Best-Reviewed Documentaries 2020

The eclectic mix of non-fiction stories that were released in theaters, on demand, and via streaming in 2020 proved once again that real-life can be stranger – and often more impressive to critics – than fiction. 76 Days, which chronicles the harrowing first days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, was the best-reviewed doc of the year, followed by the likes of All In: The Fight for Democracy, Crip Camp, and Time, all of which show the power of those who work to bring about change. Politics and the pandemic were rich themes – see MLK/FBI and Totally Under Control – while critics also lauded more personal work, with enormous praise for number 3 on our list, Dick Johnson Is Dead, director Kirsten Johnson’s hilarious love letter to her father, whose struggles with Alzheimer’s she chronicles in a truly unique way.

The order of the rank below reflects the Adjusted Score as of February 28, 2021. Scores might change over time.


76 Days (2020)

Adjusted Score: 103.603%
Critics Consensus: A raw, fly-on-the-wall recounting of hospital life in Wuhan in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, 76 Days is an engrossing and potent documentary - and a surprisingly comforting portrait of humanity.
Synopsis: This documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.... [More]
Directed By: Weixi Chen, Hao Wu

Adjusted Score: 103.556%
Critics Consensus: As entertaining as it is inspiring, Crip Camp uses one group's remarkable story to highlight hope for the future and the power of community.
Synopsis: In the early 1970s, teenagers with disabilities faced a future shaped by isolation, discrimination and institutionalization. Camp Jened, a ramshackle... [More]

Adjusted Score: 103.227%
Critics Consensus: Dick Johnson Is Dead celebrates a life with bittersweet humor and grace, offering a deeply resonant perspective on mortality in the bargain.
Synopsis: A lifetime of making documentaries has convinced award-winning filmmaker Kirsten Johnson of the power of the real. But now she's... [More]
Directed By: Kirsten Johnson

Adjusted Score: 103.73%
Critics Consensus: Collective presents a darkly effective overview of the cycle of political corruption and public cynicism that takes hold when government abrogates its responsibility to the people.
Synopsis: Directed by Alexander Nanau (TOTO AND HIS SISTERS), COLLECTIVE follows a heroic team of journalists as they uncover shocking, widespread... [More]
Directed By: Alexander Nanau

Adjusted Score: 102.79%
Critics Consensus: Totally Under Control does a commendable job of distilling current events into a clear-eyed overview that's as engaging as it is enraging.
Synopsis: At this moment 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. From July 15 to August 31, the death toll was running... [More]


MLK/FBI (2021)

Adjusted Score: 103.463%
Critics Consensus: MLK/FBI presents a sobering overview of the American intelligence community's efforts to discredit and destroy a leader of the civil rights movement.
Synopsis: J. Edgar Hoover hated Martin Luther King. He was convinced the civil rights movement was infiltrated by communists. He also... [More]
Directed By: Samuel D. Pollard


Time (2020)

Adjusted Score: 102.636%
Critics Consensus: Time delivers a powerful broadside against the flaws of the American justice system -- and chronicles one family's refusal to give up against all odds.
Synopsis: Fox Rich is a fighter. The entrepreneur, abolitionist and mother of six boys has spent the last two decades campaigning... [More]
Starring: Fox Rich
Directed By: Garrett Bradley

Adjusted Score: 102.053%
Critics Consensus: All In: The Fight for Democracy lives up to its title as a galvanizing rallying cry for voters to exercise -- and preserve -- their right to be heard.
Synopsis: All In: The Fight for Democracy examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States... [More]
Directed By: Lisa Cortés, Liz Garbus

Adjusted Score: 101.865%
Critics Consensus: An absorbing and affectionate tribute to a unique individual, Mucho Mucho Amor should prove fascinating for Walter Mercado fans as well as first-timers.
Synopsis: Dazzling and tender-hearted, legendary astrologer Walter Mercado vanished at the peak of his fame. This documentary poignantly explains what happened.... [More]


City Hall (2020)

Adjusted Score: 101.818%
Critics Consensus: A glimpse of local government at work that's as patiently observant as it is engrossing, City Hall adds another insightful gem to master documentarian Frederick Wiseman's filmography.
Synopsis: Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman delivers an epic look at Boston's city government, covering racial justice, housing, climate action, and more.... [More]
Starring: Marty Walsh
Directed By: Frederick Wiseman

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