The 18 Best Documentaries On HBO Max Right Now (October 2022)

While HBO Max is undergoing a sea change behind the scenes, the streamer still boasts an impressive catalog of films. Its documentary line up is particularly strong, thanks to partnerships with TCM, the Criterion Collection, and HBO itself, as well as the inclusion of several HBO Max originals. On the service, you'll find everything from groundbreaking classics that defined the genre, like "Nanook of the North," to docuseries that dive into seminal artists and cultural icons, like "George Harrison: Living in the Material World," to investigative films that probe the human condition, like "Mommy Dead and Dearest." 

Whether you're looking to learn more about an overlooked moment in history or dive into the dark underbelly of true crime, there's something for every kind of documentary fan on HBO Max. From the countless hours of material to choose from, we've gathered the best documentaries streaming on HBO Max right now.

Andre the Giant

While perhaps best known to mainstream audiences as Fezzik in "The Princess Bride," Andre the Giant, otherwise known as Andre Roussimoff, was one of the biggest professional wrestling stars of his era — literally and figuratively. "Andre the Giant" provides a humanizing look at a figure who has been largely mythologized and misunderstood in popular culture. With empathy and insight into what made him such a warm and endearing performer, as well as appearances from wrestling legends like Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair, it's a must see for any sports or pop culture fan.

  • Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright

  • Director: Jason Hehir

  • Year: 2018

  • Runtime: 85 minutes

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: N/A

Beanie Mania

Seemingly nothing more than simple animal-shaped bean bags, Beanie Babies were nevertheless  one of the most sought-after toys of the 1990s. Assuming that the toys' value would increase over time, customers flocked to store shelves to pick up the playthings, but the bubble soon burst, leaving kids and their parents with dozens of worthless collectibles. Wrapped up in humor and nostalgia, "Beanie Mania" dives into both the economy that led to the craze, as well as the collapse that followed.

  • Starring: Colleen Ballenger, Lena Trivedi

  • Director: Yemisi Brookes

  • Year: 2021

  • Runtime: 80 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Beware the Slenderman

One of the most upsetting documentaries on this list is nonetheless thought-provoking and fascinating. "Beware the Slenderman" follows two young girls, Morgan and Annisa, who stabbed their friend because of a fictional monster known as the Slenderman, who they learned about on the internet. The unsettling documentary explores the myth of the Slenderman, and details how two young girls could believe in something so fiercely that they would commit a horrific act of violence.

  • Starring: Morgan Geyser, Anissa Weier, Angie Geyser

  • Director: Irene Taylor

  • Year: 2016

  • Runtime: 117

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

Class Action Park

With a New Jersey attitude and heaps of humor, "Class Action Park" reveals the little-known history behind an infamously dangerous water park. The documentary features interviews from celebrities like Chris Gethard and Alison Becker, who visited the park as teens, as well as former staff who discuss Action Park's egregious lack of safety standards and protocols, which lead to multiple accidents, injuries, and deaths.

  • Starring: John Hodgman, Faith Anderson, Alison Becker

  • Directors: Seth Porges, Chris Charles Scot III

  • Year: 2020

  • Runtime: 90 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

David Bowie: The Last Five Years

Superstar David Bowie had many public personas, but he largely kept his true self hidden. "The Last Five Years" features unprecedented behind-the-scenes footage of Bowie's creative process while he was fighting cancer and creating what would become his final two albums, as well as the play "Lazarus." Though the documentary leaves plenty of questions about the Starman unanswered, it's still a heartbreaking glimpse into how one of the world's most beloved artists chose to spend his last days.

  • Starring: David Bowie, Earl Slick, Gail Ann Dorsey

  • Director: Francis Whately

  • Year: 2017

  • Runtime: 90 minutes

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

Everything Is Copy

"Everything Is Copy" investigates the maxim that guided journalist, screenwriter, and director Nora Ephron, and that led her to put her personal life on the page. The film also questions why Ephron's final years battling cancer served as the one exception to this rule, as many people in her life had no clue she was ill until the end. With equal parts humor and heartbreak, the documentary exposes one of the greatest modern writers through appearances from collaborators like Mike Nichols and Meryl Streep. It's a must-see for any film fan.

  • Starring: Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg

  • Directors: Jacob Bernstein, Nick Hooker

  • Year: 2015

  • Runtime: 89 minutes

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

George Harrison: Living in the Material World

Though Martin Scorsese is best known for films like "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas," the director is also a music fan and master documentarian. This multi-part documentary shines a light on George Harrison's life before, during, and after the Beatles. While John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the band's dominant creative forces, "Living in the Material World" examines Harrison's underutilized genius and underlying musical talents, as well as the contributions he made to the musical and spiritual worlds after the group separated.

  • Starring: George Harrison, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

  • Director: Martin Scorsese

  • Year: 2011

  • Runtime: 208 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief

While many aspects of Scientology are largely common knowledge now, "Going Clear" was groundbreaking at the time of its release for lifting the lid on the highly secretive religion. Based on Lawrence Wright's book, the film provides a thorough and comprehensive history of Scientology's teachings and the impact they have had on its followers, including celebrities like Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Scholars and former members expose Scientology in shocking and stark relief, but the documentary is never anything less than highly watchable.

  • Starring: Jason Beghe, Paul Haggis, Mike Rinder
  • Director: Alex Gibney
  • Year: 2015
  • Runtime: 119 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

Grey Gardens

One of the seminal documentaries, "Grey Gardens" is a fascinating study of its two subjects, Big Edie and Little Edie. While Big Edie was Jacqueline Onassis' first cousin and came from wealth, she and her daughter lived in a dilapidated, filthy house that was overrun with rodents and raccoons. Despite its controversial legacy — critics allege that the film exploits its subjects — the film has cemented the two as cultural icons. Regardless of how you feel about the production, it's a gripping piece of filmmaking.

  • Starring: Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale, Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, Brooks Hyers

  • Directors: Ellen Hovde, Albert Maysles, David Maysles

  • Year: 1975

  • Runtime: 95 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 94%

Hoop Dreams

A classic sports documentary, "Hoop Dreams" centers on two young basketball players in Chicago as they embark on a quest to become professional athletes. The film follows William and Arthur through all four years of high school as they transfer to different schools, face injuries, and battle the systemic oppression that ultimately keeps them stuck in place. While "Hoop Dreams" features plenty of heartbreaking moments, the documentary never pities its subjects. Instead, it treats them with empathy and respect, something modern audiences can still learn from.

  • Starring: William Gates, Arthur Agee, Emma Gates

  • Director: Steve James

  • Year: 1994

  • Runtime: 170 minutes

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%

The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley

Directed by Alex Gibey, one of the great modern docu-journalists, "The Inventor" compiles interviews with journalists, authors, former Theranos employees, and Elizabeth Holmes herself to craft a shocking expose about a company that was doomed to fail from the very beginning. As much a character study of its founder as an exploration of why people fell for Theranos' promise in the first place, "The Inventor" is a terrifying look at how far people will go for money, regardless of who might get hurt along the way.

  • Starring: Elizabeth Holmes, Dan Ariely, Alex Gibney

  • Director: Alex Gibney

  • Year: 2019

  • Runtime: 119 minutes

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

The Invisible War

Years before #MeToo, "The Invisible War" exposed a dark secret plaguing the American armed forces. The documentary investigates systemic sexual assault and rape in the military, how the institution perpetuates it, the consequences of the crimes, and intentional cover up from within. A decade later, the film is still startlingly relevant and poignant, underscoring the larger societal ramifications of its message. "The Invisible War" was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary feature.

  • Starring: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Kori Cioca

  • Director: Kirby Dick 

  • Year: 2012

  • Runtime: 95 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99%

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Mommy Dead and Dearest

A chilling true crime documentary from one of the genre's rising directors, "Mommy Dead and Dearest" examines the case of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, who killed her own mother, Dee Dee. Through interviews and archival footage, the film uncovers the likely root of the crime, an insidious case of Munchausen by proxy syndrome. While exploring the possible cause of Dee Dee's illness, the film also reveals why her daughter fought back in such a brutal way.

  • Starring: Jim Arnott, Dee Dee Blanchard, Gypsy Rose Blanchard

  • Director: Erin Lee Carr

  • Year: 2017

  • Runtime: 82 minutes

  • Rating: TV-MA

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Nanook of the North

Widely considered to be the first feature-length documentary, "Nanook of the North" follows an Inuk man named Nanook (Allakariallak) and his family over the course of a year. A silent film with numerous sequences that were allegedly staged, "Nanook of the North" was nonetheless groundbreaking, not least because it showed respect and deference for its subjects. While raising questions about the art form, a documentary's responsibility to tell the truth, and what a "verité" film really means, "Nanook" also paved the way for all the docs that followed.

  • Starring: Allakariallak, Alice Nevalinga, Cunayou

  • Director: Robert J. Flaherty

  • Year: 1922

  • Runtime: 79 minutes

  • Rating: NR

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

Original Cast Album: Company

For musical theater nerds and documentary fans, D.A. Pennebaker's "Original Cast Album: Company" is an all-time classic. The film follows the production of Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim's seminal work, "Company." Sondheim leads the cast, which has gathered to record the official album, through a grueling and exacting process — they perform for 15 hours until Sondheim is satisfied with the outcome. The film is a fascinating glimpse into not just Sondheim's artistic process, but those of his collaborators as well.

  • Starring: Elaine Stritch, Charles Braswell, Stephen Sondheim

  • Director: D.A. Pennebaker

  • Year: 1970

  • Runtime: 58 minutes

  • Rating: TV-14

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

The Princess

One of the newer documentaries on this list, "The Princess" uses archival footage to examine Princess Diana's life as seen through the eyes of the media and public. It's an engrossing exercise that proves how surveilled the princess became once she joined the royal family, while also exposing the gross manipulation of the media narratives surrounding her. The film is spare and fast-paced, but also powerful in its dissection of the effects of public perception and a lack of privacy on an individual.

  • Starring: Princess Diana, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II

  • Director: Ed Perkins

  • Year: 2022

  • Runtime: 100 minutes

  • Rating: TV-PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 86%

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street

Countless children have learned how to read, count, and understand the world around them thanks to "Sesame Street," and the documentary "Street Gang" provides a thorough history of how the seminal public television series and its beloved characters came to be. Though it gives plenty of rightful credit to Muppets creator Jim Henson, the film ensures that each person behind the scenes gets their moment in the spotlight.

  • Starring: Jon Stone, Joan Ganz Cooney, Joe Raposo

  • Director: Marilyn Agrelo

  • Year: 2021

  • Runtime: 107 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

The War Room

James Carville and George Stephanopoulos are well-known media pundits who got their start working for Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The captivating odd couple star in "The War Room," a documentary that's all the more fascinating with modern hindsight. As politics has become increasingly private and secretive, the film provides a strange kind of nostalgia for how campaigns worked before the internet and social media changed everything, as well as a unique insight into the Clinton machine.

  • Starring: James Carville, George Stephanopoulos, Heather Beckel

  • Directors: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker

  • Year: 1993

  • Runtime: 96 minutes

  • Rating: PG

  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%