As much as we want to think that we know everything about our favorite actors, musicians, and athletes just from the work they do in their fields, the truth is that they are real, complex humans just like us, who have full lives that we can never really understand. We often want to put celebrities in boxes and categories and then just leave them there all nicely sorted and clearly defined. But that can be damaging, and it's to no one's benefit. And when you get to watch documentaries about your favorite celebrities, you can simultaneously feel like you understand them better while also learning that it's impossible to completely connect with them.
Whether they're about famous singers, athletes, actors, comedians, or writers, successful documentaries about the biggest celebrities in the world allow them to come across more truthfully and allow fans to understand the more complicated aspects of these incredible talents. Oftentimes, these documentaries address the social, political, and historic contexts that our famous idols exist in, which allows these films to be not only just biographies about the people themselves, but also portraits of the world at large. Some of the docs on the list are quite a bit more light-hearted than others, but they're all completely engrossing and allow you to look at the concept of celebrity in new ways.
1'Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher And Debbie Reynolds'
You're probably still getting over the most devastating back-to-back deaths of 2016, and this enlightening documentary that Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds had made right before they both passed will bring both tears and smiles to your face.
2'What Happened, Miss Simone?'
Nina Simone was an incredible musical icon, and this documentary examines her challenging life and incredible accomplishments, both in music and in civil rights activism.
3'Beyoncé: Life Is But A Dream'
A documentary about the beloved Queen Bey? Yes please. And the notoriously private Beyoncé opens up quite a bit in this film, sharing old family footage and thoughts about her life as the world's biggest celebrity.
4'This Is It'
The world simply could not function without a solid documentary of Michael Jackson, arguably the most famous person of all time.
5'A Ballerina's Tale'
Misty Copeland is, rightfully, one of the most famous ballerinas ever. This documentary charts her path to greatness as she becomes the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.
Amy Winehouse's incredible talent and tragic death make for an remarkably engaging and devastating documentary.
7'I Am Ali'
Few athletes have ever achieved the success and notoriety of Muhammed Ali, the greatest boxer ever and one of the most important activists of the 20th Century.
Comedian Tig Notaro faced the death of her mother, a life-threatening infection, a difficult breakup, and cancer, all in a very short amount of time. She remained as brilliant and funny as ever, and this documentary follows her as she continues her life after recovering.
Bob Marley, one of the most beloved and unifying musicians of all time, is memorialized in this documentary featuring lots of concert footage.
10'Backstreet Boys: Show 'Em What You're Made Of'
How could the world have survived so many years without a Backstreet Boys documentary? I don't know, but fortunately in 2015 we finally got one.
11'One Direction: This Is Us'
One Direction is the Backstreet Boys but for new young people, and this documentary chronicling their life in the bright, bright spotlight totally delivers on everything you expect from it.
12'Cobain: Montage Of Heck'
Kurt Cobain's tragic suicide made him one of the most iconic and highly-studied musicians of all time, and Montage of Heck is perhaps the most intimate exploration of his life.
13'Maya Angelou And Still I Rise'
The incredible memoirist, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou talks about her long and incredible life in this documentary, which examines her legacy.
14'For The Love Of Spock'
The talent and unique personality of the beloved Leonard Nimoy is what has made Spock such an enduring pop culture figure for so many years. Dig deep into Nimoy's life and his lasting impact with this documentary.
15'I Am Bolt'
It's kind of hard to really grapple with how insanely talented runner Usain Bolt is. This documentary allows you to reflect on that while also highlighting just how delightful and fascinating Bolt is as a person.
This doc has been around for a while, but out of the many that have been made, it's still the most important and lasting documentary about brilliant rapper Tupac Shakur, who was killed in 1996.
17'I Am Chris Farley'
Chris Farley was one of the funniest and most troubled men in comedy. This documentary celebrates and mourns his life and examines his lasting impact.
18'To Be Takei'
Japanese-American actor and gay rights activist George Takei broke all kinds of barriers throughout his life, and continues to speak out for the rights of the disenfranchised. This documentary looks at his life as one of the world's most beloved pop culture icons.