I love watching documentaries. I first got hooked back in high school when my friend Stephanie, who worked at the local Hollywood Video store, brought me home a copy of Spellbound.  She knew I loved watching the spelling bee competition on TV (and was still secretly bitter that I had never won the school spelling bee growing up) and thought I would enjoy it (I loved it).  Over the next few years, I watched as many documentaries as I could find in the Hollywood Video store and occasionally spent my meager college student money on a documentary I’d buy online after careful research. I think my first purchase was Promises and it’s still one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  The discovery of Netflix, though, was like a gold mine for a documentary lover like myself.

Below is a list of my top 25 favorites in no particular order:

  Title Topic
promises Promises Interviews Jewish and Palestinian kids in Israel about their lives and the ongoing conflict and orchestrates a meeting between them. Oscar nominated film.
jesuscamp Jesus Camp Films Evangelical kids in their homes, churches, and a Christian camp.
spellbound Spellbound Follows several competitors vying for the title in the National Spelling Bee.
lioninhouse A Lion in the House Films five children who have cancer and are at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Interviews their families and shows them outside of the hospital as well.
fleshandblood Flesh and Blood An inside look at the Tom family in California, made up of matriarch Susan Tom and her brood of mostly adopted kids, many with challenges in their lives. The family was on Extreme Home Makeover a couple years after the documentary was made. This was a film that was much more captivating than I expected.
firstposition First Position Follows several kids who are competing in an international ballet competition.
stateofmind A State of Mind Filmed inside of North Korea, films children as they prepare for a major show that the dictator will be present for.
for the bible tells me so For the Bible Tells Me So An interesting look at Christianity and homosexuality
children underground Children Underground Films several homeless children in Romania
wordplay Word Play Films several contestants in the national crossword puzzle tournament
queen of versailles The Queen of Versailles Behind-the-scenes look at the family that’s building the largest home in America.
makebelieve Make Believe Films several amazingly good teen magicians
theotherdreamteam The Other Dream Team A look inside of the history of Lithuania and their breaking away from the Soviet Union. Focuses on the basketball team that won bronze in the 1992 Olympics in basketball. I’m 1/4 Lithuanian, so I found this particularly interesting, especially since my grandfather was a very good basketball player and he bought the Grateful Dead t-shirts that were sold to raise money (you’ll see what I mean when you watch the film).
the short game The Short Game Films several kids aged 7-8 and interviews their families as they prepare and compete at the Kids World Golf Championship. The kids, which include Anna Kournikova’s younger brother, are adorable and very competitive.
raising cain Raising Cain A fascinating look at raising boys today and how traditional schools may be doing things wrong
bornintobrothels Born Into Brothels Films several kids in India whose mothers work in brothels. The filmmakers gave the kids cameras and let them loose to film their lives.
doc Miss Representation Investigates the media’s view of women and how women are defined by beauty and sexuality and not seen as potential leaders.
doc Which Way Home Follows kids from Mexico and Honduras as they travel on top of trains and try to make their way across the border into the US.
doc Racing Dreams A fascinating look at three kids aged 11-13 who compete nationally in go-kart racing.
doc Waiting for Superman A look at America’s public educational system
doc Thin Films women at a treatment facility for eating disorders.
doc The Business of Being Born A hard look at giving birth in the United States.
doc God Grew Tired Of Us Follows several “Lost Boys” of Sudan who move to the United States and adjust to life here in a different culture.
doc Chely Wright: Wish Me Away Filmed over three years, a look inside Chely Wright’s life as she decides to come out publicly as the first gay country singer and worries about what fans will think.
doc The Hollywood Complex A fascinating can’t-look-away doc about kids who want to be child actors in Hollywood and their parents who will do whatever it takes to help them succeed.

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