The Best Documentary TV Shows

5.7k votes 269 voters 51k views 63 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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    Sigourney Weaver

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  2. 2
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    Dayle Hinman, Peter Thomas, Roy Shuler

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

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  4. 4
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    Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman, Craig Sechler

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  5. 5
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    Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers, Tom McKay

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  6. 6
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    Danny Pino, Anthony Green

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  7. 7
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  8. 8
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    Lloyd Sherr, Harlan Saperstein, Franklin D. Roosevelt

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  9. 9
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    Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Stoney Emshwiller

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  10. 10
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    Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

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  11. 11
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    Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland, Mike Morrell

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  12. 12
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    - 16


    Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

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  13. 13
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    Joan Lunden, Peter Graves, David Hart Smith

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


  15. 15
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    Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus

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  16. 16
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    Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy, Lane Smith

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  17. 17
    + 17
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    J.V. Martin^! Daniel Martinez^! Mike Sode

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  18. 18
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  19. 19
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    Don Morrow, Neil Ross, Kieran Mulroney

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  20. 20
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    Penn Jillette, Teller, George W. Bush

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  21. 21
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  22. 22
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    - 5


    James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call, Bob Featherer

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  23. 23
    + 15
    - 7


    Will Lyman, Arun Rath, Sarah Childress

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  24. 24
    + 7
    - 1

    added by looksharp
    Dan Rather, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

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  25. 25
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    new!

  26. 26
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    Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

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  27. 27
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    Stephen Fry

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  28. 28
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    David Carradine, Keith Carradine

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  29. 29
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    Dave Salmoni

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  30. 30
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    Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe, Derek Acorah

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  31. 31
    + 15
    - 11


    Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo, Ben Hansen

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  32. 32
    + 11
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    Jaromír Hanzlík

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  33. 33
    + 9
    - 5

    added by looksharp
    Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

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  34. 34
    + 15
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    Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat, Bill Nighy

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  35. 35
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    - 9


    Linda Blair^! Zelda Rubinstein^! Alan Robson

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  36. 36
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    Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise

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  37. 37
    + 12
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    Liev Schreiber

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  38. 38
    + 12
    - 9


    Michael Palin

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  39. 39
    + 10
    - 7


    Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

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  40. 40
    + 8
    - 5


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  41. 41
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    Alisdair Simpson, Ron Perlman, Khyber Zaffarkhan

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  42. 42
    + 12
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    Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson, Eddie Kennison

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  43. 43
    + 11
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    Laura Dakin, Molly Kendall, Luke Van Horn

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  44. 44
    + 2
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    No image

    added by Ferry73

  45. 45
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    - 6


    Edward R. Murrow

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  46. 46
    + 15
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    Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

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  47. 47
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    - 1
    No image

    added by Ferry73

  48. 48
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    added by looksharp
    Wayne Carini, David Gooding, McKeel Hagerty

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  49. 49
    + 8
    - 7


    Robert Leigh

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  50. 50
    + 7
    - 6


    Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman

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