Five Documentaries to Watch Before The End Of 2014

After a tiring day of classes and feeling like the undead because school sucks out my soul, I decided that watching Netflix documentaries for the rest of the night would somehow be productive because… documentaries are educational, right? Right. But I actually mean that without the slightest hint of sarcasm. Although, I really wouldn’t recommend watching The Jeffrey Dahmer Files while you’re eating dinner. Just sayin’. Craigslist Joe is probably a better option.

Yet despite the fact that they are plentiful and that there is a category for Best Documentary Short at the Academy Awards, documentaries typically don’t have a following as large as that of films that hit mainstream movie theaters. As audience members, we seem to find fictional movies much more appealing since they’re often a means of escape from the world we live in. However, documentaries are just as entertaining to watch and often leave you feeling much more satisfied than you would be going to a theater to watch the hundredth version of Paranormal Activity.

Think about it. Blackfish took the nation by storm in 2013, airing major flaws in the way SeaWorld handled the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau, and educating us on the caged lives of orcas in captivity. So why stop there? There’s an abundance of documentaries that can inform you about the world we live in and introduce you to people just like us, whether they’re battling posttraumatic stress disorder after returning from war (Hell and Back Again) or fighting to stop bullying in schools (Bully). When you finally join the rest of us and become a documentary junkie like I have, you’ll want to make sure you watch these documentaries before the end of 2014.

The Square

As someone who lived in Egypt for six years when former President Mubarak was still in power, this film about the Egyptian Revolution hits close to home. Although the events that unfolded in Egypt were all over the news since 2011, people didn’t truly see what the country’s citizens endured during this time (as one can imagine with most world news we receive in the U.S.). The Square takes a deeper look into the stories behind many of the people who took part in the revolution.


Having yet to air on March 6, CNN’s Chicagoland is a series that focuses on a “beloved heartland American city, where a mayor, community organizers, business leaders, teachers, entertainers and residents unite to make a difference in the lives of Chicagoans,” according to CNN. As a nation, it’s imperative to note what’s going on in other states and to witness the obstacles they are facing, such as those in Chicago. This documentary series will likely provide us with insight on the things occurring within this major city — things that we don’t already know about but probably should.

Life Itself

Based on a memoir with the same name, this documentary opens up a window for us into the world of Roger Ebert, who was one of the world’s most distinguished film critics. The film follows Ebert from his first job, to his promotion to a movie critic, to his battle with cancer.

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

This documentary, which premiered this past January, follows the life of Aaron Swartz who was known for his work as a co-founder for the website Reddit, and for being involved in the development of the web feed format, RSS. Swartz, who was charged with wire fraud and computer fraud after gaining illegal access to JSTOR and downloading academic journal articles, hanged himself in 2013. The film explores Swartz life prior to and during his trial.

We Come as Friends

This 2014 documentary centers around South Sudan as its people attempt to free themselves from the control of North Sudan and its president, Omar al-Bashir. Hubert Sauper, the filmmaker of this documentary, built his own plane and flew into the country to capture everything that was happening. “I wanted to be able to land on small fields in military-controlled areas where I never would have be able to go by invitation,” Sauper said, according to the Los Angeles Times. A man took two years to build a plane that he could fly into Africa to film this informative documentary, so I think you can take two hours of your time to watch it. Plus, there’s nothing wrong with soaking up knowledge of the struggles that are occurring in other countries.

Other recommendations:

Love Child

The Overnighters

Last Days In Vietnam

Cutie and the Boxer

My Prairie Home