The 40+ Best Documentary Films To Watch On Amazon Prime Instant Video

Documentary Films

December 3rd, 2018   |   Updated on July 12th, 2022

Amazon Prime offers zillions of documentaries that can go toe to toe with Hollywood blockbusters!

When you’re browsing through a list of zillions of movies, documentaries are finding a new lease of life thanks to the streaming service like Amazon Prime Video.

Amazon Prime has thousands of titles to choose from an array of documentaries on Amazon, including a stunning array of documentaries, this list has a little bit of everything for discerning documentary fans.

From originals to acquired content, Amazon has a ton of options in the way of documentary films and television series. Here are 40+ must watch Amazon Prime documentaries to stream right now:

1. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)

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After the 2008 financial crisis that nearly destroyed the world economy, none of the American financial institutions faced prosecutions for their shady dealings that contributed to this debacle, except one. Abacus Federal Savings Bank, a small Chinese-American bank that catered to the neglected market of their community, was indicted on fraud charges and loan falsifications.

As the bank disputed these accusations, many in the mainstream news media noticed that far larger competitors appeared to have committed similar misdeeds without legal consequence; likely because they were “too big to fail.” This film explores the history of Abacus and its legal battle for survival against this hypocritical, and likely racist, application of the law that seemed to determined to punish them as a scapegoat for crimes that much larger felons deserve to face.


2. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

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This documentary looks at Aileen Wuornos convicted of killing 7 men while working as a prostitute in Florida. This is actually the second Wuornos documentary made by this group the first being Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (1992). With her execution now on the horizon Nick Broomfield returns to Florida to complete the story.

Her argument has always been that the killings were in self-defense but she eventually pleaded no contest or guilty to most of the murders. Broomfield was able to film several interviews which reveals her state of mind and puts into question her mental competence.


3. Author: The JT LeRoy Story (2016)

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The story of JT LeRoy, the pen name and made-up public identity (one of them, at least) of Laura Albert, is so Fascinating with a capital “F” that it’s been fodder for multiple documentaries and will soon be turned into a dramatic feature.

This particular film is also Fantastic in its execution, featuring a central interview with Albert, who may not be the most reliable narrator but is a captivating and engrossing character nonetheless. Currently facing scrutiny over the legality of some of its content, Author: The JT Leroy Story is a highly compelling collage of stylish archival footage and recorded phone conversations that flesh out this notorious Catfish-like caper of the literary world.


4. The Act of Killing (2012)

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A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.


5. The Bomb (2017)

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The bomb places the viewer in the middle of the story of nuclear weapons – the most dangerous machines ever built – from the Trinity Test in 1945 to the current state of nuclear weapons in 2016. It will explore the culture surrounding nuclear weapons, the fascination they inspire and the perverse appeal they still exert.

It will convey the impossibility of controlling this technology. the bomb is about the immense power of nuclear weapons, their dark allure and ingenious technology, the computer systems invented to control them, the missiles and bombers built to carry them, the practice of denial and secrecy that perpetuates them, the societal and cultural influence of them, and the profound death wish at the very heart of them.

The audience will experience visual and auditory simulations of nuclear testing/planning/attacks as well as the technological and cultural aspects of nuclear weapons. the bomb will be comprised of archival footage, animation, text, music and the installation


6. City of Ghosts (2017)

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A documentary that follows the efforts of “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.


7. Cameraperson (2016)

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A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home: these scenes and others are woven into Cameraperson, a tapestry of footage collected over the twenty-five-year career of documentary cinematographer Kirsten Johnson.

Through a series of episodic juxtapositions, Johnson explores the relationships between image makers and their subjects, the tension between the objectivity and intervention of the camera, and the complex interaction of unfiltered reality and crafted narrative.

A hybrid work that combines documentary, autobiography, and ethical inquiry, Cameraperson is both a moving glimpse into one filmmaker’s personal journey and a thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.


8. Cartel Land (2015)

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A physician in Michoacán, Mexico leads a citizen uprising against the drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Across the U.S. border, a veteran heads a paramilitary group working to prevent Mexico’s drug wars from entering U.S. territory.


9. The Endless Summer (1966)

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They call it The Endless Summer the ultimate surfing adventure, crossing the globe in search of the perfect wave. From the uncharted waters of West Africa, to the shark-filled seas of Australia, to the tropical paradise of Tahiti and beyond, these California surfers accomplish in a few months what most people never do in a lifetime.They live their dream.

Director Bruce Brown creates a film so powerful it has become a timeless masterpiece that continues to capture the imagination of every new generation. When it first played in theaters, audiences lined up to see it again and again, spellbound by its thrilling excitement and awesome photography. But in fact, what’s most compelling about the film is the sport of surfing itself, and once you’ve seen it, you’ll never forget why.


10. Cropsey (2009)

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Realizing the urban legend of their youth has actually come true; two filmmakers delve into the mystery surrounding five missing children and the real-life boogeyman linked to their disappearances.

One of the creepiest documentaries ever made, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s film shows how some urban legends are based on true stories even more unsettling than the myths. Because the directors grew up on lore rather than facts, their discoveries are as fresh as our own as we learn about a Staten Island boogeyman who was very real, indeed.

11. Without Charity

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Director Paul Lyzun takes you on a journey to rural Indiana in the autumn of 2000. Three construction workers were brutally murdered while working on an upscale home. Looking for answers, the police discover that a young woman named Charity Payne may be a link to the crimes. Was she just a pawn or a criminal mastermind? Would any of this have happened without.


12. Prostitution Behind The Veil

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This film unveils the lives of two women in a city in Iran. We explore their everyday life and the way prostitution functions in a country where it is banned and where a person who is not their spouse. is persecuted.


13. Sriracha

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Sriracha has earned a cult following, but the story of this spicy sauce is a mystery to most fans. Dedicated to Sriracha lovers, this fast-paced documentary travels around the globe to reveal its origin and the man behind the iconic “rooster sauce.” 


14. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

An affectionate portrait of Caroll Spinney, the beloved puppeteer responsible for creating worldwide icons out of Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for the last 45 years. 


15. Bill Cunningham New York

Ira Glass Favorite* This beloved doc profiles street photographer Bill Cunningham, editor of the Sunday Times column that every fashion forward New Yorker secretly hopes to end up in.

16. Nas: Time Is Illmatic

Twenty years after the release of Nas’s groundbreaking debut album Illmatic, Nas: Time is Illmatic takes us into the heart of his creative process. Returning to his childhood home in Queensbridge, Nas shares stories of his upbringing, his influences from the music of his jazz musician father Olu Dara to the burgeoning hip hop scene in New York City and the obstacles he faced before his major label signing at age 20.


17. The Kill Team

This provocative, bold, and deeply moving documentary profiles Adam Winfield, a soldier-turned-whistleblower who returns from the battlefield to expose shocking war crimes that the U.S. Army will do anything to cover up.


18. Kon-tiki

Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl crossed the Pacific ocean in a balsa wood raft in 1947, together with five men, to prove that South Americans already back in pre-Columbian times could have crossed the sea and settle on Polynesian islands. After gathering financing for the trip with loans and donations, they set off on an epic 101 day-long journey across 8,000 kilometers, all while the world was watching. KON-TIKI tells about the origin of Heyerdahl’s idea and the events surrounding the group’s voyage.


19. First Peoples

See how the mixing of prehistoric human genes led the way for our species to survive and thrive around the globe. Archaeology, genetics and anthropology cast new light on 200,000 years of history, detailing how early humans became dominant.


20. Through A Dog’s Eyes

Through A Dog's Eyes

Through a Dogs Eyes, will have you seeing dogs in a whole new light. This documentary follows the inspiring stories of people with disabilities as they experience the heartwarming and sometimes challenging process of being matched with and receiving a service dog. Following the life-changing journeys of the service dog recipients, provides powerful new insights into one of lifes most extraordinary relationships: the human/canine bond.


21. The Whole Gritty City

The Whole Gritty City is a unique, fascinating window into the little-known world of New Orleans school marching bands. The documentary is a dramatic, music-filled story of children struggling to reach midlife in one of America s most impoverished and violent cities. The film follows kids in three bands as the directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades, and teach them to succeed and to survive.


22. Racing Around The World Alone

The story of the 2008/2009 Vendée Globe race. 30 skippers embark on a quest to be the fastest to sail 27000 miles around the world, non stop, without assistance and alone on 60 foot sailboats. The sailors are alone at sea for months and growlers (Icebergs), sea mammals, and massive waves are a constant danger. On any day the forces of nature can bring an end to the best sailor’s well made plans.


23. Percy Schmeiser: David Vs Monsanto

Imagine that a storm blows across your garden and that now, genetically-manipulated seeds are in your crops. A multi-national corporation pay you a visit, demand that you surrender your crops – and then sue you for $200 000 for the illegal use of patented.


24. Super High Me

Determined to find out the true effects of marijuana on the human body, stand-up comedian and former Stoner of the Year Doug Benson documents his experience avoiding pot for 30 days and then consuming massive amounts of the drug for 30 days. More than just an amusing story of one man’s quest to get super high, this documentary also examines the hotly contested debate over medical marijuana use.


25. Art And Craft

A funny, fascinating, too-good-to-be-true documentary about Mark Landis, one of the world’s most prolific art forgers, who for over 30 years has duped museums across the country–until one determined registrar sets out to stop him.


26. Into The Cold

Two men embark on a dramatic expedition to the North Pole, widely considered the toughest on Earth. They journey 400 plus miles on foot facing harsh temperatures to below 50 degrees F. Into the Cold is a bone-chilling story of true bravery, incredible courage and unrelenting determination.


27. Above And Beyond

In 1948, just three years after the liberation of Nazi death camps, a ragtag group of skilled American pilots – both Jewish and non-Jewish, answered a call for help. In secret and at great personal risk, they smuggled planes out of the U.S., trained behind the Iron Curtain and flew for Israel in its War of Independence. This band of brothers not only turned the tide of the war, they also embarked on personal journeys of discovery and pride.

28. Jig

JIG is the remarkable story of the fortieth Irish Dancing World Championships, held in March 2010 in Glasgow. Three thousand dancers, their families and teachers from around the globe descend upon Glasgow for one drama filled week. Clad in wigs, make up, fake tan, diamantes and dresses costing thousands of pounds they compete for the coveted world titles.


29. Dreams From My Real Father: A Story Of Reds And Deception

Dreams from My Real Father chronicles Barack Obama’s life journey in socialism starting with evidence that Obama’s real father was Frank Marshall Davis, a Communist Party USA propagandist who indoctrinated Obama into a Marxist ideology during his formative years. Was the goat herding Kenyan father only a fairy tale to obscure a Marxist agenda, irreconcilable with American values?


30. Inequality For All

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich makes an eloquent and impassioned argument about how the devastating effects of America’s widening income inequality not only threaten the middle class but also the very foundation of democracy itself.


31. The Central Park Five

This new film from award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns tells the story of the five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The film chronicles the Central Park Jogger case, for the first time from the perspective of these five teenagers whose lives were upended by this miscarriage of justice.


32. Meru

In the high-stakes pursuit of big-wall climbing, the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru may be the ultimate prize. Sitting 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the mountain’s perversely stacked obstacles make it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world’s toughest climbers. In October 2008, renowned alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru. Their planned seven-day trip quickly devolved into a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures with depleting food rations.


33. Stories We Tell

Stories We Tell

In this inspired, genre-twisting new film, Oscar(R)-nominated writer/director Sarah Polley discovers that the truth depends on who’s telling it. Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She playfully interviews and interrogates a cast of characters of varying reliability, eliciting refreshingly candid, yet mostly contradictory, answers to the same questions. As each relates their version of the family mythology, present-day recollections shift into nostalgia-tinged glimpses of their mother, who departed too soon, leaving a trail of unanswered questions.


34. Michael Moore Hates America

In “Roger & Me”, Michael Moore tried in vain to get an interview with millionaire GM CEO Roger Smith. In “Michael Moore Hates America”, documentarian Michael Wilson searches for the American Dream and sets off on a nationwide quest to interview another millionaire: the “documentary” filmmaker, Michael Moore. Will Wilson land his interview? Will he expose Moore’s hypocrisy? No matter whose side of the fence you’re on, you’ll agree that there’s nothing quite so humbling – or hilarious – as a taste of one’s own medicine.


35. Gleason

The hit documentary from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival goes inside the life of Steve Gleason, the former New Orleans Saints defensive back who, at the age of 34, was diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two to five years. Weeks later, Gleason found out his wife , Michel, was expecting their first child. A video journal that began as a gift for his unborn son expands to chronicle Steve’s determination to get his relationships in order, build a foundation to provide other ALS patients with purpose, and adapt to his declining physical condition—utilizing medical technologies that offer the means to live as fully as possible.


36. McQueen (2018)

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A personal look at the extraordinary life, career and artistry of Alexander McQueen. Through exclusive interviews with his closest friends and family, recovered archives, exquisite visuals and music, McQueen is an authentic celebration and thrilling portrait of an inspired yet tortured fashion visionary. Directed by Ian Bonhôte and co-directed/written by Peter Ettedgui.


37. Long Strange Trip (2017)

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Directed by Amir Bar-Lev (The Tillman Story) and executive produced by Martin Scorsese (The Last Waltz), Long Strange Trip is the first full-length documentary to explore the fiercely independent vision, perpetual innovation, and uncompromising commitment to their audience that made the Bay Area band one of the most influential musical groups of their generation.

With a soundtrack that captures some of the band’s most dynamic live performances as well as unguarded offstage moments and never-before-seen interviews, footage and photos, Long Strange Trip explores the Dead’s singular experiment in radically eclectic music making.


38. Ken Burns: The Central Park Five (2013)

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Like other documentaries that revisit injustices “The Central Park Five” positions itself as something of a public pardon. Equal measures criminal investigation, cultural exhumation and a consideration of race in a presumptively postracial America, it seeks to set the record straight.

Using broad strokes the filmmakers try to piece together why the teenagers confessed so readily and why everyone seemed eager to convict them. To that end the film sketches the New York of the 1980s as a battlefield, plagued by crime and reeling from the decimating shocks of a bad economy, AIDS, crack and racial explosions.


39. Bowling for Columbine (2002)

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Michael Moore’s superb documentary (following in the footsteps of Roger and Me and The Big One) tackles a meaty subject: gun control.

He trains his satirical eye on America’s obsession with guns and violence in his third feature-length documentary, which gets its title from a pair of loosely related incidents.

Moore focuses his quest around the shootings at Columbine High School and the shooting of one 6-year-old by another near his own hometown of Flint, Michigan.


40. The Perfect Human Diet (2012)

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The documentary that bypasses common contradictory dietary bias and the recycling of confusion, by filming interviews and explorations with many of the world’s top scientists and researchers in the fields of archaeological science, paleo and forensic anthropology, nutrition and metabolism, biomolecular archaeology, and the emerging field of human dietary evolution.


41. Children of Shame (2017)

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A hidden mass grave containing the remains of some 800 children was discovered on the former grounds of a home for single mothers, a hell on earth where children died from ill treatment, and were shamefully buried in secret and forgotten. Up until the 1990s, dozens of these detention centres were run by religious orders, but the country is still reluctant to confront the ghosts of its past.

This film traces the journey of unmarried mothers and missing children. We meet John Rogers, one of the tens of thousands of ill-fated children born in ultra-catholic twentieth century Ireland, a child of shame, guilty of having being born out of the sacred born of matrimony.


42. 4 Little Girls (1997)

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Spike Lee’s first documentary is a simultaneously wrenching and provocative account of the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham, AL church that left four African American teenage girls dead and led to the Civil Rights movement. Archival footage, interviews with family, friends, historians, politicians and newsmen tell the grim tale.

Source:, Thrillist