15 Documentaries You Need To Watch Now

By Jenn Rose Smith
ballet documentary

When we’re not talking television in the office, these days it seems like we’re talking more and more about documentaries. Our entire team has gotten into them, so it was pretty easy to put together this list of our favorites docs. The hardest thing was narrowing it down to just 15! Whatever your interests are — fashion, food, comedy, ballet — we’ve got something for you here. Check out our 15 faves and tell us in the comment thread: what do you think we need to watch?

featured image via the ballet blog

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, 2012.

One of Camille’s favorite documentaries, Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of 85 year old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. Grabbing a seat at his three Michelin star restaurant (inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station) is totally on our bucket list now.

Twinsters, 2015.

What if you discovered a girl online who looked exactly like you? That’s what happened to Samantha Futerman and Anaïs Bordier, who grew up on different continents. Follow the two girls as they form a budding friendship online, finally decide to meet in person, and then tackle the biggest mystery of all — is their resemblance pure coincidence, or something much more?

First Position, 2012.

Camille and I both grew up dancing, so this documentary taps straight into to old childhood dreams. Follow six young dancers from around the world as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world. Is it too late for me to break out my pointe shoes again?

Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey, 2013.

No matter how you feel about Journey, you’ll love the truly incredible rags-to-riches story of lead singer Arnel Pineda. After years of searching for the right singer to replace Steve Perry, the band finally found their man in the most unlikely of places: a Hard Rock Café in the Philippines.

Hands On A Hard Body, 1997.

Legend has it that S.R. Bindler’s 1997 cult classic documentary was the longest running film to ever play at the Dobie Theater in Austin, and we’re not surprised. The rules of the game are simple: last man standing with his hands on the pickup wins at a local Nissan dealership in East Texas. The hilarious quotable moments and touching human drama that unfolds make this film a beloved piece of Americana.

Spinning Plates, 2013.

This documentary looks behind the scenes at three very different restaurants to reveal what they all have in common — a power to draw families and community together.

The September Issue, 2009.

You’ll have a whole new respect for the annual phonebook sized edition of Vogue after seeing this fashion documentary. The film follows Anna Wintour and her team of editors as they navigate the insanity, politics, and passion that goes in to every September issue. Also — Grace Coddington is our hero.

American: The Bill Hicks Story, 2011.

The stand-up comedian from Houston never became a household name, but the unique thought-provoking humor of Bill Hicks developed a cult following that continues to grow. This heartfelt documentary produced by Bill’s best friends shows how he used comedy to deliver his vision for a better world. Be prepared to laugh. And cry. And laugh some more.

Finding Vivian Maier, 2014.

When a mysterious and secretive nanny passed away quietly in 2009, no one ever expected to discover the breathtaking photographs she left behind. Over 100,000 photographs taken on the streets of Chicag0 — many of them poignant, beautiful, tragic, human — have earned her the posthumous title of one of the greatest street photographers of all time.

Babies, 2010.

In a fascinating look at the first year of human development, this documentary follows four babies from around the world as they learn to sit up, crawl, walk, and communicate. Oh yeah — and there’s a whole lotta cute happening, too.

20 Feet From Stardom, 2013.

Chanel loves this documentary that shines a long-overdue spotlight on hard-working backup singers like Darlene Love and Merry Clayton. Apparently she’s not alone — the film won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2014.

Where To Invade Next, 2016.

In what’s been called Moore’s “most far-reaching film”, the director travels the world to find inspired solutions to American problems.

The Incomparable Rose Hartman, 2015.

One of our favorite films from this year’s SXSW, this documentary reveals the complex and hard-nosed woman behind iconic New York photos (think Bianca Jagger riding the white horse at Studio 54). We’re fascinated with her gumption and the fabulous spaces she was able to gain entrance to through her work.

In The Realms Of The Unreal, 2005.

When a quiet janitor passed away in his Chicago apartment, no one ever expected to find an epic work of art inside his modest home. Director Jessica Yu uses Henry Darger’s work to reveal the magical and surreal world he created for himself.

Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, 2012.

You might remember Marina from an episode of Sex and the City (she’s the performance artist at the gallery opening where Carrie meets Aleksandr Petrovsky). But you’ll definitely never forget her after watching this film — the artist is brave, vulnerable, and very much present in this documentary that follows her three month long performance piece at the MoMA in New York. (Spoiler Alert: We’re still not over the moment when her ex lover turns up at the show.)