Some of the best documentaries on Apple TV have helped the streaming service pick up critical acclaim since its launch. Apple TV is very different form other streaming options. While Netflix, HBO Max, and others license and show movies and TV shows from networks and theatrical releases, Apple TV almost exclusively has original movies and TV shows and sells itself on what it makes and produces. This includes some of the most groundbreaking documentaries in the realm of music, nature, and history.
Since Apple TV started its streaming service in 2019, it has built a library of original documentary movies and shows that has matched, and in many cases eclipsed those from its bigger rival services. The streamer has approached some of the biggest names in filmmaking to bring their documentaries to the service, including names like Spike Jonze, Jon Favreau, and Todd Haynes. It has also featured some incredible music documentaries with people like Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, and the Beastie Boys. What resulted was critically-acclaimed documentaries and a few Emmy nominations and wins along the way.
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11 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (2021)
From music to culture and even politics, this docuseries goes into detail about one of the most impactful years in recent history. In a scary time of crime and revolutionary social movements, the music was actually not a direct reflection of the '70s, but rather an escape. Featuring stories and old footage of musical legends like Elton John, The Beatles, and Bob Marley, the historical doc dives into a wide range of topics, from protests to music to race issues, and so much more, making it one of the best documentaries on Apple TV.
10 9/11: Inside The President's War Room (2021)
A documentary that hardly needs an in-depth description, one of the best documentaries on Apple TV dives into one of the most historic and horrific days in the history of America. Though it's one of many documentaries about 9/11, this film offers groundbreaking behind-the-scenes moments, taking viewers on a wild journey from inside the White House. Not only does former U.S. President George W. Bush go into detail about that infamous day, but footage from the first 12 hours of 9/11 shows the devastating reality of the terrorist attacks and their impact on America. All aspects come together to make this one of the best documentaries of 2021.
9 Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023)
One of the latest examples of the best documentaries on Apple TV, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie goes inside the life and career of Michael J. Fox. This traces his rise from a child star to one of the most beloved actors of the 1980s. However, what really makes this stand out above the rest was the fact Fox allowed the documentarians into his personal life, with unfettered access to his family and life as the documentary looks at his life after Parkinson's Disease ended his acting career. With a 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating from early reviews, this looks to be a great movie for fans of Fox.
8 The Year Earth Changed (2021)
For many humans, COVID-19 ruined lives, requiring everyone to stay indoors for the majority of 2020. However, one group that was able to benefit from this change was not only animals but nature and the environment itself. Due to the significant decrease in pollution and many other human-caused faults, the Earth was able to breathe for a little while, and this documentary details the exact change we as a society saw in the year. Though COVID restrictions are not as intense as they once were, the creators of the documentary hope to spark an important conversation with this film about how humans can change their habits in order to save the world.
7 Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me (2022)
In 2022, pop star and actor Selena Gomez opened up her life to documentary filmmaker Alek Keshishian to create a movie about what it is like to walk in her shoes. The documentary is intensive, following six years of her career as she struggles with both her career and her mental health issues along the way. This is important because Gomez left nothing hidden as she battled with lupus and bipolar disorder. It was a huge critical success, with a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score, and several awards to its name, including a win at the MTV Movie & TV Awards.
5 The Velvet Underground (2021)
Highlighting the famous rock band the documentary is named after, the Apple Original film details life on the road with behind-the-scenes clips and the history of the rock stars. Not only does the two-hour film entail the band's come-up story and influence, but it dives into the rise in art, culture, and music in general during that time. Between the beautiful, aesthetically-pleasing vintage cinematography and the iconic stories told via exclusive interviews, the documentary clearly is highly rated for a reason. Directed by Todd Haynes, this remains one of the best documentaries on Apple TV, with a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and several nominations from critics groups.
4 Prehistoric Planet (2022)
Prehistoric Planet did something a little different as one of the best documentaries on Apple TV. This British-American production was about dinosaurs with Jon Favreau as the showrunner, David Attenborough as the narrator, and Hans Zimmer doing the music. With this all-star cast behind the scenes, it then used CGI to bring dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals to life in the Late Cretaceous period to discuss what was happening right before their extinction. Running for two seasons, it received universal acclaim, sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, with several award wins and nominations.
3 Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry (2021)
This Apple Original film takes place over the span of several years, during the peak of Billie Eilish's rise to stardom. The documentary not only highlights her fast-paced career but also fascinating and surprising tidbits surrounding her personal struggles with growing up in the public eye. The R.J. Cutler film is a perfect choice for any fan that wants to know the surprising details of Billie Eilish's life and anyone that can appreciate her music and live performances, as well as her vulnerability and strength. One of the best documentaries on Apple TV, this picked up four Emmy nominations and sits at 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.
2 Beastie Boys Story (2020)
During the rise of rap in the '80s, the Beastie Boys found their inspiration via hip-hop, but they were mostly just having fun. The biographical film takes a deep dive into the lives of the boys, told from their very own mouths, as they recall some of the best and most intense, years of their lives. Between their palpable passion and electric stage presence, the Beastie Boys grew in popularity, and the documentary gives a very intimate look as to why. Directed by indie darling Spike Jonze, this was one of the best documentaries on Apple TV, picking up five Emmy nominations while winning a Critics' Choice Award.
1 Boys State (2020)
Boys State arrived in 2020 and brought a look at the political divide in the United States from the point of view of teenagers. The focus of the film was taking a thousand teenage boys attending Boys State in Austin, Texas, as they attempt to build a representative government from the ground up. What made it so intriguing was that these were kids from different political backgrounds, many significantly opposed to one another, and they had to prove they could still make this work by working together. It won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and a Primetime Emmy Award, making it one of the best documentaries on Apple TV history.