The Best Documentary TV Shows

5.6k votes 239 voters 48k 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
    + 68
    - 12


    Sigourney Weaver

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  2. 2
    + 36
    - 7


    Dayle Hinman, Peter Thomas, Roy Shuler

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  3. 3
    + 45
    - 17

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

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  4. 4
    + 32
    - 12


    Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman, Craig Sechler

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  5. 5
    + 24
    - 7


    Danny Pino, Anthony Green

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  6. 6
    + 26
    - 9


    Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers, Tom McKay

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  7. 7
    + 25
    - 9


    Lloyd Sherr, Harlan Saperstein, Franklin D. Roosevelt

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  8. 8
    + 23
    - 6


    ;
  9. 9
    + 36
    - 20


    Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

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  10. 10
    + 22
    - 9


    Joan Lunden, Peter Graves, David Hart Smith

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  11. 11
    + 27
    - 15


    Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

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  12. 12
    + 24
    - 13


    Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus

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  13. 13
    + 19
    - 7


    Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland, Mike Morrell

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  14. 14
    + 19
    - 10
    ;
  15. 15
    + 17
    - 7


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

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  16. 16
    + 10
    - 2


    Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Stoney Emshwiller

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  17. 17
    + 16
    - 8


    Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy, Lane Smith

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  18. 18
    + 22
    - 12


    Don Morrow, Neil Ross, Kieran Mulroney

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  19. 19
    + 17
    - 9


    ;
  20. 20
    + 27
    - 18


    Penn Jillette, Teller, George W. Bush

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  21. 21
    + 15
    - 7


    Will Lyman, Arun Rath, Sarah Childress

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  22. 22
    + 12
    - 5


    James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call, Bob Featherer

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  23. 23
    + 8
    - 3
    Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


  24. 24
    + 20
    - 14


    Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

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  25. 25
    + 18
    - 14


    Alisdair Simpson, Ron Perlman, Khyber Zaffarkhan

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  26. 26
    + 5
    - 1

    added by looksharp
    Dan Rather, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

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  27. 27
    + 14
    - 10


    Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo, Ben Hansen

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  28. 28
    + 13
    - 8


    David Carradine, Keith Carradine

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  29. 29
    + 12
    - 7


    Stephen Fry

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  30. 30
    + 9
    - 5

    added by looksharp
    Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

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  31. 31
    + 12
    - 9


    Michael Palin

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  32. 32
    + 9
    - 6


    Jaromír Hanzlík

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  33. 33
    + 10
    - 7


    Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

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  34. 34
    + 15
    - 11


    Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat, Bill Nighy

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  35. 35
    + 13
    - 9


    Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise

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  36. 36
    + 12
    - 8


    Linda Blair^! Zelda Rubinstein^! Alan Robson

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  37. 37
    + 12
    - 8


    Liev Schreiber

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  38. 38
    + 8
    - 4


    Dave Salmoni

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  39. 39
    + 12
    - 10


    Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson, Eddie Kennison

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  40. 40
    + 8
    - 5


    ;
  41. 41
    + 11
    - 8


    Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe, Derek Acorah

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  42. 42
    + 11
    - 8


    Laura Dakin, Molly Kendall, Luke Van Horn

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  43. 43
    + 15
    - 14


    Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

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  44. 44
    + 2
    - 0
    No image

    new!

  45. 45
    + 8
    - 6


    Edward R. Murrow

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  46. 46
    + 8
    - 7


    Robert Leigh

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  47. 47
    + 1
    - 0

    added by looksharp
    Wayne Carini, David Gooding, McKeel Hagerty

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  48. 48
    + 7
    - 6
    Long Way Round is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows


    Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman

  49. 49
    + 7
    - 6


    Bill Kerr

    ;
  50. 50
    + 7
    - 6


    Kate Humble, Simon King, Chris Packham

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64 +

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