Documentaries are a great way to learn more about the world, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay a premium to watch them. There are many YouTubers out there producing high-quality documentaries that only cost your time and maybe watching an ad or two.
Like every other genre of YouTube content, there’s a lot of variety in the documentary space. Regardless of whether you’re into geopolitics or video games, chances are someone has made a video on it. We focused on channels that regularly produce high-quality and distinct documentaries and found some terrific ones to share with you today—so enough talking, let’s start watching.
Update, 4/7/22: Checked that all text and links updated.
The channel name here really gives the game away, but that doesn’t take away from the quality content. Free Documentary regularly uploads documentaries covering stories from all around the world, with topics spanning dangerous roads in the Philippines or the future of architecture. There’s no specific focus here—the channel simply uploads great stuff, so if you’re not looking for anything specific, this is a great starting point.
All sorts of stories from all over the world.
Licensed with various studios and featuring expert documentarians, Real Stories brings you authentic accounts from people all over the globe. Whether it’s about wheelchair boxing, a world champion barista, or the dark world of cults, this channel gives you the chance to learn all about it. If you want to expand your horizons and learn about some of the most remarkable human stories out there, Real Stories is the channel to visit.
Real human stories that range from interesting to disturbing.
Most documentaries are pretty long and not without good reason. However, Wendover Productions reels things in a bit by producing shorter videos that are still packed with info (though there are also plenty of lengthier videos on the channel). With the tagline of “Explore the World” at the channel’s core, you’ll be exposed to brand new things all the time. Interested in the geopolitical issues of the Nile River? How about the logistics of filming a movie like Avengers: Endgame? Or maybe you’d prefer something a bit more topical, like the various goods shortages of 2021.
If you don’t always have the time to sit through hour-long videos, Wendover delivers an excellent balance of keeping things short without skimping on the important details.
Some shorter videos still packed with information.
VICE is all about shining a spotlight on things going on in the world you probably haven’t heard of before. The channel isn’t afraid of tough or controversial topics, either, and covers things like a doomsday prepping pastor or a teenage drug lord. There’s a mix of shorter and longer videos on the channel, so VICE can comfortably accommodate you no matter how much free time you have. VICE has also been regularly uploading content for nearly a decade now, so there’s quite the backlog to work through if this is your first time hearing of it.
VICE makes videos on people and events intending to make you aware of things you weren’t before.
You’re probably aware of National Geographic—but what you might not know is that the National Geographic YouTube channel uploads the same quality content you’d see on TV. Sometimes this means short clips from one of the many National Geographic series or full episodes uploaded directly to YouTube. History, science, the natural world, and more are all covered here, so if you have a passion for learning, this is a fantastic channel to visit.
The same quality content National Geographic is known for readily available on YouTube.
Video games deserve documentation as well, and there’s no better channel for it than NoClip. Covering the development of various games either through full-on documentaries or with developer interviews, you can learn a lot about your favorite games here, regardless if you’re interested in the technical stuff or general game design. NoClip has been making these videos for years now, covering games that are triple-A, indie, and everything in between. The channel has surely touched on at least one game close to your heart at this point, whether it’s a blockbuster like the Demon’s Souls remake or a smaller game like Outer Wilds.
Covering the development history of various games with documentaries and developer interviews.
Defunctland focuses on history, just not the type you’re probably expecting. This channel explores the history of amusement parks, shows, movies, and other pieces of pop culture that either never saw the light of day or haven’t in a long time. The channel started out and still largely focuses on Disney’s amusement parks in particular, but other parks have been covered, too, along with more varied topics in general. Whether you want to know about Disney’s strange “Handwich,” the Ferris Wheel, or the demolition of Six Flags Astroworld, there’s plenty of interesting stuff to find on Defunctland.
Defunctland features the history of various amusement park attractions and pieces of pop culture.
It would be a shame if we didn’t include one channel that was sort of out there, and Atrocity Guide fills that niche quite nicely. While uploads can be sparse, the strange stories this channel covers always intrigue—sometimes videos are about an obsessed internet stalker, while at others, it’s a man trying to communicate with dolphins. If you have a strong interest in the unusual but still want the topics at hand to be covered with professionalism, Atrocity Guide never disappoints.
A channel dedicated to covering the strangest stories.