10 Must-See Documentaries for History Students

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History is a fascinating topic for everyone, not only history students. Yet, the ways of gaining knowledge in this subject are not always enjoyable. Due to the rise of the documentary genre today, one can learn a lot of things in an entertaining manner. 

Whether you are just interested in finding out something new about a specific period or you look for exciting topics as an essay writer on EssayPro, there are several must-see documentaries to check out. Here is a list of such dashing films on various subjects.

Devil at the Crossroads, 2019

This fascinating film is a treat for music fans, and it is available on Netflix. It captures the story of Robert Johnson, a blues musician that shaped history. During his short life, he played a major role in this genre. During his lifetime, there was a legend about his making a deal with the devil for his musical talent. The documentary combines history, culture, and music – all in one.

Secrets of Great British Castles, 2015

Those who are interested in British history and the stories behind the castles will love this one. It features six of the most well-known castles and the secrets they hide. Want to know more about Warwick, Dover, or the Tower of London? Then this film is what you need. 

This series is entertaining and has beautiful visuals. Besides, it is easy to watch, unlike some other documentary films that revolve around tragic events. This one is also available on Netflix.

Bowling for Columbine, 2002

The name says it all – the starting point of this documentary is the school shooting in Columbine High School that shocked the United States. But it is much more than that. The film highlights the issue of America’s relationships with guns and all the consequences of it. 

Why did gun-owning become so prominent? What factors play a role in that? And what is there to expect in the future from it? Despite the film being almost 20 years old, the subject is as relevant as ever. You can watch it on Hulu.

World War II in Colour, 2009

It is a British documentary that allows witnessing historical events in high resolution. It is about WWII, of course, and uses a lot of colorized and restored footage from that era. So, it is a great source of information and a chance to see it for yourself. One will learn more about tactical strategies and notorious battles (such as the Pearl Harbor attack).

Anne Frank Remembered, 1995

It is a heartbreaking yet very important story of one Jewish family in WWII. It is based on Anne Frank’s diary that she kept while her family was hiding in the back of the house. It is a film about hope, loss, and survival that captures the horrific experience of Jewish people in WWII. It is told by those who were close to Anna and survived. It is a must-see documentary so that history never repeats itself.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, 2015

If you are interested in Scientology and its founder, this is an enjoyable choice. It is a deep dive into what it is now and how it came to be. The film features testimonies from former Scientologists and their experience with this organization. It describes the practices and policies of an organization. It is interesting and thrilling.

10 Must-See Documentaries for History Students

13th, 2016

The documentary is named after the 13th Amendment, the one that prohibited slavery and freed enslaved people. It is about race and racist incarceration in the United States. The film explores how slavery has been perpetuated after the Amendment. After all, it didn’t end the race problem at all; it was just the beginning of the long battle. The documentary is not easy to watch sometimes, but it is a must-see nevertheless.

Challenger: The Final Flight, 2020

Probably everyone has heard about the tragedy of the Challenger in 1986. This documentary provides a deep dive into that event and NASA in the 1980s. The main question is what went wrong, and how did it all happen? There is a lot of NASA footage, archive documents, and witness testimonies to analyze. The series unfolds what was going on behind the scenes and what decisions may have caused this disaster.

Trial by Media, 2020

If you are not only into history but also into true crime, note that this documentary series combines the two things. The main question is how media and public perception impact trials and verdicts. It is especially interesting as it is relevant to the modern cancel and public shaming culture. 

How does the media affect public perception? How did it influence the famous trial cases? Is there a direct impact at all? This series explores these questions on the examples of several notorious and dramatic trials.

The Act of Killing, 2012

It is one of the most extraordinary documentaries to see. The film uncovers the 1960s massacre of communists and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. It is still not known how many people died exactly, but historians think that the number is between 400 thousand and 3 million. 

This film is special. It stands out from the rest because the director invited survived executioners of that genocide to tell their side. The former members of death squads tell about torture and reenact some of it. The astonishing banality of such brutal acts is what makes it so powerful.

In Summary

Good historical films are not limited to the list provided above, and everyone can find a new documentary to their liking. However, history students will especially enjoy the ten documentaries outlined in this article. 

All of them are well-made and feature great research, as well as historical footage. And all of them tell important stories everyone needs to hear. Some are on the lighter side, and others are harder to watch. In any case, they are great ways to learn more about the past while following excellent narration.


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