrab via HBO/YouTube

2.Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press (Netflix)

The best kind of journalism takes you on a journey you didnt expect. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press starts with a wrestlers sex tape, then pivots into both a celebration of the fourth estate and a stark warning about the ability of a free and independent press to survive the machinations of the billionaire class. Its shocking, its surreal, and its easily the most important thing to come out of Hulk Hogans career. David Wharton

Photo by Eve Edelheit/Netflix

3.Casting JonBent (Netflix)

This documentary looks at the infamous and unsolved murder of JonBent Ramsey and takes an unusual approach. Director Kitty Green interviews young actresses who are vying for the part of JonBent. Filtering a case everyone has heard through this meta lens adds a layer of surreality to the story, which is plenty bizarre to begin with. The result is an unsettling doc that examines the impact JonBents murder has had on the local community. Eddie Strait

Photo via Netflix US & Canada/YouTube


4.Last Chance U (Netflix)

Netflixs junior college set docu-series Last Chance U is chock full of drama on and off the field. Think Hardknocks meets Friday Night Lights. The players featured on the show have stumbled off course, either academically or legally, and the show their path to redemption. With so much on the line from the coach to the players to the academic advisor, Last Chance U is a powder keg of human and gridiron drama. E.S.

Screengrab via Netflix/YouTube

5.Dumb: The Story of Big Brother Magazine (Hulu)

Hulus marketing leaned heavily on the whole Jackass: Origins angle, but theres a lot more to Big Brother Magazines legacy than just helping make Johnny Knoxville famous. Dumb is a ride through the history of a weird little publication that kickflipped over every sacred cow it could find, redefining skater culture in the process. Even if you dont know Tony Hawk from Tony Robbins, Dumb is fast, slick, and a lot of fun. D.W.

Screengrab via Hulu/YouTube

6.Counterpunch (Netflix)

The best sports stories arent about the numbers on the scoreboard, but rather the human drama behind them. CounterPunch introduces three young boxers at different places in their careers, and through exploring their trials and tribulations, paints a broader picture of the state of boxing as a whole. Whether its the promising up-and-comer, the Olympic hopeful, or the pro trying to reclaim past glory, CounterPunch illuminates the choices and challenges facing aspiring boxers in the modern era. D.W.

Photo via Netflix

7.If Youre Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast (HBO)

With a long career that includes nine Emmys, a Grammy, and creating The Dick Van Dyke Show, nobody would blame Carl Reiner if he wanted to just relax and play shuffleboard until the lights go out. In HBOs charming documentary, Reiner profiles celebs who are thriving on the far side of 90, including Mel Brooks, Norman Lear, Betty White, Dick Van Dyke, and Stan Lee. D.W.

Screengrab via HBODocs/YouTube

8. Chasing Coral (Netflix)

Chasing Coral shines a light on the worlds great underwater crisis. Through vivid time-lapse imagery, director Jeff Orlowski exposes the heartbreaking coral bleaching phenomenon. Ninety-three percent of the heat from climate change is trapped in the ocean, Orlowski told the Daily Dot. Without a massive moonshot-style approach to solving this problem, were going to see such traumatic changes on this planet that we cannot even comprehend. Chris Leo Palermino

Photo via Netflix


9. Daughters of Destiny (Netflix)

Filmed over the course of seven years, Daughters of Destiny is reminiscent of past experiments such as the Up documentary series. Daughters is centered around Shanti Bhavan, an Indian school that takes in impoverished children from the so-called untouchable caste and guides them through their formative years. Daughters of Destiny provides a gripping and emotional look inside a school built from the ground up to prove that these students can accomplish anything they put their minds to, destiny be damned.David Wharton

Photo via Netflix

10.Mommy Dead and Dearest (HBO)

It’s crazy to think that a murder may be the least insane part of a crime story, but for HBOs Mommy Dead and Dearest, murder is where the story jumps off. The doc covers the murder of Dee Dee Blancharde and the hands of her daughter, Gypsy Rose, and her boyfriend, Nicholas. The more we learn about the case, the more stunning it becomes. Decades of lies come to light and the truth turns out to be so convoluted and bizarre than anyone could’ve ever imagined. D.W.

Screengrab via HBODocs/YouTube

11.The Churchills (Acorn TV)

Even if you stayed awake during all your history classes, chances are most wouldnt think to connect Britains WWII leader Winston Churchill with his 18th-century forebear, John Churchill, the First Duke of Marlborough. In The Churchills, historian David Starkey not only explores the remarkable similarities between the two men, he argues that Winston Churchills years spent writing an exhaustive biography of his ancestor John gave him crucial insights he would need to face down the Nazi threat. D.W.

Screengrab via Acorn TV

Editors note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.

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