Last Updated: May 1st
A good conspiracy theory gets the blood running hot. 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 batshit 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. 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 these 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. Unroll the tin foil and enjoy!
The Great Hack (2019)
Run Time: 114 min | IMDb: 7.0/10
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.
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 fundamentalist nation.
It’s a chilling portrayal of how a religious power-conspiracy reached the highest echelons for decades. It’s even more chilling that it hasn’t seemed to stop.
Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers (2018)
Run Time: 96 min | IMDb: 5.5/10
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 into the movie.
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 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.
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.
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. It’s a conspiracy that’s harrowingly based on real-life events that we should know but rarely do.
Run Time: 103 min | IMDb: 7.1/10
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. It’s a given. It’s compelling, sure. Where it really gets deep is how the government allegedly operates with that information. This is the sort of film that leaves saying, “hum…” at the end.
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 — and fun to watch — look into the cattle industry from a very skeptical point of view.
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 Herzog’s 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. The story gets wild from here on out.
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 along with the filmmaking by Crowley in a head-scratching documentary about an event ripe for conspiracy theorists.
America’s Book of Secrets (2012)
1 Season, 10 Episodes | IMDb: 7/10
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 ripple 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.
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.