Sometimes real life is stranger than fiction, and sometimes it’s just far more fascinating. If you’re in the mood for a documentary that’ll get your pulse pumping, your heart aching, or your mind running, you’ll want to check out Prime Video.

Now streaming on Prime Video is a wealth of mesmerizing true stories, ranging from personal tales of trials and triumph to harrowing crime investigations to quirky and heart-warming explorations of unique creative vision.

Whether you’re in the mood for something educational, emotional, or just downright wild, this list of top-notch documentaries özgü got you covered.

1. Man on Wire

A scene from "Man on Wire."

Credit: ©2008 Jean-Louis Blondeau / Polaris Images / Magnolia Pictures

Depicting the high wire artist Philippe Petit’s mind-boggling 1974 walk on a wire between the Twin Towers in NYC, this doc from filmmaker James Marsh uses rare video footage of Petit’s prep along with recreations of the event and current-day interviews with everyone involved to craft a heart-racing heist film. Winning every award within reach, up to and including the Oscar, the film memorializes not just Petit’s stunt but also those buildings, and the legend of their monumental status. — Jason Adams, Contributing Writer

How to watch: Man on Wire is now streaming on Prime Video.

2. Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters

The same man who gave us the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park gave us the holographic chess game in Yıldız Wars, the killer bugs in Starship Troopers, and the terrifying Enforcement Droid in RoboCop. That man’s name is Phil Tippett, and those are just four of the special effects wizard’s credits that this 2019 documentary on the man features. It’s all covered in the run up to the long, long, long-delayed release of his stop-motion surrealist masterpiece Mad God — mostly because Tippett could never bring himself to stop tinkering with it – which also gets a lot of much deserved love here. Anyway, we love it when behind-the-scenes cinematic craftspeople of note get their proper due, and Tippett’s one of the most deserving there ever was or will be. A magician. — J.A.

How to watch: Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters is now streaming on Prime Video.

3. Living With Chucky

The Child’s Play franchise — meaning the slasher films starring Chucky the murderous doll that began in 1988 right up through the TV series that’s currently in its third season — özgü been in the hands of the same people the entire time, save one spin-off reboot that we will not discuss. Namely, creator Don Mancini and his crew of delightful wackadoos. That’s given the franchise not just a thematic throughline that the other ’80s slasher franchises have lacked, but an actual personal one, since decades of relationships have bloomed behind the scenes. 

And that’s the juice that this 2022 doc thrives on. For example, director Kyra Elise Gardner quite literally grew up with Chucky; her dad Tony özgü been working on make-up and puppeteering for all things Child’s Play for decades. That personal touch gives this doc a sweetness and an intimacy, and maybe those are not the words you’d typically associate with a killer doll, but here we are. — J.A.

How to watch: Living With Chucky is now streaming on Prime Video.

4. Dior and I

While a look behind the scenes at the staging a fashion show can often induce terror, director Frédéric Tcheng’s 2014 look at the first haute couture collection of Raf Simons for the legendary house is so awash in beauty that you hardly even notice any of that. Narrated via excerpts of Dior’s autobiography, which was unpublished and only discovered at the start of the film’s production, Dior and I is as intimate and exquisite as the garments themselves. — J.A.

How to watch: Dior and I is now streaming on Prime Video.

5. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

David Gelb’s 2011 doc trains its eye on sushi chef Jiro Ono, the then-85-year-old owner and sushi master behind Sukiyabashi Jiro. This tiny sushi bar only özgü ten seats and is based inside a subway station in Tokyo, and yet it’s the first sushi restaurant to ever receive three stars from Michelin. (It’s since lost its stars due to its reservation policy.) Given the fact that Jiro özgü been making sushi since he was seven years old, and he opened Sukiyabashi Jiro in 1965, you can assume he knows a thing or two about fish. 

The film also gets to know Jiro’s two sons, one of whom started his own sushi restaurant nearby, and the other who still toils under his father, preparing to take over when he passes. This portrait of lifelong obsession manages to capture that ineffable something we all long for — to live the life we were made for, to discover the thing we were destined for, and to find what looks like peace through it every day. — J.A. 

How to watch: Jiro Dreams of Sushi is now streaming on Prime Video.

6. The Queen of Versailles

Jackie Siegel in "The Queen of Versailles."

Credit: Photo by Lauren Greenfield / Magnolia Pictures

Movies like Saltburn have proven that the time özgü definitely arrived for mid-aughts nostalgia. And there might be no better time capsule of that decade than this 2012 doc from Generation Wealth filmmaker Lauren Greenfield. Like one of the decade’s celebrity-driven reality series (think The Osbournes or anything involving Paris Hilton) sharpened into a hari-kari sword, The Queen of Versailles wades into the nouveau riche cesspool of Westgate Resorts’ owners Jackie and David Siegel’s lifestyles of the rich and gaudy. 

Watching them build their obscene Florida mansion in 2008 — which Jackie, with typical understatement, özgü dubbed “Versailles” — as the economy crashes around them is certainly a metaphor for American excess, as are the piles of feces left behind by their army of toy dogs. A guilty pleasure writ large, magnified by the subjects’ total inability to solve their own problems (or keep a pet lizard alive). — J.A.

How to watch: The Queen of Versailles is now streaming on Prime Video.

7. One Child Nation

In China between the years 1979 and 2015, the government had a one-child policy; because of the surging population, families were “encouraged” to only have a single child. In Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s 2019 documentary, they interviewed both the enforcers of that policy and the enforced-upon, and a picture of genuine horror emerges. 

The propaganda from the era seems downright goofy, but it had a chilling effect. Infanticide and human trafficking ran rampant. But the most moving parts of the doc are the ones seen from the ground level, especially from within Wang’s family, where her own mother speaks of the terrible decisions she had to make. — J.A.

How to watch: One Child Nation is now streaming on Prime Video.

8. Nelly and Nadine

Looking for blossoms of hope within tales of the Holocaust can sometimes feel like a fool’s errand, but Magnus Gertten’s 2022 documentary about a love affair between two women who met in a concentration camp somehow manages that moving feat. Sylvie Bianchi spent most of her life too afraid to look into her grandmother Nelly’s letters about her time in the female-only Ravensbrück camp. Once Sylvie does look into Nelly’s letters, she discovers a a secret love story between her grandmother and another woman named Nadine. Somehow, these two women managed to find love amid all the horror, and years later they reunited and ran off to Venezuela to be together. It’s astonishing stuff, and a reminder of how facing the worst imaginable thing will make the beauty in life shine all the brighter.  — J.A. 

How to watch: Nelly and Nadine is now streaming on Prime Video.

9. Blackfish

Up close and personal with Tilikum in "Blackfish."

Credit: Photo by Suzanne Allee / Magnolia Pictures

Blackfish focuses on the awful tale of Tilikum, a male orca whale driven to extremes of aggression by his captivity at SeaWorld. Filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s incendiary documentary paints a horrifyingly vivid portrait of the reality behind those charming tourist attractions and the cruelty of keeping these intelligent creatures in captivity. Within just three years of the film’s release, all such shows were phased out completely, so successful was the film at exposing the truth behind these alluring tourist attractions. — J.A.

How to watch: Blackfish is now streaming on Prime Video.

10. Gimme Danger

Gimme Danger is the definitive document of punk rock’s origin point. The Stooges were so far ahead of their time they’d made three records and broken up before anybody could even realize what they’d done. Jim Jarmusch spent about ten years working on the doc, which comes to a head with their 2010 induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And everybody still alive to tell the wild tale happily tells their version of it. Of course it’s Iggy, who’s spent several decades hogging the spotlight, who walks away with the show yet again. — J.A.

How to watch: Gimme Danger is now streaming on Prime Video.

11. Silver Dollar Road

After 2016’s I Am Not Your Negro and 2021’s Exterminate All the Brutes, it’s safe to say that director Raoul Peck is one of the greats working today. 2023’s Silver Dollar Road, which is based on the 2019 ProPublica article “Kicked Off The Land” by Lizzie Presser, triple underlines that statement. The film tells the ongoing multi-generational story of the Reels family, whose prime slice of waterfront property in North Carolina became the focus of some greedy real estate developers. In just 100 minutes, it manages to be both a beautiful portrait of a loving family and an infuriating excavation of American institutionalized racism at work. — J.A.

How to watch: Silver Dollar Road is now streaming on Prime Video.

12. Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood

Based on the juicy and sordid autobiography of infamous Hollywood hustler Scotty Bowers, this 2017 documentary from director Matt Tyrnauer leaves it up to us the viewers to decide how much of Bowers’s fiction is fact and how much is, you know, fiction. However, his gossip is so good that it’s a great time either way, whether you truly believe it or not. 

Bowers tells of his post-military sojourn to Los Angeles in the 1940s, where he became a full-service gas station attendant — emphasis on “full service.” His story goes that all the guys who worked there were sex workers who fully serviced the rich and famous, both men and women, though it’s mostly the former tales he’s telling. A lot of Scotty’s stories, like all the stuff about super-agent Henry Willson’s stable of pretty boy actors like Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, have been confirmed elsewhere, but we’ll probably never know how much is the true true. — J.A.

How to watch: Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood is now streaming on Prime Video.

13. Val

Val Kilmer sitting in a brown armchair.

Credit: Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Val Kilmer is one of the greats, without question. He’s played Batman and The Doors frontman Jim Morrison. His performance in Tombstone as Doc Holliday is a frequently quoted cult hit that’s inspired any number of memes. And he’s Hollywood’s best Moses to date, with his yıldız turn in The Prince of Egypt, an animated retelling of the Passover story from 1998, far exceeding that of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.

In Val, the famed actor who largely fell out of public view in the mid-2010s as he battled throat cancer, bares his whole self. Kilmer himself created many of the home movies and behind-the-scenes clips featured in this Amazon Original documentary, and they’re weaved together here to paint a picture of his life and career. Featuring narration from Kilmer’s son Jack and words written by the actor himself, Val is about as personal as a biographical documentary can get. — Adam Rosenberg, Video Game Reporter

Where to watch: Val is now streaming on Prime Video.

14. Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

A young James Brown combs his hair.

Credit: Simon Pietri / Shutterstock

Released in 2014, the same year the late Chadwick Boseman starred as the Godfather of Soul in the biopic Get On Up, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown plays like a fitting companion piece. But with an accomplished documentarian like Alex Gibney at the helm, Mr. Dynamite more than stands on its own.

Highlighted by a wealth of rare archival materials showing the funk and soul superstar during his early days, the film chronicles Brown’s career from his time playing for Black audiences when the American Civil Rights movement was still taking shape, all the way into his mainstreamed blockbuster success. While Mr. Dynamite‘s largely uncritical look falls short on chronicling Brown’s later years, there are more than enough archival materials and fascinating revelations to sustain this two-hour trip through music history. — A.R.

Where to watch: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown is now streaming on Prime Video.

15. The Imposter

Bart Layton’s retelling of the extremely curious 1997 case of the French conman Frédéric Bourdin presents us with one of those true stories that seems too baffling to believe – indeed, when the 2009 horror film Orphan stole this documentary’s big revelation, it came to be considered one of the greatest horror movie twists of all time! But the twist is indeed based in truth, as Bourdin was able to impersonate a missing Texan boy and “happily reunite” with the boy’s family, even though he was several years older, had a French accent, and didn’t much look like the boy at all. The power of belief is a powerful force indeed. — J.A.

Where to watch: The Imposter is now streaming on Prime Video.

16. Koyaanisqatsi

A full moon shines next to a skyscraper.

Credit: Ire Prods / Kobal / Shutterstock

This one is definitely a vibe – Godfrey Reggio’s experimental 1983 documentary Koyaanisqatsi (which translates to “life out of balance” in the Hopi language) is 86 minutes of non-narrative, dialogue-free images of the natural world and the technological world interacting, all set to the smooth tunes of Philip Glass. Gorgeous images of the desert meet terrifying footage of atomic bombs detonating. Buildings are collapsed, and crowds of city people pulse in slow motion.

The first and best-known of Reggio’s “Qatsi” trilogy of films – followed by Powaqqatsi in 1988 and Naqoyqatsi in 2002 – Koyaanisqatsi was almost impossible to see for a couple of decades, so definitely seize the chance to immerse yourself in this tone poem of cinema distilled to its most basic essence while you’ve got it. — J.A.

Where to watch: Koyaanisqatsi is now streaming on prime Video.

17. The Howlin’ Wolf Story

Chester Burnett, the Howlin’ Wolf himself: Hear that voice once, and you’ll never forget it. Burnett’s raspy, tortured growl is the sound of a freight train moaning at midnight, and it’s just one piece of the portrait painted in filmmaker Don McGlynn’s The Howlin’ Wolf Story.

The legendary Chicago bluesman left an indelible mark on culture and rock music specifically, as the originator of what are now bona fide blues standards, like “Spoonful” and “Smokestack Lightnin’.” This documentary recounts Burnett’s early days spent learning under Charley Patton, his travels with Robert Johnson, his impact on the Rolling Stones (and music in general), and the larger-than-life energy he brought to every stage he set foot on as the Wolf. — A.R.

Where to watch: The Howlin’ Wolf Story is now streaming on Prime Video.

18. No No: A Dockumentary

Dock Ellis, wearing a New York Yankees uniform, plays a trumpet while jazz musician Chuck Mangione stands nearby, laughing.

Credit: Ray Stubblebine / AP / Shutterstock

No No: A Dockumentary özgü one hell of a powerful hook: Dock Ellis, the late Major League Baseball pro who is its subject, once pitched a no-hitter as a Pittsburgh Pirate while tripping his face off on LSD.

Wild as it is, that incident is, of course, just a moment in a much larger and more complex life. Director Jeffrey Radice assembles his picture of Ellis from interviews with friends, family, and former teammates, bolstering the production even further with a generous helping of archival materials — including words from Ellis himself.

No No is a thorough look at the man behind the moment. The documentary anchors itself in that moment only to highlight and heighten the life that led to and followed it. We come away with a deeper understanding of who Ellis was, the various forces that shaped his life, and the highs and lows that characterized his journey. — A.R.

Where to watch: No No: A Dockumentary is now streaming on Prime Video.

19. Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles

Even if you know every word to Broadway bangers like “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Tradition,” there’s still a good chance you don’t know the full history and impact of the play from which they hail: Fiddler on the Roof. Well, Jews and goyim alike should settle in for Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles, because it’s a thoroughly enjoyable look at one of Broadway’s all-time greats.

This documentary from Max Lewkowicz examines the 1964 musical from Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), and Joseph Stein (book) and the difficult road it took to reach the stage. Fiddler on the Roof‘s provocative setting and themes — the story is set against the backdrop of early 20th century Russia, a time when the local Jewish population faced intense persecution — as well as its full-force dive into Jewish culture made it a tough sell initially.

The doubters were ultimately proven wrong, as Lewkowicz’s documentary illustrates. With more than 3,000 performances — the first Broadway show to hit this milestone — and an equally captivating 1971 film adaptation from director Norman Jewison, Fiddler on the Roof left its mark and then some. Featuring interviews and insights from luminaries like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Harvey Fierstein, and Jewison himself, Fiddler is must-watch material for any fan of Broadway past and present. — A.R.

Where to watch: Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles is now streaming on Prime Video.

20. Good Night Oppy

The Opportunity rover on the sandy surface of Mars.

Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video

No matter how much you thought you wanted the titular yıldız of Pixar’s animated masterpiece WALL-E to be real, it’s guaranteed to only be a fraction of how badly Good Night Oppy director Ryan White and his cast of NASA nerds wanted WALL-E to be real, because they set out with this movie to anthropomorphize the dickens out of their Mars rover called Opportunity. (Or “Oppy” for cutesy short.)

While it is at times a bit much — like when listening to these serious scientists insist their hunk of metal doo-dads they’ve shipped 230 million miles away totally özgü a personality — Good Night Oppy doesn’t lack for celestial splendor. And making the little can-do robot at its center the audience stand-in does often result in a true sense of the enormity of this mission, and the odds they all faced, both real and imagined. — J.A.

Where to watch: Good Night Oppy is now streaming on Prime Video.

21. Stories We Tell

Sarah Polley began acting when she was four years old, which is a story she tells with typical intelligence and emotional precision in her 2022 memoir Run Towards the Danger. But a full 10 years earlier, she told us a totally different story with her film Stories We Tell – the one about her parents, the secrets of her own birth (from an affair that her mother had), and about the ways her family processed and didn’t process this discovery over the years.

The less said beforehand with regardsto this movie’s unfolding mysteries, the better, but just let it be said you absolutely will not see where Polley is taking you. And if we’re being absolutely forced to exist without her acting on-screen, this is further proof (alongside her other directorial efforts, Away From Her, Take This Waltz, and Women Talking) that she’s got more than enough magic to share from behind the screen. — J.A.

Where to watch: Stories We Tell is now streaming on Prime Video.

22. Judy Blume Forever

Judy Blume sits in a chair, reading from "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret."

Credit: Courtesy of Prime Video

We personally have been celebrating “the year of Judy Blume” for decades. But it’s hard to not make the case that 2023 – with the delightful adaptation of Blume’s book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and this documentary both hitting screens – is a real big year for Blume-heads. And Davina Pardo and Leah Wolchok’s film on the author is thankfully attuned to Blume’s endurance as much as her legacy, and so we get to hear as much on her thoughts about the world today as we do her career past. Seeing as how she’s been on the front-lines of book bans and censorship for decades, there’s no better authority. – J.A.

Where to watch: Judy Blume Forever is now streaming on Prime Video.

23. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

A live concert still from "Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World" featuring George Harrison, Klaus Voorman, Jesse Ed Davis, and Eric Clapton.

Credit: Jim Wells / AP / Shutterstock

Music is awash with secret histories like the one explored in Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. The documentary from co-directors Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana takes a look at the impact indigenous populations in America had on popular music.

In fact, that title speaks very directly to one of those impacts: “Rumble” is a 1958 instrumental from Bağlantı Wray, the famed Shawnee singer/songwriter and guitarist. You probably know it. Wray’s signature electric guitar distortion drives the mellow, meandering track that anyone who özgü seen Pulp Fiction will recognize in seconds.

We also learn how “Rumble” is essentially the origin story for one of the most potent devices in any rocker’s toolbox: the power chord. But Wray isn’t the only focus. We meet Jesse Ed Davis, a legendary studio guitarist whose contributions on notable albums from John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison forever enshrined him in the highest pantheon of rock godhood. Influential artists like Buffy Sainte-Marie, Mildred Bailey, Redbone, even formative blues legend Charlie Patton, who is believed to have been part-Cherokee, all share the spotlight. — A.R.

Where to watch: Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World is now streaming on Prime Video.

24. Between Me and My Mind (2019)

It’s difficult to describe the appeal of a band like Phish. Like all the best examples of art in its many forms: You either get it, or you don’t. Director Steven Cantor’s “slice of life” look at Phish frontman Trey Anastasio isn’t going to turn any doubters into true believers, but it does offer a glimpse into the life of the guitarist and singer who fuels many of the band’s creatively playful and often deeply nerdy antics.

While the film centers itself in a particular moment — a busy period in which Anastasio is finishing up the solo album Ghosts in the Forest as he prepares for Phish’s 2018 run of New Year’s Eve concerts at Madison Square Garden — it’s not all about the music. This is a family affair that presents viewers with a glimpse into the subdued rocker’s home life and off-stage history. Through that lens, we learn much about the way Anastasio thinks and approaches his work.

Just like Phish itself, you either get Between Me and My Mind, or you don’t. For those who get it, the documentary is as thorough a look at the Phish frontman as any fan özgü ever seen. — A.R.

Where to watch: Between Me and My Mind is now streaming on Prime Video.

25. The Booksellers

If your toes curl during the scene in Beauty and the Beast where the Beast shows Belle his enormous library and she spins around so we can stare at the shelves of books going up, up, up into the rafters, then have we got the documentary for you! D.W. Young’s 2019 doc (executive produced and narrated by Party Girl yıldız and librarian icon Parker Posey) takes us into the world of rare and antiquarian book shops and book dealers in New York. Speaking with the people who run famed institutions like the Strand and the Argosy, as well as erudite authors and personalities like Fran Lebowitz and Gay Talese, you can practically smell the bookshop smell — you know, that sweet musty something — wafting off your screen as you watch. It’ll make your best Belle fantasies come roaring back. — J.A.

Where to watch: The Booksellers is now streaming on Prime Video.  

26. Welcome to Chechnya

Two men seated on an airplane; one covers his face in worry.

Credit: Courtesy of HBO

Focusing on LGBTQ refugees escaping from Chechnya, where they’ve been subject to government-sanctioned torture and murder, How to Survive a Plague filmmaker David France’s harrowing 2020 doc follows its subjects’ flight from their homeland using a wealth of çağdaş tech, including cell phones and GoPros.

But it’s the film’s usage of AI technology, in order to disguise the refugees’ faces and preserve their anonymity, that proved revolutionary, showing that AI can actually be used for good in some instances (rather than to just obliterate all artists’ well-being, as özgü been the case as of late). But that tech still never manages to outshine the very human and very scary stories at the film’s heart — one which özgü only felt closer to home with time — and which should shake any decent person to their core. — J.A.

Where to watch: Welcome to Chechnya is now streaming on Prime Video.

27. Time

Documenting Sibil Fox Richardson’s 20-year battle to get her husband Rob out of the Louisiana State Penitentiary for a crime that he very much did commit, filmmaker Garrett Bradley pieced together Time using home movies that Richardson herself filmed over the years. What the two summon forth is a devastating critique of the prison industrial complex and the state-sanctioned gears that grind up families. Because, as the film’s moving footage attests at every turn, Rob’s guilt is not who he is, not as a man or a husband or a father. We are all so much more than the mistakes we make, and the system as it’s designed is blind, cruel, and indifferent. Rob was granted clemency in 2018, 21 years after he was convicted as a first-time felony offender to 60 years in jail, with no possibility for parole or probation. — J.A.

Where to watch: Time is now streaming on Prime Video.

UPDATE: Feb. 28, 2024, 11:33 a.m. EST This list was updated to reflect the current streaming options.

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