Early movies (pre-1900) were dominated by the novelty of showing an event. They were single-shot moments captured on film: a train entering a station, a boat docking, or factory workers leaving work. These short films were called “actuality” films; the term “documentary” was not coined until 1926. Many of the first films, such as those made by Auguste and Louis Lumière, were a minute or less in length, due to technological limitations.
Documentaries aren’t always seen as being super exciting compared to whatever new drama or action you could binge watch on Netflix. But the medium certainly provides opportunities to learn something about the world. Without lifting a finger.
Here are ten of the best documentaries that are not only excellent, but challenging to watch at times. Many of these will leave you thinking about the obsessive hobbies, consumption-oriented everyday living and sometimes terrifying politics that define our increasingly global world. Are you ready to change how you view the world?