10 Best Documentaries on HBO

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10 best documentaries on HBO you can’t afford to miss.

  1. Baltimore Rising
  2. Leaving Neverland
  3. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
  4. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley
  5. Kareem: Minority of One
  6. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind
  7. Diego Maradona
  8. The Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck
  9. The Loving Story
  10. McMillion$

1. Baltimore Rising 

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Most of us remember the Baltimore protests of 2016 and what became of the city in the time. The documentary is quite different, however. Baltimore rising captures the city after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. He died in police custody after sustaining severe injuries to his backbone in the course of his arrest. 

The documentary brings focus to the systematic abuse of the Black community by the police force and lends voice to the trending movement demanding reforms in the police department. Its coverage includes footage of how the six officers used extreme force and didn’t properly secure him in the van, events which resulted in him falling into a coma. 

It also covers the riots and protests that resulted, and the failed attempts to prosecute the police officers involved. Directed by Sonja Sohn, the documentary film is a burning depiction of anger, activism, and power.  

2. Leaving Neverland

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Many music fans loved Michael Jackson to the point that what he did when not singing or performing did not matter.

In this documentary, director/writer Dan Reed exposes the offstage behavior of this music and dance legend. Wade Robson and James Safechuck claim to have been sexually abused by the beloved icon during their childhood. 

Reed meticulously records the legacy of abuse that the two men and their families underwent for decades. A four-hour documentary may seem too long, draining, or disturbing to sit through, but not this one—Leaving Neverland offers a shocking and indigestible revelation that will keep your eyes glued to the screen for the entire time it runs.   

3. Going Clear: Scientology and The Prison of Belief 

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Created in 2015, director Alex Gibney focused his efforts on exposing a character he termed as ‘public deceiver’—the Catholic Church, Lance Armstrong, and Enron, among others. It turned out to be some of his best work. 

With the help of well decorated, Oscar-winning ex-Scientologists such as Paul Haggis, Going Clear illustrates a vindictive, cruel, and profit-motivated cult whose success can be attributed to attracting and intimidating high profile enthusiasts. Though it’s not designed to alter mindsets, the detail with which it describes the church’s leadership methodology and structure is worth watching. 

4. The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

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The Inventor is yet another explosive release from director Alex Gibney. Dubbed as the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, this documentary delves into the life of Elizabeth Holmes, who hoodwinked the whole world into believing that she was the next Steve Jobs when running a scam with Theranos (her healthcare firm).

Holmes started Theranos in 2004 after dropping out of Stanford University. Believing to have discovered a blood-testing technology that would transform the healthcare industry, she stormed the world with huge marketing efforts and monumental promises that quickly turned Theranos into a multibillion-dollar company. The technology was soon discovered to be fundamentally impossible.

It is a fascinating story and most definitely worth your time. 

5. Kareem: Minority of One

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This is an excellent documentary for sports and basketball fans. It describes how modern NBA stars are created. Have you ever wondered how or why today’s NBA stars can switch teams as they please and hold power to influence significant social and political change? This will provide a vivid explanation using the career of NBA icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as an example. 

The documentary became particularly relevant after it premiered, depicting how Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar—legend, skyhook master, and ambassador to an empowered generation of athletes.

It is an excellent watch indeed, especially if you’re a sports fan!

6. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind

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After Robin William committed suicide in 2014, Marina Zenovich put the pieces of his life together and created an interesting narration. The best part is that she made it feel like Robin is narrating himself. 

Marina’s Come Inside My Mind offers insights into William’s relationships, artistic career, and undulating alcoholism. Apart from the quick-witted comedian we all knew Robin to be, the film also exposes a vulnerable artist with the dire need to please and entertain. The documentary will show you the same person in two very different perspectives—the Robin Williams you thought you knew and the one you meet in Come Inside My Mind. 

7. Diego Maradona 

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7.790HBO free trial

In this documentary, the Oscar-winning and tragic-genius documentarian, Kapadia, piece together yet another masterpiece. As the title suggests, this documentary focuses and examines the life and football career of Diego Maradona, who is arguably the greatest footballer of all time.  

Maradona’s left foot could only have been matched by his propensity for partying, doing cocaine, and eating, which led him to numerous high profile failures. However, since Maradona is still alive (unlike other people whose lives Kapadia has documented), the documentary is mostly restricted to only a part of his life.

Though the restriction worked against the story, the inclusion of newly discovered and previously unreleased footage makes the documentary a masterpiece of its own accord. 

8. The Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck

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7.597HBO free trial

This documentary is about Kurt Cobain, the primary songwriter and frontman of the rock band Nirvana. He committed suicide by taking a gunshot to his head in 1994. Although this documentary may have ruined people’s views about him, it also proved that he was human like all of us. 

Director Brett Morgen had full support of the Cobain family and Frances Bean Cobain, and with this, he created a remarkable film for fans. The combination of Cobain’s art and journals inspired animations and sound design, further adding to the viewers’ exquisite experience. 

There are several Kurt Cobain documentaries out there, but none as affecting as this one. The Cobain Montage of Heck is a must-watch for music lovers and anyone interested in the entertainment industry.  

9. The Loving Story 

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7.6100HBO free trial

This film is based on the lives and marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving. The two were in a mixed-race marriage from Virginia, who moved to DC to get married. This aroused so much attention and triggered a landmark civil rights lawsuit, and the two were later arrested for a felony. But a historical ruling was made to strike down the anti-miscegenation statutes. 

Its director Nancy Buirski created the film from trail footage and photographs of the couple from LIFE magazine. She also added audio clips from the Supreme Court proceedings

Today, there are many interracial marriages all over America, which has become relatively accepting of such unions. It’s a poignant look into what was a monumental love story. Worth the watch!

10. McMillion$ 

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7.289HBO free trial

The best documentaries are those that leave you feeling so outrageous that you couldn’t believe them to be real. McMillion$ is one concrete example of such a documentary. It highlights the monopoly games that McDonald’s played from 1989 to 2001 (over a decade) and the mysterious rip-off it caused.  

As it unfolds, the film introduces an idiosyncratic group of criminals, crime fighters, and the mob. 

The documentary film primarily centers on a 24-million dollar fraud case that had evaded law enforcement for ages. It explores the crime from all angles, showcasing how one individual ripped off everybody else. It also highlights how a little bit of greed can inspire a chain of bad decisions.

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