Top 10 Documentaries on Disney+

If you are looking for a documentary to watch, Disney+ is a great platform to browse. The streaming service doesn’t necessarily make it easy or shout its documentary films from the rooftops… but there are some real gems.


Here is a list of ten of my favourites (in no particular order):


1. Free Solo

One of the key questions for any documentary filmmaker concerns how close you should get to your subject. This was a particular challenge - both physically and emotionally - for Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin when making their Oscar-winning film, Free Solo. 


Not only were they documenting the remarkable life of their friend, Alex Honnold, they were following him in his attempt to climb El Capitan's foreboding 900-metre vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park - without a rope. Getting too close while filming his ascent could well lead to Honnold’s death. 


The stakes don’t get much higher - it is perfection or death. Within minutes, you might well find yourself questioning not how Honnold is going to achieve his goal, but why. The impact of his life choice is just as interesting as the climb itself.

Click here for my review



2. The Reason I Jump

In 2007, a 13 year old Japanese boy, Naoki Higashida, published his memoir. Called The Reason I Jump: One Boy’s Voice From The Silence Of Autism, the book describes Higashida’s experiences. The book was translated into English in 2013 by Keiko Yoshida and her husband, author David Mitchell. It went on to become a best-seller and something of a global phenomenon (the book has been translated into 30 languages).


Using Higashida’s book as both narrator and guide, Jerry Rothwell’s outstanding documentary, The Reason I Jump, examines the reality of autism and explores how it is perceived around the world.

Click here for my review



3. Jane

Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, Brett Morgan’s documentary tells the story of Jane Goodall, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.


Click here for my review


4. The Price of Gold

If you enjoyed I Tonya, Nanette Burstein’s documentary, The Price of Gold is a must-watch. 


Two athletes dominated the 1994 Winter Games – Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. Just weeks before the Olympics, at the US Figure Skating Championships, Kerrigan was injured by an unknown assailant. It soon came to light that Harding's ex-husband had plotted the attack with his misfit friends to eliminate Kerrigan from the competition.


The Price of Gold explores the scandal and its impact on professional figure skating. The documentary also examines the consequences for Tonya Harding - still facing questions over what she knew and when she knew it.


5. The Cave

Director Feras Fayyad (Last Men in Aleppo) returns to his native Syria to follow a dedicated team of female doctors who tirelessly treat casualties in an underground hospital while battling systemic sexism. 


The Cave is a tough but important watch. Beautifully shot, the film is devastating and unflinching and yet, also incredibly inspiring.


6. Fire of Love

Katia and Maurice Krafft loved two things —volcanoes and each other. For two decades, the French volcanologists travelled the planet, chasing eruptions and documenting their discoveries. The couple’s legacy has enriched our knowledge of the natural world. 


Drawing from their incredible archive, director Sara Dosa’s film is a lyrical celebration of the Krafft’s special relationship and spirit of adventure.


7. Cunningham

Alla Kovgan’s documentary about the incredible career of legendary dancer, teacher and choreographer, Merce Cunningham, is told via stylistically arranged 16mm and 35mm archive footage, photographs and audio clips from Merce Cunningham’s 70 year career. There are few of the tropes traditionally found in documentary biopics (no talking heads, no one there to tell us what to think).


 “I conceived Cunningham as a 90-minute artwork in itself, which tells Merce’s story through his dances,” explains Kovgan. “The film is a hybrid, rooted in both imaginary worlds and moving life experiences. It aspires to find a delicate balance between facts and metaphors, exposition and poetry.”

Click here for my review


8. Martin Margiela: In His Own Words

In Reiner Holzemer’s intimate documentary portrait, Martin Margiela: In His Own Words, the first remarks you hear do not come from the iconic, enigmatic designer. Instead, key figures in the fashion world describe and contextualise the lasting impact of Margiela’s remarkable and impressive career. 


“Margiela was the last revolution we had in fashion,” says Carla Sozzani, founder of 10 Corso Como. “He is in the top ten,” states Cathy Horyn, fashion critic at The New York Times. “He was way ahead of his time - the show, the format, the clothes… he is definitely one of the most influential designers of the last 30 years - without a question,” concludes Pierre Rougier, Margiela’s press attache, 1989-1991.


His legacy established, Holzemer explores the designer’s famous - and largely successful - desire for anonymity. While Margiela continues to fascinate fashion experts and inspire young designers, nobody knows his face.


Click here for my review


9. The Rescue

The second film on this list from E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, The Rescue chronicles the dramatic 2018 rescue of 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach, trapped deep inside a flooded cave. 


With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, The Rescue tells a story of imagination, determination and unprecedented teamwork. The documentary also examines the dangerous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices during the rescue mission. 


10. The Territory

Alex Pritz’s documentary is an immersive examination of the  lives of the Indigenous Uru-eu-wau-wau people and their fight against the encroaching deforestation brought by farmers and illegal settlers in the Brazilian Amazon. 


Featuring stunning cinematography, The Territory takes us deep into the Uru-eu-wau-wau community and provides unprecedented access to the farmers and settlers illegally burning and clearing the protected Indigenous land.


Partially shot by the Uru-eu-wau-wau people, the film relies on vérité footage captured over three years as the community risks their lives to set up their own news media team in the hopes of exposing the truth.


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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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