The 13 Best Documentaries on Amazon Prime in May 2017

Amazon Prime has thousands of titles to choose from in its catalog, including a stunning array of documentaries. However, unless you’re really into UFOs, it can sometimes be difficult to sort through all the fluff to find the good stuff. Below, we present you with a list of the best documentaries on Amazon Prime. From true crime to music to Sesame Street, this list has a little bit of everything for discerning documentary fans.

The best documentaries on Amazon Prime

1. 4 Little Girls (1997)

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

One Sunday morning in 1963, a bomb tore through a black church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls The bomb had been placed my members of the KKK, and their act of terror became a rallying point for the civil rights movement. Spike Lee’s harrowing 1997 documentary follows the investigation of the bombing and the impact it had on the passage of the 1963 Civil Rights Act. 4 Little Girls is a heartbreaking film but one that’s worth watching, now as much as ever.

2. Trans (2013)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Trans

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

This thoughtful documentary offers a crash course in the issues surrounding transgender Americans, from the medical complexities of transitioning to the dangers of living in a society that doesn’t accept your right to exist.

3. Dirty Pictures (2010)

amazon prime documentaries: Dirty Pictures

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Alexander Sasha Shulgin is undeniably one of the most important chemists of the 20th century, creating hundreds of psychedelics over his career. Dirty Pictures looks at the life of the scientist responsible for discovering MDMA. 

4. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography (2014)

amazon prime documentaries: Bones Brigade

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

Skateboarding has become a massive industry, but in the ’80s, the idea of being a pro skater was still mostly a pipe dream. The Bones Brigade helped change that, giving birth to the modern skate video, pushing boundaries with tricks, and becoming one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport. Today, even your parents know who Tony Hawk is. Bones Brigade: An Autobiography will show you where he came from and how he and five other absurdly talented friends helped kick start a revolution in skateboarding.

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

amazon prime documentaries: Ken Burns The Central Park Five

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In 1989, five black and Latino, teenagers were arrested and convicted for the rape of a woman in Central Park. The crime itself was horrific, but the story that unfolded about the men’s arrest and innocence stand as a horror of its own. The Central Park Five shows how the media, racism, public outrage, and a police force desperate for an arrest carried out a brutal miscarriage of justice that destroyed five innocent lives.

6. Paradise Lost, Paradise Lost 2 Revelations, & Paradise Lost 3 Purgatory 

Best documentaries on Amazon: Paradise Lost

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

Through the ’90s, the West Memphis Three became odd miniature celebrities, three young men from Tennessee who were accused and convicted of a shocking triple murder. The Paradise Lost trilogy follows the original murder investigation through the West Memphis Three’s eventual release, thanks in no small part due to the national spotlight the first installment created. If you were enthralled with Making a Murderer, you’ll want to add these to your queue. 


The Last Waltz (1978)

Best documentaries on Amazon: The Last Waltz

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Documenting the final 1976 show by the Band, this documentary serves as one of the greatest rock & roll films of all time, as well as a time capsule of the ’70s music scene. The film features Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, the Staple Singers, Dr. John, Muddy Waters, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, and a host of other jukebox legends. Lovingly directed by Martin Scorsese, The Last Waltz is as much a history of the genre as it is a barn-burning concert.

8. Oasis: Supersonic (2016)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Oasis: Supersonic

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Oasis: Supersonic documents how brilliance, arrogance, substance abuse, and a little luck propelled a small rock band from Manchester, England to the stadiums they still play today. If you miss VH1’s Behind the Music, Supersonic has all the juicy backstage chaos you could ever want.  

9. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story (2015)

Best documentaries on Amazon: I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

As the voice and hands behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street, Caroll Spinney has educated children for decades, but most people don’t even know her real name. I Am Bird Bird finally tells her story, from the childhood pain that inspired her to bring joy to the world to the lives she’s changed on Sesame Street

10. Amy (2015)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Amy

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

Amy Winehouse stands as one of the most tragic figures in the history of modern pop music. Blessed with the voice of an angel, and cursed with the demons to match, Winehouse came back from a marginally successful debut called Frank to set the pop charts on fire with Back In Black. Her songs were tinged with black humor that belied a substance abuse problem that eventually led to her death in July of 2011. Amy is a heartbreaking portrait of an artist wrestling with success and the consequences of getting too big too fast.

11. Deli Man (2015)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Deli Man

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

Kosher delis used to be everywhere. In 1931, there were 1,550 in New York City alone; today there are around 150 in all of North America. Deli Man is a loving history of how waves of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought a taste of home to their new country. Told with an abundance of humor, Deli Man gives a nuanced look at the fight to keep classic traditions alive in an ever-changing modern world.

12. Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Corman’s The Fantastic Four (2016)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Doomed! The Untold Story of Roger Cormans Fantastic Four

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

The first Fantastic Four movie to hit theaters came out in 2005, but the first Fantastic Four film ever made was shot in 1993, with no intention of ever being seen. Made by B-movie legend Roger Corman as a way to not lose the film rights to the characters, the entire cast and crew set out to make the film without knowing it would never see the light of day. Doomed! tells the full story behind one of worst superhero films ever committed to celluloid, complete with clips from the disaster itself.

13. Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer (2010)

Best documentaries on Amazon: Honest Man: The LIfe of R. Budd Dwyer

Screengrab via Amazon Prime

Budd Dwyer is mostly remembered for the shocking video of his suicide, unwittingly filmed live during a press conference in 1987. While the footage remains in circulation online today, few people know the true story behind the death of the Pennsylvania politician who lost everything due to the lies of others and a bribery scandal he couldn’t fight. Political films come in many forms; Honest Man: The Life of R. Budd Dwyer is one that will make you think twice the next time you make a rash judgment about a political figure.

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