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: 103.628%
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.
This documentary captures the struggles of patients and frontline medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.533%
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.
In the early 1970s, teenagers with disabilities faced a future shaped by isolation, discrimination and institutionalization. Camp Jened, a ramshackle... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.25%
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 lifetime of making documentaries has convinced award-winning filmmaker Kirsten Johnson of the power of the real. But now she's... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.666%
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.
Directed by Alexander Nanau (TOTO AND HIS SISTERS), COLLECTIVE follows a heroic team of journalists as they uncover shocking, widespread... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.769%
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.
At this moment 190,000 Americans have died from COVID-19. From July 15 to August 31, the death toll was running... [More]
Adjusted Score: 103.561%
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.
J. Edgar Hoover hated Martin Luther King. He was convinced the civil rights movement was infiltrated by communists. He also... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.525%
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.
Fox Rich is a fighter. The entrepreneur, abolitionist and mother of six boys has spent the last two decades campaigning... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.069%
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.
All In: The Fight for Democracy examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.833%
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.
Dazzling and tender-hearted, legendary astrologer Walter Mercado vanished at the peak of his fame. This documentary poignantly explains what happened.... [More]
Adjusted Score: 101.833%
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.
Master documentarian Frederick Wiseman delivers an epic look at Boston's city government, covering racial justice, housing, climate action, and more.... [More]