Your favorite recent streaming documentaries?
November 9, 2018 2:03 PM   Subscribe

Looking for people-focused documentaries made within the last five to ten years or so, available on streaming video--ideally inspiring, uplifting, or (non-violently) mysterious, please!

I saw this question but it seemed a little more specific than what I'm after. My main criteria for liking a documentary seem to be that I learn something or get interested in something I didn't know much about before. Inspiring, uplifting, mysterious, educational, and humanistic are characteristics of documentaries I like, including:

-Jiro Dreams of Sushi
-Forks Over Knives
-Sour Grapes
- Happy People

I tend not to like nature-based (e.g., Planet Earth), crime-oriented, or overly depressing (looking at you, Amy).
posted by stellaluna to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
AlphaGo is very well-made and is inspiring regarding both the new technology and the human struggle to compete with it.

Continuing with the board game topic, Brooklyn Castle is also great and definitely inspiring.

I haven't yet watched Chasing Trane but have heard excellent things about it. Of course, even though it was made recently it is about a person who died 50 years ago.
posted by dfan at 2:25 PM on November 9, 2018

I liked Minimalism.
posted by cleverevans at 2:28 PM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

Mine have an art/design design bent:

• The Netflix mini-doc series Abstract: The Art of Design — especially the first episode about Christoph Niemann.

Beauty Is Embarrassing, about artist (and Pee-Wee's Playhouse co-art-director) Wayne White. (Has moved on & off membership-based streaming platforms, but cheap to buy direct.)

Linotype: The Film, about an obsolete-but-beloved type casting machine. (Cheap on iTunes or Amazon.)
posted by D.Billy at 2:33 PM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

The BBC documentary introduced by Vic Reeves/Jim Moir Gaga for Dada is very good.
posted by merocet at 2:44 PM on November 9, 2018

Not sure if this is quite your speed, but I thought The Problem With Apu was quite good.
posted by Cogito at 2:54 PM on November 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

Shirkers (on Netflix) - In Singapore in 1992 some young film students made a movie. But their instructor absconded with all their film. Twenty years later their film was found. (Vox review)
posted by ShooBoo at 2:55 PM on November 9, 2018

Have you watched the Chef's Table series on Netflix? I find it scratches this itch for me.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:47 PM on November 9, 2018

Oh! Oh! And Iris was lovely.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 3:47 PM on November 9, 2018

Yes! I loved Iris, and Minimalism--keep 'em coming, thank you all!
posted by stellaluna at 3:55 PM on November 9, 2018

The Barkley Marathons! Not sure if it is on US Netflix - I'm in Canada.
posted by just_ducky at 4:36 PM on November 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Man on Wire just fits into your period. Quite unexpectedly moving.
posted by praemunire at 5:29 PM on November 9, 2018 [4 favorites]

Ladies First is the story of a young woman who went to the Olympics for India twice as an archer. She set world records and yet was never respected, and was badly let down, by her own country. It's inspiring. They don't pull any punches on what she had to overcome, but even so, you sense that it was a lot more than comes through in the film.
posted by bricoleur at 5:43 PM on November 9, 2018

Technically Tigers of Scotland is not people focused. However. These people are REALLY FUCKING EXCITED by Scotland. And there’s a sweet Trump burn near the end. The biologist with the cat skulls is pretty funny. It was a great watch all around and it only an hour. Netflix.
posted by monkeyscouch at 6:13 PM on November 9, 2018

Searching for Sugarman!
posted by mudpuppie at 6:25 PM on November 9, 2018 [6 favorites]

Herb & Dorothy “redefine what it means to be an art collector”.

20 Feet from Stardom about backup singers for Ray Charles, the Rolling Stones, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross, and others.
posted by migurski at 6:44 PM on November 9, 2018 [5 favorites]

I enjoyed Helvetica which may be outside your time window and have heard good things about Fastball. Pretty sure the latter is streaming, not sure about the former.
posted by jessamyn at 6:48 PM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Cave paintings discovered in France.
posted by fings at 7:53 PM on November 9, 2018 [3 favorites]

The new documentary on the history of the Mayo Clinic by Ken Burns is very good..on Pbs
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 9:29 PM on November 9, 2018 [1 favorite]

I heartily second The Barkley Marathons and can confirm it is on US Netflix since I rewatched it with a friend this week. Still charming and fascinating the second time.
posted by charmedimsure at 10:55 PM on November 9, 2018

Filmworker on US Netflix. Story of how Leon Vitali essentially gave up a somewhat successful acting career in the 70s to devote about 98% of his time to helping Stanley Kubrick achieve his visionary film-making.
posted by kuanes at 5:45 AM on November 10, 2018

Let me second Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which is amazing.

Civilizations (which was recently shown on PBS) is now on Netflix. Not every episode is unbelievable, but even the weaker ones have great moments.
posted by wittgenstein at 7:17 AM on November 10, 2018

Cat Heaven Island is streaming on Amazon Prime. I watched it the other night to calm my post-election stressball self. 10/10, would do it again.

It's about a small island in Japan where the population is dwindling and there are more cats than people. It's partly about the cats, but it's also about the people, and how they create community and care for one another (and the cats!). It's extremely heart-warming, and not super long.
posted by mostly vowels at 7:30 AM on November 10, 2018 [3 favorites]

The Birth of Sake is currently on US Netflix streaming and a few other services - about a small group of workers in Japan making sake the traditional way, mostly by hand.

Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037 is from '07, following the year-long process of building a grand piano, along with some insight into how world-class pianists choose their instruments. Apparently currently only on Amazon, (and maybe not-legally) on YouTube.

Thirding Cave of Forgotten Dreams, and if you like the Werner Herzog thing there are at least a couple more of his docs on US Netflix, and others show up fairly regularly.
posted by soundguy99 at 8:13 AM on November 10, 2018

I don't know if this counts as nature based (it's much more about the people than the birds), but The Eagle Huntress was lovely.
posted by gennessee at 10:21 AM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you seen "Finding Vivian Maier"? I don't know whether it is available on a streaming service.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:35 PM on November 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Faces, Places
Exit Through the Gift Shop
posted by benbenson at 6:47 AM on November 13, 2018

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