Best ways to get your hands on the best documentaries online
They say watching documentaries broadens your mind but also improves compassion, with different backgrounds and offering insight into touching stories more often than not. Still, finding movies in line with your preferences and getting your hands on them may prove a tough task on occasion. With that in mind, we overview the best places where you can watch free documentaries online with genuine insight into what we like about them and what we don’t.
Top Documentary Films
Since its humble beginnings in 2007, Top Documentary Films was focused on the community. The once-blog is still largely revolved around ratings as well as the discussion, which many have recognized. TDF reports a staggering 1.5 million views a month and this certainly makes it one of the top havens for documentary aficionados.
With over 3,000 documentaries on the offer, most of them are hosted elsewhere. Still, the site offers well-categorized content which you can browse through 25 categories, search by keywords, or sort by user ratings and number of comments if you are looking for what’s trending.
Top Documentary Films has seen criticism for their moderation over the years. We have seen a fairly open discussion and following rules should keep you in the clear. It is worth noting the design is not out of this world but it’s rather easy to navigate, with everything at hand including top picks to catch your eye if you’re only browsing.
Documentary Heaven is a long-standing big gun as well and while you may argue it is quite similar in design, we really liked this setup. It offers a darker theme that we found easy on the eyes and the only real design-related objection we have had is that some fonts could be bigger in size.
Documentary Heaven has seen really good ratings among video-sharing sites by many independent reviewers, despite the fact none of the content is directly hosted. The site provides real value and synopses we’ve seen actually made life easier, speeding up the search for new docs to watch.
We did notice spelling and generally bad writing on more than one occasion, though, and this is our main complaint about Documentary Heaven. It does provide all the info you might need and is easy to navigate – whether you know what you’re looking for, or want to see what’s the newest take on 9/11.
Films For Action
Films For Action has a huge community of documentary lovers too with over 835,000 followers on Facebook. Described as a “library for people who want to change the world”, FFA focuses on short films just as much as documentaries with over 150 pay-per-view docs added to the lot.
The site offers a rock-solid design and is certainly an enjoyable bit of the web, generally thought of as a great place for activists. The approach as it is offers fewer categories to browse but has 34 very specific topics you can explore, such as Cities, Drug Prohibition, Human Rights, and Consumerism.
Still, it’s important to note the range of documentary films available is not enormous, with about 1,000 titles to choose from. We found ourselves into a topic and having to browse documentary torrent sites to fully explore our interest once hooked to a series of similar titles.
We actually enjoyed Documentary Tube’s clean and simplistic design. Designed in black and white with big font to tell it all, the site makes it rather easy to explore and watch what you want. A relative newcomer to the market, Documentary Tube could need more to impress and beat competitors.
The top menu bar has a Discover feature that we loved, with something new every time we popped back to the site. Aside from a number of categories you can choose from, Documentary Tube has a built-in search engine as well as a Top 100 list with some of the all-time favorites.
Documentary Tube also has a nice little section with articles that often holds trends and takes on current events. There, you can find related videos to build on the reading experience and this touch wins it if it’s make it or break it for a minimalistic yet profound website.
You could think of Documentary24 as an honorable mention on the list, if you wish. The site has all the makes of a great site for free documentaries, with a clean look and a speedy interface very easy to navigate.
Categories at the top make for the most popular picks and have provided an enjoyable amount of content each. The search engine on the right-hand side makes it all easier if you are looking for a specific title or topic, where descriptions and synopses come up if they contain words searched.
While we enjoyed what we saw, our main objection is that new content simply seems to have stopped a few years back. This is certainly something to be wary of if you are looking for a site to keep you coming back on a regular basis.
Final Thoughts: Where Should You Go?
It’s important to tend to your own specific needs and while there are slim margins between sites, they differ greatly in some aspects. Films for Action is bound to awaken your interests in particular topics through their library while Documentary Tube offers a very clean look with weekly articles to back it all up.
Still, when it comes to sheer numbers, it feels like Top Documentary Films is the pace-setter in the industry. On the other hand, Documentary Heaven will often beat TDF in one of their prime focal points – the community. Documentary Heaven can certainly boast a huge number of users and there’s always something to discuss if you are into browsing the comment sections. All said and done, all of the above will likely satisfy the needs of many documentary aficionados more often than not.