Last Updated: October 13th
A good conspiracy theory gets the blood running. It should be equal measures absurd and just-believable-enough — meaning that you’re definitely entertained, even if you don’t take the ideas espoused seriously. Or maybe you do take them seriously. Maybe you get hooked on more and more increasingly batsh*t insane ideas until you reach “holy-Jesus-this-is-ALL-real” levels of lunacy. Then you ascend to the next level of conspiracy doc watching, spending hours with videos that are only found deep at the bottom of YouTube rabbit holes.
Hopefully, it won’t come to that. You’re better than to fall for that extremist drivel. The docs presented here are a little more reasonable. Many of them have some undeniable truth at their core. They get you saying, “You know, that makes a lot of sense.” You might even corner someone at your next cocktail party and bounce a few fresh ideas off them. God knows people are tired of hearing about your sourdough starter.
The docs below are sensational and fun, but we’re not here to speak to their veracity. That’s for you to decide. And Snopes. Unroll the tin foil and enjoy!
Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers (2018)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 5.6/10
Bob Lazar is a legend in the UFO community. The former scientist (now pyrotechnician) actually worked at Area 51’s S-4 facility. A military installation where, allegedly, Lazar and other “top men” were reverse-engineering extraterrestrial tech. What stands out most in this whole story (and doc) is that over time — as some documents have become unclassified — some of Lazar’s claims have been proven. Most notably that element 151 (a specific nuclear isotope) exists.
That doesn’t mean Lazar’s decades-long claim to extraterrestrial technology isn’t an Andy Kaufman-level performance artist bit, but it’s certainly enough to get you hooked on the movie.
A Gray State (2017)
Run Time: 93 min | IMDb: 6.2/10
Erik Nelson and Werner Herzog first teamed up to make the much-lauded documentary Grizzly Man with Nelson producing and Herzog directing. In A Gray State, those roles were reversed to tell the story of aspiring filmmaker David Crowley’s untimely death by apparent suicide in his Minnesota home. That’s the easy part of this documentary. But the story gets wilder in a hurry.
Crowley was a libertarian filmmaker working on a feature film about America being a police state and getting overrun by a foreign authoritarian regime. He was spending his time raising cash for his film by touring the far-right and libertarian circuits with the likes of Alex Jones and Ron Paul. He had gotten far enough in the filmmaking process to produce three trailers for his film and raise $60,000 for the budget. Then, Crowley along with his wife and young daughter were all found murdered in their home. From then on, right-wing conspiracy theorists latched onto the deaths with wild ideas about what “really” happened to the Crowleys — something no one can know for sure.
The film explores all of the conspiracy-making and the actual filmmaking by Crowley, in a head-scratching documentary about an event that provides fertile ground for conspiracy theorists to seed their wildest ideas.
The Family (2019)
1 season, 5 episodes | IMDb: 6.4/10
The Family is a limited-run series that’s easily bingeable over five, 45-minute episodes. The docuseries outlines the conspiracy conducted by The Fellowship, originally led by Doug Coe, who set out to turn American politics towards fundamentalist evangelicalism through the backdoors of Washington, DC. The Fellowship eschews any teachings or the actual words of Jesus Christ in the pursuit of power, domination, and pure greed on the national stage to make America into their version of a fundamentalist Christian nation.
It’s a chilling portrayal of how a religious power-conspiracy reached the highest echelons for decades. It’s even more chilling that the quest for Christian domination of America hasn’t seemed to slow down.
Behind the Curve (2018)
Run Time: 95 min | IMDb: 6.5/10
This is perhaps the most frustrating entry on the list. There’s little fun to be had here and a lot more grimacing. Luckily, the doc takes a very tongue in cheek approach to the rise of flat earth conspiracy by showing those who believe the lie and fail over and over again to prove themselves right.
So where do the grimaces come in?
No matter who much evidence and failed tests the flat earthers seem to find or run into, they remain unwavering in their belief. If anything, the documentary is a testament to the current age of social media bubbles and YouTube echo chambers people can fall into.
America’s Book of Secrets (2012)
1 Season, 10 Episodes | IMDb: 6.8/10
This docu-series from the History Channel is conspiracy theory-lite. Each episode covers a mainstream conspiracy theory in a very introductory way. They hit on the main talking points from “experts” but rarely draw any conclusions, which is kind of the point of conspiracy theories as entertainment. The difference here is that each episode is based around a place like Fort Knox, Area 51, the White House, and so on. There are three exceptions with episodes about Free Masons (naturally), the FBI, and Black Ops.
In the end, this can be a mild way to scratch that conspiracy theory itch without too much investment.
The Great Hack (2019)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 7/10
This is the sort of documentary that you wish was a batshit crazy conspiracy theory. But, no, it actually happened as a conspiracy to steal our data and sell it to the highest bidder and then let them at us personally, emotionally, and politically. The results have not been ideal.
The Great Hack is the sort of viewing that feels mandatory to understand what’s going on with our social media accounts and the companies behind them. On the flip side, it’s harrowing to watch how easily the conspiracy to manipulate the masses was carried out and how little has been done in the wake of these revelations.
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7/10
There are so, so many docs about the existence of extraterrestrials out there. What’s interesting about Unacknowledged is that it’s less about the existence or contact with otherworldly beings and more about how governments — the U.S. in particular here — are able to manipulate the masses and create their own realities/narratives. The film lays out with evidence from the government, newspapers, and very high-level sources that we have contact and technology from extraterrestrial life.
Where Unacknowledged really gets deep is how the government allegedly operates with the information they have about aliens. This is the sort of film that leaves you saying, “hum…” at the end.
1 Season, 6 Episodes | IMDb: 7/10
Speaking of rabbit holes, MKUltra is a deep one. Fake hippy communes and brothels, Charles Manson, the CIA dosing people randomly for decades, a massive institution-spanning coverup in the highest offices of the land, MKUltra has it all.
Wormwood — from acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris — dives into the very dodgy 1953 “suicide” of CIA employee Frank Olson who was part of the LSD-dosing experiments under the umbrella of MKUltra. The docuseries uses dramatic reenactments to fairly decent effect with Peter Sarsgaard and Tim Blake Nelson turning in believable performances. Those flashbacks are inter-spliced with a present-day investigation that looks into CIA handbooks on assassination and how deeply MKUltra seeped its way into American society.
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (2020)
1 Season, 4 Episodes | IMDb: 7.1/10
The case of Jeffrey Epstein might be the most insidious and deep-reaching conspiracy of our time. While this doc-series doesn’t dive too deeply into the conspiracy bullet points beyond the scant evidence we have, it leaves the door open for so, so many questions about what the hell was going on with this person, his underage sex trafficking ring, and the elite group of people he provided underage girls for.
The most damning episode is the third, when Epstein brokers a deal for his first round of sex crimes with some high-ranking officials that current president, Donald Trump (a close friend of Epstein), would later appoint to his White House and the U.S. justice system. If that’s not conspiracy fodder, we don’t know what is. And that’s before the series even gets to his “suicide” in jail while awaiting trial.
A Perfect Crime (2020)
1 Season, 4 Episodes | IMDb: 7.3/10
Sometimes someone can be shot in broad daylight (see: JFK) and there’ll still be decades of confusion as to what really happened. This four-part series dives into the assassination of a German businessman and politician, Detlev Rohwedder, who was tasked with privatizing former-Communist East Germany’s industry after German Reunification, which started in 1990.
The series looks at the role of Germany’s far-left terrorist organization, RAF, in the assassination. But there’s much, much more going on with this seemingly straightforward murder. The doc is full of political jostling, backdoor rapacious capitalism, and conspiracies that place blame on easy scapegoats. All of this makes for a fascinating watch and an easy binge.
Run Time: 90 min | IMDb: 8.3/10
It’s not necessarily a conspiracy that the cattle industry is a very bad thing for the planet. Yet the film treats the whole industry like one huge conspiracy that goes all the way to the top, man! You can perhaps get some interesting information from a lot of the posturing about secrets and lies, but it’s still a very sensational doc.
This look into the cattle industry from a very skeptical point of view is an easy 90-minute watch.
Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States (2012)
1 season, 12 episodes | IMDb: 8.6/10
Oliver Stone has settled into a role as an agent provocateur of the American film world. He’s become known for his documentaries that take off-kilter looks at world figures like Chavez and Putin. In this series, Stone examines why so much of our history has been largely erased from the national narrative. This series becomes a conspiracy theory goldmine by actually showing us how backbench political dealings and straight-up erasure of people and history have molded and skewed not only our perception of our history but our perception of our very identity as Americans.
It’s a real conspiracy that’s based on real-life events that we should know but rarely do.