It’s not just music videos and clips of cats being awesome, YouTube is also home to some great documentaries well worth watching. Here are 21 of them.
25 Million Pounds (1996)
Film by the brilliant Adam Curtis about Nick Leeson and the collapse of Barings Bank and how Barings “willingly entered into a dream he wove, lured by the prospect of vast sums of money”. Watch here.
1959: The Year that Changed Jazz
Documentary looks at the albums released by Miles, Brubeck, Coleman & Mingus in 1959. Rarely seen archive performances help bring the era to life and explore what made these albums vital both in 1959 and the 50 years since. Watch here.
A Brief History of Time (1992)
Errol Morris’ documentary on Stephen Hawking. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival.
A Look Behind the Future (1966)
1966 documentary takes you inside the making of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the technologies that were in real-life development during that age. Watch here.
Bed Peace (2011)
The 70 minute documentary revisits John and Yoko’s famous 1969 Bed-Ins, which amounted to a peaceful protest against the Vietnam War.
Beautiful Equations (2010)
Artist and writer Matt Collings asks top scientists to help him understand five of the most famous equations in science, talks to Stephen Hawking about his equation for black holes and comes face to face with a particle of anti-matter.
Breaking Vegas: The True Story of the MIT Blackjack Team (2012)
For two years in the early 1990s, mathematics students from M.I.T. won millions from casinos around the world by using their mathematics and card counting skills to change the odds of blackjack in their favor.
Chasing Sound (2007)
At 90, Les Paul tells his story featuring a soundtrack of hits by B.B. King, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and others.
Code Rush (1998)
An inside look at living and working in Silicon Valley at the height of the dot-com era, following the lives of Netscape engineers.
Dark Side of the Moon (2002)
Unintentionally hilarious documentary that the television footage from the Apollo 11 Moon landing was faked and actually recorded in a studio by the CIA with help from director Stanley Kubrick. The most amazing thing is that people like Donald Rumsfeld, Dr. Henry Kissinger and Buzz Aldrin went on film for this.
Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2003)
Hugely entertaining and compelling film about the famous match between chess legend Garry Kasparov and IBM computer Deep Blue.
Inside: Dr. Strangelove (2000)
A behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of one of the classics of modern cinema. Including interviews with many members of the cast and crew of this story about the scramble by the heads of state to head off a rogue general’s attempt to launch a nuclear war, this film gives fans a wealth of new information on the work and effort that went into bringing the film to fruition.
Jaws: the Inside Story (2010)
One of the greatest films of all time and the movie that started the summer blockbuster trend, but making it was famously troubled with production issues and arguments from the beginning.
Paul McCartney: Chaos & Creation at Abbey Road (2005)
Old Sir Thumbsaloft revisits the Beatles’ recording techniques and vintage instruments used by the band in the Sixties, almost 50 years before he was discovered by Kanye West.
The Genius of Charles Darwin (2008)
Film presented by Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins about one of the most important and influential men who ever lived and the theory of Evolution.
The Complete Citizen Kane (1991)
BBC Arena documentary looking at Orson Welles’ masterpiece in detail, including an interview with Pauline Kael discussing her controversial “Raising Kane” article.
The Illegal Big Cats of Instagram (2015)
The act of buying illegal wild animals in Kuwait is, as one local puts it, “as easy as acquiring a cupcake.” Investigation into vile animal cruelty and owning big cats like cheetahs and lions in Kuwait.
The Last 48 Hours of Kurt Cobain (2007)
British documentary takes a look the final days of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who committed suicide in 1994.
The Spies Who Fooled the World (2013)
BBC documentary showing how just how much of the intelligence that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was based in wishful thinking and lies.
The Trillion Dollar Bet (2000)
Brilliant BBC Horizon documentary about the about the demise of hedge fund management firm Long Term Capital Management. They thought they had perfected a risk-free trading formula but then began to lose a hundred million or more day after day, then half a billion in one day… and then it got worse.
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)
Werner Herzog living up to his promise that he would eat his shoe if Errol Morris ever completed the film Gates of Heaven.