ARTS & CULTURE
07/28/2015 09:38 am ET | Updated Jul 28, 2015

21 Gorgeous Documentaries Everyone Should Stream Right Now

Knowledge, man.

LEON NEAL via Getty Images

There are only so many hours in the week you can spend streaming old episodes of "Seinfeld," staring at a glowing screen while the faint echo of a bird tweeting reminds you that life on the other side of your apartment window still exists. Netflix is THE BEST, but even the purest of devotees feels that twinge of guilt when a "Are you still watching?" message flits across your laptop or television.  

Arts and culture lovers would be wise to maximize the time they spend worshipping at the altar of on-demand media by perusing the list of all the arts, books and culture-related documentaries streaming right this very minute. Because it's hard to feel bad about spending an hour or three indoors when you're educating yourself on the history of Polaroid film, or the nun who inspired Henri Matisse. Knowledge, man.

Behold, 21 Netflix-ready documentaries you should stream right now:

1. "Ballet 422" (2014): For the dance-obsessed

Follow along backstage with 25-year-old choreographer Justin Peck as he works on the world premiere of "Paz de la Jolla," the New York City Ballet's 422nd production.

2. "Bill Cunningham New York" (2010): For the photography-obsessed

If you're a fan of Bill Cunningham, the now 86-year-old photographer known for both his glamorous fashion spreads and frank street shots, this is the doc for you.

3. "Salinger" (2013): For the literary-obsessed

For Salinger fans, most know the famous Catcher in the Rye author was a storied recluse. Here's your chance to peek inside his secretive life. Bonus: cameos from lots of stars like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Gore Vidal.

4. "Our Vinyl Weighs a Ton" (2014): For the avant-garde music-obsessed

If you'd like the know-how to brag about an obscure but much respected record label, watch this film and get ready to have folks like Kanye West and Mike D school you on the importance of Stones Throw Records. 

5. "Sagrada" (2014): For the architecture-obsessed

Really, for anyone who enjoys architecture, Gaudi or the beauty of Barcelona.

6. "The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness" (2013): For the animation-obsessed

Step inside the world of Studio Ghibli, an animation haven co-founded by Hayao Miyazaki, the mastermind behind "Princess Mononoke" and "Ponyo," who's often called the Walt Disney of Japan.

7. "Dear Mr. Watterson" (2013): For the comics-obsessed

Everything you wanted to know about the creator of Calvin & Hobbes. Cue "awwwwww"s. 

8. "Altman" (2014): For the subversive film-obsessed

This is a documentary about Robert Altman, considered by many to be one of the most influential filmmakers in history. A director and writer who lavished his anti-Hollywood reputation, Altman was equally celebrated for his work on the movie version of "MASH" as films like "Nashville" and "The Long Goodbye."

9. "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me" (2013): For the Broadway-obsessed

A candid look at the life and career of Elaine Stritch, an actress and singer who was so much more than her iconic "30 Rock" character, Colleen Donaghy. 

10. "Mona Lisa Is Missing" (2012): For the art crime-obsessed

The story of the "greatest little-known art theft" of all time, when Vincenzo Peruggia stole the "Mona Lisa."

11. "Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film" (2012): For the vintage-film obsessed

Anyone who's experienced the magic of an instant film camera -- particularly, Polaroid -- will enjoy this nostalgic trip through photo history.

12. "Ballerina" (2006): For the ballet-obsessed

Follow the lives of five Russian ballerinas as they rehearse, audition and perform throughout different periods of their lives.

13. "Tiny: A Story About Small Living" (2013): For the tiny architecture-obsessed

Do you love architecture? Do you love tiny things? This documentary will make you want to toss out your king-size bed and move into the teeny tiniest of homes. 

14. "Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?" (2013): For the Michel Gondry-obsessed

No one will illuminate the thoughts of philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky like "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" director Michel Gondry. Bonus: lovely animations.

15. "A Model for Matisse" (2005): For the painting-obsessed

Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Meet Sister Jacques-Marie, the nun who functioned as French painter Henri Matisse's one time muse. View the trailer here.

16. "Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory" (2014): For the music therapy-obsessed

This documentary follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he explores music's ability to affect the well-being and neurological functioning of individuals with memory loss.

17. "Stripped" (2014): For the Sunday funnies-obsessed

More than a few comic artists discuss the future of newspaper cartoons. Yes, more Calvin & Hobbes.

18. "Objectified" (2009): For the design-obssessed

Ever wonder who imagined the design of the carrot peeler you use weekly for home-cooked dinners? Or that sleek chair you love sitting in at the corner coffee shop? This documentary answers all these design questions and more.

19. "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" (2013): For the movie poster-obsessed

"Drew" refers to both the art of illustrating a movie poster by hand, as well as the first name of legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan.

20. "Sherman's March" (1986): For the documentary filmmaking-obsessed

Come for the history of General William Sherman, stay for director Ross McElwee's hybrid documentary filmmaking aesthetic, in which he can't help but infuse his autobiography (of love, of heartbreak, of paranoia) into this very unique historical reflection.

21. "Hecho en Mexico" (2012): For the Mexican music-obsessed

Mexico is obviously a country far more beautifully complex than its politics and crime rates might suggest to some. This film takes viewers inside the music and art scenes so vibrant there today.

Oldies but goodies: "The Artist Is Present," "Paris Is Burning," "Fame High," "The Punk Singer," "Pina," "Bronies," "Meet the Fokkens," "Exit Through the Gift Shop," "Slavoj Žižek: The Pervert's Guide To Ideology"

Also on HuffPost:

10 Architectural Landmarks You Have To Visit Before You Die

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Robert Altman's work on the television show "MASH." He worked on the film version "MASH."

 

 

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