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.

#1

76 Days (2020)
100%

#1
Adjusted Score: 104436%
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: Health care workers and patients combat the COVID-19 outbreak during a lockdown in Wuhan, China.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Hao Wu, Weixi Chen

#2

Crip Camp (2020)
100%

#2
Adjusted Score: 104524%
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: A groundbreaking summer camp galvanizes teens who have disabilities.... [More]

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 104036%
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 filmmaker and her elderly father stage his death in various ways to help them face his inevitable demise.... [More]
Directed By: Kirsten Johnson

#4

Collective (2019)
99%

#4
Adjusted Score: 105385%
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: Journalists uncover health care fraud in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania, in 2015.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Alexander Nanau

#5
#5
Adjusted Score: 103652%
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: Public health officials discuss the U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.... [More]

#6

MLK/FBI (2020)
99%

#6
Adjusted Score: 107164%
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: Filmmaker Sam Pollard examines the U.S. government surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., based on recently declassified files.... [More]
Directed By: Sam Pollard

#7

Time (2020)
98%

#7
Adjusted Score: 102861%
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: Entrepreneur Fox Rich spends the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Garrett Bradley

#8
Adjusted Score: 102661%
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: Filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes examine the history of voter suppression and the activists who fight for the rights... [More]
Starring: Stacey Abrams
Directed By: Lisa Cortes, Liz Garbus

#9
Adjusted Score: 102514%
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: Puerto Rican astrologer and psychic Walter Mercado discusses his life, career and post-fame seclusion.... [More]
Starring: Walter Mercado

#10

City Hall (2020)
98%

#10
Adjusted Score: 100545%
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: Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman examines the rich history of Boston City Hall.... [More]
Starring:
Directed By: Frederick Wiseman

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