20 New Documentaries That Will Make You See the World (and Several Celebs) Differently

 A woman (frida kahlo) wearing a flower crown lies in a grassy field while resting her arm over her eyes.
A woman (frida kahlo) wearing a flower crown lies in a grassy field while resting her arm over her eyes.

Documentary filmmaking is important part of our media intake here at MC. Sure, epic dramas, heart-racing action flicks and thrillers, terrifying horror tales, and laugh-out-loud comedies take up big chunks of our slate, but it's just as important to take time out of our weekends to learn something new. So far, as with last year's stellar selection, 2024 is shaping up to be a great year for thoughtful, comprehensive docs about our society, from biopics on our most acclaimed public figures (like Jennifer Lopez and Frida Kahlo, to snapshots of everyday life, to examinations of structural inequalities and troubled institutions. Read on for the best documentaries of 2024. (If you're looking for your next true crime binge, read our list of 2024 true crime documentaries and series here.)

'Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project'

a graphic of a woman (nikki giovanni) with asteroids on her head, standing in front of the red planet mars
a graphic of a woman (nikki giovanni) with asteroids on her head, standing in front of the red planet mars

Premieres: Out now on Max

This majestic biographical doc from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson give a look at the life and influence of the famed queer, Black poet. It uses new and archival footage of her public appearances and "visually innovative treatments of her poetry," including readings by both actress Taraji P. Henson and the writer herself.

Trailer: HERE

'The Greatest Night in Pop'

a group photo of the artists who participated in recording
a group photo of the artists who participated in recording

Premieres: Out now on Netflix

This music documentary gives a look at the herculean effort behind the legendary 1985 recording session, where dozens of the world's most popular musicians—including Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Loggins, Dionne Warwick, and Huey Lewis—gathered to record the single "We Are the World." The film tracks the charitable project from planning stages to completion, mixing never-before-seen footage with testimonials from several of the stars.

Trailer: HERE

'Lil Nas X: Long Live Montero'

a man (lil nas x) wearing a cap and varsity jacket lies in a field
a man (lil nas x) wearing a cap and varsity jacket lies in a field

Premieres: Out now on Max

Lil Nas X, the record-breaking Black queer musician (who turned Internet trolling into an art form) finally has a concert film and documentary! Directed by Carlos López Estrada and Zachary Manuel, the intimate doc follows the singer, real name Montero Hill, during the U.S. leg of his debut world tour, while giving viewers an inside look at his rise to fame, his personal life, and his relationships with his family and his queerness.

Trailer: HERE

'Einstein and the Bomb'

a man (albert einstein) smokes a long pipe while sitting at a desk on an outdoor porch, next to another man in a dress shirt and tie
a man (albert einstein) smokes a long pipe while sitting at a desk on an outdoor porch, next to another man in a dress shirt and tie

Premieres: Out now on Netflix

Less than a year after Oppenheimer chronicled the creation of the atomic bomb, this docudrama digs into Albert Einstein's connection to the development of nuclear weapons. The film combines archival footage and dramatized scenes (scripted using Einstein's own writing) to tell the story of the renowned physicist's life, as he travels between the U.K. and the U.S. as a refugee from Nazi Germany.

Trailer: HERE

'Ennio'

a man (ennio morricone) wearing all black clothing stands in a busy office in front of a desk, chair, and window
a man (ennio morricone) wearing all black clothing stands in a busy office in front of a desk, chair, and window

Premieres: Out now in theaters

Acclaimed film composer Ennio Morricone—who scored movies including Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon a Time In America, and The Hateful Eight—is the subject of this reverential doc from director Giuseppe Tornatore. Filmed before the musician's death in 2020, the biographical film features Morricone himself speaking about his life and impressive career, with his contemporaries and admirers chiming in.

Trailer: HERE

'The Greatest Love Story Never Told'

a group of women (with jennifer lopez in the center) are dressed in work clothes and covered in grime as they kneel in mud inside of a factory
a group of women (with jennifer lopez in the center) are dressed in work clothes and covered in grime as they kneel in mud inside of a factory

Premieres: Out now on Prime Video

This documentary from Jennifer Lopez shares a behind-the-scenes look at the multi-hyphenate's life, as she works on her ninth album and accompanying musical film This is Me... Now: A Love Story. The film also addresses some of the highly-publicized parts of Lopez's life, including her relationship with husband Ben Affleck and her decision to self-finance her musical.

Trailer: HERE

'As We Speak: Rap Music on Trial'

L-R: Sharron Beverly, Fatz Mack, Katie Got Bandz, Kemba and Stash P in “As We Speak: Rap Music on Trial”
L-R: Sharron Beverly, Fatz Mack, Katie Got Bandz, Kemba and Stash P in “As We Speak: Rap Music on Trial”

Premieres: Out now on Paramount+

In this doc, director J.M. Harper explores the criminalization of rap, pointing to the controversial practice of using lyrics as court evidence, from the 2000 conviction of New Orleans rapper Mac to the recent charges against Young Thug. The film, based on Erik Nielson and Andrea L. Dennis's book Rap on Trial, follows Bronx-based rapper Kemba as he speaks to other artists and academics on how the practice is based in the criminalization of Blackness.

Trailer: HERE

'God Save Texas'

three male cowboys ride horses down a street in modern-day texas
three male cowboys ride horses down a street in modern-day texas

Premieres: Out now on Max

In this trilogy inspired by Lawrence Wright's book God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State, three filmmakers from Texas return to their hometowns to show why the state is a "study in contradictions." Director Richard Linklater takes on the prison system in Huntsville, while Alex Stapleton explores how the oil industry impacts Black and brown communities in Houston, and Iliana Sosa examines the shared culture between the border cities of El Paso and Juáurez, Mexico.

Trailer: HERE

'The Lionheart'

a man (dan wheldon) bows to the camera as his young son (sebastian wheldon) sits next to him on a racetrack; the pair are to the left of a large silver trophy and an orange and black race car
a man (dan wheldon) bows to the camera as his young son (sebastian wheldon) sits next to him on a racetrack; the pair are to the left of a large silver trophy and an orange and black race car

Premieres: March 12 on Max

Legendary driver Dan Wheldon (a.k.a. "The Lionheart") was a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion when he tragically died in a horrific 2011 crash on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. A decade later, his sons Sebastian and Oliver, ages 12 and 10, followed in his footsteps and joined the world of motorsports themselves. This epic doc combines archival footage from Dan's career with the present-day lives of Sebastian, Oliver, and Dan's widow Susie, as the three family members reckon with grief and generational lineage in their own ways.

Trailer: HERE

'Frida'

a woman (frida kahlo) holds a necklace in her mouth while sitting in front of a window
a woman (frida kahlo) holds a necklace in her mouth while sitting in front of a window

Premieres: March 14 on Prime Video

Directed by Carla Gutiérrez, this wide-ranging documentary about the surrealist painter Frida Kahlo covers over 40 years of her life, using her letters, print interviews, and her illustrated diary (as well as vivid animated sequences) to tell her story in her own words and images.

Trailer: TBA

'Girls State'

a group of girls dressed in black smile and pose for a selfie
a group of girls dressed in black smile and pose for a selfie

Premieres: April 5 on Apple TV+

In this follow-up to the 2020 Texas-set doc Boys State, directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss document a similar mock-government program in Missouri, where 500 teen girls from across the state gather to build their own union. In addition to following the frenzied campaigns for elected positions, the doc also explores the disparity between that year's Missouri Boys State and Girls State programs, which are taking place at the same time.

Trailer: TBA

'Daughters'

a bald man in a suit leans over and hugs his daughter, who has her eyes closed
a bald man in a suit leans over and hugs his daughter, who has her eyes closed

Premieres: TBA on Netflix

This moving film from directors Natalie Rae and Angela Patton follow the latter's Date with Dad initiative, a 10-week therapy program that ends with a father-daughter dance, reuniting incarcerated dads with their young daughters. It features four girls, aged 5 to 15, and their fathers in the lead up to the big event.

Trailer: TBA

'Ibelin'

a boy (Mats Steen) sits at his desk in front of a small computer, while holding a pencil in front of an open workbook
a boy (Mats Steen) sits at his desk in front of a small computer, while holding a pencil in front of an open workbook

Premieres: TBA on Netflix

This acclaimed documentary out of Sundance takes a posthumous look at the life of Mats Steen, a Norwegian gamer who died at the age of 25 after living with a degenerative muscular disease. Though his disability kept him physically isolated, his time spent playing World of Warcraft (which he kept secret from his parents) allowed him to become "an integral and beloved part of a digital community that loudly mourned his passing."

Trailer: TBA

'Luther: Never Too Much'

American Soul and R&B singer Luther Vandross performs on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Chicago, Illinois, June 28, 1991
American Soul and R&B singer Luther Vandross performs on an episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show, Chicago, Illinois, June 28, 1991

Premieres: TBA

Another buzzy doc out of Sundance is a long-awaited biography of beloved R&B singer Luther Vandross. Director Dawn Porter gives a comprehensive, illuminating look at the late Grammy winner's career and life, drawn from archival footage and interviews with his closest friends and colleagues.

Trailer: TBA

'Power'

an archival photo of a group of policemen wearing helmets, walking in front of a deli
an archival photo of a group of policemen wearing helmets, walking in front of a deli

Premieres: TBA on Netflix

This incisive documentary from director Yance Ford chronicles the history of American policing and criticizes the institution which claims to serve and protect the public. It charts a path from the slave patrols of the 1700s to troops forcibly moving Native Americans in the 1800s to the use of police in strike-breaking as well as the militarization of police departments.

Trailer: TBA

'Seeking Mavis Beacon'

a view from a doorway as two women sit and stand at a table in a room, in front of a green standing board covered in photos, a wall covered in maps and pictures, a green lamp, a fish tank, and a yellow couch
a view from a doorway as two women sit and stand at a table in a room, in front of a green standing board covered in photos, a wall covered in maps and pictures, a green lamp, a fish tank, and a yellow couch

Premieres: TBA

Mavis Beacon taught a generation of '90s kids to type, but the iconic teacher from the famed software program was actually a marketing concept invented by the co-founder of MySpace. This doc from director Jazmin Jones covers the quest to find the real woman who modeled for Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, while digging into the complicated history and legacy of one of the most well-known Black women in tech.

Trailer: TBA

'Sue Bird: In the Clutch'

a woman (sue bird) wearing a seattle basketball jersey raises her hands while standing in front of a crowd
a woman (sue bird) wearing a seattle basketball jersey raises her hands while standing in front of a crowd

Premieres: TBA

This sports doc follows basketball legend Sue Bird in the lead-up to her 2022 retirement. It covers her early days as a rookie student athlete to becoming one of the best-ever players in the history of the WNBA. It also spotlights her activism, including her experience with gendered pay inequality, as well as her engagement to soccer legend Megan Rapinoe.

Trailer: TBA

'To Kill a Tiger'

a girl with orange flowers in her hair sits in a field of dry grass, with tree branches above her and a gray bag next to her
a girl with orange flowers in her hair sits in a field of dry grass, with tree branches above her and a gray bag next to her

Premieres: TBA on Netflix

Director Nisha Pahuja's Oscar-nominated feature—which heads to streaming after racking up dozens of awards—follows Ranjit, a farmer in Jharkhand, India, who seeks justice after his 13-year-old daughter Kiran (a pseudonym) survives a brutal sexual assault. The unflinching doc centers the family's determination in the face of ostracization and ultimately tells a story of "hope, resilience and a father’s unwavering love."

Trailer: HERE

'Union'

a man wearing a black printed shirt and cap holds up a paper to block the sun, while standing in front of a white wall with the amazon smile logo
a man wearing a black printed shirt and cap holds up a paper to block the sun, while standing in front of a white wall with the amazon smile logo

Premieres: TBA

This searing doc follows the efforts of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), composed of current and former workers in NYC’s Staten Island, as they organize against tech and commerce behemoths. Directors Brett Story and Stephen Maing offer a wide-ranging look at both the workers' fight and the dynamics within the organization, including intra-union disagreements and concerns about gender and racial dynamics.

Trailer: TBA

'Will & Harper'

two people (will ferrell and harper steele) sit in the front seats of a car
two people (will ferrell and harper steele) sit in the front seats of a car

Premieres: TBA on Netflix

Will Ferrell and Harper Steele have known each other for over 30 years, with their creative collaboration on Saturday Night Live leading to a decades-long friendship. In this heartfelt doc, the pair embark on a cross-country road trip soon after Steele comes out as a trans woman.

Trailer: TBA