The BEST Episodes of HBO Documentary Film Series

Every episode ever - ranked by fan votes!

Last Updated: Jul 3, 2020

Network: HBO

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!

Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden

#1 - Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden

Season 2013 - Episode 10 - Aired May 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.

star 9.00
28 votes
Back Nine At Cherry Hills The Legends Of The 1960 U.S. Open

#2 - Back Nine At Cherry Hills The Legends Of The 1960 U.S. Open

Season 2008 - Episode 1 - Aired Jun 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.

star 9.00
28 votes
Directors: Ross Greenburg
Writers: Mary Carillo
My Depression (The Up and Down and Up of It)

#3 - My Depression (The Up and Down and Up of It)

Season 2015 - Episode 17 - Aired Jul 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.

star 9.00
28 votes
Hard Times: Lost on Long Island

#4 - Hard Times: Lost on Long Island

Season 2012 - Episode 4 - Aired Jul 9, 2012

Explorers the impact of the shrinking of the middle class by telling the story of four families' struggle to find employment during the summer of 2010.

star 8.00
28 votes
Directors: Marc Levin
Writers:
Gideon's Army

#5 - Gideon's Army

Season 2013 - Episode 16 - Aired Jul 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.

star 8.00
28 votes
Directors: Dawn Porter
Writers:
American Winter

#6 - American Winter

Season 2013 - Episode 5 - Aired Mar 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 economic

star 8.00
28 votes
The Education of Mohammad Hussein

#7 - The Education of Mohammad Hussein

Season 2014 - Episode 2 - Aired Jan 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.

star 8.00
28 votes
Mondays At Racine

#8 - Mondays At Racine

Season 2013 - Episode 25 - Aired Oct 14, 2013

Mondays At Racine-- visits a Long Island beauty salon that welcomes women with cancer.

star 8.00
28 votes
Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A

#9 - Toe Tag Parole: To Live and Die on Yard A

Season 2015 - Episode 19 - Aired Aug 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.

star 8.00
28 votes
Writers: Susan Raymond
Smash His Camera

#10 - Smash His Camera

Season 2010 - Episode 1 - Aired Jun 7, 2010

'Smash His Camera' profiles Ron Galella, the original American paparazzo, who took iconic photos of such celebrities as Marlon Brando, Andy Warhol and Jackie Onassis -- and offers a thoughtful examination of the nature of fame, the relationship between celebrities and their chroniclers and the delicate balance between privacy and freedom of the press.

star 0.00
0 votes
For Neda

#11 - For Neda

Season 2010 - Episode 2 - Aired Jun 14, 2010

Tells the personal story of Neda Agha-Soltan who became the iconic symbol of Iran's 2009 post-election protests, and explores the larger Iranian struggle.

star 0.00
0 votes
Gasland

#12 - Gasland

Season 2010 - Episode 3 - Aired Jun 21, 2010

The 2010 Sundance Film Festival award-winning film exposes the possible hazards of domestic natural gas drilling.

star 0.00
0 votes
Kevorkian

#13 - Kevorkian

Season 2010 - Episode 4 - Aired Jun 28, 2010

The controversial "Dr. Death" runs for Congress after spending eight years in prison.

star 0.00
0 votes
No One Dies in Lily Dale

#14 - No One Dies in Lily Dale

Season 2010 - Episode 5 - Aired Jul 5, 2010

Visits the little Victorian-style village of Lily Dale, NY, which is home to the world's largest community of mediums.

star 0.00
0 votes
A Small Act

#15 - A Small Act

Season 2010 - Episode 6 - Aired Jul 12, 2010

Follows Kenyan Chris Mburu on his journey to find the stranger who sponsored his childhood education.

star 0.00
0 votes
Lucky

#16 - Lucky

Season 2010 - Episode 7 - Aired Jul 19, 2010

star 0.00
0 votes
Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County

#17 - Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County

Season 2010 - Episode 8 - Aired Jul 26, 2010

Follows children living in California motels as their families struggle to survive in the one of the richest zip codes in the U.S.

star 0.00
0 votes
12th & Delaware

#18 - 12th & Delaware

Season 2010 - Episode 9 - Aired Aug 2, 2010

Exposes the opposing sides of one of America's most intractable conflicts: abortion.

star 0.00
0 votes
El Espiritu de la Salsa

#19 - El Espiritu de la Salsa

Season 2010 - Episode 10 - Aired Aug 9, 2010

Follows a group of lonely hearts who come together and connect with each at a Salsa dance school in Spanish Harlem.

star 0.00
0 votes
My Trip To Al-Qaeda

#20 - My Trip To Al-Qaeda

Season 2010 - Episode 11 - Aired Sep 8, 2010

Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) collaborates with Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright to bring Wright’s titular one-man play to the screen. Wright made waves in 2006 with his best-selling book The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, chronicling fundamentalist Islam’s rise to power, and the roots of modern religious extremism and terrorism. In contemplating how to adapt his book for the stage, Wright ultimately chose to refocus on his own experience researching and writing the book, and his struggle to maintain objectivity as a journalist investigating Islamic terror. The resulting work is less a literal adaptation and more a personal, emotional complement piece to the objectivity of his nonfiction book. It debuted to rave reviews in March 2007. With Gibney’s documentary on the performance, the layers of adaptation are taken a step further. Channelling equal parts Spalding Gray and An Inconvenient Truth, Gibney captures both the emotional power and political implication of Wright’s work in a distinctly cinematic way, making My Trip to Al-Qaeda a riveting travelogue/performance piece.

star 0.00
0 votes
Directors: Alex Gibney
Writers:
Sex Crimes Unit

#21 - Sex Crimes Unit

Season 2011 - Episode 4 - Aired Jun 20, 2011

SEX CRIMES UNIT (June 20) takes an unprecedented look inside the Manhattan District Attorney’s famed Sex Crimes Unit, the first unit dedicated to the prosecution of sexual assault to be established in the U.S. The film follows the day-to-day work of prosecutors as they deal with investigations, trials and plea bargains. Among other cases, it tracks The People v. Kevin Rios, in which a prostitute makes an accusation of rape, and follows one woman’s experience with the Cold Case Unit when her accused assailant, originally indicted on the basis of his DNA profile, is finally identified and brought to justice 16 years after the crime. Directed by Emmy® winner Lisa F. Jackson (HBO’s “The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo”).

star 0.00
0 votes
Directors: Lisa F. Jackson
Writers:
I Can Be President: A Kids Eye View

#22 - I Can Be President: A Kids Eye View

Season 2011 - Episode 5 - Aired Jun 22, 2011

Children talk about what they think it would be like to be president of the United States.

star 0.00
0 votes
Directors: Diane Kolyer
Writers:
Bobby Fischer Against The World

#23 - Bobby Fischer Against The World

Season 2011 - Episode 2 - Aired Jun 6, 2011

A documentary feature that explores the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer, from his troubled childhood, to his rock star status as a World Champion and Cold War icon, and his life as a fugitive on the run. This film explores one of the most mysterious characters of the 20th century

star 0.00
0 votes
Directors: Liz Garbus
Writers:
Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip

#24 - Citizen USA: A 50 State Road Trip

Season 2011 - Episode 8 - Aired Jul 4, 2011

CITIZEN U.S.A.: A 50-STATE ROAD TRIP (July 4) follows director Alexandra Pelosi (HBO’s Emmy®-winning “Journeys with George”) as she travels across the U.S. to attend naturalization ceremonies in all 50 states and meets brand-new citizens to find out why they chose America as their home. Commemorating the Fourth of July, the documentary intersperses stories of newly naturalized citizens and interviews with notable first-generation Americans, including Madeleine Albright, Arianna Huffington, Henry Kissinger and Gene Simmons.

star 0.00
0 votes
Theres Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

#25 - Theres Something Wrong With Aunt Diane

Season 2011 - Episode 12 - Aired Jul 25, 2011

On Sunday, July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler left the campgrounds in upstate New York where she was vacationing with her family and set off towards home on Long Island, a drive she had made numerous times before. With her were five young children: her son, her daughter and three nieces. Four hours later, she drove the wrong way on the Taconic State Parkway for nearly two miles – eventually crashing into an oncoming SUV,killing herself and seven others. One of the worst motor-vehicle accidents in New York State history, the tragedy quickly became national news and her actions on that day, and in the past, were thrust under a microscope in a desperate search for answers. In the aftermath, Diane Schuler was portrayed as a reckless drunk and a mother who cracked. But was she the monster the public made her out to be? Or the perfect wife and mother described by so many who knew her?

star 0.00
0 votes
Directors: Liz Garbus
Writers: