Got Some Time To Kill? 4 Sites Filled With Bite-sized Documentaries

Nancy Messieh 31-10-2013

Here at MakeUseOf, you’ll find endless recommendations for stuff to watch online, and a lot of it bite-sized content that you can watch on the go, or kill 10 or 15 minutes at your computer if you have some time to waste. What better way do that then to watch an interesting, educational, and well-made short documentary.


We’ve introduced you to independent movie shorts and documentaries worth watching, six websites packed with short movies, and have even recommended a collection of short TED videos under 5 minutes 8 TED Talks Videos Under 5 Minutes Long You Want to Watch Have five minutes to kill? What better way to spend that time than to watch an fascinating or informative TED Talks video. There's a lot of great content available to watch on TED but sometimes... Read More  you don’t want to miss.

The four sites listed below open up a world of fascinating short documentaries of various genres, but they all have one thing in common — the quality of the films is superior and you’re bound to find something that will appeal to you – no matter your taste.

New York Times Op-Doc

In their own words, New York Times Op-Docs is the “editorial department’s forum for short, opinionated documentaries, produced with wide creative latitude and a range of artistic styles, covering current affairs, contemporary life and historical subjects.” Available to watch for free online on the New York Times Op-Docs video site or through a dedicated Hulu Channel, you can catch up with these fascinating short documentaries on your computer, on the go with your smartphone or tablet, or however else you might get your Hulu fix. The only thing missing at this point is a New York Times Op-Doc app for those who aren’t subscribed to Hulu Plus.

The films bring together a wide variety of films that will enlighten, fascinate, and touch you.  Best of all — you can take part in the conversation as well if you want. If you’re a budding film-maker, you can submit your short documentaries to appear alongside other New York Time’s Op-Docs. To find out more check out their submission guidelines here. (And you don’t need any fancy gear as these six movies shot with an iPhone 6 Short Movies Shot With an iPhone [Stuff to Watch] In addition to being a communication, entertainment and organisational god-send, the iPhone 4 and 4S are fairly capable video recorders. The iPhone Film Festival (IFF), a bi-annual celebration of handheld motion picture goodness, has taken... Read More prove.)

We picked out one video from the many options available, delving a little deeper into the infamous story about the woman who sued McDonalds when she spilled hot coffee on herself. It definitely falls into the enlightening category, one which (ironically) is yet another reminder of the shortcomings of mainstream media:



Vimeo is packed full with fascinating videos and short documentary films are certainly in no shortage on the video sharing site. The only problem is how to sift through that wealth of content to find the short films you want to watch. There are quite a few ways you can go about doing this on Vimeo. You can tune into channels, like the Documentary Film channel, with over 700 videos to choose from. The channel is, however, not entirely dedicated to short films so you will find the occasional one hour plus offering, but with the nature of Vimeo, the channel certainly seems to lean towards shorter films. Other channels worth keeping an eye on include Inspiring Mini DocumentariesArtist/Craftsmen Mini-Documentaries, and Independent Filmmakers.

Aside from channels, Vimeo groups are another way to find interesting documentaries. The group, Mini Documentaries is a good example. As the name of the group indicates, the 50+ videos shared here are all short documentaries. Other groups worth following include Documentary and the Art Pack.

A video we found in the Documentary Film channel gives a glimpse into the dying trade of the icemaker in the mountains of Ecuador:

Films Short

Films Short may not be one of the prettiest sites to look at, but the best thing about it is the fact that it features award-winning short documentaries. If you want to watch Academy Award winning shorts, Sundance winners, Cannes Film Festival winners, and much more, you can. The sections are also divided into animated and film, so you can be sure to get the best of both worlds.


You can also view videos by genres, or country of origin, with a lot of international films to watch on the site. Films Short isn’t exclusively documentaries, and is in fact dominated by short films, but the sheer quality of the films featured on the site make it worth including on the list.

An Oscar-nominated video featured in the documentary section of the site tells the story of Leon Fleisher, a “piano prodigy and conductor, who started playing at the age of four but whose life disintegrated after a hand injury.”


We’ve written about VICE’s documentaries in the past, and as Tim pointed out in his in-depth review on VICE, the documentaries aren’t for the faint of heart. Tim explains it best: “VICE are not known for their professional, Reuters-grade hard journalism but instead a penchant for the seedier, darker, and quirkier aspects of life. While many of these films are not a world away from what you might see on a documentary-heavy cable channel at night, be aware that viewer discretion is advised.”

The YouTube channel seems like the easiest way to keep up with what Vice has to offer, but you can also browse them on the VICE website as well, although we could do without the auto-play feature.


A fascinating VICE video follows photographer Donald Weber “to the buffer zone at Fukushima, Japan, where the eerie silence mirrors that at Chernobyl, and follow him as he attempts to document the unfolding nuclear crisis.”

Looking for more to watch? Check out these eight sites where you can make endless playlists of documentary films Create An Endless Playlist Of Documentary Films To Watch With These 8 Sites We all know how easy it is to waste an inordinate amount of the time on the Internet, not doing much of anything productive. On the flip side, there's a lot of interesting, useful and... Read More to watch. What sites can you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

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    September 17, 2016 at 6:41 am

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  2. Matthew H
    November 30, 2013 at 12:32 am

    I really like the Guardian. They have some pretty incredible documentaries. Also, there's also Journeyman Pictures, who do a lot of documentaries for ABC and SBS in Australia and share them online for free!