So, you binged the series, you now know more than you ever wanted to know about the world of big cats, and now you need something to fill the Tiger King-shaped hole in your heart. We’ve got just the thing. Here are 15 documentaries that will satisfy your cravings for unbelievable true stories.
1. The 13th
This Academy-Award nominated documentary is a must-watch for everyone, everywhere. Its creative and accessible form is matched by a powerful and comprehensive look at the history of racial injustice in the United States, from slavery to mass incarceration. This film is a must-watch for all Americans, offering a clear view of the history that created the nation we live in today and guidance on how to create a better tomorrow.
2. The Last Dance
This 2020 documentary was another popular quarantine binge. It focuses on the finale season of the Chicago Bulls dynasty, on and off the court. It’s got a great story, like any good documentary. But what really makes this documentary special is the chance to relive–or for younger viewers, experience for the first time–Michael Jordan’s unparalleled skill on the court.
3. Paris Is Burning
This iconic documentary explores the world of underground ball culture of New York in the 1980s and the colorful and complex characters who inhabit it. Originally released in 1990, this documentary was restored and re-released in 2019, to great critical success. Although it is now thirty years old, Paris Is Burning remains fresh and relevant for its intersectional look at Black and Latinx expressions of gay and transgender identities.
Aesthetic appeal isn’t exactly one of the greatest strengths of the documentary genre. That just makes it all the more breathtaking when a documentary comes along that’s simply beautiful. Honeyland swept the 2019 Sundance Festival with its gorgeously lush and deeply human look at traditional beekeeping in rural Macedonia. The visually stunning documentary film follows Hatidže Muratova, a keeper of wild bees, as she preserves an ancient trade in a changing world.
5. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
If you enjoyed the niche world and fascinating characters of Tiger King, you might enjoy Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film focuses on Jiro Ono, the best sushi chef in the world as his quest for perfection drives him to ever greater heights and sets ever-higher standards for the son who must follow in his footsteps.
6. I Am Not Your Negro
This Academy-Award nominated documentary is based on the unfinished manuscript of legendary American writer James Baldwin. Samuel L. Jackson narrates the words of one of the greatest authors this country has ever known as he explores the history of American racism and offers first-person accounts of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and its leaders. Filmmaker Raoul Peck pairs Baldwin’s laser-precision with powerful images and footage from the 20th century, creating a gripping and eye-opening masterpiece.
If you’re looking for a biopic documentary, we recommend Amy, the acclaimed documentary about the life and death of British singer Amy Winehouse. Described as tender and heartbreaking, this film explores Winehouse’s personal and professional lives, from music stardom to intimate personal relationships. Director Asif Kapadia’s honest and empathetic touch earned the documentary a total of 30 film awards, including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
8. The Act of Killing
This chilling documentary focuses on Anwar Congo, an executioner in the Indonesian mass killings of 1965-66. Rather than take a removed, academic look at the genocides, director Joshua Oppenheimer asked Anwar to recount and re-enact scenes of his killings. This startling approach provides audiences with an unprecedented look inside the mind and imagination of a mass murderer and prompted Anwar himself to confront the reality of his atrocities.
9. How To Survive A Plague
In the middle of our own global pandemic, it’s worth looking back at the public health crisis that the government ignored, and the incredible courage of the individuals who fought for their right to live. How To Survive A Plague is a 2012 documentary about the AIDS crisis, the prejudice and stigma that resulted in thousands of deaths, and the activists whose work forced the government to address the disease.
10. Harlan County, U.S.A.
Winner of the 1977 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this is an older documentary that feels strikingly contemporary. Harlan County, U.S.A. documents the Brookside Strike, in which working-class coal mining families in Harlan County, Kentucky fought for the right to unionize in 1973 and were met with strong opposition from Duke Power Company. Director/producer Barbara Kopple takes a strong stance on worker’s rights while still placing narrative control in the striker’s hands, allowing the miners to describe their situation in their own words rather than scripting her own narration.
11. Sound and Fury
Sound and Fury (2000) follows eighteen months in the life of the Artinians, an extended family with deafness that spans three generations. The film centers on brothers Peter and Chris Artinian, the former of whom is Deaf and the latter of whom has proficient hearing, as they face the difficult decision of whether to give their Deaf children cochlear implants. The film explores the richness of Deaf culture and what it means to hold on to it.
12. The Thin Blue Line
If your favorite part of Tiger King was trying to figure out if Carole Baskin murdered her husband, you may enjoy The Thin Blue Line. It’s about the trial and conviction of Randall Dale Adams for the murder of police officer Robert Wood, which he did not commit. Through interviews, examinations of evidence, and re-enacted reconstructions of the events, director Errol Morris uncovers the truth of Adam’s innocence. In fact, it was the evidence presented in Thin Blue Line that ultimately led to Adam’s acquittal and release from prison after twelve years of wrongful incarceration. A classic for any fans of the true-crime genre.
13. Man On Wire
Man On Wire (2008) is about Phillipe Petit’s 1974 high wire walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. The preparation and execution of the harrowing feat is presented in the style of a heist film, with interviews from people involved and re-enactments of the event itself. Based on Petit’s book, To Reach The Clouds, this film won the 2009 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
14. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
Executive producers President Barack and Michelle Obama comes an incredible documentary about one of the most overlooked civil rights movements in American history: the disability rights movement. The film follows the campers of Camp Jened, a summer camp for teens with disabilities. The camp empowers the teens, who went on to become activists and band together to fight for accessibility legislation.
For all you history buffs, this documentary has been the talk of 2020. Based on a book of the same title by Ron Chernow (you may recognize his name from the biography that inspired Hamilton), Grant is a three-part mini-series about the life of Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. Combining commentary from historians with scripted re-enactments, Grant is in many ways a classic History Channel docu-drama. Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio and director Malcolm Venville bring a refreshingly cinematic touch to the re-enactment scenes, elevating them to a movie-level quality that makes Grant an engaging watch.
What are your favorite documentaries? Share your faves in the comments below!
Featured Image Source via LinkedIn.com.
A. A. Ford is a writer from St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently a student majoring in English and Theology at the University of Notre Dame. In addition to her articles for Society 19, Ford is known for her poetry and fiction, which can be found at https://aafordstories.wordpress.com/. In her free time, she loves directing stage theater, spending time with her friends and family, and trying her best to glorify God by her life.