Autostraddle readers are always asking us to recommend documentaries because Autostraddle readers are smart cookies who want to keep getting smarter, and also to add something to their Netflix queue to watch between viewings of Carol. We’ve actually talked a lot about documentaries on this website, and now we’re going to talk about them even more! Here are our team’s favorite documentaries: the ones that have moved us, educated us, brought us to tears, and spurred us into action.
Kayla, Staff Writer
Speed Sisters (iTunes)
Speed Sisters looks at five women who have risen to prominence in the very male-dominated world of Palestinian street racing, and it rules! I was introduced to this documentary when I was an intern at Sundance, so I got to see it in some of its early stages. It’s an exciting story with compelling characters, and even the trailer gets me fired up.
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing (2007) // Amazon
Sorry, but this is the greatest documentary ever made, and if someone tells you otherwise, they’re wrong. I argue that you don’t even have to be a Dixie Chicks fan to be moved by it. But also, if you aren’t a Dixie Chicks fan, please don’t speak to me.
Street Fight (2005) // Amazon
This is one of the best political documentaries out there in my opinion. It chronicles Cory Booker’s 2002 mayoral campaign in Newark, and it is the reason I worked on campaigns throughout high school and college.
Erin, Staff Writer
Dixie Chicks: Shut Up And Sing (2007) // Amazon
I’m sorry that this is being posted a second time but Kayla is right, this is the best documentary. I saw this when it was debuting in theaters. Ayikes. And then when it came out on DVD I watched it over and over for the next several years, which is a normal thing to do and none of your business. I mean, yes, I am a Dixie Chicks fan, but mainly I love that you can tell these women love each other and would do anything for each other even though one of them fucked their careers into oblivion. Sometimes seeing women supporting women like that is exactly what you need one to three times a year.
Amy (2015) // Amazon
You go into this documentary about Amy Winehouse knowing that it’s going to ruin you. When the trailer was released for this, we were all like, “Yep, gonna ugly cry in public.” Still, worth it!
Alaina, Staff Writer
Waiting for Superman (2010) // Netflix, Amazon
This documentary tracks the way that public schools are failing Black and brown kids. I have mixed feelings about it, because while it does a really excellent job pointing out how our educational system really can’t support these kids, the solution it proposes is the charter school system, which on an ideological level, I’m totally against. I think I like it because every time I watch it, I’m reminded of why I want to teach and why I want to be a foster parent. Some of America’s most vulnerable citizens, who for the most part, aren’t even legally allowed to do things that could “better” their situation, have it the hardest out of anyone, and it makes me really sad. It’s a good reminder that we’ve got to be there for our communities, because honestly, no one else is.
Nursery University (2007) // Amazon
On the complete opposite side of the spectrum is Nursery University. I’m obsessed with weathly WASP New York City culture, and this is the epitome of it. Watching parents hire admissions advisors for their three year olds is bananas, but also I get it. It’s an utterly ridiculous look at privilege, but it’s a wild ride from start to finish.
Growing Up Wild (2016) // Netflix
I watch this when I need a break from the world and don’t want to think about anything but happy things. This documentary follows a bunch of wild baby animals while they grow up. It’s like the first half of The Lion King before everything goes terribly wrong. For a little over an hour, it makes me think that everything will be okay and the world is a good and pure place.
Laura M, Staff Writer
Making A Murderer (2015) // Netflix
You’ve probably already heard about this, right? Making A Murderer is set in the same county as A-Camp Wisconsin, and is an enthralling 10 episode documentary that covers Steven Avery’s (likely) wrongful conviction for murder. I remember thinking to myself at the end of each episode, “This is utterly bananas. What more could there possibly be to this story?!” And then there would be more. If you haven’t seen it yet, just watch it. There’s a reason it became a cultural phenomenon last winter, and that reason is that it’s excellent.
Park Avenue: Money, Power And The American Dream – Why Poverty? (2012) // YouTube
I watched this documentary when I was living in NYC, but I think it still holds up even if you’re not wandering Park Avenue regularly. This is about a particular building, 740 Park Ave, New York City, where some of the wealthiest people in the world live. Beyond that, it’s about how they use their money and resources to bend the American government to their will. Watch if you want to learn new facts to support your rightful anger and sadness about capitalism and the state of our democracy!
Pink Ribbons, Inc. (2011) // Gaia
This documentary is about those pink ribbons for breast cancer research, and how capitalism and research privatization fucks everything up! Because in spite of the billions of dollars of money raised, breast cancer rates have actually risen, and the only people benefitting from all this seem to be marketers.
Mey, Trans Editor
Paris is Burning (1990) // Netflix
I mean, come on, this is without a doubt the best documentary ever made. It’s ICONIC, it’s LEGENDARY, It’s Paris is Burning. I absolutely LOVE that there’s a place where I get to see the history of twoc like me, where I get to see us being celebrated and being happy and beautiful and full of life and style and power. If you’re a queer or trans person who hasn’t seen this documentary, please go and watch it right now. It’s a vital and vibrant history of the ballroom and drag scene in New York City and it features legends like Octavia St. Laurent, Dorian Corey and Angie Xtravaganza.
Grey Gardens (1975) // iTunes, Amazon Video, HBO
I hope with all my heart that I’m half as glamorous as Little Edie when I’m her age. I love this movie with zero percent irony or pity or laughing at the subjects. I look up to Big and Little Edie, they hold themselves with so much pride and self-love and I honestly think it’s very aspirational. Plus, I’m just super, super fascinated by American Royalty. Guys, if you want to watch a documentary that proves you can be proud and glamorous and hold your head high no matter what your circumstances are, Grey Gardens is for you.
Molly P, staff writer
Generation Iron (2013) // Netflix
This is a documentary about professional weightlifters and no joke I’ve seen it about four times. I love when people are just full-on obsessive about their hobbies/lifestyles/passions, and this one is a total dive into that world. Plus: lots of muscles.
Animism (2013) // Netflix
This is about people who fall deeply in love with objects. I found myself teary during most of it, because love really is just love, and who cares where people find it? Also, as someone who was raised in the Brave Little Toaster generation, items having feelings makes sense to me. It’s a really sweet look at some people who aren’t harming anyone else, and it’s respectful of the people and the objects. I liked it, and wish I could be all of their friends.