As the big subscription streaming platforms like Netflix and HBO Max have started to pull back on quality documentaries to focus on sensationalist “news of the week” limited series that are more reality TV than film I’ve gone to Tubi and Pluto TV as my go to platforms for docs with their deep libraries of iconic films.
Here are five great picks to stream free with ads:
We Live in Public (2009): This is a fascinating and unsettling documentary that explores the life and work of Josh Harris, a pioneering internet entrepreneur and provocateur who predicted the rise of social media and reality TV long before they became mainstream. Through interviews with Harris and his collaborators, the film delves into the ways in which our lives have become increasingly mediated and surveilled in the digital age. It’s a thought-provoking and timely meditation on the power and perils of technology.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011): This beautiful and meditative documentary follows the life and work of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master in Tokyo. Through stunning cinematography and interviews with Jiro and his family, we get an intimate look at the art of sushi-making and the dedication it requires. The film is a testament to the value of expertise and the importance of pursuing one’s passions.
Stop Making Sense (1985): This is one of the greatest concert films ever made, capturing the energy and excitement of a live performance by the Talking Heads. Directed by Jonathan Demme, the film is a masterclass in editing and camerawork, and the band’s inventive and eclectic music is a joy to watch and listen to. It’s a must-see for any music lover or cinephile.
Muscle Shoals(2013): This is a fascinating and entertaining documentary that explores the history and legacy of FAME Studios, a recording studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, that produced some of the most iconic and influential music of the 20th century. Through interviews with musicians and producers who worked at FAME, as well as archival footage and photos, the film tells the story of a small Southern town that became a hotbed of creativity and innovation.
The Best of Enemies: Buckley v. Vidal (2015): This gripping and insightful documentary chronicles the legendary televised debates between conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal Gore Vidal during the 1968 Democratic and Republican national conventions. Through interviews with people who knew and worked with Buckley and Vidal, as well as archival footage of the debates, the film explores the cultural and political divisions that still resonate today along with a lost era of mutual respect for differing points of view. It’s a must-see for anyone interested in the history of American politics and media.