Photography via IMDB

The Documentaries Everyone’s Talking About and Where to Watch Them

From true crime investigations to shocking exposés.

Watercooler conversation has changed a lot over the years. It might have once been about Game of Thrones shockers, Grey’s Anatomy plot twists, and Lost cliffhangers but seeing as no one really watches shows at the same time anymore (you know, when they actually air) those morning-after conversations aren’t what they used to be. If 2019 is anything to go by though, documentaries are set to take over as the explosive pop culture-drivers people can’t stop talking about. Want to join in? Here are the films and docuseries on everyone’s minds right now (plus where to watch them).

The Inventor
Elizabeth Holmes seemed to be on the cusp of revolutionizing healthcare with her Silicon Valley startup Theranos, which claimed that it could forever change the process of blood testing. She received millions of dollars in seed money and was named by Forbes as the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America. But in 2015, with a series of exposés from a Wall Street Journalist reporter, that illusion began to shatter and she was ultimately exposed as a fraud. The Inventor, a documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney, dives into the inner workings of the now-defunct company and seeks to answer just how Holmes got away with scamming an entire industry.
HBO, available via Crave.ca

The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story
The ’90s were the glory days of boy bands, with The Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC dominating pop culture conversations, Billboard charts and bedroom walls. One man was responsible for the meteoric success of both iconic bands—Lou Pearlman—but he was far from a dream manager. Over time, it became clear that he was a grifter and fraudster who’d cheated his clients out of their rightful earnings for years. “We started selling out stadiums, and we started looking in our bank accounts and were like, something isn’t adding up,” says Backstreet Boys’s AJ McLean. Aside from scamming his pop star clients, Pearlman also ran a Ponzi scheme that tricked investors out of more than $300 million. He was eventually charged with money laundering, conspiracy and fraud and died in prison in 2016. The film about his con game premiered at SXSW and is now available to watch in full on YouTube.
YouTube Originals

Lorena
Lorena Bobbitt became the subject of a media frenzy in the 1990s when it was reported that, after years of domestic violence and sexual abuse, she had cut off her husband’s penis as he slept. Bobbitt was relentlessly mocked and derided in the press, but the trauma that drove her to commit the act was often unacknowledged. “It’s like they didn’t care why I did what I did,” she says in a recent New York Times interview. Over 20 years later, her controversial case—and the misogynist media culture of that era—is revisited in this four-part docuseries executive produced by Jordan Peele.
Amazon Prime

Leaving Neverland
This four-hour documentary is “a chilling indictment of Michael Jackson’s legacy,” writes Vulture’s Matt Zoller Seitz and it certainly seems to have shaken the King of Pop’s fans to their core. In the harrowing documentary James Safechuck and Wade Robson, former protégés of Jackson, describe years of molestation and emotional abuse inflicted on them as minors. They also recount events and incidents from parties thrown by Jackson at his apartment, frequented by adolescent boys. After decades of avoiding or ignoring rumours of Jackson’s alleged pedophilia, this documentary forces viewers to finally face the music.
HBO, available via Crave.ca

Surviving R. Kelly
Another documentary about a musical star who has long been accused of myriad crimes, Surviving R. Kelly details sexual abuse allegations that date back to 1994, when, at the age of 27, Kelly married 15-year-old singer and model Aaliyah. The six-part series features accounts from multiple women who say they escaped Kelly’s “cult” as well as interviews with his peers in the industry, like John Legend and Chance the Rapper. “After 25 years of hearing growing grumblings, growing accusations, it’s reached a crescendo with the documentary,” says Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement.
Lifetime Canada

The Case Against Adnan Syed
Fans of true crime podcasts will be well aware of the facts of Adnan Syed’s case. Charged with the murder of his ex-girlfriend in 1999, Syed’s case became the subject of Serial, a 2014 podcast that became a viral sensation. Highlighting inconsistencies and missteps in the first trial, including a lack of DNA evidence, the investigative podcast threw Syed’s conviction into question, leading to it being overturned in 2016 by the courts. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg’s documentary picks up where the podcast left off, going down new paths and lines of questioning, and also focusing more on the victim, Hae Min Lee, and the kind of person she was. The fourth and final episode of the series aired on HBO last week.
HBO, available via Crave.ca