20 Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

20 Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

“Exploring Humanity: Unforgettable Cultural Documentaries”

In this article “Notable Cultural Documentaries”, we’ll dive into the world of cultural films and take a closer look at some of the best ones to watch in 2023. So, grab some popcorn and get ready to go on a trip that will not only make you laugh but also teach you new things and open your mind.

Fellow fans of documentaries! If you’re anything like me, you’ll agree that watching a well-made documentary is a great way to get lost in the rich web of human culture. In a world where information is easily accessible and screens are everywhere, cultural documentaries stand out as rare gems that show us the many sides of our global history. These movies show the power of storytelling by going deep into art, history, and social problems that shape our world. They also look at the traditions of faraway communities.

The 20 Best Cultural Documentaries to Watch in 2023

When you go on a journey through culture, you become immersed in the stories that shape different societies. Here are twenty great cultural documentaries that really show how different cultures live and what their traditions, struggles, and successes are:

1. 20 Days in Mariupol

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

20 Days in Mariupol (2023) is a scary look at the current war in Ukraine from the point of view of a group of journalists who were trapped in the city of Mariupol while it was under attack.

Key Aspects: 20 Days in Mariupol

Released Date:2023
Producer:Massimo Bottura
Director:Mantas Kvedaravicius
Cast:Brandon Stanton, Mantas Kvedaravicius
Subject:The siege of Mariupol during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Distributed by:HBO Max
Cultural Influence:Illuminates the human experience during conflict

2. A House Made of Splinters

A House Made of Splinters is a moving documentary from 2022 about a group of social workers in eastern Ukraine who run a temporary orphanage for war-torn children who have been split from their families.

Key Aspects: A House Made of Splinters

Released Date:2022
Producer:Simon Chinn, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Director:Simon Lereng Wilmont
Cast:Anna Yavtushenko, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Irina Savchuk
Subject:A temporary orphanage for children in eastern Ukraine
Distributed by:Neon
Cultural Influence:Explores fragmented identities and emotional turmoil

3. Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

A fascinating look at how famous editor Robert Gottlieb and Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Robert Caro worked together for decades.

Key Aspects: Turn Every Page

Released Date:2022
Producer:Lizzie Friedman, Julie Goldman, Ken Burns
Director:Lizzie Friedman
Cast:Robert Caro, Robert Gottlieb, Nan Talese, Jonathan Yardley, Bob Woodward
Subject:The relationship between Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb, two of the most influential figures in American publishing
Distributed by:HBO Max
Cultural Influence:Chronicles literary and editorial journeys

4. Anselm

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Anselm (2022) is a celebration of the life and work of Anselm Kiefer, one of the most important artists of our time.

Key Aspects: Anselm

Released Date:2022
Producer:Julian Schnabel
Director:Julian Schnabel
Cast:Anselm Kiefer, Julian Schnabel
Subject:The life and work of German artist Anselm Kiefer
Distributed by:Paramount Pictures
Cultural Influence:Reflects on philosophical themes and existentialism

5. All That Breathes

All That Breathes (2022) is a moving documentary about two brothers who run a bird hospital in Delhi, India, and their fight to save the black kites in their city.

Key Aspects: All That Breathes

Released Date:2022
Producer: Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann, Teddy Leifer
Director:Shaunak Sen
Cast:Nadeem Shehzad, Saud Shehzad
Subject:Two brothers who run a bird hospital in Delhi, India, and their fight to save the black kites of their city
Distributed by:HBO Max
Cultural Influence:Contemplates life, death, and interconnectedness

6. The Janes

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

The Janes (2022) is a groundbreaking documentary about a group of women who ran an underground abortion service in Chicago in the 1960s and early 1970s, before abortion was allowed in the United States.

Key Aspects: The Janes

Released Date:2022
Producer:Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes
Director:Tia Lessin, Emma Pildes
Cast:Judith Arcana, Diana Boulay, Laura Kaplan
Subject:A group of women who ran an underground abortion service in Chicago.
Distributed by:HBO Max
Cultural Influence:Sheds light on social issues and female empowerment

7. Flee

In the animated documentary Flee (2021), a young Afghan refugee talks about his dangerous trip to safety in Denmark.

Key Aspects: Flee

Released Date:2021
Producer:Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Director:Jonas Poher Rasmussen
Cast:Amin Nawabi, Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Daniel Karimzadeh
Subject:A young Afghan refugee who recounts his harrowing journey to safety in Denmark.
Distributed by:Neon
Cultural Influence:Provides insights into immigration and identity

8. Summer of Soul

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a documentary film about the Harlem Cultural event, a six-week music event that took place in Harlem in the summer of 1969, just a few months after Woodstock.

Key Aspects: Summer of Soul

Released Date:2021
Producer:Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Robert Fyvolent
Director:Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
Cast:Stevie Wonder, Mahalia Jackson, Sly and the Family Stone
Subject:The Harlem Cultural Festival
Distributed by:Universal Pictures
Cultural Influence:Celebrates African American culture and musical heritage

9. Dick Johnson Is Dead

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) is a heartwarming and honest documentary about the bond between a filmmaker and his aging father, who has cancer and doesn’t have long to live.

Key Aspects: Dick Johnson Is Dead

Released Date:2020
Producer:Kirsten Johnson
Director:Kirsten Johnson
Cast:Dick Johnson, Kirsten Johnson
Subject:A filmmaker’s relationship with his aging father.
Distributed by:Netflix
Cultural Influence:Explores aging, mortality, and familial relationships

10. Time

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Time (2020) is a powerful film about Fox Rich, a mother who is in jail for 35 years for a drug crime that was not violent, and her fight to get back to her family.

Key Aspects: Time

Released Date:2020
Producer:Garrett Bradley, Lauren Domino, Kellen Quinn
Director:Garrett Bradley
Cast:Fox Rich
Subject:A mother who serves 35 years in jail for a nonviolent drug offense
Distributed by:Amazon Studios
Cultural Influence:Addresses systemic racism and the impact on families

11. American Factory

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

American Factory (2019) is an interesting documentary about a Chinese company that opens a factory in Dayton, Ohio, and the clash of cultures that happens between the Chinese and American workers.

Key Aspects: American Factory

Released Date:2019
Producer:Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
Director:Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert
Cast: Cao Dewang, Yi Hu, Dave Harmon
Subject:A Chinese company that opens a factory in Dayton, Ohio.
Distributed by:Netflix
Cultural Influence:Examines the modern labor landscape and globalization

12. Apollo 11

Apollo 11 (2019) is a beautiful film about the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first people on the moon.

Key Aspects: Apollo 11

Released Date:2019
Producer:Todd Miller
Director:Todd Miller
Cast:Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins
Subject:The Apollo 11 mission, which landed the first humans on the moon.
Distributed by:Neon
Cultural Influence:Showcases human achievement in space exploration

13. Free Solo

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Free Solo (2018) is an exciting video about Alex Honnold’s attempt to climb the 3,000-foot granite wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park without a rope.

Key Aspects: Free Solo

Released Date:2018
Producer:Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Director:Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Cast:Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, and Sanni McCandless
Subject:Rock climber Alex Honnold’s attempt to free solo El Capitan, a 3,000-foot granite wall in Yosemite National Park.
Distributed by: Marcin Cichy
Cultural Influence:Explores extreme sports and the human drive for greatness

14. O.J.: Made in America

O.J.: Made in America (2016) is a five-part documentary series that looks at O.J. Simpson’s life and impact, from how he became famous as a football player to how he was tried for killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman.

Key Aspects: O.J.: Made in America

Released Date:2016
Producer:Ezra Edelman
Director:Ezra Edelman
Cast:O.J. Simpson, Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden
Subject: The life and legacy of O.J. Simpson
Distributed by:ESPN Films
Cultural Influence:Examines race, celebrity, and the justice system

15. Amy

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Amy (2015) is a sad documentary about the singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse’s life and death.

Key Aspects: Amy

Released Date:2015
Producer:James Gay-Rees, Asif Kapadia
Director:Asif Kapadia
Cast:Amy Winehouse, Blake Fielder-Civil, Salaam Remi
Subject:The life and death of singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse.
Distributed by:Roadside Attractions
Cultural Influence:Delves into the life and tragedy of a talented artist

If you like documentaries about different cultures, you might like our article about Popular Cinematic Masterpieces That Transcend Cultures. Explore the world of movies that do a great job of bringing together different kinds of stories and keeping everyone’s attention. Read more here

16. Citizenfour

Citizenfour (2014) is a gripping documentary about Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who leaked secret information about the US government’s surveillance programs.

Key Aspects: Citizenfour

Released Date:2014
Producer:Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy, Dirk Wilutzky
Director:Laura Poitras
Cast:Edward Snowden
Subject:Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower who leaked classified information about the US government’s surveillance programs.
Distributed by:HBO Documentary Films
Cultural Influence:Reveals government surveillance and privacy concerns

17. The Act of Killing

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

The Act of Killing (2012) is a disturbing documentary about a group of Indonesian men who talk freely about their role in the mass killings of communists in the 1960s.

Key Aspects: The Act of Killing

Released Date:2012
Producer:Christine Cynn, Joshua Oppenheimer, Signe Byrge Sørensen
Director:Joshua Oppenheimer
Cast:Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Adi Zulkifli
Subject:A group of Indonesian men who openly discuss their role in the mass killings of communists in the 1960s.
Distributed by:Aphex Twin
Cultural Influence:Examines the dark history and morality through a unique lens

18. March of the Penguins

March of the Penguins is a 2005 film about the yearly migration of emperor penguins in Antarctica. It is a very touching documentary film.

Key Aspects: March of the Penguins

Released Date:1994
Producer:Steve James
Director:Steve James
Cast:Arthur Agee, William Gates
Subject:The annual migration of emperor penguins in Antarctica.
Distributed by:Facets Multimedia
Cultural Influence:Celebrates the beauty and challenges of the natural world

Don’t forget to watch “March of the Penguins” on IMDB if you want to see an epic wildlife documentary. It’s an inspiring story about family and strength in the worst of places. Want to know how it rated? Find it here.

19. Hoop Dreams

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Hoop Dreams is a groundbreaking film to 1994 about two black boys from Chicago who want to play hoops in the NBA.

Key Aspects: Hoop Dreams

Released Date:1994
Producer:Steve James
Director:Steve James
Cast:Arthur Agee, William Gates
Subject:Two African-American boys from Chicago who dream of playing basketball in the NBA
Distributed by:Facets Multimedia
Cultural Influence:Addresses societal barriers and dreams of success

20. Shoah

Best Notable Cultural Documentaries

Shoah is a nine-and-a-half-hour documentary from 1985 about the Holocaust. It features talks with survivors, perpetrators, and other people who were there.

Key Aspects: Shoah

Released Date:1985
Producer:Claude Lanzmann
Director:Claude Lanzmann
Cast:François Mitterrand, Yehuda Bauer, Raul Hilberg
Subject:A nine-and-a-half-hour documentary about the Holocaust
Distributed by:Shoah Productions
Cultural Influence:Confronts the Holocaust’s harrowing impact and memory

Cultural documentaries are like passports to different worlds. They let us travel across countries, time periods, and human experiences without ever leaving our living rooms. These documentaries help us learn more about the rich tapestry of human culture, whether they are about the secrets of ancient cave art, the life of a famous photographer, or the complicated web of social problems.


What makes a documentary a “cultural” documentary?

A cultural documentary shows and talks about the beliefs, customs, traditions, and way of life of a certain society or group. The goal is to show the cultural details, history, and heritage of a community or region.

Can my family and I watch these documentaries together?

Most of the documentaries listed are good for a wide range of people, but you should check the ratings and content to make sure they fit your family’s viewing tastes and are appropriate for their age.

How can I find more cultural documentaries?

You can look for more cultural documentaries on streaming services, at film festivals, or at cultural events near you. Also, websites that only show documentaries often have carefully chosen lists and suggestions based on types of documentaries, such as cultural documentaries.

Originally posted 2023-09-26 07:53:11.


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