POLITICS
12/22/2015 11:24 am ET Updated Jan 05, 2017

12 Fascinating Political Documentaries You Can Stream Right Now

Break the endless Netflix browsing spiral with these smart and engaging docs.

Here at HuffPost Politics, we enjoy a "House of Cards" or "West Wing" binge as much as anyone. But if you're seeking a deeper look at American politics, here are some compelling documentaries to get you started.

Most of the below films are available to rent and/or purchase on iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video. We've indicated the films that are also available on streaming subscription services.

  • "The War Room"
    With the 2016 election in full swing, it's a perfect time to watch this <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pgo-qwfCFYU"
    Spencer Tiery/Associated Press
    With the 2016 election in full swing, it's a perfect time to watch this behind-the-scenes look at Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. The candidate himself is largely absent from the documentary. Instead, the directors focus on strategists James Carville and George Stephanopoulos, embedding with them during the New Hampshire primary and, later, at Clinton campaign headquarters. The result is a fascinating look at how a campaign actually functions. (The 2006 documentary "Our Brand Is Crisis," which followed Carville as he coordinated the campaign of a presidential candidate in Bolivia, is also worthwhile.)  

    (Available on Hulu)
  • "Hearts and Minds"
    Filmed and released while the Vietnam War was still ongoing, the Academy Award-winning "Hearts and Minds" provides a sober contrast between the rhetoric driving U.S. involvement and the reality on the ground. In what is easily the film's most memorable and disturbing scene, director Peter Davis cuts between General William Westmoreland claiming "Orientals" do not value life the way Westerners do and footage of a Vietnamese soldier's funeral. The film -- whose title refers ironically to President Lyndon Johnson's declaration that the key to victory was winning over Vietnamese "hearts and minds" -- will stick with you long after it's over.

    (Available on Hulu)
  • "The Fog Of War"
    For another gripping look at American policy in Vietnam, watch <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgA98V1Ubk8">Errol Mo
    David Levenson/Getty Images
    For another gripping look at American policy in Vietnam, watch Errol Morris' documentary on Robert McNamara, who served as defense secretary under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Morris interviewed McNamara for 20 hours, allowing one of the 20th century's most intriguing figures to reflect on his own legacy.

    (Available on Crackle)
  • "Anita"
    Released more than 20 years after Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings gripped the nation, "Anita" tells the story of <a hr
    Associated Press
    Released more than 20 years after Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings gripped the nation, "Anita" tells the story of Anita Hill, the woman who accused the soon-to-be Supreme Court justice of sexual harassment. The film chronicles Hill's moment in the public eye and follows up with the lawyer years later to document how her decision to speak out impacted her life, as well as the lives of many other women.

    (Available on Amazon Prime)
  • "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History"
    Clocking in at 14 hours, "The Roosevelts" is a commitment, but well worth your while. Acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns' <a h
    Associated Press
    Clocking in at 14 hours, "The Roosevelts" is a commitment, but well worth your while. Acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns' seven-part series explores the lives of the three most famous Roosevelts: Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. Spanning more than a century, Burns' chronicle is an engrossing look not just at the family itself, but also at how the U.S. changed under their leadership.

    (Available on Netflix and Amazon Prime)
  • "Dirty Wars"
    Jeremy Scahill's thrilling and disturbing investigative documentary exposes some of the United States' most morally questionable military operations, most of which were carried out by the secretive Joint Special Operations Command. Scahill meticulously charts the history of this paramilitary force, which came to the country's attention after the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The film argues that by engaging in these unchecked covert operations, often at the cost of civilian lives, the U.S. is now tangled in a global war with no end in sight.
  • "Mitt"
    This <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLHxbemvpxY">Netflix original doc</a> did what Mitt Romney's strategists and ha
    Associated Press
    This Netflix original doc did what Mitt Romney's strategists and handlers couldn't: humanize the GOP presidential candidate. The stilted Mittbot we came to know on the 2012 campaign trail is far less awkward in Greg Whiteley's film. Whiteley follows the tight-knit Romney clan, beginning in 2006, when Mitt first decided to run for president, and ending with his 2012 concession speech. "Mitt" is an intimate, albeit largely uncritical, look at the personal toll of running an unsuccessful presidential campaign (or two).

    (Available on Netflix)
  • "Shut Up & Sing"
    In 2003, the Dixie Chicks were one of the most famous bands in America. But when lead singer Natalie Maines publicly criticiz
    Frank Micelotta/Getty Images
    In 2003, the Dixie Chicks were one of the most famous bands in America. But when lead singer Natalie Maines publicly criticized President George W. Bush, the country trio was ostracized by its own fans and pulled from radio stations around the country. This documentary follows the band as they grapple with that backlash and decide whether to just "shut up and sing" or stand up for what they believe in.
  • "The House I Live In"
    If you're not convinced that the war on drugs is a massive, destructive failure, watch "The House I Live In." Blending personal stories with expert interviews, director Eugene Jarecki examines American drug policy and shows how the flawed battle to rein in drug use has disproportionately hurt communities of color. It's hard not to feel angry after watching this.

    (Available on Netflix)
  • "Citizenfour"
    Many of the most powerful and interesting documentaries cover topics that the press has&nbsp;largely overlooked. But "<a href
    Barton Gellman/Getty Images
    Many of the most powerful and interesting documentaries cover topics that the press has largely overlooked. But "Citizenfour" proves that a story can still be riveting even after being widely covered. The film follows reporters Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald as they travel to a Hong Kong hotel room to meet NSA leaker Edward Snowden for the first time. The Academy Award-winning documentary is a real-life spy thriller and an important study of civil liberties in a tech-dominated world.  It's also the closest look yet at Snowden himself, offering a rare personal glimpse at the man who exposed the NSA's surveillance program to the world.

    (Available on HBO Go)
  • "Inside Job"
    Narrated by Matt Damon, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzrBurlJUNk">"Inside Job"</a>&nbsp;is a concise explanation
    Matej Kastelic /Alamy
    Narrated by Matt Damon, "Inside Job" is a concise explanation of what caused the 2008 global financial meltdown. The film covers the decades-long leadup to the crisis and explains how financial experts saw disaster on the horizon but chose to forge ahead with hugely irresponsible practices nonetheless. Five years after it came out, with none of the culprits behind bars, "Inside Job" is still a rage-inducing cautionary tale about the dangers of greed and unchecked hubris.
  • "Miss Representation"
    "You can't be what you can't see." That's the message of this film, which explores the rampant sexism in American media and public life. Writer and director Jennifer Siebel Newsom combines film and television clips with interviews of influential women like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Gloria Steinem and Rachel Maddow, linking sexism in the media to the dearth of women in leadership roles. "Miss Representation" argues that when the media fails to portray women as strong, independent equals who are valuable for more than their appearance, all of society pays the price.

    (Available on Netflix)

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