The 10 Best Documentaries on YouTube

youtube documentaries|krokodil documentary|

While Netflix is obviously a go-to for many people when it comes to watching documentaries and your favourite series, but what people forget is that YouTube is actually a goldmine of treasures. Some of the best documentaries dating back to the Eighties can be found on the website and we've come up with a selection of our top picks so you don't have to sift through the billions of videos (trust us, there is some utter trash out there). 

Read more Life features and check out our Store

YouTube has billions of videos and we understand that sometimes you just don't have the energy to sift your way through them all to find that perfect documentary or film. Well, if that is the case then thank us later, as we have done the tough bit for you. We've narrowed it down to our favourite documentaries so that all you have to do is choose one from this list. We've gone for a diverse selection, from documentaries about fashion and drugs to a cannibal. Below are the best documentaries on YouTube, selected from a whole plethora of garbage on the Internet, so sit back and enjoy. There are plenty of good things to watch on YouTube and below are some of the best documentaries to watch.

Siberia: Krokadil Tears

This is one of the best drug documentaries out there. Siberia: Krokadil Tears is one of the most engaging documentaries out there and it essentially explores the darkest side of drug addiction with first-hand footage. A homemade drug called Krokodil is gaining rapid popularity in Siberia and its effects on users are horrific. The name of the drug is pretty simple. Krokodil is Russian for Crocodile, and the name has been given to the drug because of the way that addicts' skin begins to get turn scaly, dry and eventually rot right off their bodies. Even most heroin users are frightened by Krokodil and want nothing to do with this terrifying drug.

Russia is the world's biggest consumer of heroin in the world, but this documentary focuses on the drug that is far worser than that. The film crew who created this programme visited the Siberian town of Novokuznetsk, which lies on the Kazakhstan border. This is the area most hard hit by heroin and its counterparts, and the problem is only on the rise. This is one of the most interesting documentaries on YouTube and shows how religious cults are disguised as rehab centres and allows you to witness the effects of the bootleg drug Krokodil.

Not for the faint hearted - you will see graphic imagery (Krokadil basically eats its users from the inside out).

This Is The Zodiac Speaking: Serial Killer Documentary

The case of the zodiac killer is one of the most infamous unsolved murder cases in the world. This is one of the best and most-watched murder documentaries on YouTube and explores who the killer is. While it is still unknown, whoever it was operated in northern California in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Zodiac murdered victims across the state, notably in Benicia, Vallejo, Lake Berryessa, and San Francisco between December 1968 and October 1969. Four men and three women between the ages of 16 and 29 were killed. The label "Zodiac" came after the killer originated it in a series of taunting letters sent to the local Bay Area press. These letters included four cryptograms, but of the four cryptograms sent, only one has been definitively solved.

The case is still open.

The Family That Walks On All Fours

This is a BBC Two documentary that explores an entire family that walks on all fours. Released in 2006, it was presented by Nicholas Humphrey and directed by Jemima Harrison. The family have been described by Turkish scientist as proof that backwards evolution exists. The film focuses not just on the family, but examines the real possibility of biological, backwards evolution.

This is one of the most eye-opening - and quite frankly a little terrifying - documentaries out there. Definitely one to watch as it is one of the top documentaries lying on YouTube.

A Brief History Of Time

A Brief History Of Time was directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker, Errol Morris (who also directed The Thin Blue Line), and is an examination of the extraordinary life of physicist, Stephen Hawking.

The documentary is based on the bestselling book of the same name that explores everything from the Big Bang Theory to black holes. In it, Stephen Hawking writes in non-technical terms, exploring the origins of the universe. He discusses and puts into perspective two major theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, that modern scientists use to describe the universe.

The documentary is more of an exploration of Hawking's life and features interviews with his family, colleagues and even his childhood nanny. This is definitely one not to miss if you're into science, or just want to know a little more about one of the cleverest men on the planet.

The September Issue

The September Issue is probably one of the best fashion documentaries there is and luckily you can watch it for free on YouTube. It explores the making of a September issue of American Vogue, following Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour and her team as the biggest issue of the year is created. It focuses on the creation of the 2007 September edition of the magazine and was directed by R.J. Cutler and produced by Eliza Hindmarch and Sadia Shepard. It was originally actually released in American cinemas, but is now available to watch as many times as you like on YouTube.

While it focuses on women's fashion, it is undeniably interesting and paints a proper picture of how the world's most famous fashion magazine operates. It features many guest appearances from the likes of John Galliano, Oscar de la Renta, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Nicolas Ghesquière, Karl Lagerfeld, Thakoon Panichgul, Stefano Pilat, Jane Thompson, Isabel Toledo and Vera Wang. Photographers Patrick Demarchelier, Steven Klein, Craig McDean, Mario Testino and David Sims also feature in the film.

This is undoubtedly one of the best YouTube documentaries there is and gives an insight to a world that's doors are usually firmly closed to outsiders.

Walking the Tracks: The Summer of ‘Stand by Me’

This documentary is divided into four parts, but luckily for you each one is available to watch on YouTube. It explores the origins and process of filming and creating one of the world's best loved films, Stand by Me, which was based on Stephen King’s short story, The Body.

The documentary features interviews with the likes of Stephen King, Rob Reiner, Kiefer Sutherland, Richard Dreyfuss, and the three surviving cast members Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O'Connell.

The Making of Rushmore

Wes Andersen is one of the world's greatest directors and his style is unique. While The Making Of Rushmore wasn't his first film, it did spell out the success that was to come. The film is the work of Eric Chase Anderson, Anderson's brother, who was armed with a camera of his own to document his brother’s ambitious feature. The film features Owen Wilson and Bill Murray as well as the two Anderson brothers, all playing themselves.

The film could've gone another way, as it was meant to be for the use in Rushmore's press kit, but Wes Anderson asked his brother to stay longer on set. Traditionally, the press crew is only on set for a few days, but Eric was present for the duration of production. Eric’s sustained presence provided some entertaining - if not earth-shattering - cinematic history.

Dirty Girls

Dirty Girls is an absolute eye-opener into what goes on in a high school. Michael Lucid began documenting the lives of two 8th grade girls called Amber and Harper in 1996 when he was a senior in the same school. The two girls had become the subject of bullying and torment from their peers due to their behaviour and supposed bad hygiene.

The film focuses on the hardships of high school and significantly casts a light on the rise on the nit-establishment sentiment that was arising due to the grunge movement. It also gave insight onto how cliques are created in school. The film was released in 2000 and went viral. The girls in it were the epitome of the riot grrrl ethos and quite literally did not care what anyone thought about them. The documentary is not only a perfect time capsule for people who went to high school in the Nineties, but is also appropriate for today's topics of conversation, capturing two strong, independent young people speaking their minds.

Life In A Day

Life In A Day is one of those projects that is so simple, but genius at the same time. It was an extremely ambitious project and its director Kevin Macdonald relied on the clips of other people to create 24 hours of footage. He used 80,000 clips from people from the day of 24 July 2010 to show the mundane reality of life, from people at work to discussions in their relationships. Contributors came from 192 countries and the film is around 94 minutes long.

In 2011 YouTube announced that it would post the video free of charge and it has since become not only one of the most popular YouTube documentaries, but also one of the top free documentaries on YouTube. The film's aim was to document what happened on 24 July 2010 for future generations and that has been a possible scenario, as it is now available to view for anyone with access to YouTube.

Interview With A Cannibal

30 years ago, a Japanese man named Issei Sagawa walked to the Bois de Boulogne, a park on the outskirts of Paris, carrying two suitcases. Nobody knew what was in the suitcases, but people did soon find out. The contents of those suitcases, to the lament of a nearby jogger who was the one who discovered them, was the dismembered body of a fellow student – a Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt. Sagawa had shot her three days prior and had spent the days since eating various parts of her body.

The documentary explores what happened to him after his arrest, which saw him declared insane and unfit for trial and was institutionalised in Paris. However, as the French public soon gained knowledge of the fact that their hard-earned Francs were going to support this man, Issei was promptly deported. Herein followed a bizarre and seemingly too convenient set of legal loopholes and psychiatric reports that led doctors in Japan declaring him "sane, but evil." He is now free.

On That Note

While you may think that Netflix is the be all and end all, its really on YouTube that you'll find some secret gems. Above we have listed the ones we think are worth watching (all are free of course) from Anna Wintour's The September Issue to Vice's An Interview With A Cannibal. These are some of the most eye-opening documentaries to date on the video streaming website and you should definitely book in some time to watch a few.


The Manual

  • Life
  • Collective
  • Style
  • Grooming
  • News
            A Guide To Winter Knitwear

            A Guide To Winter Knitwear

            If there's one thing everyone can agree on is that winter is the season of knitwear. But with there being so much choice out there, we've broken do...

            read more