Are you looking for a documentary to watch? We have done all the heavy lifting for you and compiled a massive list of the best inspirational documentaries.
Every documentary that we ranked is good and worth watching since they’re based on stories of real places and people, they present realistic views, not magical, overly positive fairy-tales.
What the documentaries ranked below have in common is that they are masterpieces of nonfiction storytelling, and you need to see them all.
List Of 23 Life-Changing and Inspirational Documentaries:
#1 Touching The Void
This is the story of two British climbers: Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, respectively 25 and 21 years old, who in 1985 set out to scale the Siula Grande, a difficult 21,000ft peak in the Peruvian Andes.
They prepared to do so, what’s more, in the old-fashioned Alpinist style: just 2 guys connected by a rope, making their way up this unconquered and almost sheer face in what was effectively a continuous effort with minimum breaks and just one other man stationed at a lonely base camp.
The Guardian described it as:
“the most successful documentary in British cinema history.”
“Happy” makes an irresistible argument that once elemental necessities like food and shelter are provided for, economic factors have relatively little to do with overall satisfaction in life. This amazing film weaves together documentary portraits of human experiences with information from scientists and researchers who study the now popular academic field of happiness, or positive psychology.
#3 I AM
I Am is a 2010 documentary film directed, written, and narrated by Tom Shadyac. It asks the question: „What is wrong with the world, and what can we do about it”.
The Uruguayan survivors of a plane crash in the Andes, who kept themselves alive for 10 weeks look back on their experiences.
#5 Bruce Lee: In His Own Words
This documentary is about 19 minutes long but is narrated by Bruce Lee with excerpts taken from movies and interviews.
#6 Planet Earth
“Planet Earth” is a 2006 television series produced by the BBC. I suggest to watch the whole documentary because, at the end of each 50-minute episode, a 10-minute featurette takes a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges of filming the series.
#7 Alone in the Wilderness
This documentary tells the story of Dick Proenneke who, in the late 1960s, built his own cabin in the wilderness at the base of the Aleutian Peninsula, in what is now Lake Clark National Park.
#8 Hungry For Change
The documentary exposes shocking secrets the diet, weight-loss and food industry don’t want you to know about. Deceptive plans designed to keep you craving more and more.
#9 The Secret Life of Chaos
In this interesting documentary, Jim Al-Khalili sets out to uncover one of the great mysteries of science – How does order emerge from disorder? How does a universe that starts off as dust end up with intelligent life?
#10 Philosophy: A Guide to Happiness
The documentary inspired and hosted by Alain de Botton, based on his book The Consolations of Philosophy.
#11 Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
In the center of the story is the life of the indigenous people of the village Bakhtia at the river Yenisei in the Siberian Taiga.
#12 Fat Sick & Nearly Dead
The documentary follows the lives of what ends up being 2 men and their journeys to a life without disease or medications.
#13 The Boy With The Incredible Brain
A twenty-something with extraordinary mental abilities, Daniel is one of the world’s few savants. Daniel can do calculations to 100 decimal places in his head, and learn a language in a week.
#14 Grizzly Man
Grizzly man is an amazing documentary, that centers on amateur grizzly bear expert Timothy Treadwell. Timothy periodically journeyed to Alaska to live and study with the bears. He was killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by a rogue bear in October 2003. This documentary film explores their compassionate lives as they found solace among these endangered animals.
#15 The Ice Man
Wim Hof is a Dutch daredevil, commonly nicknamed “The Iceman” for his ability to withstand extreme cold.
#16 Off The Grid
Alexander Oey traveled throughout the U.S. and filmed communities that are taking matters into their own hands. 50 of the 46 U.S. states are practically bankrupt. Over 13 million Americans are unemployed. More than 49 million people live below the poverty line.
#17 The Grammar of Happiness
Deep in the heart of the Amazon is a mysterious language no outsider has ever learned. Until now. After 30 years of research and life with the Pirahas, one man has finally cracked the code.
#18 Mahatma: Life of Gandhi
This is a 5 hrs. 10 min. documentary biography of Mahatma Gandhi. All events and principles of Gandhi’s life and thought are viewed as integrated parts of his truth-intoxicated life depicting permanent and universal values.
#19 Storm Surfers
A 3D adventure into the world of big wave surfing with Aussie tow-surfing legend Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time World Champion Tom Carroll.
#20 The Boy Who Sees Without Eyes
This is a documentary about Ben Underwood, a boy who has taught himself to use echolocation to navigate around the world. Ben is blind but has managed to do some truly amazing feats.
#21 The Century of the Self
This documentary is a thought-provoking, a four-part documentary describing how Freudian and post-Freudian ideas about human nature were adopted by politicians and corporations to manipulate society and public values in the 20th Century.
#22 DMT: The Spirit Molecule
This inspiring documentary traces Dr. Rick Strassman’s government-sanctioned, human DMT research, and its many trials, tribulations, and inconceivable realizations.
#23 Living On One Dollar
The film follows the journey of four friends as they set out to live on just $1 a day for 2 months in rural Guatemala. They battle parasites, hunger, and extreme financial stress as they try to survive life on the edge.
Image credit – Shutterstock
READ THIS NEXT: 12 Tibetan Buddhist Documentaries On Netflix And YouTube