13 Conspiracy Theory Documentaries To Send You Down A Wikipedia Rabbit Hole
Who killed JFK? Did man ever really walk on the moon? Is there a society of lizard people that secretly run the world? If you're an educated, level-headed person, you would likely answer "Lee Harvey Oswald," "yes," and "of course not" to these questions. But the ideas and people behind these conspiracy theory documentaries have a different way of looking at the world. Because, for many people, these are legitimate questions that don't have clear answers. And while I would argue that some conspiracy theories are downright dangerous when people believe them, others can be pretty fun to dig into. Thankfully, there are a lot of docs out there that allow you to do just that.
Conspiracy theories as we know them today really started picking up steam in the 1960s, with two events that are still hotly debated: The JFK assassination and the moon landing. Then there is the idea a government cover-up of alien contact, made popular in the '90s by The X-Files. In more modern times, 9/11 conspiracy theories have become arguably the most popular subject for Internet sleuths, along with the ever popular New World Order and secret society conspiracies that revolve around the Illuminati (hey, Beyoncé!). So check out the list below for documentaries on all these subjects and more, and then spend the next several hours going down an inevitable Wikipedia rabbit hole as you search for the truth.
1. 'JFK: The Smoking Gun'
There are a ton of JFK documentaries out there, but this is probably the most well-made. Directed by Malcolm Mcdonald, the film follows Australian former law enforcement officer Colin McLaren, who investigates the persistent "second gunman" theory, which posits that President Kennedy wasn't killed by a single person but by an organized attack.
2. 'A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Moon'
A surprising number of people think that we never went to the moon, and that the whole thing was shot in a sound studio. Scientists will say that's bunk, but what do you think? This 2001 film is almost a one-man job by Bart Sibel, a critic of NASA who was determined to prove that the 1969 moon landing was impossible and therefore staged.
3. 'The Hidden Hand'
Premiering in 2012, this doc puts forth the idea that the government is covering up contact with aliens, and actually features a number of credible interview subjects, including a FEMA Emergency Services Manager and former U.S. Army officer. In an X-Files-esque twist, some of the abductees who appear in the doc claim that they were utilized to create alien-human hybrids.
4. 'Room 237'
Some people think director Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing, while others think his film The Shining is one giant conspiracy full of secret messages. If you love the Stephen King adaptation, you'll want to hear each one of these theories laid out, including the claim that the movie is actually about the mythical creature, the minotaur. Are these fans reading too much into the movie? You may still think so after watching Room 237, but it's pretty impressive that one thriller could have inspired this many hot takes.
5. 'Missing 411'
Author David Paulides' work in chronicling the thousands of mysterious disappearances in the U.S. National Parks system is without peer. This film finally translated his work to screen and try to answer the question: What is really happening to these people?
6. 'Nazis: The Occult Conspiracy'
Nazis, and Hitler especially, really did have a weird obsession with the occult, but how deep did it go? Airing on the Discovery Channel in 1998, this documentary film narrated by famed actor Malcolm McDowell investigates how the regime tried to make use of those beliefs and whether or not the German people themselves were actually being mind-controlled.
7. 'Loose Change 9/11'
Probably the most famous 9/11 conspiracy doc out there, and there are a lot of them. This one endeavors to prove that the terrorist attacks of that date were an inside job by the U.S. government. So if that type of theorizing offends or upsets you, best to steer clear of this film.
8. 'Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret'
Are cows secretly out to destroy the world? No, but the cattle industry may be. Released in 2014, this documentary attempts to expose the animal agriculture industry as the one having the most catastrophic effect on the planet. The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan is among the experts consulted.
One of the most popular conspiracy theory docs that spawned two sequels, this one covers a lot of ground: Religion, 9/11, government plots... it's all here! The first part makes the claim that Jesus never existed, the second tries to dismantle the accepted reality of the 9/11 attacks, and the third posits that there is a secret cabal of bankers arranging international disasters for their own financial gain.
10. 'Conspiracy Of Silence'
Political pedophile sex rings are popular fodder for conspiracy theorists (just look at the recent "Pizzagate" nonsense), and this "lost" documentary about such scandals was, according to legend, banned from the Discovery Channel. Watch at your own risk.
11. 'The Secret Rulers Of The World'
This far-reaching five part Channel 4 series is basically Conspiracy Theory 101, and features installments on such subjects as Reptilians, the Bilderberg Group, and Bohemian Grove; which is an actual annual gathering of political elites in the woods of Northern California where they do lots of bizarre cult-like activities. Seriously, Google Bohemian Grove. It's so weird.
12. 'Discovering Bigfoot'
The Bigfoot legend is still kicking, and this 2017 film is determined to get to the bottom of the creature's hold on our imaginations. Discovering Bigfoot is exciting and action-packed, no matter what you believe. If you enjoy Ghost Hunters, you'll probably get a kick out of this.
13. 'Montauk Chronicles'
A 2014 documentary features interviewees who claim that they have firsthand knowledge of secret experiments happening underneath an Air Force base in the '70s and early '80s. Was the US government using alien entities to research mind control and time travel? If so, whatever happened to that research and those involved?
These conspiracy docs will get your gears turning, whether or not you're inclined to believe.
This post was originally published on Dec. 17, 2018. It was updated on June 3, 2019.