Finding a solid documentary to fall in love with can be stressful, especially during the winter. The stakes are high, you’re stuck inside, and the pressure is on. It’s a great time to forget everything your friends and coworkers have been telling you to watch all year.
Christmas week is upon us and an escape from in-laws or your sister’s new boyfriend could be needed. Allow us to help you, here is a quick go-to list of our recent favorites and finds for your viewing pleasure.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)- An HBO production about the religion of Scientology and it’s creation by sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard. Extensive interviews from previous parishioners and members of the “celebrity center” give a previously unseen look into the corruption within. Physical and emotional abuse, harassment, and manipulation are just the tip of the iceberg. Insider videos of John Travolta and Tom Cruise promoting the church are the icing on this weird cake.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)- Don’t let the year deter you, this is a classic. A stylized 80’s vibe persists throughout but somehow you just can’t stop watching. A cop killer and local police collide and facts are thrown out for politics until this documentary begins to shed light on what really happened that night. An unprecedented way to film true crime that saved a man’s life. Interviews from the police officers and charged men are a study in culture, racism, sexism, and small town politics. This ground-breaker is often ranked as the one of the best documentaries ever made, in any category.
The Imposter (2012)– In 1994, thirteen-year-old Nicholas Barclay goes missing in Texas, and then, in 1997, Nicholas pops up in Spain. People start to realize this isn’t the same kid and that’s where it starts to get weird. Does the family know it’s not Nicholas? Do they care? Has this strange turn of events become mutually beneficial for a grieving family and a serial imposter? Don’t want to ruin it, see for yourself.
Dear Zachary:A letter to a son about his father (2008)- In 2001 a young Dr. Bagby is found dead in a park in Pennsylvania. He had been shot by his (crazy) ex-girlfriend, who then fled to Canada, where she was able to walk free on bail, pregnant with his baby. Be prepared to tear up and experience some rage in this one. The dark side of people is really on display. The fight for conviction and custody by family members is documented through interviews with family and friends still reeling from the death.
The Green Prince (2014)- Thriller alert! This documentary is wild. Israel’s Son of Hamas is recruited as a double agent for 10 years to spy on his own family and people. The complicated relationship between The Green Prince and his Shin Bet handler are explored in a fascinating way. An unbreakable bond between two men surrounded by betrayal, terror, and death. (If you like this one I highly recommend the 2011 movie “The Devil’s Double” based on the life of Uday Hussein’s body double Latif Yahia who has written books on his experience. Phenomenal.)
Team Foxcatcher (2016)- A look back the downward spiral of an Olympic wrestling club and the millionaire founder and benefactor John DuPont. Control, obsession, and jealousy overcome the family bonds formed on his Team Foxcatcher as they train for the 1988 Seoul Olympic games. Ambition and paranoia reach a peak between two men and the resulting tragedy changed everything. An analysis of one of the richest men in America to be convicted of murder.
The Killing Season– This new A&E series digs into the unsolved murders of the Long Island serial killer known as LISK and then comes across evidence pointing to another, potentially territorial serial killer dumping bodies in the same area. Investigations, interviews, and collaborations with the internet amateur crime investigation group Websleuths.com suck you right into the sofa. And there are episodes, that’s right friends, you can keep watching. No one and done here!
Note: You may need to plan a sleepover.
Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath– Another golden series from A&E, equally captivating but less creepy. This one might not shift your sleeping patterns but Remini’s uncovering of alleged abuses and cult like operations within Scientology are must watch. Interviews of individuals who have left or escaped the church are shocking and coming from a former member of the celebrity center, bombshells. Family’s torn apart due to belief systems, a religious leader who wrote sci-fi before forming his Navy-themed Earth saving crew of followers; you can’t make this stuff up. We love Leah.
What are you watching this winter?