Streaming heavyweights like Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu offer a wide variety of content available for subscribers, including outstanding documentaries. But even though these platforms release dozens of great titles every year, it’s not really their main focus. But don’t worry because there are different options for people looking for the best streaming service for documentaries that have near-limitless possibilities
Services like Curiosity Stream, Discovery+, and Mubi are just three options that offer hundreds, if not thousands, of documentaries and docuseries about all kinds of topics ranging from true crime to deep space and everywhere in between. Here are just a few...
If you watch enough documentaries on YouTube, you are bound to come across an ad for Curiosity Stream. This happened to me and I decided (after multiple ads during my late-night documentary binge sessions) to pull the trigger. All I can say is WHOA. The massive library of titles about everything from science to history and nature to technology (and more) is impressive to say the least, and you will have no problem finding a way to lose track of time. Feature length documentaries, short videos, and extensive series all ready to be watched.
You may be thinking that a service like Curiosity Stream would cost a pretty penny, but in terms of streaming services, it’s one of the cheapest. A standard HD subscription runs $2.99 per month (or $19.99 with a one-year commitment) and the premium 4K will cost you $9.99 per month (or $69.99 annually). Also, Curiosity Stream is available on most streaming and mobile devices.
The streaming service Mubi is more geared towards cinephiles than any other platform on this list, but this doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a great selection of documentaries. The 139 (and counting) titles that call Mubi home aren’t your typical educational documentaries (though they are eye-opening) and include Tree of Life director Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time (which is narrated by Brad Pitt) to Thom Anderson’s nearly three-hour visual essay Los Angeles Plays Itself about how Hollywood has depicted the “City of Angels."
There are two options when it comes to a Mubi subscription, with the only difference being the price. You can either pay $10.99 each month or make a one-time annual payment of $83.88, which equals out to $6.99 per month. You can watch all the documentaries (and world cinema) on most streaming and mobile devices.
PBS Documentaries (Amazon Prime Channel)
PBS has long been home to some of the best documentaries on television, especially the long-running Frontline series and the various Ken Burns films about baseball, national parks, and just about every modern war. If you grew up with PBS but think you can no longer access those great titles without cable or a TV antenna, you’re in luck because there’s a PBS Documentaries channel on Amazon Prime that gives you access to hundreds of titles from yesterday and today.
The PBS Documentaries channel on Amazon costs $3.99 per month and is added on top of your Amazon Prime subscription. This also means you can access the channel on any device that supports Prime Video, which is pretty much all of them.
Kanopy is a streaming platform that has a little bit of everything, but one of the best features of the service is its extensive library of documentary films (nearly 7,900 in total). With Kanopy, you can sort documentaries by subject, director, supplier, language, and even public performance rights in case you were wanting to show a movie at a large gathering. The subjects include politics, religion, human rights, science, and just about everything imaginable.
Another great thing about Kanopy is the fact that it’s a completely free streaming service for the consumer that is funded through licensing fees from libraries across the United States. This means that if you have an active library card there’s a good chance you stream documentaries (and tons of movies) on Kanopy right now.
There are plenty of reasons why adding a Discovery+ subscription to your collection is a great idea, but for the sake of this story we’ll just focus on the documentary offerings. There are scores of riveting true crime documentaries, science specials, and food series, but all pale in comparison to the platform’s selection of titles from the Planet Earth series. If you are a fan of David Attenborough’s soothing narration and stunning visuals of the natural world, Discovery+ is the place to go.
There are two different subscription options for Discovery+: an ad-free version that will cost you $6.99 per month and an ad-supported model that runs $4.99 per month. Both offer the same content and all the bells and whistles offered by the platform, one just doesn’t have any commercial breaks. The service is available on pretty much every streaming service, smart TV, browser, and mobile device as well as modern Xbox consoles.
Magellan TV is another streaming service that provides subscribers with thousands of documentaries covering a range of topics. With space documentaries, exploration of the human spirit, and even a venture into the dark side, there is a staggering amount of content to choose from. Magellan even puts together playlists of titles based on those topics that will send you down the rabbit hole. There are even multiple articles published each month that provide additional information about a lot of the titles.
In terms of pricing, there are several options to choose from. There is the annual plan that costs $59.88 (or $4.99 per month), a quarterly plan at $17.97 ($5.99 per month), and the base monthly subscription of $6.99 per month. The first two options come with a 14-day free trial while the cheaper plan has a 7-day trial run. Magellan TV works on most streaming devices and mobile phones.
And then there is YouTube, which has a staggering amount of documentaries, and this massive library only seems to get larger by the day. These original documentaries, called YouTube Originals, consist of titles like Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free, the crowd-sourced retrospective Life in a Day 2020, and the detail-rich Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert, to name only a few. There is also a seemingly endless list of the documentaries (both short-form and feature length) from other creators that include everything from multi-part true crime investigations to well-researched videos about the life and death of amusement parks.
Best of all, it doesn’t cost a penny to watch these documentaries (both YouTube Originals and other videos) if you don’t want to add another streaming service to your collection. However, there is YouTube Premium ($11.99 per month) for those who don’t want to deal with ad breaks or like watching videos offline.
These are just some of the great streaming services for documentaries, as the number of platforms continues to grow every day. If you want to escape the world after watching hours upon hours of non-fiction stories, take a look at all the 2022 movies slated to open in theaters.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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