20 of the Best SHOWTIME Documentaries to Stream

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SHOWTIME

A bit of an underrated channel and streaming service, SHOWTIME is home to some of the most under-the-radar yet incredible stories, from original series and films to documentaries. While it may not have as limitless of a number of documentaries as platforms like HBO Max and Netflix, what SHOWTIME truly succeeds in is having incredibly niche, outstandingly well-done films and series that cover topics in inventive ways. In no specific order, these 20 docuseries and films perfectly showcase those attributes.

1. "You're Watching Video Music Box"

The iconic WNYC TV show, Video Music Box, is at least partially responsible for putting a number of hip-hop artists on the map in the mid-1980s. Its host, Ralph McDaniels, walks us through the history of the show, including the influence it had on artists and viewers alike.

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2. "The Fourth Estate"

A deep dive into the powers of the "fourth estate" of government (the press), this docuseries focuses on The New York Times and their fight for the right to publish the truth in a time when the truth was being lambasted in America. A few of the notable writers and editors tracked include Dean Bacquet, Elisabeth Bumiller, Maggie Haberman, Michael Schmidt, and Yamiche Alcindor.

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3. "Amy"

Using rare archival footage and interviews of the late Amy Winehouse, Amy showcases who she really was, between both her personality and innate musical talent. The documentary follows Winehouse from her teenage years and acquiring a record deal to when things started taking a negative turn. The film also focuses in on the media's impact on her life and how it ultimately played a role in her 2011 death.

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4. "Shangri-La"

Highlighting Rick Rubin's iconic Shangri-La studios in Malibu, California, Shangri-La is a docuseries that compiles interviews with Rubin and other notable artists as they discuss the art of music-making. Tyler, the Creator, David Lynch, and Flea are just a few of the artists who speak to the process, as well as other assistants at the studio who pop in and add in their two cents.

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5. "Gossip"

A spotlight on the New York Post's Page Six section, Gossip is all about Cindy Adams, an iconic gossip columnist for the newspaper who was one of the pioneers of the topic within journalism. The series also focuses on Rupert Murdoch's acquisition of the paper and how gossip became such a mainstream part of the paper under his leadership.

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6. "Belushi"

Known for his documentary profiles, director R.J. Cutler takes on John Belushi, the famed comedian who lead a successful career yet died of a drug overdose. Instead of focusing on those more publicized details of the comedian, Belushi is about the man who existed behind all of that, paying special attention to his personal side of him.

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7. "Oasis: Supersonic"

The band that took the 1990s by storm, Oasis is covered in great depth in Oasis: Supersonic, which tracks the band from its early days to its ultimate widespread acclaim. Combining footage from their concerts and rare film of the bandmates, the documentary creates a fuller picture of things, allowing viewers to see the moments between the Gallagher brothers that ultimately led to the band's demise.

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8. "UFO"

Just about everyone questions the validity of UFOs at one point or another in their lifetime. UFO compiles information and questions how much the government and private companies are hiding about the topic. Created by J.J. Abrams's production company, Bad Robot Productions, the docuseries also explores why we—as humans—are still so interested in the subject after all of these years.

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9. "Action"

This four-part docuseries tracks the ever-expanding world of sports betting, including the history behind making it a legalized part of life in America. On top of the legal side of things, the film highlights various gamblers and bookies during the 2018 season of football, showing in real-time what it's like to have sports gambling be such a main part of one's life.

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10. "The Comedy Store"

The iconic West Hollywood comedy club is explored in its eponymous documentary, The Comedy Store, which is hosted by Mike Binder. Comprised of interviews with well-known comedians and alongside an extensive history of the club, it becomes extremely apparent why it has had the effect it has over the past 50 or so years.

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11. "Ricky Powell: The Individualist"

Focusing on street photographer Ricky Powell, Ricky Powell: The Individualist highlights his beginnings on the scene and how he established himself as a talented culture photographer. Having taken photographs of many notable figures from the '80s and '90s, Powell has earned his spot, most well-known for taking pictures of people including Jean-Michel Basquiat and The Beastie Boys.

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12. "The Real Charlie Chaplin"

While most everyone knows Charlie Chaplin on the outside, we never really got to know the actual man behind what we saw on film. The Real Charlie Chaplin does an incredible job of filling in the gaps of his more private life with archival film, recordings, and personal movies of the iconic actor.

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13. "Attica"

Attica documents the prison uprising that occurred in upstate New York at Attica Correctional Facility, which resulted in a long standoff between Black and Hispanic inmates. The documentary puts the incident in context with the prison system as a whole, focusing on what reform needs to occur and how things largely remain the same since the time of the uprising in 1971.

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14. "Rolling Like Thunder"

Going deep into the world of freight train graffiti, Rolling Like Thunder touches on quite a few masked individuals along with their thoughts and processes that go into the art. It not only focuses on graffiti art but also the overall culture of the scene, which is fitted with various crews and notorious individuals who risk their lives for the sake of the art.

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15. "Cusp"

Cusp is a talking-focused documentary, exploring the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of three teenagers, Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn, during a Texas summer. They hang out in a park and other places, talking deeply about what it's like to be a teenage girl in America at this time; a huge theme is how abnormal everything feels to them.

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16. "Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men"

Although there have been other documentaries about the Wu-Tang Clan, this iteration by SHOWTIME in the form of a docuseries features rare, never before seen footage as well as incredibly honest interviews with the group. The nine surviving members discuss what it was like to overcome their pasts and build on their future, all while balancing their connections with each other and the tougher business side of things.

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17. "Whitney: Can I Be Me"

Whitney: Can I Be Me is a much more uncensored look into who has long been hailed the greatest voice of all time: Whitney Houston. The documentary reveals some of the innermost portions of Houston, weaving together backstage films, rare performances, and interviews to paint a fuller portrait of the singer.

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18. "A Season With"

Each season of this docuseries features an in-depth look into a college's football season, with each school changing with each season of the show. So far, the series has covered Notre Dame, Florida State, and the United States Naval Academy: three massive schools in the football league, yet each has a different approach to playing and coaching football.

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19. "Sisters With Transistors"

As most of the more well-known music producers are largely men, Sisters With Transistors highlights the many women involved with pioneering the art of electronic music. Not only does the film focus on each woman involved, but it places things in a larger context within the 20th century and how women were regarded both as a whole and inside the industry itself.

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20. "Shut Up and Dribble"

As the title is taken from a comment that Laura Ingraham made about LeBron James, Shut Up and Dribble tackles the new roles that athletes are taking on with various political and cultural views within America. The three-part docuseries explores how athletes are now in a place to carve out who they are as themselves and what they believe in, as opposed to simply being players on a team.

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