The Best Documentaries of 2022

Here are the 50 best documentaries of 2022, ranked according to the results of the 10th annual Nonfics year-end poll.

Fire Of Love Maurice Katia Krafft
National Geographic Documentary Films

Welcome to the 10th annual year-end Nonfics poll results, through which we’ve determined the best documentaries of 2022. Once again, we asked critics, filmmakers, and others in the nonfiction film community to name their favorite documentary features, shorts, and series of the past year. From those entries, we have compiled a ranked list of the top 50 documentaries of 2022.

Our list goes beyond those 50 titles, however. Precisely 150 qualifying titles received at least one vote in the poll, and those additional films and series are listed alphabetically after the top rankings. Other titles still were named in the poll that may have actually come out before 2022 or haven’t yet technically been released in the U.S. before the end of the year. For the latter, we have a short list of the best docs to look forward to in 2023.

For anyone hoping to use this list as a barometer for the Oscars, we’d like to remind readers that the top title in our best documentaries of 2021 list, Summer of Soul, also went on to win the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Meanwhile, this year’s Critics Choice Documentary Award winner for Best Documentary Feature, Good Night Oppy, which is no longer in the running for the Oscar, also landed in the top 10 this year.

On another page, you’ll be able to find some of this year’s contributors’ submissions to the Nonfics poll, including our own list of favorites. These are the comprehensive results based on those submissions. Below are the best documentaries we all saw last year and where you can watch them now.

The 100 Best Documentaries Of 2022

1. Fire of Love (dir. Sara Dosa)

Sara Dosa’s archival documentary chronicles the romantic and tragic story of volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, who died together doing what they loved. Narrated by Miranda July and featuring an otherworldly score by Air’s Nicolas Godin, this is the kind of doc that Wes Anderson surely wishes he had made. Read our review of Fire of Love, and watch the film streaming on Disney+.

2. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (dir. Laura Poitras)

Combining the artist biography and the issue film, Laura Poitras’s feature is focused on the life, work, and crusade of the photographer and activist Nan Goldin as she reflects on her past and fights the Sackler family for their part in the opioid crisis. Look for All the Beauty and the Bloodshed soon on HBO Max.

3. Descendant (dir. Margaret Brown)

Another Alabama story from Margaret Brown, yet one that has great national and historical scope, this feature is centered on the descendants of the passengers of the Clotilda, the last ship to transport enslaved Africans to the United States. Descendant was also among the best documentaries of Sundance 2021 and can now be found streaming on Netflix.

4. All That Breathes (dir. Shaunak Sen)

Another favorite from Sundance this year, Shaunak Sen’s mesmerizing documentary mixes microscopic and macroscopic worlds as it presents the lives of two brothers in Delhi who devote their time to saving black kite birds. Look for All That Breathes streaming soon on HBO Max.

5. Navalny (dir. Daniel Roher)

Daniel Roher interviews and follows popular Russian politician Alexei Navalny, who recovers from and investigates an assassination attempt on his life by Putin’s government. The doc is best known for having one of the most intense telephone call scenes in any film in recent years. Navalny is streaming on HBO Max.

6. Moonage Daydream (dir. Brett Morgen)

A kaleidoscopic montage of the life and music of David Bowie from director Brett Morgen. Moonage Daydream, which has the distinction of being the best music documentary of 2022 based on these results, is available from all major VOD outlets.

7. Good Night Oppy (dir. Ryan White)

Ryan White’s VFX-enhanced documentary chronicles the launch and mission of two rovers sent to Mars, and it’s a surprisingly emotional ride for both humans and machines. Good Night Oppy is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

8. Riotsville, USA (dir. Sierra Pettengill)

From archival documentary master Sierra Pettengill, this essay film looks at a fictional town constructed by the U.S. military for the purposes of training defensive forces against protestors in the 1960s. You can find Riotsville, USA available on all major VOD outlets.

9. Bad Axe (dir. David Siev)

Mixing the subjective with the objective, this personal verite film from newcomer David Siev follows a year in the life of an Asian-American family and their restaurant amidst the pandemic. Bad Axe is available on all major VOD outlets.

10. The Territory (dir. Alex Pritz)

Alex Pritz’s debut documentary feature (made with help from producer Darren Aronofsky) spotlights the Ur-Eu-Wau-Wau people of a decreasing area of the Brazilian rainforest and their efforts to stop the encroachment of their land. The Territory is now streaming on Disney+.

11. Three Minutes: A Lengthening (dir. Bianca Stigter) – Hulu
12. The Bengali (dir. Kavery Kaul)
13. Sr. (dir. Chris Smith) – Netflix
14. The Janes (dir. Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes) – HBO Max
15. Retrograde (dir. Matthew Heineman) – Disney+
16. Sidney (dir. Reginald Hudlin) – Apple TV+
17. Beba (dir. Rebeca Huntt) – Hulu
18. Cow (dir. Andrea Arnold) – AMC+ Amazon Channel
19. George Carlin’s American Dream (dir. Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio) – HBO Max
20. Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (dir. Sacha Jenkins) – Apple TV+

My Old School

My Old School

21. My Old School (dir. Jono McLeod) – Hulu
22. Is That Black Enough For You?!? (dir. Elvis Mitchell) – Netflix
23. Halleluja: Leonard Cohen, a Journey, a Song (dir. Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine) – VOD
24. We Need To Talk About Cosby (dir. W. Kumau Bell) – Showtime
25. I Didn’t See You There (dir. Reid Davenport)
26. 2nd Chance (dir. Ramin Bahrani)
27. Jackass Forever (dir. Jeff Tremaine) – Paramount|+
28. Aftershock (dir. Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee) – Hulu
29. Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down (dir. Julie Cohen and Betsy West) – VOD
30. The Fire Within: A Requiem for Katia and Maurice Krafft (dir. Werner Herzog) – History Channel Vault

We Met in Virtual Reality

We Met in Virtual Reality

31. We Met in Virtual Reality (dir. Joe Hunting) – HBO Max
32. The Automat (dir. Lisa Hurwitz) – HBO Max
33. Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off (dir. Sam Jones) – HBO Max
34. The Last Movie Stars (dir. Ethan Hawke) – HBO Max
35. A House Made Of Splinters (dir. Simon Lereng Wilmont)
36. Hold Your Fire (dir. Stefan Forbes) – AMC+ Amazon Channel
37. Mija (dir. Isabel Castro) – Disney+
38. Light & Magic (dir. Lawrence Kasdan) – Disney+
39. If These Walls Could Sing (dir. Mary McCartney) – Disney+
40. Lucy and Desi (dir. Amy Poehler) – Amazon Prime Video

Children of the Mist documentary

Children of the Mist

41. Children of the Mist (dir. Ha Le Diem)
42. 11 Minutes (dir. Jeff Zimbalist) – Paramount+
43. 32 Sounds (dir. Sam Green)
44. Nothing Compares (dir. Kathryn Ferguson) – Showtime
45. The Rehearsal (dir. Nathan Fielder) – HBO Max
46. The Princess (dir. Ed Perkins) – HBO Max
47. Taming the Garden (dir. Salomé Jashi) – Mubi
48. A Tree of Life: The Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting (dir. Trish Adlesic) – HBO Max
49. The Cave of Adullam (dir. Laura Checkoway) – ESPN+
50. Last Flight Home (dir. Ondi Timoner) – Paramount+

100 More Favorite Documentaries Of 2022

An Act of Worship (dir. Nausheen Dadabhoy) – PBS
The Andy Warhol Diaries
(dir. Andrew Rossi) – Netflix

Babi Yar. Context (dir. Sergei Loznitsa)
Bitterbrush (dir. Emelie Mahdavian) – Hulu
Bleeding Audio (dir. Chelsea Christer) – Kanopy
Black Ice (dir. Hubert Davis)
Blue Island (dir. Tze Woon Chan) – OVID
Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power (dir. Nina Menkes) – Kanopy
Cane Fire (dir. Anthony Banua-Simon) – The Criterion Channel
Captain Ahab: The Story of Dave Stieb (dir. Jon Bois) – YouTube
Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes (dir. James Jones) – HBO Max
Claydream (dir. Marq Evans) – VOD
Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields (dir. Jessica Dimmock) – Netflix
Deep in the Heart: A Texas Wildlife Story (dir. Ben Masters) – VOD
Dear Mr. Brody (Keith Maitland) – Kino Now
Downfall: The Case Against Boeing (dir. Rory Kennedy) – Netflix
Free Puppies! (dir. Christina Thomas and Samantha Wishman) – Kino Now
Escape from Kabul (dir. Jamie Roberts) – HBO Max
Facing Monsters (dir. Bentley Dean) – Hoopla
Facing Nolan (dir. Bradley Jackson) – Netflix
Fannie Lou Hamer’s America (dir. Joy Elaine Davenport) – VOD
The Fastest Woman on Earth (dir. Chris Otwell and Graham Suorsa) – HBO Max
Fiddler’s Journey to the Screen (dir. Daniel Raim) – Paramount+
Four Winters: A Story of Jewish Partisan Resistance and Bravery in WWII (dir. Julia Mintz)
Framing Agnes (dir. Chase Joynt)
Free Chol Soo Lee (dir. Julie Ha and Eugene Yi) – Mubi
Futura (Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, and Alice Rohwacher) – Mubi Amazon Channel
Gaming Wall St. (dir. Tobias Deml) – HBO Max
Gimme Some Truth: Nelly & Nadine (dir. Magnus Gertten)
Girl in the Picture (dir. Skye Borgman) – Netflix
Groucho & Cavett (dir. Robert S. Bader) – PBS
Into The Deep: The Submarine Murder Case (dir. Emma Sullivan) – Netflix
Halftime (dir. Amanda Micheli and Sam Wrench) – Netflix
Haulout (dir. Maxim Arbugaev and Evgenia Arbugaeva) – The New Yorker
Hello, Bookstore (dir. A.B. Zax) – Kanopy
In Her Hands (dir. Tamana Ayazi and Marcel Mettelsiefen) – Netflix
Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story (dir. Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern) – VOD
jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (dir. Coodie and J. Ivy) – Netflix
Kaepernick & America (dir. Ross Hockrow and Tommy Walker) – VOD
Kicking the Clouds (dir. Sky Hopinka) – Vimeo
The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks (dir. Reginald Harkema) – Amazon Prime Video
Let the Little Light Shine (dir. Kevin Shaw) – PBS
The Lincoln Project (dir. Karim Amer and Fisher Stevens) – Showtime
Love & the Constitution (dir. Madeleine Carter) – Peacock
Lowndes County and the Road to Black Power (dir. Geeta Gandbhir and Sam Pollard) – VOD
Mama’s Boy (dir. Laurent Bouzereau) – HBO Max
Master of Light (dir. Rosa Ruth Boesten) – HBO Max
Marx Can Wait (dir. Marco Bellocchio) – The Criterion Channel
Mau (dir. Benjamin Bergmann and Jono Bergmann) – Kanopy
McEnroe (dir. Barney Douglas) – Showtime
Meet Me in the Bathroom (dir. Will Lovelace and Dylan Southern) – Showtime
Mickey: The Story of a Mouse (dir. Jeff Malmberg) – Disney+
Mike (dir. Craig Gillespie, Tiffany Johnson, and Director X) – Hulu
Mind Over Murder (dir. Nanfu Wang) – HBO Max
Mr. Bachmann and His Class (dir. Maria Speth) – Mubi
My Duduś (dir. Tom Krawczyk) – PBS
My Imaginary Country (dir. Patricio Guzmán)
Nothing Lasts Forever (dir. Jason Kohn)
Nuisance Bear (dir. Gabriela Osio Vanden and Jack Weisman) – The New Yorker
On the Divide (dir. Maya Cueva and Leah Galant) – PBS
The People You’re Paying to Be in Shorts (dir. Jon Bois) – YouTube
Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché (dir. Celeste Bell and Paul Sng) – Showtime
Prehistoric Planet (dir. Andrew R. Jones and Adam Valdez) – Apple TV+
The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (dir. Yoruba Richen and Johanna Hamilton) – Peacock
The Redeem Team (dir. Jon Weinbach) – Netflix
The Return of Tanya Tucker: Featuring Brandi Carlile (dir. Kathyln Horan)
Return to Space (dir. Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) – Netflix
Ronnie’s (dir. Oliver Murray) – OVID
Salt in My Soul (dir. Will Battersby) – Sundance Now
Say Hey, Willie Mays! (dir. Nelson George) – HBO Max
Section 1 (dir. Jon Bois) – YouTube
Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me (dir. Alek Keshishian) – Apple TV+
Sheroes (dir. Aude Pépin) – Mubi
Sidney (dir. Reginald Hudlin) – Apple TV+
Singing Our Way to Freedom (dir. Paul Espinosa) – PBS Passport
Sirens (dir. Rita Baghdadi)
Still Working 9 to 5 (dir. Camille Hardman and Gary Lane)
Stutz (dir. Jonah Hill) – Netflix
The Story of Film: A New Generation (dir. Mark Cousins) – VOD
The Super 8 Years (dir. Annie Ernaux and David Ernaux-Briot) – Kino Now
Take Me To the River: New Orleans (dir. Martin Shore)
Tantura (dir. Alon Schwarz) – VOD
This is GWAR (dir. Scott Barber) – Shudder
This Is Joan Collins (dir. Clare Beavan) – BritBox Amazon Channel
This Much I Know To Be True (dir. Andrew Dominik) – Mubi
The Tinder Swindler (dir. Felicity Morris) – Netflix
Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall (dir. Bob Smeaton) – Netflix
Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb (dir. Lizzie Gottlieb)
Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist (dir. Ryan Duffy and Tony Vainuku) – Netflix
Users (dir. Natalia Almada)
Victoria’s Secret: Angels and Demons (dir. Matt Tyrnauer) – Hulu
Video Visit (dir. Malika Zouhali-Worrall) – Field of Vision
¡Viva Maestro! (dir. Ted Braun) – HBO Max
We Are the Thousand (dir. Anita Rivaroli) – VOD
Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies and the Internet (dir. Brian Knappenberger) – Netflix
What We Leave Behind (dir. Iliana Sosa) – Netflix
Who Killed Biggie and Tupac? (dir. Kim Duke) – Discovery+
Wildcat (dir. Trevor Frost and Melissa Lesh)
Young Plato (dir. Declan McGrath and Neasa Ní Chianáin) – VOD
The Youth Governor (dir. Jaron Halmy and Matthew Halmy) – Kino Now

18 Documentaries To Watch For In 2023

After Sherman (dir. Jon Sesrie Goff)
The Afterlight (dir. Charlie Shackleton)
Cloves & Carnations (dir. Bekir Bülbül)
Dusty & Stones (dir. Jesse Rudoy)
Eami (dir. Paz Encina)
It’s What Each Person Needs (dir. Sophy Romvari)
Lynch/Oz (dir. Alexandre O. Philippe)
Mama Bears (dir. Daresha Kyi) – on PBS 6/20/23
Much Ado About Dying (dir. Simon Chambers)
Nazarbazi (dir. Maryam Tafakory)
A Night of Knowing Nothing (dir. Payal Kapadia)
Outta the Muck (dir. Ira McKinley and Bhawin Suchak) – on PBS 2/6/23
The Pawnshop, a.k.a. Lombard (dir. Lukasz Kowalski)
Relative (dir. Tracey Arcabasso Smith)
Rewind & Play (dir. Alain Gomis)
Russia 1985-1999: TraumaZone (dir. Adam Curtis)
Sexual Healing (dir. Elsbeth Fraanje)
The Wild One (dir. Tessa Louise-Salomé)

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.