The Best Documentary TV Shows

5.4k votes 196 voters 42k views 62 items tags f p @

List Criteria: Documentary TV series only. Science entertainment and reality shows do not count.

The best documentary TV shows make learning an entertaining journey that viewers don’t want to end. After all, who doesn’t want another season of Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey? Other great documentary shows include the Emmy-winning hit Planet Earth and NOVA. But which TV documentary shows are the best? See what lifelong fans of learning think in the ranking below.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how a pistol is made for instance, Tales of the Gun goes in-depth on the construction of important handguns. Even if you have zero interest in a topic, a good documentary show will get you hooked on the subject while explaining it thoroughly. Sure, you may never need to know how far the Moon is from the Earth, but it could come in handy during a bar trivia night.

Some documentary TV shows—specifically travel documentaries—let you live vicariously through the host. Never been to Italy? Well, Anthony Bourdain can virtually transport you there with his exciting food adventures and soothing voice. If you prefer cooking more than traveling, you’d probably be interested in these food documentaries as well.

For those curious who hosts a particular documentary TV show, details such as host and cast are included below when available. So vote up your favorite documentary TV shows below or add any that you feel should be on the list. After all, the best documentary TV shows are something that should be shared.

Collection Photo:  via cbs
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  1. 1
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    Planet Earth is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Sigourney Weaver

  2. 2
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    Dirty Jobs is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

    most listed
    Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky, Doug Glover

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    Nova is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman, Craig Sechler

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    Forensic Files is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Dayle Hinman, Peter Thomas, Roy Shuler

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    Cold Case Files is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Danny Pino, Anthony Green

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    I Shouldn't Be Alive is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers, Tom McKay

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    Wild Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


  8. 8
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    Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

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    River Monsters is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

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    Lloyd Sherr, Harlan Saperstein, Franklin D. Roosevelt

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    Destination Truth is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland, Mike Morrell

  12. 12
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    From the Earth to the Moon is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy, Lane Smith

  13. 13
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    Antiques Roadshow is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus

  14. 14
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    Biography is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Joan Lunden, Peter Graves, David Hart Smith

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    Who Do You Think You Are? is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
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    In Search of... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


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    J.V. Martin^! Daniel Martinez^! Mike Sode

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    Don Morrow^! Neil Ross^! Kieran Mulroney

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    Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Penn Jillette, Teller, George W. Bush

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    American Masters is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

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    Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

  21. 21
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    Pole to Pole is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Michael Palin

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    Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

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    David Carradine, Keith Carradine

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    Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo, Ben Hansen

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    Linda Blair, Zelda Rubinstein, Alan Robson

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    Hard Knocks is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson, Eddie Kennison

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    Intervention is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

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    Meerkat Manor is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat, Bill Nighy

  30. 30
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    Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise

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    Stephen Fry in America is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Stephen Fry

  32. 32
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    Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


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    James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call, Bob Featherer

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    Dave Salmoni

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    Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

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    Jaromír Hanzlík

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    Laura Dakin, Molly Kendall, Luke Van Horn

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    Liev Schreiber

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    Most Haunted is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe, Derek Acorah

  42. 42
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    Bill Kerr

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    Edward R. Murrow

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    Long Way Round is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman

  45. 45
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    Michael Moore^! Bruce Brown^! Louis Theroux

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    Dhani Jones^! Stephen Koepfer

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  48. 48
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    Animal Cops: Houston is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Robert Leigh

  49. 49
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    Kate Humble, Simon King, Chris Packham

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  50. 50
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    Prehistoric Park is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Nigel Marven, Rod Arthur, Suzanne McNabb

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