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.
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.
Health care workers and patients combat the COVID-19 outbreak during a lockdown in Wuhan, China.... [More]
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.
A groundbreaking summer camp galvanizes teens who have disabilities.... [More]
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.
A filmmaker and her elderly father stage his death in various ways to help them face his inevitable demise.... [More]
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.
Journalists uncover health care fraud in the wake of a deadly nightclub fire in Bucharest, Romania, in 2015.... [More]
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.
Public health officials discuss the U.S. government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.... [More]
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.
Filmmaker Sam Pollard examines the U.S. government surveillance of Martin Luther King Jr., based on recently declassified files.... [More]
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.
Entrepreneur Fox Rich spends the last two decades campaigning for the release of her husband, Rob G. Rich, who is... [More]
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.
Filmmakers Liz Garbus and Lisa Cortes examine the history of voter suppression and the activists who fight for the rights... [More]
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.
Puerto Rican astrologer and psychic Walter Mercado discusses his life, career and post-fame seclusion.... [More]
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.
Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman examines the rich history of Boston City Hall.... [More]