Top 5 documentary films of 2021

Summer of Soul poster (Image via Hulu)
Summer of Soul poster (Image via Hulu)

2021 has been the year for some of the greatest biopics and documentary films, as well as series, and every streaming giant delivered its best.

From films on Britney Spears' conservatorship to the dysfunctional policing system in Mexico, the genre covered every aspect of it. There are many more documentary films to look forward to next year as well on Netflix, Hulu and Prime Video.

5 must-watch documentary films of 2021


Here's a look at the top 5 documentary films of 2021, ranked on the basis of 'tomatometer' on Rotten Tomatoes.

5) Cusp

Cusp is set in a small military town in Texas and revolves around three teenage girls living out a fever-dream summer. Through their characters, debut filmmakers Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt share a fascinating glimpse into authentic American life, where adolescence clashes with a growing desire for personal agency.

The documentary holds a score of 88% on Rotten Tomatoes with an IMDb rating of 5.5. It is available to stream on Showtime and Prime Video. According to the Washington Post:

"In this mesmerizing, revelatory and deeply compassionate film, viewers are left with an indelible impression of girlhood at its most precarious and indomitable."

4) A Cop Movie

A Cop Movie revolves around Teresa and Montoya, who join the police force as a family tradition, only to have their convictions and hopes crushed by the world's most controversial institutions. The documentary has an experimental style of narrative and storytelling, propelling the viewers into an unsual cinematic space.

The film holds a score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of 7.1 on IMDb. A Cop Movie is available to stream on Netflix, and according to The New Yorker:

"Narrative gamesmanship merges with investigative journalism in this remarkable docu-fiction hybrid, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios."

3) Procession

Procession revolves around a group of s*xual abuse survivors, wronged by Catholic priests. The film features their battles for justice and collaborates to create fictional scenes depicting rituals of power in the church. The documentary is available to stream on Netflix.

The film holds a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.1 rating on IMDb. According to Rolling Stone:

"These guys are the ones who step willingly into the worst moments of their lives, jumping into an abyss with the faith that there may be something healing on the other side. Name something that's more heroic than that."


FLEE revolves around Amin Nawabi as he grapples with a hidden secret that threatens to derail the life he has built for himself and his fiance. The film is mostly animated by director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, who shares his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.

The documentary holds a score of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 8.2 rating on IMDb. FLEE is available to stream on MUBI, and according to Los Angeles Times:

"An intimate portrait of the lasting traumas of displacement and one of the most humane films of the year."

1) Summer of Soul

A directorial debut by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Summer of Soul is a powerful musical documentary that highlights an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. The film comprises never-seen footage from The Harlem Cultural Festival and shines a light on the importance of history in spiritual wellbeing. The documentary is available to stream on Hulu and Hotstar.

Summer of Soul features never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and more. It holds a score of 99% on Rotten Tomatoes with an IMDb rating of 8.2.

According to Rolling Stone:

"Summer of Soul is both a tribute to the artists and, just as importantly, their audience -- which is what makes it not just a great concert film but a great documentary, period."

Stream the best of the 2021 documentaries online and let the feels hit.

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Edited by Mason J. Schneider