TV The Best Documentary TV Shows  

Originally by
6.1k votes 361 voters 57k views 63 items Follow Embed

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.

list ordered by

1
+ - 95 18
Planet Earth is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Planet Earth Sigourney Weaver

TV Shows Canceled Before Their Time The Best Discovery Channel Shows of All Time

2
+ - 54 11
Forensic Files is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Forensic Files Dayle Hinman, Peter Thomas, Roy Shuler

3
+ - 42 10
Cold Case Files is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cold Case Files Danny Pino, Anthony Green

4
+ - 28 4
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Sagan, Stoney Emshwiller

5
+ - 42 15
Nova is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Nova Jay O. Sanders, Lance Lewman, Craig Sechler

6
+ - 30 6
Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

7
+ - 17 2
Planet Earth 2 is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

8
+ - 49 27
Dirty Jobs is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky, Doug Glover

9
+ - 33 13
I Shouldn't Be Alive is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
I Shouldn't Be Alive Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers, Tom McKay

10
+ - 28 9
Wild Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

11
+ - 28 13
Modern Marvels is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Modern Marvels Lloyd Sherr, Harlan Saperstein, Franklin D. Roosevelt

12
+ - 29 13
Biography is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Biography Joan Lunden, Peter Graves, David Hart Smith

13
+ - 41 25
No Reservations is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
No Reservations Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

14
+ - 35 21
River Monsters is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
River Monsters Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

15
+ - 22 9
Unsolved History is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Unsolved History J.V. Martin, Daniel Martinez, Mike Sode

The Best TV Shows Based on Movies 8 TV Actors Who Turned Out Just Like Their Characters

16
+ - 18 6
The FBI Files is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The FBI Files James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call, Bob Featherer

17
+ - 22 10
Destination Truth is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Destination Truth Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland, Mike Morrell

18
+ - 26 17
Antiques Roadshow is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Antiques Roadshow Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus

19
+ - 19 11
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
+ - 24 15
E! True Hollywood Story is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
E! True Hollywood Story Don Morrow, Neil Ross, Kieran Mulroney

21
+ - 26 17
Intervention is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Intervention Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

22
+ - 19 12
In Search of... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

23
+ - 19 11
Frontline is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Frontline Will Lyman, Arun Rath, Sarah Childress

24
+ - 30 22
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Penn Jillette, Teller, George W. Bush

25
+ - 20 14
Who Do You Think You Are? is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

26
+ - 10 5
30 for 30 is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
30 for 30 Dan Rather, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

27
+ - 15 10
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage Jaromír Hanzlík

28
+ - 24 19
1000 Ways to Die is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
1000 Ways to Die Alisdair Simpson, Ron Perlman, Khyber Zaffarkhan

29
+ - 16 11
Scariest Places on Earth is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Scariest Places on Earth Linda Blair^! Zelda Rubinstein^! Alan Robson

The Best TV Shows to Binge Watch The Worst Noises Your Neighbors Make

30
+ - 18 13
Meerkat Manor is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Meerkat Manor Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat, Bill Nighy

31
+ - 17 12
The West is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The West Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise

32
+ - 16 11
Secrets of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Secrets of the Dead Liev Schreiber

33
+ - 11 8
Deadliest Warrior is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

34
+ - 17 15
Fact or Faked: Paranormal File... is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo, Ben Hansen

35
+ - 15 12
Wild West Tech is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Wild West Tech David Carradine, Keith Carradine

36
+ - 15 12
Most Haunted is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Most Haunted Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe, Derek Acorah

37
+ - 10 7
Animal Face-Off is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Face-Off Dave Salmoni

38
+ - 5 3
Life is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

39
+ - 9 8
American Masters is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
American Masters Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

40
+ - 18 18
Ice Road Truckers is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Ice Road Truckers Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

41
+ - 4 3
Cosmos is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

42
+ - 13 13
Pole to Pole is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Pole to Pole Michael Palin

43
+ - 13 13
Hard Knocks is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Hard Knocks Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson, Eddie Kennison

The Best Streaming Netflix TV Shows The Best Current Late Night Shows

44
+ - 11 11
Animal Precinct is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Precinct Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

45
+ - 12 11
Stephen Fry in America is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

46
+ - 12 11
Whale Wars is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Whale Wars Laura Dakin, Molly Kendall, Luke Van Horn

47
+ - 11 11
American Hot Rod is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
American Hot Rod Mike Curtis, Boyd Coddington, Mike Rowe

48
+ - 10 10
Animal Cops: Houston is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Cops: Houston Robert Leigh

49
+ - 4 5
What Not to Wear is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
What Not to Wear Stacy London, Clinton Kelly, Carmindy

50
+ - 5 5
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths ... is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst Robert Durst, Andrew Jarecki, Gary Napoli