Now Reading
10 Documentaries That Will Challenge the Way You See the World

10 Documentaries That Will Challenge the Way You See the World

During the last few years of political, social, economic and even spiritual unrest, documentaries have become a key way to understand how we’ve gotten to where we are. The best documentaries are the ones that leave you silent at the end of it, whether it’s from jaw-dropping moments or unbelievably true stories. We’ve curated a list that take a closer look at the past, present and future to help us better understand the world we live in today.

1. Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids’ TV

Available on Max

Investigation Discovery’s jaw-dropping documentary uncovers the sinister side of Nickelodeon Studios. Once known as the peak of children’s television, dozens of former child stars and crew members speak out in this interview about the mistreatment they experienced on set. From the kids’ discomfort participating in approriate jokes to mistreatment from executive producer to Dan Schneider to multiple instances of child sex abuse, the documentary exposes how the entertainment industry has left young actors particularly vulnerable. The documentary premiered in March, but a new episode will drop on Monday on Max.

2. The Economics of Happiness

Available on YouTube

The Economics of Happiness sheds light on the ongoing struggle between globalization and localization. Despite efforts by governments and corporations to push for globalization, communities worldwide are taking matters into their own hands by creating locally-focused, eco-friendly economies. This new economic paradigm, known as the “economics of localization,” prioritizes the well-being of individuals and the environment over corporate interests.

3. The Octopus Teacher

Available on Netflix

The Octopus Teacher explores the remarkable relationship between a filmmaker and an octopus living in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa. The film documents the filmmaker’s journey as they observe and document the octopus’ intricate hunting and problem-solving skills, as well as its ability to use tools. This captivating and intimate look at the octopus provides new insights into the intelligence and complex behavior of these mysterious sea creatures, challenging the notion that they are just mindless predators.

4. The Future of Work and Death

Available on Amazon Prime

This thought-provoking documentary examines the rapidly changing landscape of work and mortality in the 21st century. With technological advancements disrupting traditional job markets and extending human lifespans, this film asks important questions about the future of work, the meaning of life, and what it means to be human. Through interviews with experts and thought leaders, the documentary explores the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on employment, the ethical implications of life extension, and the importance of finding purpose in a world where work and death are being redefined. Whether you’re an optimist or a skeptic, The Future of Work and Death offers a sobering look at the potential consequences of our current trajectory and the choices we must make as a society.

5. A Beautiful Planet

Available on Apple TV+

This 2016 film explores planet Earth from a view never seen before. Like similar projects, the imagery is breathtaking. But there’s something entirely unique about it—A Beautiful Planet views Earth not from South American rain forests or East Asian mountain ranges—but from the International Space Station. From space. It’s impossible to see the beauty and intricacy and not come away with a greater sense of awe for God’s creation and respect for His creativity.

Plus, the picture is narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, which is just cool.

6. The Dark Matter of Love

Available on Amazon Prime

A family of three adds three more to their kids through adoption. What makes The Dark Matter of Love interesting is the up-close look it offers of adoption and long, difficult bonding process that follows. We see through the lenses of detailed psychological study that the family in this documentary journeys to a frontier of new relationships with incredible courage.

7. Good Night Oppy

Available on Amazon Prime

Talk about a story of resilience. Good Night Oppy charts the remarkable true story of Opportunity, a NASA exploration rover that was sent to Mars for a 90-day mission but ended up surviving for 15 years. While Oppy may only be a robot, it does remind us to never give up hope, especially when facing a challenge that feels out-of-this-world.

8. What We Leave Behind

Available on Netflix

Julián Moreno is the focus of What We Leave Behind, a poetic exploration on family, tradition, immigration, and life and death. Filmmaker Iliana Sosa interviewed her grandfather, who took time every month for nearly 20 years to take a bus for the 560-mile trip from his home in Mexico to visit his daughters and grandchildren in El Paso, Texas. The story weaves through loss, hope and sacrifice, reminding us that everything we gain can often come at a cost.

9. Endangered

Available on Max

In a time when “fake news” is a common phrase, it can be hard for many to recognize the dangerous work journalists actually do. Endangered peels back the veil on the fourth estate, showing audiences just how difficult it can be to discover the truth. It’s a reminder that what goes on in a newsroom isn’t always the full picture.

10. The Waiting Room

Available on Hulu

It’s all too easy to boil the idea of health care to a series of bills or politics. But director Peter Nicks strives to put a face to the U.S. crisis with his 2012 film, The Waiting Room. Shot over five months, viewers are invited to simply watch an average day at Highland Hospital in Oakland, California—where most of the patients are uninsured. With a story assist through a confessional both placed in the waiting room, rather than an omniscient narrator, we hear the story directly from those affected the most. (Fans of This American Life, you’re going to dig this one.) It’s stark reminder that compassion shouldn’t come with a price tag.

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top

You’re reading our ad-supported experience

For our premium ad-free experience, including exclusive podcasts, issues and more, subscribe to

Plans start as low as $2.50/mo