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'20 Days in Mariupol' (2023) | Image: AP

15 Best Documentaries of 2023


We rounded up the best documentaries of 2023 and realised it was a huge year for celebrity biographies, in particular. That was especially true on Netflix, whereas the streamer appeared to be dropping a new celebrity profile with each passing week. From Beckham to Arnold to Robbie Williams to Sly and more, we found living legends sitting down to discuss their extraordinary lives and careers.

Over on Apple TV+, Max, and Prime Video, documentaries such as Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, The Pigeon Tunnel, Little Richard: I Am Everything, and Judy Blume Forever continued the trend. You’ll find at least some of these titles on the following list, which also makes way for the latest and greatest in true crime, history, art, adventure, sports and more.

Best Documentaries of 2023 at a Glance

Beckham

  • IMDb Rating: 8.1
  • Inspired by (event, personality): David Beckham
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Sports, Biography

This four-part docuseries chronicles the meteoric rise of David Beckham as he becomes one of the most famous and accomplished athletes in world history. Viewers quickly discover that with victory and fame come no shortage of personal and professional dramas. The series features candid interviews with the man himself along with plenty of never-before-seen footage. If you’re a fan of the legend, this is the behind-the-scenes glimpse you’ve been waiting for.

American Symphony

  • IMDb Rating: 7.3
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Music, Biography

One of the best Netflix documentaries of 2023, American Symphony tells the story of two artists in crisis. As Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste tries to compose a symphony, his wife—author Suleika Jaouad—discovers that her long-dormant cancer has returned. And so we bear witness to intense creativity and emotion as these artists and partners undergo the ultimate struggle.

Pamela: A Love Story

  • IMDb Rating: 7.2
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Pamela Anderson
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Biography

Tired of having everyone else tell her story, actress and model Pamela Anderson finally took the reins for this Netflix documentary. It sheds new light on her life and career by revisiting famous and infamous historical moments, but also touches down on her achievements in activism and motherhood. Prepare to fall in love with Anderson all over again.

Little Richard: I Am Everything

  • IMDb Rating: 7.4
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Little Richard
  • Where to Watch: Max
  • Genre: Music, Biography

Best-known for immortal songs like Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally, Little Richard was no less groundbreaking when it came to his proto-glam persona. Even today, pop artists are still exploring the modes of self-expression that he introduced after landing like a cultural atom bomb in the 1950s. This illuminating documentary presents a full portrait of the artist, spanning his music and influence, but also his perennial struggles with race, fame, sexual identity, and industry exploitation across multiple decades.

20 Days in Mariupol

  • IMDb Rating: 8.7
  • Inspired by (event, personality): the Russian invasion of Mariupol
  • Where to Watch: Amazon Prime Video
  • Genre: War, History, Journalism

History is not confined to the past and this stunning documentary is here to prove it. Journey to the city of Mariupol, where director Mstyslav Chernov and a fellow team of Ukranian journalists get stuck during a Russian invasion. As a brutal war campaign marches to their doorstep, the journalists find it increasingly difficult to capture local atrocities. This is easily one of the best documentaries of 2023, if not the best.

The Deepest Breath

  • IMDb Rating: 7.7
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Alessia Zecchini
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Adventure, Sport

A testament to human perseverance, this thrilling Netflix documentary also chronicles the unique bond between two passionate individuals. One is Alessia Zecchini, the champion freediver who’s determined to break the record by plunging deep (and we mean deep) underwater in a single breath. The other is Stephen Keenan, the safety diver who’s going to help make it happen. We shall say no more.

Sly

  • IMDb Rating: 7.0
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Sylvester Stallone
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Entertainment, Biography

Sylvester Stallone’s life and career defies odds and expectations and we’re not just talking about his unlikely rise to fame as the creator and star of the Rocky franchise. With that in mind, this documentary about that very same career seemed to barely brush the surface as it squeezed his various achievements into a relatively brief runtime. Nevertheless, we were there for it.

Arnold

  • IMDb Rating: 8.0
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: Entertainment, Biography

Released a few months before Sly, this Netflix docuseries about the other 1980s action star seems far more comprehensive and revealing by comparison. Schwarzenegger himself walks us through a truly unprecedented life and career, which didn’t breach as much as it did dominate the upper stratospheres of bodybuilding, celebrity, and politics. Even if you don’t love the man or his movies, you’ll find it hard not to be inspired by the end.

Pepsi: Where’s My Jet?

  • IMDb Rating: 7.0
  • Inspired by (event, personality): John Leonard vs PepsiCo
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: History

A David vs Goliath story for our times, this four-part docuseries is also like a Simpsons episode brought to life (you’ve seen Bart Gets an Elephant, right?). What begins with a tongue-in-cheek commercial—whereby PepsiCo promises a jet to anyone who earns seven million sweepstakes points—becomes a contentious courtroom battle over said jet. Next time remember to put a disclaimer, Pepsi.

Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal

  • IMDb Rating: 6.8
  • Inspired by (event, personality): the Murdaugh Family
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: True Crime

This true crime series is certainly not the best Netflix documentary of 2023, but it’s still a wild story and a popular one at that. It peels back the curtain on the Murdaugh family, a powerful South Carolina clan that unravels in the wake of several tragedies (i.e. murders). Two seasons were released in 2023 alone and both will arguably satisfy your tawdry cravings.

Stamped From the Beginning

  • IMDb Rating: 6.3
  • Inspired by (event, personality): the writing of Ibram X. Kendi
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: History

Based on Ibram X. Kendi’s book of the same name, this compelling documentary incorporates scripted elements to explore racism from every angle. Diving through history and coming full circle to the present day, it takes down the myth that we’re living in a “post-racial” society one example at a time. If you don’t fully grasp the concept of systemic racism, you will after watching.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

  • IMDb Rating: 8.1
  • Inspired by (event, personality): Michael J. Fox
  • Where to Watch: Apple TV+
  • Genre: Biography

Michael J. Fox was starring in tentpole films when he began experiencing the early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, hiding his diagnosis from Hollywood. That’s one of the many revelations put forth by this terrific documentary, which looks back on his career while chronicling his ongoing struggles. No matter what his condition, Fox’s positive energy continues to light up the screen.

  • IMDb Rating: 7.9
  • Inspired by (event, personality): La Maison Troisgros restaurant
  • Genre: Food

At the age of 93, legendarian documentarian Frederick Wiseman became a fly on the wall at acclaimed (and remote) French restaurant La Maison Troisgros. The result is this four-hour journey through the world of haute cuisine, where creativity is indulged in the most literal sense possible. It’s also the story of the Troisgros family, who has held onto three Michelin stars for over 50 years.

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing

  • IMDb Rating: 7.5
  • Inspired by (event, personality): the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers
  • Where to Watch: Netflix
  • Genre: True Crime, History

The horrific Boston Marathon bombings kicked off one of the most widely-followed manhunts in recent history, which seemed to unfold in real-time and with public participation. This Netflix docuseries recounts the harrowing investigation, as various law enforcement agencies hunt for the Tsarnaev brothers before they strike again. It also looks deeper into the brothers and their backstory to render a portrait of terribly misguided frustration.

Last Stop Larrimah

  • IMDb Rating: 7.1
  • Inspired by (event, personality): a disappearance in the small town of Larrimah
  • Where to Watch: Max, Hulu, Prime Video
  • Genre: True Crime

Welcome to the small town of Larrimah in the Australian outback, population 11. When one of the locals goes missing, the town’s eccentric residents and wacky history is suddenly put under a spotlight. The story unfolds over five chapters and delivers a true crime docuseries like none you’ve ever seen.

How Man of Many Chose This List

With an editorial team full of entertainment-lovers, we have curated this list based on our personal favourites. Our team has handpicked these documentaries after watching them first-hand. As expert journalists who guide people in the best that the world of movies and TV has to offer, we have provided our independent opinion in formulating Man of Many’s selections. You can read our review policy surrounding how we maintain our independence in our editorial lists.

2023 Documentaries FAQ

What was the most popular documentary in 2023?

The Netflix docuseries Beckham and MH370: The Plane That Disappeared were among the most popular documentaries of 2023.

What were some of the other most-watched documentaries this year?

Some of the most-watched documentaries and docuseries of 2023 were Break Point, Beyond Utopia, Kelce, Bye Bye Barry, Kokomo and King Coal.