TV 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.

list ordered by

1
102 20
Planet Earth is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Planet Earth Sigourney Weaver

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2
60 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
49 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
32 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
34 6
Making a Murderer is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Making a Murderer Steven Avery, Brendan Dassey, Dean Strang

6
44 16
Nova is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Nova Jay O. Sanders^! Lance Lewman^! Craig Sechler

7
55 29
Dirty Jobs is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky, Doug Glover

8
37 14
I Shouldn't Be Alive is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
I Shouldn't Be Alive Sebastian Knapp, Eric Meyers, Tom McKay

9
22 4
Planet Earth 2 is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

10
29 10
Wild Kingdom is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

11
30 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
43 26
No Reservations is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
No Reservations Marc Summers, Lee Anne Wong

13
38 22
River Monsters is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
River Monsters Jeremy Wade, Daniel Göz

14
21 7
The FBI Files is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The FBI Files James Kallstrom, Anthony D. Call, Bob Featherer

15
30 15
Biography is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Biography Joan Lunden, Peter Graves, David Hart Smith

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16
24 10
Destination Truth is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Destination Truth Josh Gates, Gabriel Copeland, Mike Morrell

17
21 11
From the Earth to the Moon is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
From the Earth to the Moon Tom Hanks, Nick Searcy, Lane Smith

18
23 11
Unsolved History is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Unsolved History J.V. Martin, Daniel Martinez, Mike Sode

19
29 18
Antiques Roadshow is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Antiques Roadshow Bruce Parker, Angela Rippon, Arthur Negus

20
21 12
In Search of... is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

21
22 12
Frontline is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

22
25 16
E! True Hollywood Story is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
E! True Hollywood Story Don Morrow, Neil Ross, Kieran Mulroney

23
22 15
Who Do You Think You Are? is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

24
26 20
1000 Ways to Die is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
1000 Ways to Die Alisdair Simpson, Ron Perlman, Khyber Zaffarkhan

25
11 6
30 for 30 is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
looksharp added 30 for 30 Dan Rather, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan

26
26 19
Intervention is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Intervention Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

27
31 24
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Penn Jillette, Teller, George W. Bush

28
16 11
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Cosmos: A Personal Voyage Jaromír Hanzlík

29
13 8
Deadliest Warrior is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

The Best Time Travel TV Shows, Ranked The Biggest Turn Ons in a Person

30
18 12
Scariest Places on Earth is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Scariest Places on Earth Linda Blair, Zelda Rubinstein, Alan Robson

31
17 12
Secrets of the Dead is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Secrets of the Dead Liev Schreiber

32
18 15
Fact or Faked: Paranormal File... is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files Austin Porter, Jael De Pardo, Ben Hansen

33
17 13
The West is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
The West Matthew Broderick, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise

34
16 12
Most Haunted is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Most Haunted Yvette Fielding, Ciarán O'Keeffe, Derek Acorah

35
11 9
American Masters is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
looksharp added American Masters Julianna Margulies, Laura Linney, William Hurt

36
18 15
Meerkat Manor is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Meerkat Manor Flower the Meerkat, Mozart the Meerkat, Bill Nighy

37
11 8
Animal Face-Off is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Face-Off Dave Salmoni

38
15 13
Wild West Tech is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Wild West Tech David Carradine, Keith Carradine

39
5 4
Life is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Ferry73 added Life

40
5 4
Cosmos is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Ferry73 added Cosmos

41
14 14
Pole to Pole is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Pole to Pole Michael Palin

42
13 12
Stephen Fry in America is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

43
12 11
Jack the Ripper is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Jack the Ripper Stratford Johns, Frank Windsor

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44
4 4
Chasing Classic Cars is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
looksharp added Chasing Classic Cars

45
13 14
Hard Knocks is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Hard Knocks Zach Thomas, Darren Woodson, Eddie Kennison

46
11 12
Animal Precinct is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Precinct Michael Madsen, Timothy Stack

47
2 1
The Keepers is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows

48
18 20
Ice Road Truckers is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Ice Road Truckers Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

49
12 12
American Hot Rod is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
American Hot Rod Mike Curtis^! Boyd Coddington^! Mike Rowe

50
11 11
Animal Cops: Houston is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Best Documentary TV Shows
Animal Cops: Houston Robert Leigh