The BEST episodes of HBO Documentary Film Series
Every episode of HBO Documentary Film Series ever, ranked from best to worst by thousands of votes from fans of the show. The best episodes of HBO Documentary Film Series!
HBO presents a full spectrum of non-fiction programming by leading documentary filmmakers. Taking viewers from the hidden corners of America to the shocking reality of global issues, these powerful, uncompromising and award-winning films never fail to leave an impact. Now, with HBO Podcast, listen to interviews with many of our award-winning filmmakers - and even some of their documentary subjects!
#1 - Back Nine At Cherry Hills The Legends Of The 1960 U.S. Open
Season 2008 - Episode 1 - Aired 6/11/2008
On a Saturday in June of 1960, at a golf course just outside of Denver, Colorado, three of the sport’s all time greatest and most colorful players found themselves locked in a battle. The climactic events of that day’s U.S. Open hit the newspapers the following morning, how Arnold Palmer staged one of the greatest comebacks in the tournament’s history to defeat a field that included 4-time champion Ben Hogan and a 20 year old upstart, Jack Nicklaus. But there was a deeper, underlying story that would come to fruition that afternoon.
#2 - My Depression (The Up and Down and Up of It)
Season 2015 - Episode 19 - Aired 7/13/2015
Through inventive animation and music, this documentary short explores writer/director/composer Elizabeth Swados’ personal struggle with lifelong depression, as well as her efforts to keep her “cloud” at bay.Watch Now:Amazon
#3 - Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden
Season 2013 - Episode 10 - Aired 5/3/2013
An espionage tale from inside the CIA's long conflict against Al Qaeda, as revealed by the remarkable women and men whose secret war against Osama bin Laden started nearly a decade before most of us even knew his name.Watch Now:Amazon
#5 - Gideon's Army
Season 2013 - Episode 16 - Aired 7/1/2013
An official selection of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, this documentary follows idealistic young defenders in the deep south who face particularly difficult challenges due to high bonds, mandatory minimum sentencing and a culture that is traditionally “tough on crime.” Despite low pay, long hours and staggering caseloads, these young professionals, with the help of the Southern Public Defender Training Center (SPDTC), take on the job in the name of public service.
#6 - American Winter
Season 2013 - Episode 5 - Aired 3/20/2013
Produced and directed by Emmy award-winning filmmakers, Joe and Harry Gantz, American Winter is a documentary feature film that follows the personal stories of families struggling in the aftermath of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Years after the recession began, millions of families are struggling to meet their basic needs, and many formerly middle class families are finding themselves in financial crisis, and needing assistance for the first time in their lives. Meanwhile, the social safety net that was created to help people in difficult times has been weakened by massive budget cuts, creating a perfect storm of greater need and fewer resources to help families in trouble. Filmed over the course of one winter in Portland, Oregon, American Winter presents an intimate and emotionally evocative snapshot of the state of our economy as it is playing out in many American families. Working together with the nonprofit organization 211info in Portland, the filmmakers were given full access to monitor and record calls from distressed families who were calling 211’s emergency hotline in search of help. They then began following the stories of some of these callers in more depth over several months. The film follows multiple families in their daily struggle to keep their heads above water, while facing overwhelming challenges and dwindling resources available to help them, creating a powerful firsthand view of Americans caught in today’s financial undertow. The experiences of the families in American Winter are a vivid illustration of what has been happening to families across America, including working families losing their homes, people who remain jobless or underemployed, children going hungry, families getting their heat shut off in the dead of winter, and people with health issues overwhelmed by medical costs. Framed through the personal stories of eight families, American Winter puts a face on the country's economicWatch Now:Amazon
#7 - The Education of Mohammad Hussein
Season 2014 - Episode 2 - Aired 1/9/2014
"The Education Of Mohammad Hussein" is an intimate look at how the largest Muslim community in the U.S. responds to the provocations of an antiIslamic preacher. Through the eyes of children, the film examines what it is like to come of age as a Muslim in the United States a decade after the 2001 terrorist attacks.Watch Now:Amazon
#9 - Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A
Season 2015 - Episode 21 - Aired 8/3/2015
In 2000, a California State Prison inmate serving Life Without Parole (LWOP) approached the warden to request a dedicated yard for men serving life sentences that would break the code of violence dominating prison life. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) subsequently transformed Yard A at California State Prison into The Progressive Programming Facility, which inmates call The Honor Yard. The only one of its kind in the United States, this experimental prison yard is free of violence, racial tensions, gang activity and illegal drug and alcohol use.
#10 - Elvis Presley: The Searcher, Part 1
Season 2018 - Episode 11 - Aired 4/14/2018
He was a boy from Tupelo who grew up to become the biggest star in music. Along the way, he absorbed a staggering range of influences, creating a revolutionary sound in his lifelong search for self-expression. Part 1 details Elvis’ early life in Tupelo, Mississippi and his unprecendented rise to fame over a single year.
#11 - Mavis
Season 2016 - Episode 4 - Aired 2/29/2016
Mavis! chronicles the ascension of gospel and soul music legend and civil rights icon Mavis Staples and her family group, The Staple Singers. An intimate look at a tight-knit family, the film reveals their struggles and successes, featuring dynamic live performances and rarely-seen archival footage, as well as modern-day interviews with Bob Dylan, Prince, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy and Chuck D
#12 - Elvis Presley: The Searcher, Part 2
Season 2018 - Episode 12 - Aired 4/15/2018
Elvis Presley: The Searcher includes stunning atmospheric shots taken inside Graceland, Elvis’ iconic home, and features more than 20 new, primary source interviews with session players, producers, engineers, directors and other artists who knew him or who were profoundly influenced by him Part 2 begins with his return home after his Army discharge and facing a rapidly changing pop-music scene.
#13 - Unlocking The Cage
Season 2017 - Episode 6 - Aired 2/20/2017
Unloclking The Cage explores animal rights lawyer Steven Wise’s unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After 30 years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Wise and his legal team, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a “thing” with no rights to a “person” with legal protections.
#14 - Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison
Season 2017 - Episode 4 - Aired 2/6/2017
An unflinching exploration of the lives of inmates and corrections officers in one of America’s most notorious “supermax” prisons, built to hold inmates in 8’x10’ cells 23 hours a day, for months, years and sometimes decades. With unprecedented access, the film paints a complex, unexpected and deeply moving portrait of life inside a world rarely seen
#15 - The Tickle King
Season 2017 - Episode 7 - Aired 2/27/2017
The Tickle King features new, previously unseen footage documenting the bizarre and unsettling things that happened to filmmakers David Farrier and Dylan Reeve as Tickled premiered at film festivals and theaters in 2016. Lawsuits, private investigators, disrupted screenings and surprise appearances are just part of what they encounter along the way. Amidst new threats, the duo begins to answer questions that remained once the credits rolled on Tickled, including whether the disturbing behavior they uncovered will ever come to an end.
#16 - Cries From Syria
Season 2017 - Episode 8 - Aired 3/13/2017
A searing account of the Syrian civil war from the inside out, the film draws on hundreds of hours of war footage from Syrian activists and citizen journalists, as well as testimony from child protesters, revolution leaders, human rights defenders, ordinary citizens and high-ranking army generals who have defected from the government.
#17 - Abortion: Stories Women Tell
Season 2017 - Episode 9 - Aired 4/3/2017
Since 2011, over half the states in the nation have significantly restricted access to abortions. In 2016, abortion remains one of the most divisive issues in America, especially in Missouri, where only one abortion clinic remains open, patients and their doctors must navigate a 72-hour waiting period, and each year seTracy Droz Tragoses more restrictions.
#18 - Baltimore Rising
Season 2017 - Episode 15 - Aired 11/20/2017
n the wake of the 2015 death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Baltimore was a city on the edge. Peaceful protests and destructive riots erupted in the immediate aftermath of Gray’s death, while the city waited to hear the fate of the six police officers involved in the incident, reflecting the deep divisions between authorities and the community -- and underscoring the urgent need for reconciliation.
#19 - Living With Lincoln
Season 2015 - Episode 6 - Aired 4/13/2015
In the years following the Civil War, ancestors of documentary filmmaker Peter Kunhardt collected a treasure trove of photographs, rare books and other artifacts relating to Abraham Lincoln. Over the decades, their descendants carried on the work, helping to preserve an essential part of America’s past
#20 - Warning: This Drug May Kill You
Season 2017 - Episode 10 - Aired 5/1/2017
Warning: This Drug May Kill You takes an unflinching look at the devastating effects of opioid addiction in the U.S., profiling four families whose lives have been decimated by addictions that all began with legitimate prescriptions to dangerous painkillers. Through the personal and emotional stories of people on the front lines of this epidemic, the film sheds light on the struggles of ordinary people who were prescribed highly addictive opioid pain medications, which are often the gateway to a very similar opioid, heroin.
#21 - Arthur Miller: Writer
Season 2018 - Episode 6 - Aired 3/19/2018
An intimate portrait of one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, told from the unique perspective of his daughter, who filmed interviews with her father over decades. The doc features a host of personal archival material and provides new insights into Miller’s life as an artist and explores his character in all its complexity.
#22 - I Am Evidence
Season 2018 - Episode 13 - Aired 4/16/2018
“I Am Evidence,” produced by Law & Order:SVU actress Mariska Hargitay, is about the untested rape kit backlog in the U.S. The doc tells stories of survivors who have waited years for their kits to be tested, as well as the law enforcement officials who are leading the charge to work through the backlog and pursue long-awaited justice
#23 - King In The Wilderness
Season 2018 - Episode 9 - Aired 4/2/2018
A documentary on the last years of Martin Luther King Jr., this doc explores the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to MLK’s assassination in 1968. It is designed to find a clear window into King’s character, showing him to be a man with an unshakable commitment to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country.
#24 - The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, Part 2
Season 2018 - Episode 8 - Aired 3/27/2018
Part Two of The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling offers an extensive examination of The Larry Sanders Show, his landmark HBO comedy series. Colleagues remember the demands of producing material that met Shandling’s high standards, while his diaries reveal an ongoing struggle with complacency and search for authenticity.
#25 - The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, Part 1
Season 2018 - Episode 7 - Aired 3/26/2018
When Garry Shandling passed away in 2016, he was widely remembered as a top stand-up comic and the star of two of the most innovative sitcoms in TV history. But to those who knew him, the “real” Garry Shandling was a far more complex person.