You might not realize it, but we’re in a golden age for documentaries. Between theatrical releases, streaming exclusives, and cable originals, there are almost too many good options out there. Showtime’s lineup is surprisingly robust, with many great options included in its streaming library. We’ve looked around every nook and cranny to find the most interesting and best documentaries on Showtime’s streaming service. Save for one or two picks, you probably don’t know most of these films, but you need to.
The best documentaries on Showtime and Showtime Anytime
Laura Poitras’ follow up to the Oscar-winning Citizenfour showcases another controversial figure: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Poitras shares the spotlight, which poses interesting questions to the audience. On the one hand, her prominence can call into question the objectivity of the film, but the boldness of the choice is compelling nevertheless. As far as Assange goes, your reaction may vary. He’s repulsive to many, but someone the world has to reckon with, and Poitras does a solid job capturing both sides.
2) The Godfathers of Hardcore
In the 1980s a new form of aggressive music called punk spread across America like a virus of rebellion. In New York City a particularly violent brand of music known as hardcore was born, bringing metal speed to the anger of punk. The Godfathers of Hardcore tells the story of Agnostic Front, one of the first and most important hardcore bands in history. See how bands ranging from the Foo Fighters to Slayer have sung their praises and learn all about the godfathers of mosh. – JMB
3) American Jihad
Homegrown terrorism is the subject of American Jihad, a fascinating doc that examines radicalized Americans. It charts the path of people who went from normal citizens to major threats to the country’s security. Director Alison Ellwood handles tricky material without dipping into sensationalism, which would be an easy mistake to make given the topic and featured Americans like the Tsarnaev brothers. American Jihad has been criminally underseen, but it’s a must-see documentary.
4) Burn Motherf*cker Burn!
Following the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers for the beating of Rodney King, one of the worst riots in American history broke out. After decades of abuse at the hands of authority figures, a communal rage boiled over, destroying everything in its path. Burn Motherf*cker Burn! Tells the story of the LAPD’s history of community violence and how it impacts the city. From the ‘65 Watts riots to the rise of L.A.’s gang culture, Burn… is an unflinching look at a city’s difficult and often violent history. – JMB
5) Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee
Our culture likes to joke about eccentric millionaires, but none are just as eccentric as John McAfee. While most of the world knows him for his famous eponymously named anti-virus software, the magic of McAfee has nothing to do with his computer skills. His most interesting stories come from how he spent his money, from going off the grid in Belize to becoming a drug lord, and going on the run for suspected murder. John McAfee isn’t a good man, but he’s a fascinating one. Strap in for one of the craziest millionaires you’ll ever meet. – JMB
I remember the summer of 2003 watching the story of Baylor basketball star Patrick Dennehy play out over SportsCenter and local news coverage. I was stunned at the depth of the scandal surrounding Dennehy’s death. Disgraced documents the story of Denny and the darkness at the center of Baylor University’s basketball program. The coverage the doc provides is thorough, and the filmmakers even got an interview with the disgraced coach David Bliss.
7) Whitney: Can I Be Me
The rise and fall of Whitney Houston equally reflect the best and worst aspects of the American dream. Now through a treasure trove of never-before-seen footage from throughout the singer’s life, viewers can get a previously unthinkable look into the tragic artist’s life. From her childhood in New Jersey to the night of her death, Can I Be Me is an unflinching history of a vocalist blessed with unimaginable talent and demons to match. Director Nick Broomfield brings the same sense of controversy and charm to this picture that he did earlier works like Kurt & Courtney and Biggie & Tupac. Grab some tissues before you watch. – JMB
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.