My Favorite 37 Documentaries — Features and Short Films That Cover High Performance, Overcoming Failure, Creative Process, Psychedelics, Trauma, and Much More

Photo by Todd White

The below 37 documentaries have shaped my thinking and changed my behavior over the last several years. I revisit them often.

They were all featured in 5-Bullet Friday, my free weekly newsletter, which I send out each Friday to ~1.5–2M subscribers. Each edition describes the coolest things I’ve found or explored that week in five short bullet points. This often includes books, gadgets, tricks from experts, articles, and weird stuff from all over the world.  

I hope you enjoy the following gems as much as I have…


March 4, 2022

The River Runner (Netflix, Amazon, more options). This jumped to the top of my to-watch list, thanks to Brad Ludden of First Descents, a world-class waterman in his own right and associate producer on this film. Here’s the trailer. Kudos to director Rush Sturges (@rushsturges), writers Thayer Walker (@inkdwell), Corinna Halloran (@corinnahalloran), and the whole team. This Outside feature by Thayer and Scott Lindgren, the documentary’s protagonist, became a model for the film: “After a Hard Diagnosis, One Athlete Learns to Soften Up.”

January 7, 2022

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Amazon, Apple TV). Description: “Werner Herzog’s award-winning 2011 doc is a thrilling study of 32,000-year-old cave paintings recently discovered in Southern France.” It has 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and you can watch the trailer here

December 17, 2021

The Alpinist (Amazon, Netflix, Apple TV, YouTube, Google Play). If you want an incredible infusion of wonder and adrenaline, this doc delivers. It’s stunning. Description: “Marc-André Leclerc climbs alone, far from the limelight. On remote alpine faces, the free-spirited 23-year-old Canadian makes some of the boldest solo ascents in history. Yet, he draws scant attention. With no cameras, no rope, and no margin for error, Leclerc’s approach is the essence of solo adventure. Nomadic and publicity shy, he doesn’t own a phone or car and is reluctant to let a film crew in on his pure vision of climbing…” Even if you don’t watch the full doc, be sure to watch the short trailer here. Special thanks to Peter Mortimer (@SenderFilms) and Nick Rosen (@finsterbone) for including audio from The Tim Ferriss Show in this beautiful film.

November 26, 2021

Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain (Amazon, YouTube, Apple TV) from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville. I watched this on a flight and deeply appreciated the nuanced portrayal. The archival and outtake footage alone make it well worth watching. The official description: “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at how an anonymous chef who lived his life unabashedly became a world-renowned cultural icon.” Find the trailer here. There are certainly lessons to be learned from the light and the dark, and this film raises important questions for me. For example: How can you safely learn from—or emulate—certain characteristics of tortured outliers without also inadvertently absorbing beliefs and behaviors that contributed to their deep inner pain? Tony’s story is inspiring, incredible, and tragic, and this film does an admirable job of capturing all three.

November 5, 2021

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski. This doc is amazing and bizarre on multiple levels. Here’s the description: “Artists in LA discover the work of forgotten Polish sculptor Stanisław Szukalski, a mad genius whose true story unfolds chapter by astounding chapter.” The documentary was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio (@LeoDiCaprio) and his father George DiCaprio. You can find the trailer here. Thanks to Snapping Turtle for the recommendation.

October 8, 2021

Let Things Rot from the Fungi Foundation. This is gorgeously shot, and it’s worth a five-minute break for the visuals alone. From the description: “The Fungi Foundation is proud to present ‘Let Things Rot,’ a new documentary short directed by Mateo Barrenengoa in collaboration with mycologist and foundation founder Giuliana Furci (@giulifungi). Filmed in Chile’s Araucanía Region, the short delves into fungi’s crucial role as a decomposer, inviting the viewer to reconsider rotting through a new, poetic perspective.”

September 10, 2021

Searching for Sugar Man (Amazon, iTunes/Apple TV, Google Play, YouTube). I’ve had dozens of friends recommend this over the years, and I finally watched it last night. It’s SPECTACULAR. It was exactly the feel-good pick-me-up that I needed. The film’s accolades include 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, a BAFTA Award for Best Documentary, and an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, just to mention a few. Here’s the official description: “Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. After being discovered in a Detroit bar, Rodriguez’s sound struck two renowned producers, and they signed a recording deal. But when the album bombed, the singer disappeared into obscurity. A bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa, and over the next two decades, he became a phenomenon. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to find out what really happened to their hero.” Watch the trailer here.

August 20, 2021

Bird by Bird with Annie. I’ve loved Anne Lamott (@AnneLamott) and her work for more than a decade, and ever since I had her on the podcast, I’ve gone even deeper into the Annieverse. This documentary had just the right blend of humor, humanity, and insight to help me with some difficult emotions this week. Description: “Perhaps best known for her widely celebrated book on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott is one of the rare artists who can teach us not only how to write, but how to live. From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision), BIRD BY BIRD WITH ANNIE offers an intimate portrait of the writer and her craft, interweaving the story of Lamott’s life—in itself a deeply moving tale of addiction and redemption, grief and joy, intellect and faith—with a year’s worth of interviews, public lectures, and readings, and footage of the writer at work, focusing particularly on Lamott’s candid, humorous, and disarmingly straightforward advice on the struggles and joys of writing. In the end, the author’s genuine reassurance and guidance concerning the actual process of writing—which has little resemblance to its glorified image—becomes a stirring call to action that celebrates the potential of each individual, the silencing of our inner critics, and the courage to create something honest, meaningful, and real. Poignant and inspirational, BIRD BY BIRD WITH ANNIE takes us deep into Anne Lamott’s intoxicatingly brave world, one in which writing is a means of finding out who we are, how we live, and why we’re here.” You can find the trailer here.

July 16, 2021

Kokoyakyu: High School Baseball. [Update: currently unavailable for viewing.] This documentary really brings back the memories. It tracks high school competitors and coaches in one of Japan’s deepest passions: baseball. The school uniforms, practices, buildings, customs, etc. are all nearly exactly what I experienced as a 15-year-old exchange student in Tokyo. Natsukashii naaaa! Deep bow to reader Ethan Jacobs (@ethanajacobs) for the suggestion.

June 4, 2021

Magical Death. [Update: currently unavailable for viewing.] It’s a common fiction that indigenous use of psychedelics is entirely focused on healing. In reality, while healing is one common and legitimate use, psychedelic plants have also been weaponized for warfare for centuries, if not millenia. Stated uses include night-vision enhancement, attempts at divination of enemy locations, and “remote attacks.” This video shows an example of the last. Whether or not you believe such things are possible, it demonstrates that human nature—warts and all—is cross-cultural. Description: “A documentary film by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon that explores the role of the shaman within the Yanomamo culture, as well as the close relationship shamanism shares with politics within their society.” Plant medicine does not automagically mean peaceful or harmonious ever after. Humans love power.

March 9, 2021

RBG. Description: “At the age of 85, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has developed a lengthy legal legacy while becoming an unexpected pop culture icon. Explore her unique and unknown personal journey of her rise to the nation’s highest court.” May she rest in peace.

February 12, 2021

Philip Roth: Unmasked” (Amazon, iTunes, PBS). I greatly enjoyed this deep dive into the life, craft, and humor of Philip Roth. My quest to learn more about Philip was sparked by Joyce Carol Oates, one of the most decorated and prodigious American writers of the last century, who spoke about him during our podcast together. Here’s the official description of this interview-rich documentary: “American Masters explores the life and career of Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novelist Philip Roth, often referred to as the greatest living American writer. Reclusive and diffident, Roth grants very few interviews, but for the first time, allowed a journalist to spend 10 days interviewing him on camera.”

January 29, 2021

Guardians of the Amazon. “As the Amazon rainforest faces a crucial tipping point amidst the increase of illegal logging activities, Dan Harris (@danbharris) and his team embed with the Guardians, a small indigenous group taking up arms to hunt down illegal loggers and fight for their land.” For a taste of the action, see the trailer here. This is a topic I care a lot about. For another way to help preserve the ecosystems of the Amazon, which includes both the lungs of the planet and indigenous communities, take a look at the Amazon Conservation Team. For my interview with the co-founder, Mark Plotkin, ethnobotanist and protégé of the legendary Richard Schultes, please click here.

November 20, 2020

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution. This film was just what I needed after a rough day. Short description: “A groundbreaking summer camp galvanizes a group of teens with disabilities to help build a movement, forging a new path toward greater equality.” It has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and won the Sundance Film Festival’s Audience Award earlier this year. You can find the trailer here.

October 23, 2020

Sour Grapes (Amazon, YouTube, iTunes). This film scores ~95% on Rotten Tomatoes, and both the story and its cinematic telling are simply fantastic. Here’s the description: “Controversy erupts when an unassuming young man floods the American wine market with fake vintages valued in the millions, bamboozling the wine world elite, in this humorous and suspenseful tale of an ingenious con on the eve of the 2008 stock market crash.” This is a hilarious and nearly unbelievable case study in factors that make humans vulnerable to deceit, hubris, and more.

September 25, 2020

Burden of Dreams (Amazon, iTunes, The Criterion Channel). This documentary was recommended to me by one of the most phenomenal artists I know, Dustin Yellin, whose wild podcast with me just got released today. Burden of Dreams is a strange and captivating film. It’s a showcase of tackling the impossible, being unrealistic, and failing above others’ successes. On so many levels, the compulsion, single-mindedness, and all-or-nothing drive of legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog makes no sense. And yet… to me, parts of his journey, and parts of his worldview, make all the sense in the world. This is a bizarre one that will only appeal to a small fraction of you, but here’s the official film description, edited for length: “For nearly five years, Werner Herzog worked on one of the most ambitious and difficult films of his career, Fitzcarraldo, the story of one man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. Documentary filmmaker Les Blank captured the unfolding of this production, including a sequence requiring [the pulling of] a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain.”

September 4, 2020

The Work. This documentary tore my heart apart but simultaneously gave me tremendous hope. It strikes me as particularly important for men (or those who want to better understand men) to watch, but the intensity isn’t for everyone. It’s exhausting to watch. Check out this short trailer, and you’ll see what I mean. As one reviewer put it, “The Work is a ‘prison film’ but not as you know it, and yet it is perhaps the most emotionally draining the genre has ever seen…. Set in Folsom prison, a group of men from the outside participate in a group therapy session with convicts, many of them violent offenders. In the space of four days, prisoners and free men alike engage in a weekend of deeply intimate conversations in which they reveal their darkest fears, dangerously repressed memories, and their most complex feelings. The resulting drama is a fascinating exercise in emotional exorcism.” So you’re not caught scratching your head at my recommendation, note that the first 20–30 minutes seem somewhat slow. It picks up at around the 30–35-minute mark.

August 21, 2020

The Last Dance. After weeks of three close friends texting me repeatedly about this series, I finally bit the bullet. I was hesitant, as I’ve never followed basketball nor been drawn to it, but… this is easily one of the best television series of any type that I’ve ever seen. It’s spectacular. Here’s the official description, but it doesn’t reflect the intensity and magic of what you’ll see: “This docuseries chronicles the rise of superstar Michael Jordan and the 1990s Chicago Bulls, with unaired footage from an unforgettable 1997–98 season.”

Huge kudos to director Jason Hehir; the executive producers, including Mike Tollin, John Dahl, Connor Schell, Peter Guber, and Libby Geist; and everyone else who helped create this series. How they digested the overwhelming volume of footage they did to make such tight art is beyond comprehension. The Last Dance was recently nominated in three Emmy categories: Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program, Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program, and Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.

March 28, 2020

DOSED. Highly recommended. I first saw an advanced screener of this film last summer, after which I reached out to the filmmakers with encouragement and feedback. It’s one of the best and most beautifully shot docs I’ve ever seen about psychedelic medicine. It showcases the struggles, misfires, and successes in the concrete jungles near Vancouver instead of in an Amazonian jungle. For me, it was quite emotional, as it shows opioid/opiate addiction firsthand, and my aunt died of a Percocet and alcohol overdose roughly 1.5 years ago. I’ll say it again: highly recommended, and the ending will lift you up. Here’s the official description: “After many years of prescription medications failed her, a suicidal woman turns to underground healers to try and overcome her depression, anxiety, and opioid addiction with illegal psychedelic medicine such as magic mushrooms and iboga. Adrianne’s first dose of psilocybin mushrooms catapulted her into an unexpected world of healing where plant medicines are redefining our understanding of mental health and addiction.”

January 17, 2020

Mike Wallace Is Here. This doc found me at exactly the right time. I’m in the midst of studying many different types of interviewers (Terry Gross vs. Larry King vs. Joe Rogan vs. Charlie Rose vs. James Lipton, etc.) to improve my own game in 2020. Mike is an archetype of the Southern Tiger Claw kung-fu style of interviewing, kicks to the balls included. He can be brutal. And while I wouldn’t duplicate all aspects of his approach, I think there is much to learn. Some of the clips in this doc are tense beyond words. The footage of Mike with Ayatollah Khomeini, as but one example, will make your stomach do flips. Here’s the official description: “For over half a century, 60 Minutes’ fearsome newsman Mike Wallace went head-to-head with the world’s most influential figures. Relying exclusively on archival footage, the film interrogates the interrogator, tracking Mike’s storied career and troubled personal life while unpacking how broadcast journalism evolved to today’s precarious tipping point.” You can find the trailer here. Highly recommended.

December 7, 2019

The Rise of Jordan Peterson (Vimeo, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play; if outside the US, Vimeo is likely easiest due to geo restrictions). I did not expect to like this documentary as much as I did. Prior to watching it, I knew very little of Jordan Peterson (@jordanbpeterson). Here’s the one thing I did know: some friends are fascinated by him and feel he is a brilliant seeker of truth, while others erupt into rage at the mere mention of his name and paint him as an anti-liberal antichrist. I watched this film with a close friend who is both impressed by and skeptical of Jordan, depending on the subject matter and year in question, as Jordan (like all of us) changes over time. In the end, we felt that this documentary—which includes a lot of diehard fans and diehard detractors—pulled off something quite difficult: it painted a compelling picture of a complex, gifted, and imperfect human, complete with paradoxes and uncomfortable questions that linger. My friend and I ended up discussing specific scenes and directorial decisions for days afterward.

Here’s the official description: “A rare, intimate glimpse into the life and mind of Jordan Peterson, the academic and best-selling author who captured the world’s attention with his criticisms of political correctness and his life-changing philosophy on discovering personal meaning. Christened as the most influential public intellectual in the western world, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson skyrocketed to fame after he published a controversial viral video series entitled ‘Professor Against Political Correctness’ in 2016. Within two years, he sold more than three million copies of his self-help book, 12 Rules For Life, and became simultaneously branded by some as an academic rockstar selling out theatres around the world, and by others as a dangerous threat to progressive society.” [Update: You can find my interview with Jordan Peterson here.]

November 16, 2019

Dealt (Amazon, Hulu, Google Play) directed by Luke Korem. This absolutely blew my mind, and I don’t want to spoil it with description. Trust me and watch the short trailer here. Truly amazing. I can’t remember the last time I finished a documentary, only to want to immediately watch it again. I also can’t remember a doc that made me as emotional as this did, pushing me from laughter to tears. It’s a masterful visual biography. [Update: You can find my interview with Richard Turner here.]

November 8, 2019

From Shock to Awe (Vimeo, iTunes, Amazon). If you liked Trip of Compassion, or if you have an interest in psychedelics, ayahuasca, veteran affairs, or healing, take a look at this documentary. I’ve watched it 3x already and highly recommend it. Here is the description: “An intimate and raw look at the transformational journey of two combat veterans suffering from severe trauma (PTSD) as they abandon pharmaceuticals to seek relief through the mind-expanding world of psychedelics.” Even if you don’t watch the film, the two-minute trailer is worth checking out.

July 5, 2019

SOMM (on Amazon and iTunes). I first heard about this doc in blog comments after I interviewed the brilliant and well-tattooed Richard Betts. Richard passed the infamous Court of Master Sommeliers’ Masters Exam on his first attempt, becoming the ninth person in history ever to do so. It’s a Mount Everest BITCH of a test, and only 269 people have passed—in total and globally—over the last 40 years(!). I put off watching this film because I feared it would be too highfalutin for this Long Island boy. Now, having seen it, I’m sorry I didn’t watch SOMM ages ago. It’s a wonderful, brutal, endearing, and hilarious (especially the ball-busting scenes during study sessions) story of a few young men trying to find their place in the world by tackling something incredibly difficult. The editing is spot on, and you’re really cheering for these guys by the end. I loved it.

Here’s the official description: “Four men will do anything to pass the most difficult test you’ve never heard of. The Court of Master Sommeliers is one of the world’s most exclusive organizations with an exam that covers every nuance of the world of wine, spirits and cigars. How much do you think you know about wine? SOMM will make you think again.”

June 21, 2019

The King of Kong. This doc was originally recommended to me by the world’s most interesting man, Kevin Kelly. I’ve watched it every year or two since. The movie is like a real-life Spinal Tap about becoming king of the nerds. Trust me; it’s well worth the watch. Here’s a shortened description: “In the early 1980s, legendary Billy Mitchell set a Donkey Kong record that stood for almost 25 years. This documentary follows the assault on the record by Steve Wiebe, an earnest teacher from Washington who took up the game while unemployed.”

May 24, 2019

Pressure Cooker. This is a real tearjerker, a life-affirming story of a teacher in Philadelphia who trains at-risk high school students to win full scholarships to culinary school. She epitomizes the kind of tough love that I think we need more of in this country, *especially* in these infantilizing times. Official description: “Infamously blunt, Wilma Stephenson runs a ‘boot camp’ teaching Culinary Arts at Frankford High, disciplining her students into capable chefs and responsible students. But behind her tough exterior is a teacher who cares passionately about getting the best out of her kids.”

May 17, 2019

One Strange Rock (“Gasp” episode, specifically). This series is truly incredible. Executive produced by the acclaimed filmmaker Darren Aronofsky (director of Black Swan, producer of The Wrestler, and much more) and hosted by Will Smith (@willsmith), it is unlike any documentary series I’ve ever seen. If interested in digging deeper into Darren’s creative process, you can listen to my interview with him: “Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky — Exploring Creativity, Ignoring Critics, and Making Art.”

May 3, 2019

Kumare. This is one of my favorite documentaries of the last five years. The tagline says it all: “The True Story of a False Prophet.” It blends reality and illusion into an amazing narrative, providing many practical philosophies along the way. Here’s the official description: “A provocative social experiment-turned-documentary, KUMARE follows American filmmaker Vikram Gandhi as he transforms himself into a wise Indian guru, hoping to prove the absurdity of blind faith.”

April 5, 2019

David Hockney: The Art of Seeing. Thanks to reader Jonathan Weitzman (@Epigenetique) for pointing me to this documentary via Twitter. Here’s the description: “David Hockney, widely considered to be Britain’s best-loved living artist, has taken over the Royal Academy [RA] in London with his exhibition A Bigger Picture, made up of recent works depicting the landscape of his native Yorkshire. In this programme, Andrew Marr, a friend of Hockney’s and an amateur painter himself, is in conversation with the artist, both at his home in Bridlington and in the galleries of the RA.”

March 15, 2019

Trip of Compassion. I first watched Trip of Compassion about six months ago, when I was sent a link to a private video. This documentary affected me so deeply (and immediately) that I flew to Tel Aviv, met the filmmakers, and offered to help launch the film digitally worldwide, which I just did this week on this page. Everything I am doing for this film is 100% pro bono, and all proceeds go to the filmmakers. Why would I do this? This quote from an actual patient in the film might give you an idea: “I felt like I went through 15 years of psychological therapy in one night.” Trip of Compassion documents one unusual approach to healing trauma that might astonish you—an innovative treatment involving the psychoactive drug MDMA (commonly known as “ecstasy”). As you will see firsthand, if the therapy is well designed, true rebirth and transformation can happen in a matter of weeks and not years. If you’ve ever felt held back, felt defective in some way, or felt that you’re not living up to your full potential, this film will give you hope. I highly, highly recommend watching and sharing this film. The world needs it.

February 1, 2019

In Search of Greatness. This brand-new doc thematically fits into a lot of the reading I’m currently doing. The official description: “Through the eyes of the greatest athletes of all time, In Search of Greatness is a cinematic journey into the secrets of genius. From award-winning filmmaker Gabe Polsky (@gabepolsky), this groundbreaking feature documentary includes original interviews with Wayne Gretzky, Pelé, and Jerry Rice. It also features Muhammad Ali, Einstein, David Bowie, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan, among others.” You can watch the trailer here. Gabe’s earlier Red Army doc is also fantastic.

January 18, 2019

Tim’s Vermeer. I first saw this film in 2014, and I decided it was worth a revisit, given my renewed interest in art. It’s absolutely marvelous. Here’s a description from Wikipedia: “Tim’s Vermeer is a documentary film, directed by Teller, produced by his stage partner Penn Jillette and Farley Ziegler, about inventor Tim Jenison’s efforts to duplicate the painting techniques of Johannes Vermeer, in order to test his theory that Vermeer painted with the help of optical devices.”

December 21, 2018

The Price of Everything, directed by Nathaniel Kahn. I watched this film after both my brother and a close friend raved about it. It is often hilarious, sometimes nauseating, and always entertaining. Here’s the description: “With unprecedented access to pivotal artists and the white-hot market surrounding them, The Price of Everything dives deep into the contemporary art world, holding a mirror up to our values and our times — where everything can be bought and sold.” You can stream it on HBO, and there are a few screenings coming up in early 2019 around the U.S. Personally, I hope to learn much, much more about art and the art world in 2019. If you might have lessons to share or a lot of experience, please let me know! Just direct a tweet at me (@tferriss) and include #timart so I can find you. Thanks!

December 14, 2018

Rivers and Tides. I first learned of Andy Goldsworthy through Johns Hopkins’ medical staff, who introduced me to one of his amazing books in their session room used for psilocybin studies. This classic documentary complements the book and shows his art (and the artist) in process. It won’t resonate with everyone, and it’s a bit odd, but it will strike a chord with many. This is especially true if you’ve spent some time in non-ordinary states. Before watching, I suggest seeing one of his books or at least looking at images of some of his artwork in nature.

December 7, 2018

Pick of the Litter. This feel-good documentary was recommended to me by my mom. It is a little sappy at points, but the training for avoiding automobiles and refusing to follow owner commands is incredible. Fair warning: some of you will shed a tear or two. The official description: “Pick of the Litter follows a litter of puppies from the moment they’re born and begin their quest to become guide dogs for the blind. Cameras follow these pups through an intense two-year odyssey as they train to become dogs whose ultimate responsibility is to protect their blind partners from harm. Along the way, these remarkable animals rely on a community of dedicated individuals who train them to do amazing, life-changing things in the service of their human. The stakes are high, and not every dog can make the cut.”

November 2, 2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? This was repeatedly recommended to me by my good friend Kevin Rose. I finally had a chance to watch it, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was particularly reassuring that Mister Rogers basically took the good TV playbook of the time and did the exact opposite, which helped lead to mega-success. Description: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a 2018 American documentary film directed by Morgan Neville about the life and guiding philosophy of Fred Rogers, the host and creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The trailer for the film debuted on what would have been Rogers’ 90th birthday, March 20, 2018. It received acclaim from critics and audiences and has grossed $22 million, making it the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time.” (Wikipedia) If you don’t have time for the entire movie, at least watch this amazing clip.

October 26th, 2018

Free Solo, a new documentary in theaters now, should have been titled WHATTHEFUCKOHMYGODHOLYSHIT. I think everyone in the audience lost at least a pound through palm sweat alone. It chronicles free-solo climbing phenom Alex Honnold as he prepares for the ridiculous, the death-inviting, the absolutely impossible: climbing “El Capitan,” the legendary 3,000-foot monster in Yosemite National Park, without any ropes. Beautifully directed and produced by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, this is one movie that will not let your mind wander one iota. Go see it on the biggest screen you can find. At the very least, watch this trailer.

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9 Replies to “My Favorite 37 Documentaries — Features and Short Films That Cover High Performance, Overcoming Failure, Creative Process, Psychedelics, Trauma, and Much More”

  1. Hi everyone. I’m Jonathan. I wanted to list a recent documentary that some friends of mine did called Bury Me at Taylor Hollow. It’s about natural burial and land conservation as a common goal. It’s also about how we have shifted in the last couple of hundred years away from the ways that many cultures have traditionally celebrated and memorialized their lives ones. It’s really beautiful, I think. If you’re interested, t’s playing on PBS right now for free.

    Also thanks for this list, Tim. These films look amazing.

  2. Tim, I’d strongly recommend adding The Biggest Little Farm to this list. One of the best vehicles I’ve ever seen for teaching one to think differently. Basically the ideas in it include these: There IS a solution out there, you just haven’t found it yet. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And above all, if it really matters to you, never never NEVER give up.

  3. A surprising number of these videos are available on Kanopy.com. If you have a library card from a participating library system, you can watch these for free.

    1. Hi, Alina.

      The documentaries mentioned that are on psychedelics are: Magical Death, DOSED, From Shock to Awe, and Trip of Compassion.

      Best,

      Team Tim Ferriss

  4. Might enjoy “Undefeated”, won Oscar in 2012 and Esquire named in top 20 sports films of all-time. There’s two scenes where I cry.

  5. Tim, I strongly recommend adding to your list these documentaries:
    1. Big Little Farm
    2. Senna
    3. Searching Niagara

  6. It should be noted that Billy Mitchell, from The King of Kong, has been proven to have cheated and faked all his records. Todd Rodgers as well.