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There are plenty of ways to watch free documentaries online. So, whether you want to watch documentaries about people, science, history, religion, art, or culture, you’ll always be able to find something on one of the following sites.
1. PBS Videos
US network PBS has produced a stream of high-quality documentaries that you can watch online for free.
The documentary content is divided into four main categories. The categories are Arts and Music, Food, History, and Science and Nature. You can also watch some non-documentary videos in categories like Drama, Home and How To, and Public Affairs.
SnagFilms is a must-have app for anyone who’s serious about cutting the cord. It offers more than 2,000 free documentaries, TV episodes, and original comedy shorts.
If you’re accustomed to the typical genre categories on streaming services, SnagFilms will come as a bit of a shock. Its free documentaries are in categories such as Athletes and Their Triumphs, Veterans and the Military, Before They Were Stars, Refugee and Immigrant Stories, Celebrate Pride, and Climate Change and the Environment.
However, we think the site’s decision to structure its categories in such a way is smart. It makes it much easier to find niche documentaries that you might have otherwise overlooked.
DocumentaryStorm offers a curated list of free documentary movies from other places on the web. All of the videos on the site are feature-length films, so there are no shorts or mini-documentaries.
The usual selection of categories are available, including Art, Biography, Conspiracy, Crime, Environment, History, Money, Politics, Religion, and Science. There are 25 categories in total.
DocumentaryStorm also makes it easy to find documentaries that are worth watching. If you click on the Explore tab, you can see the Top 100 documentaries on the site, a list of the new arrivals, and impressively, a “Surprise Me” feature.
When you hit Surprise Me, DocumentaryStorm will start playing a random documentary from its catalog. It’s a great way to broaden your horizons and learn about topics you wouldn’t typically investigate.
Films for Action has more than 2,000 free documentaries for you to dig into. If you’re interested, the site also has per-view-films and movie trailers available.
The site makes it easy to find stuff to watch. By using the Explore tab, you can filter by topic (40 sections are available), by country of interest, and even by language. In addition to English content, you will also find documentaries in Spanish, German, and Danish.
Film for Action is also one of the few free documentary sites that do not rely on ads. Instead, the company solicits you for donations. The endless requests are a tad tiresome, but it’s still better than having your video interrupted by unskippable interludes.
DocumentaryHeaven takes a similar approach to DocumentaryStorm. It sources free documentary videos from around the web and displays them all on a single website for you to watch.
To find the best documentaries on the site, you can use the Top 100 tab at the top of the page. Alternatively, you can scroll through the various categories by hitting the Browse Documentaries tab. Some of the most popular categories are Health (271 documentaries), History (326), and Science (320).
However, there are also plenty of niche topics that are worth exploring. Some examples include Spirituality (17), Futurism (15), and Evolution (23).
Popcornflix is another site to watch free documentaries. There are around 100 available at any given time, though the list of titles is in a constant state of flux.
The biggest drawback of watching documentaries on Popcornflix is the difficulty of navigating the site.
Because Popcornflix also offers a massive library of free TV shows and movies, all of the documentaries are bundled into a single category. As such, it’s difficult to isolate the sub-genres that you’re interested in—you need to dig through the entire list to find the title you’re looking for.
Like SnagFilms, Spread the Word makes our list of best documentary sites thanks to its unique categories. They are all hyper-specific, meaning you can easily narrow down a list of videos that you’re interested in watching.
Some of the unique categories on offer include Consciousness, Civil Rights, Corporatism, Global Elite, Hidden History, Human Rights, and Media.
You don’t need an account to watch free documentaries on Spread the Word, but if you do sign up, you will be able to make customized playlists and share them with other people.
The Internet Archive often pops up on lists like these, and with good reason. It is one of the best places to watch classic documentaries online.
Sadly, the site does not have a standalone documentary category. You will have to manually search for any videos you want.
YouTube deserves a mention. As you’d expect, you can find thousands of free documentaries on the platform. They are produced by everyone from big-name studios to smaller independent documentary makers.
To make sure you see the best documentaries on YouTube, you should subscribe to YouTube’s official Documentary Films topic. Sure, it’s only going to scratch the surface of what’s available on the site, but it will give you a neverending stream of videos to enjoy.
10. Use Free Trials on Netflix and Hulu
And remember, most paid sites also offer free trials. So, if you want to watch new documentaries (like 2019’s Leaving Neverland) for free, why not sign up? As long as you cancel before your trial expires, it won’t cost you a dime.
More Documentaries Worth Watching
No matter your interests, our list of the best sites to watch free documentaries has something for everyone. And if you’d like to know what documentaries are worth watching, here are the must-see documentaries about the universe and the best travel documentaries on Netflix.