Documentaries are hot right now. Whether you’re watching President Obama narrate Our Great National Parks with your kids, baking in the schadenfreude of Bad Vegan, or learning about culture and history through movies like What Happened Miss Simone?, it’s clear that documentaries are every bit as riveting as scripted entertainment.
I’m not surprised, considering I’m a sucker for a great documentary too. So I’ve loved the website CuriosityStream, which features more than a thousand truly high-quality, well-produced, documentaries — all of them streamed to you without commercials.
This post has been updated for 2023
The documentaries on CuriosityStream skew more educational and fact-based than the pop-culture docs you’ll see on Netflix, but that’s fantastic for kids — and adults — who are fascinated by the true stories about topics as diverse as volcanoes, Mars, D-Day, Stonehenge, viking women, or the man who murdered Sherlock Holmes.
There are full length features, as well as episodic series ready for your binge-watching pleasure, including some Curiosity originals. And they’re amazingly well-curated; not surprising considering the founder was the former chairman of Discovery.
To find a movie, you can search by any topic or browse their categories — science, technology, civilization and human spirit — with dozens of subcategories in each one. There’s even an entirely new category of documentaries just for kids. (That includes Crash Course History — a nice way to let your younger kids watch without handing over the keys to YouTube.)
Then, watch online on your computer, phone or tablet, or stream through their app if you have a Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku PS4, Xbox and more.
Doing my own quick search, I think that Transhumanism, which imagines what our future with technology will be like, sounds fascinating. My animal-loving son has enjoyed watching Operation Doolittle with me, which examines the noises animals make to see if there are language patterns there. And then, for you movie buffs, there’s a whole documentary series on Great Film Composers to help you understand the relationship between music and what you see on the big screen. Or if you fell in love with the Halston series a few years back, you might appreciate the behind-the-scenes scoop on Inside Dior, narrated by the incredible Olivia Coleman.
One complaint however: we’re searching for “Black History” with Black History Month coming up, and the search algorithm is giving us a lot of unrelated content. the selection is surprisingly limited. Search for Lincoln or Slavery and you get more options, but we’re all hoping that they add a richer selection of Black History stories to their American History category.
Now of course you have to be a serious docu buff to spend the $2.50 a month for a documentary-only service (down from the original $2.99 at its launch), when of course there are so many options on other streaming services you might have. But considering you can easily watch through companion services you already probably have, you’ll definitely get our money’s worth, even if you watch one film a month. And it’s still less than even a single rental on a service like YouTube or Amazon.
Plus, engaging educational documentaries are a nice alternative if you’re snowed in with the kids and about to lose it. Not that I’d know anything about that.
Subscribe to CuriosityStream via their site or Apple App Store or Google Play. It’s $2.50 per month for unlimited, commercial-free documentaries, or $29.99/year if paid upfront. You can also check out Curiosity Stream Premium, which gives you 7 channels like DaVinci Kids and One Day University for $69.99/year ($410 if ordered separately) or $5.84/mo.