Documentary The Best Documentary TV Shows

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List Rules 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.

1
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Planet Earth is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Planet Earth Sigourney Weaver

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2
+ - 41 7
Forensic Files is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Forensic Files Dayle Hinman, Peter Thomas Roy Shuler

3
+ - 47 20
Dirty Jobs is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky Doug Glover

4
+ - 32 10
I Shouldn't Be Alive is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
I Shouldn't Be Alive Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers Tom McKay

5
+ - 28 7
Cold Case Files is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cold Case Files Danny Pino, Anthony Green

6
+ - 35 14
Nova is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Nova Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman Craig Sechler

7
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Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

8
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Wild Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

9
+ - 38 21
No Reservations is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
No Reservations Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

10
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Modern Marvels is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Modern Marvels Lloyd Sherr, Harlan Saperstein Franklin D. Roosevelt

11
+ - 16 3
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan Stoney Emshwiller

12
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Biography is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Biography Joan Lunden, Peter Graves David Hart Smith

13
+ - 31 17
River Monsters is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
River Monsters Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

14
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Destination Truth is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Destination Truth Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland Mike Morrell

15
+ - 25 14
Antiques Roadshow is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Antiques Roadshow Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon Arthur Negus

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16
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E! True Hollywood Story is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
E! True Hollywood Story Don Morrow, Neil Ross Kieran Mulroney

17
+ - 15 5
The FBI Files is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The FBI Files James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call Bob Featherer

18
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Unsolved History is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Unsolved History J.V. Martin^! Daniel Martinez^! Mike Sode

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From the Earth to the Moon is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
From the Earth to the Moon Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy Lane Smith

20
+ - 29 19
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Penn Jillette, Teller George W. Bush

21
+ - 19 11
Who Do You Think You Are? is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

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30 for 30 is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
30 for 30 Dan Rather, Magic Johnson Michael Jordan

23
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Intervention is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Intervention Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

24
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Frontline is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Frontline Will Lyman, Arun Rath Sarah Childress

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+ - 17 10
In Search of... is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

26
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Planet Earth 2 is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

27
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1000 Ways to Die is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
1000 Ways to Die Alisdair Simpson, Ron Perlman Khyber Zaffarkhan

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Scariest Places on Earth is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Scariest Places on Earth Linda Blair^! Zelda Rubinstein^! Alan Robson

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Animal Precinct is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Precinct Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

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Fact or Faked: Paranormal File... is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo Ben Hansen

31
+ - 13 9
Wild West Tech is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Wild West Tech David Carradine, Keith Carradine

32
+ - 13 9
Most Haunted is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Most Haunted Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe Derek Acorah

33
+ - 13 9
Secrets of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Secrets of the Dead Liev Schreiber

34
+ - 12 8
Stephen Fry in America is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

35
+ - 11 8
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage Jaromír Hanzlík

36
+ - 9 5
Animal Face-Off is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Face-Off Dave Salmoni

37
+ - 9 6
American Masters is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
American Masters Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney William Hurt

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+ - 9 6
Deadliest Warrior is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

39
+ - 15 12
Meerkat Manor is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Meerkat Manor Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat Bill Nighy

40
+ - 13 11
Hard Knocks is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Hard Knocks Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson Eddie Kennison

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+ - 12 10
Pole to Pole is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Pole to Pole Michael Palin

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+ - 13 10
The West is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The West Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow Gary Sinise

43
+ - 11 9
Whale Wars is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Whale Wars Laura Dakin, Molly Kendall Luke Van Horn

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The Dark Side of Fame with Pie... is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The Dark Side of Fame with Piers Morgan Piers Morgan, Jason Donovan Chantelle Houghton

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American Hot Rod is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
American Hot Rod Mike Curtis, Boyd Coddington Mike Rowe

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Animal Cops: Houston is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Cops: Houston Robert Leigh

47
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The Jinx: The Life and Deaths ... is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst Robert Durst, Andrew Jarecki Gary Napoli

48
+ - 3 3
What Not to Wear is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
What Not to Wear Stacy London, Clinton Kelly Carmindy

49
+ - 2 2
Chasing Classic Cars is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Chasing Classic Cars Wayne Carini, David Gooding McKeel Hagerty

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Life is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows