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    22 Shocking Documentaries That Must Be Seen To Be Believed

    Don't just "add these to your list" — watch them ASAP.

    22. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

    (L-R) Kurt Kuenne and Dr. Andrew Bagby in "Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father"
    Oscilloscope Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Truly one of the most devastating true crime documentaries ever produced, Dear Zachary is an absolutely unbelievable story that will have your tear ducts working overtime throughout.

    Where to Watch: Dear Zachary is currently available to stream on Tubi.

    21. The Amazing Johnathan Documentary (2019)

    The Amazing Johnathan in "The Amazing Johnathan Documentary"
    Anonymous Content / Via YouTube

    Filled with twists and turns, The Amazing Johnathan Documentary focuses on a massively successful comedian as he faces addiction and terminal illness... Or does he? Just like a good magic trick, this shocking documentary plays better when you go in knowing as little as possible.

    Where to Watch: The Amazing Johnathan Documentary is currently streaming on Hulu.

    20. Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (1993)

    GG Allin in "Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies"
    Skinny Nervous Guy Prod. / Via YouTube

    Renowned as the highest-grossing student film of all time, Hated profiles late punk-rock provocateur GG Allin and his band, the Murder Junkies, in all of their vile, unabashedly offensive and violent infamy. The debut feature film of future Joker and The Hangover director Todd Phillips, Hated is extremely obscene and not for the faint of heart, but you're unlikely to see this jaw-dropping subculture presented with no frills anywhere else.

    Where to Watch: Hated is currently streaming on Tubi.

    19. Cropsey (2009)

    Theatrical Poster for "Cropsey"
    Cinema Purgatorio / courtesy Everett Collection

    Juxtaposing the lore of a regional urban legend with the true life tale of convicted criminal Andre Rand, Cropsey is a compelling and complicated true crime story that reels you in and establishes a horror movie-esque vibe in spite of its reality-based narrative. 

    Where to Watch: Cropsey is currently streaming on Tubi, Vudu, and The Roku Channel.

    18. Grizzly Man (2005)

    Director Werner Herzog conducts media interviews prior to the Lions Gate screening of "Grizzly Man" at the American Museum of Natural History
    Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images

    A consistently interesting voice in the nonfiction space, the crown jewel of director Werner Herzog's documentary work may be Grizzly Man, the fascinating and ultimately tragic tale of bear enthusiast and advocate Timothy Treadwell as he attempted to live peacefully among wild brown bears in Katmai National Park.

    Where to Watch: Grizzly Man is currently streaming on Tubi and The Roku Channel.

    17. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)

    Film frame of soldiers during World War I showing film restoration in "They Shall Not Grow Old"
    Fathom Events / Courtesy Everett Collection

    One of the most powerful documentaries ever produced, Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old brings more than 100-year-old World War I footage to stunning life with color, modern sound effects, and frame-rate correction. Jackson does the unbelievable with this film and, as a result, creates a living, breathing testament to the fallen soldiers of the Great War.

    Where to Watch: They Shall Not Grow Old is currently streaming on The Roku Channel.

    16. Overnight (2003)

    Theatrical Poster for "Overnight"
    Think Film / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Detailing the more nightmarish side of the Hollywood dream, Overnight follows filmmaker Troy Duffy as his inflated ego and extreme stubbornness send his personal and professional lives through a downward spiral throughout the production of his debut feature, The Boondock Saints.

    Where to Watch: Overnight is currently streaming on Tubi and Crackle.

    15. Tread (2020)

    "Tread"
    Gravitas Ventures / Via YouTube

    Fueled by recreations, news footage, and modern-day interviews with those involved, Tread packs one heck of a punch as you follow the real-life story of a man pushed to the edge and his unthinkable plan for revenge.

    Where to Watch: Tread is currently streaming on Netflix and The Roku Channel.

    14. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)

    Steve Wiebe (L) plays Donkey Kong as Picturehouse president Bob Berney (R) looks on after a screening of Picturehouse's "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters"
    Andrew H. Walker / Getty Images

    In traditional documentaries, there is not much room for "good vs. evil" dynamics, but if you were gripped by the Carol Baskin/Joe Exotic rivalry in Tiger King, just wait until you see the constant battle between blue collar gaming enthusiast Steve Wiebe and hot sauce-shilling heel Billy Mitchell as they bitterly compete for the world record for Donkey Kong in The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

    Where to Watch: The King of Kong is currently available for rent via Video-on-Demand.

    13. The Decline of Western Civilization Trilogy (1981–98)

    Theatrical Poster for "The Decline of Western Civilization"
    Nu Image / Courtesy Everett Collection

    A trio of documentaries that put director Penelope Spheeris on the map, The Decline of Western Civilization takes a deep dive into three different music scenes that spawned in Los Angeles: the original punk-rock scene, the hair metal craze of the 1980s, and the post-grunge crust-punk community of the late 1990s. With endlessly fascinating interviews, stories, and shade from some of music's biggest names and reflections of the tragedies that further define these eras, The Decline of Western Civilization are must-watch for any music fan.

    Where to Watch: Parts One and Two of The Decline of Western Civilization are currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, while Part Three is currently streaming on Tubi, Vudu, and the Roku Channel.

    12. Capturing the Friedmans (2003)

    (L-R) Jesse Friedman and Arnold Friedman in "Capturing the Friedmans"
    Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    One of the most controversial documentaries of all time, Capturing the Friedmans follows a father and son who are accused of unspeakable crimes in their Long Island community. Utilizing a narrative framework later famously seen in Making a Murderer, Capturing the Friedmans questions the official police narrative but also never exonerates the accused.

    Where to Watch: Capturing the Friedmans is currently streaming on HBO Max.

    11. I Think We’re Alone Now (2008)

    "I Think We're Alone Now"
    Greener Media / Via YouTube

    In I Think We're Alone Now, director Sean Donnelly examines a pair of obsessed superfans of '80s pop star Tiffany, showcasing the loneliness and unrequited love not often seen in stories about those wading dangerously close to "stalker" territory.

    Where to Watch: I Think We're Alone Now is currently streaming on Tubi.

    10. The Thin Blue Line (1988)

    "The Thin Blue Line"
    Miramax Films / Via YouTube

    Errol Morris's groundbreaking documentary on the criminal trial of Randall Dale Adams, critically re-examining the case's numerous inconsistencies and prosecutorial misconduct while showing well-produced reenactments of the crime according to the testimonies of all involved.

    Where to Watch: The Thin Blue Line is currently streaming on AMC+.

    9. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (2008)

    Theatrical Poster for "Anvil! The Story of Anvil"
    VH1 Classic/ Courtesy Everett Collection

    A documentary about a Canadian heavy-metal band directed by their own former roadie, Anvil! The Story of Anvil is a critically lauded look at the indomitable spirit of a band that never found the success of its peers. More than 20 years later, the band remains ambitious as it embarks upon a promising European tour and its 13th album, which just may be their last chance at music stardom.

    Where to Watch: Anvil! The Story of Anvil is currently available for rent on Video on Demand.

    8. Grey Gardens (1975)

    Edith Bouvier Beale and Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale in
    Portrait Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    A defining feature in documentary history, Grey Gardens remains an amazing and transfixing look at a reclusive mother-daughter duo who lived in squalor at a derelict mansion in Long Island. Selected for preservation in the Library of Congress in 2010, Grey Gardens remains a cornerstone of bizarre nonfiction cinema.

    Where to Watch: Grey Gardens is currently streaming on HBO Max.

    7. Beyond the Mat (1999)

    Stephanie McMahon and Vince McMahon in "Beyond the Mat"
    Imagine Entertainment / Via YouTube

    Decades before audiences had Dark Side of the Ring, the professional wrestling business was featured with an unprecedented amount of access in Beyond the Mat. Highlighting the careers of multiple high-profile wrestlers as they sacrifice their bodies both inside and outside of the ring, Beyond the Mat is a sensational and shocking testament to the most controversial era of wrestling history.

    Where to Watch: Beyond the Mat is currently available for rent on Video on Demand.

    6. Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll (2003)

    Wesley Willis in "Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll"
    Music Video Distributors / Via YouTube

    Though the film is largely disconnected and "slice of life" in nature, The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll is a glimpse of a day in the life of the late, great Wesley Willis, a musician and artist in Chicago whose blunt, surreal, and often indecent songs amassed a loyal underground fanbase. Struggling with mental health issues, homelessness, and a weight disorder, this documentary is a true one-of-a-kind film and often heartbreaking.

    Where to Watch: Wesley Willis: The Daddy of Rock 'n' Roll is currently available for rent on Video on Demand.

    5. Marwencol (2010)

    Mark Hogancamp in "Marwencol"
    Cinema Guild / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Sadly marred by the largely ignored fictional adaptation from Robert Zemeckis, Marwencol is a spellbinding documentary that is driven by its strange conceit that unravels into an even more shocking true story.

    Where to Watch: Marwencol is currently streaming on Fandor and Kanopy.

    4. American Movie (1999)

    (L-R) Mike Schank and Mark Borchardt in "American Movie"
    Sony Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

    Endlessly quotable, American Movie hilariously documents the story of filmmaker and Wisconsin native Mark Borchardt as he attempts to finish an independent horror short film. A very human story of determination in the face of myriad obstacles, American Movie is a movie you can laugh along and even cheer for when all is said and done.

    Where to Watch: American Movie is currently available for rent on Video on Demand.

    3. Three Identical Strangers (2018)

    CNN Films / Via YouTube

    A truly surreal story of three adopted men who discovered they were triplets, Three Identical Strangers is the kind of documentary that veers into jaw-dropping twists and turns with revelations that will leave your head spinning.

    Where to Watch: Three Identical Strangers is currently streaming on Hulu.

    2. The Act of Killing (2013)

    "The Act of Killing"
    Drafthouse Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    One of the most upsetting and mind-blowing documentaries in recent years, The Act of Killing examines the Indonesian mass killings of 1965 and 1966 through the eyes of two of its most notorious participants in an absolutely inconceivable fashion. The Act of Killing is a very difficult watch but an ultimately astonishing achievement in documentary filmmaking.

    Where to Watch: The Act of Killing is currently streaming on Hulu and Tubi.

    1. A Band Called Death (2012)

    Theatrical Poster for "A Band Called Death"
    Drafthouse Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

    A Band Called Death is an astounding look at a band that was the definition of "before their time," as this trio of African American brothers who essentially pioneered punk-rock music and faced insurmountable odds due to their refusal to compromise. Rediscovered more than 30 years later, A Band Called Death is a stellar tale of undeniable talent and redemption that everyone should see.

    Where to Watch: A Band Called Death is currently streaming on Fandor.