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Best Online Documentaries of the World

Written By Franklin V on Monday, April 25, 2011 | 9:01 AM

50 Free Online Documentaries 

Documentaries provide us with some of the most effective learning methods of all. Though often biased, documentaries give us first-hand accounts of the people and situations that drive our culture, and allow us inside access to some of the most remote and exclusive places on the planet, from the drug wars in Colombia to the White House. These 50 fascinating documentaries are free to watch and address all sorts of issues and topics in history, science, and beyond.
History and Politics
From ancient times to the wars that dictated the terms of modern times, these history and political documentaries will teach you about Egypt, the Cuban Missile Crisis, 9/11, the Great Wall of China, and more.
  1. Egypt’s Golden Empire: The Last Great Pharaoh: Learn about Ramses II, Egypt’s last great pharaoh who ruled for 67 years.
  2. The Fog of War: Study the Cuban Missile Crisis and the participation of Robert McNamara and John F. Kennedy when you watch this documentary.
  3. Spin: This intriguing film follows politicians during the 1992 presidential election to document the new powerful media that began emerging at the time.
  4. History’s Turning Points: Here you’ll find 7 of 13 episodes documenting some of the most significant battles and conflicts in world history, including The Black Death, Conquest of the Incas, and more.
  5. Secrets of the First Emperor: You’ll learn about the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, who built the Great Wall and other monuments.
  6. Spying on the Home Front: This 2007 documentary considers how the government monitors terrorists and everyday citizens.
  7. Copenhagen Fall Out: Here you’ll learn about the efforts of a German physicist and a Danish man to build an atomic bomb during World War II.
  8. The Road to Guantanamo: This film won the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival and gives the world an inside look at those wrongly accused and sent to the military prison for terrorists at Guantanamo.
  9. Plan Colombia: Watch this documentary to better understand the war on drugs and the U.S.’ involvement in Colombia’s civil unrest.
  10. Seven Wonders of Ancient Greece: Find out why structures like the Palace of Knossos and Temple at Delphi are still regarded as significant monuments today.
  11. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised: This documentary covers "the world’s first media coup," when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was overthrown.
  12. Cracking the Maya Code: Archaeologist Tatiana Proskouriakoff studies Mayan hieroglyphics and tries to prove that the monuments from that era serve as history books.
  13. The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.: You’ll get a history lesson in the civil rights movement while watching this moving documentary about MLK’s assassination and legacy.
  14. What the Ancients Did for Us – The Indians: This documentary takes a look at how ancient India set the standards for modern civilization, science, fitness, games, and more.
  15. The Trials of Henry Kissinger: This filmmaker considers Henry Kissinger as a war criminal and includes footage and interviews with top historical figures in American history.
  16. Legacy: the Origins of Civilization: Film host Michael Wood discusses the rise of Asian and Western civilizations — including Iraq, India, China, the Barbarian West, Central America and Egypt — in this documentary to remind us of our past and where we could be headed tomorrow.
Science and Exploration
These documentaries ask us to consider new ideas when studying space, the environment, and our own past.
  1. The Four-Winged Dinosaur: This documentary covers the 2002 discovery of a fossil that could indicate the beginnings of flight.
  2. Hubble: 15 Years of Discovery: NASA, NewScientist and other groups supported the making of this documentary about the significant discoveries made from using the Hubble Telescope.
  3. Car of the Future: Car of the Future is a 1-hour documentary about the sporty, environmentally conscious cars of the future.
  4. Neanderthal: Scientists consider the habits, environment and evolution of Neanderthals that walked the Earth eighty thousand years ago.
  5. Supermassive Black Holes: Scientists discuss a supermassive black hole that is 2.6 million times larger than the sun.
  6. The Drugging of Our Children: This film asks us if we’re too quick to medicate children with attention deficit disorders.
  7. The Quantum Revolution: Dr. Michio Kaku challenges modern scientists to become a generation of masters, rather than discoverers.
  8. The 11th Hour: Leonardo DiCaprio narrates this beautifully shot documentary about the importance of saving even tiny ecosystems.
  9. The Ape That Took Over the World: The 3 1/2 million-year-old Lucy is discussed and studied in this documentary.
  10. Why are We Here?: This scientist believes Darwin’s theory of evolution may point out exactly what our purpose is.
  11. A War on Science: Is intelligent design a reasonable counter to Darwin’s theory of evolution, or is it just a religious campaign in disguise?
  12. Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita: Find out what’s really going on in the world of stem cell research here.
  13. Nikola Tesla: The Genius Who Lit the World: Get the story of the man who worked with Thomas Edison to harness the power of electricity.
Society and Culture
You’ll learn how to critically analyze the conflicts, trends and people who influence our culture, from Woodstock to our eating habits to our obsession with money.
  1. Super Size Me: This popular documentary shocked Americans when filmmaker Morgan Spurlock showed what actually happens to your body if you attempt to survive on fast food.
  2. Inside Iran: Inside Iran can help those living in Western societies understand what it’s really like to live a "normal" life in the troubled, historic nation.
  3. Islam: Empire of Faith: Ben Kingsley narrates this documentary that will teach you about the origins and legacy of Islam.
  4. Maxed Out: This heartbreaking documentary emphasizes the gap between poor, Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and the excess wealth enjoyed by others in the U.S.
  5. Secret Rulers of the World: Can a secret, elite organization really exist in today’s society? This documentary follows the controversial Bilderberg Group.
  6. Orwell Rolls in His Grave: Consider the new age of media and whether or not lies are blindly accepted by the public.
  7. Bowling for Columbine: Michael Moore’s powerful and controversial commentary considers our culture’s obsession with guns and violence.
  8. Century of Self: This series takes a look at how our culture is a mass consumer-driven culture of people obsessed with pleasing themselves.
  9. Woodstock – 3 Days of Peace and Music: Woodstock happened over 30 years ago, but it’s still considered one of the greatest music events in history. Find out why it was such a success when you watch this documentary.
  10. The Age of AIDS: This film was made on the 25th anniversary of the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and considers how far we’ve come, and how much more we need to do to treat disadvantaged populations.
  11. Merchants of Cool: Consider how the purchasing power of teens is exploited by big businesses.
Get behind-the-scenes stories about some of the most important and brilliant people in world history, from Gandhi to Napoleon to Spartacus.
  1. Spartacus – Behind the Myth: Find out what Spartacus really did in the year 73 BC that has historians still excited today.
  2. Pythagoras: Pythagoras is regarded as one of the most important scientists in world history, and here you can learn about his earlier life.
  3. Empires – Napoleon: This biography of Napoleon focuses on his years building his empire.
  4. Genghis Khan: Watch the story of one of the most powerful and barbaric figures in world history, Genghis Khan.
  5. Adolf Hitler – After mein kampf: Find out what drove Adolf Hitler to become such a powerful, terrifying figure.
  6. Albert Einstein: This biography of Albert Einstein hopes to uncover the real story of the genius we still study today.
  7. Ho Chi Minh: Vietnam’s Enigma: Watch this video to gain better understanding of how Vietnam succumbed to Communism, then crashed.
  8. Beneath the Veil: This 2001 documentary focuses on the world coverage of a story of a burka-clad woman who was shot in the middle of a football stadium in Afghanistan, and what could have saved her life.
  9. The Men Who Made the Movies: Alfred Hitchcock: Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t just a filmmaker: he influenced the entire entertainment industry and used his movies to comment on the turbulent mood swings of his generation.
  10. Mahatma: Life of Gandhi: This filmmaker asks the audience to consider how various instances in Gandhi’s life led to his teachings and legacy.
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