HBO Documentaries provide a safe and compelling method for viewers to be a figurative fly on the wall, gaining access to and observing things they would otherwise never see. These films show life as it happens and entertain as well as educate.
They can also make you unhappy, happy, surprised, or shocked. With cameras rolling all the time, impossible-to-fake and extra-real moments are immortalized. One may argue that documentaries will always be more dramatic than even the best fictional films because of these unique features.
When it comes to the best documentaries, HBO Max, a streaming service, has a large library at its disposal. We're talking about some of the most influential, gripping, and memorable documentary films ever produced.
The availability of films on HBO Max changes on a regular basis as the streaming service's repertoire is updated. If you want to stay on top of everything going on with HBO Max, go back every few weeks to see what new documentaries have been added to the site.
5 HBO Max documentaries you shouldn't miss
5) Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World
- Director: Dana Nachman
- Year: 2015
- Runtime: 87 minutes
Documentarians can sometimes feel like cultural watchdogs, exposing atrocities, gloom, and malevolence. "Batkid Begins" is a joyous, life-affirming, tear-jerking investigation of the goodness and goodwill that can arise when big and varied groups of people come together for a common cause.
The HBO Documentary recalls the viral, global event in 2013 when the Make-A-Wish Foundation, along with an army of helpful volunteers, helped Miles Scott realize his goal of pretending to be Batman and fighting crime in an actual Gotham City, a temporary and elaborately altered San Francisco.
4) Capturing the Friedmans
- Director: Andrew Jarecki
- Year: 2003
- Runtime: 107 minutes
The film, a dark and very unnerving look at the evil that might be hiding next door, started off as an accident. Andrew Jarecki, a budding filmmaker, began by filming a short documentary about veteran New York area birthday party entertainers, particularly a clown named Silly Billy, David Friedman's eccentric persona.
Jarecki delved a little further after getting the film he needed and discovered that Friedman's brother and father had pled guilty to and been sentenced to prison for some incredibly horrible crimes.
Jarecki developed "Capturing the Friedmans," an HBO documentary on the family's legal problems and dark secrets, as well as the long-term damage they inflicted, using interviews and footage from Friedman's own vintage home movies.
3) A Brief History of Time
- Director: Errol Morris
- Year: 1992
- Runtime: 83 minutes
Stephen Hawking was widely regarded as the smartest man on the planet, and his book "A Brief History of Time," one of the most widely read scientific books of all time, was published in 1988. He revealed the secrets of space, the universe, the cosmos, and physics in simple terms.
Errol Morris, an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, translates the book to the screen, intercutting the cosmology with a look at Hawking's life, particularly his difficulties with the consequences of ALS, which left him mostly immobile, confined to a wheelchair, and requiring the use of a speech synthesizer.
2) Roger & Me
- Director: Michael Moore
- Year: 1989
- Runtime: 91 minutes
Michael Moore, the polarizing Oscar-winning documentarian known for "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," began his career in 1989 with a wonderfully humorous documentary film about a very serious issue.
Moore, a native of Flint, Michigan, and the son of a GM plant employee, described what occurred in the area after the car industry shut down operations, leaving significant sections of the populace without a source of income.
Moore poses as a journalist and interviews outrageously out-of-touch officials, as well as colorful and agitated Flint residents, with the help of a camera operator. Along the way, he notices that they all dislike General Motors CEO Roger B. Smith, and he attempts to confront him in several wealthy enclaves.
1) The Cold Blue
- Director: Erik Nelson
- Year: 2018
- Runtime: 72 minutes
During World War II, three-time Academy Award-winning director William Wyler was attached to the Eighth Air Force division in the European Theater to shoot combat flights on B-17 bombers. The 1944 documentary "The Memphis Belle" uses some visceral and frightening material.
Raw footage, all of it in color, was discovered in the National Archives, and documentarian Erik Nelson restored it to 4K quality before compiling it into this extraordinary HBO Documentary illustrating daily life for young, brave, and fearful American soldiers.