Covering everything from David Bowie to David Attenborough, via all-time classics like
, this is a regularly updated guide to the very best documentaries on
according to the
1)Amanda Knox (Film)
Subject: Crime Creators: Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn Cert: 15 Year: 2016
In a nutshell: Fans of Making a Murderer and Serial will be gripped by this Netflix-original documentary, which looks at the international media's coverage of surrounding the life of Amanda Knox, the American 20-year-old who was jailed for the murder of Meredith Kutcher in 2009, but later found innocent when the verdict was overturned four years later.
2) Into the Inferno (Film)
Subject: Nature Creator: Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer Cert: 12 Year: 2016
In a nutshell: This film pits one force of nature against another: it's Werner Herzog versus lava.
Following his recent documentaries on Siberia, death row and the internet, Herzog's new feature sees the filmmaker visit the world's active volanoes, aided by volcanologist and co-director Clive Oppenheimer. At one point, Herzog muses: "This boiling mass is monumentally indifferent to scurrying roaches, retarded reptiles and vapid humans alike."
3) Palio (Film)
Subject: Sport, crime Creator: Cosima Spender Cert: PG Year: 2015
In a nutshell: This eye-opening documentary delves into Italy's oldest and most corrupt horse-race, the Palio, which takes place twice a year in the city of Siena. A critical hit, it won the Best Documentary gong at last year's Tribeca film festival.
4) The White Helmets (Film)
Subject: War Creator: Orlando von Einsiedel Cert: 12 Year: 2016
In a nutshell: This 40-minute documentary by the Oscar-nominated director of Virunga follows the volunteers of Syria's emergency services, who put themselves at risk daily to save the lives of others in the war-torn country.
5) Life (TV)
Subject: Nature Creator: David Attenborough Cert: G Series: 1, 2009
In a nutshell: Shot entirely in high-definition, this epic ten-part series was perhaps the most ambitious undertaking on this list: covering all life on the planet, and using the latest high-speed cameras (at 8,000 frames per second) to capture moments never previously seen on film.
It's filled with breathtaking moments, from watching a Jesus Christ Lizard skirt across the surface of a pool, to the rarely-seen courtship dance of the marvellous spatuletail hummingbird - all beautifully narrated, of course, by David Attenborough.
6) Cartel Land (2015)
Subject: Crime, politics Creator: Matthew Heineman Cert: 15 Year: 2015
In a nutshell: Matthew Heineman's gripping documentary tells the story of José Manuel Mireles, a doctor-turned-vigilante determined to bring down Mexico's drug barons, coming up against the country's most dangerous cartel, The Knights Templar.
7) 13th (Film)
Subject: Race, politics Creator: Ava DuVernay Cert: 15 Year: 2016
In a nutshell: The new documentary from Selma director Ava DuVernay tackles the racial inequalities in America's prisons, and leans towards the radical argument that - through the mass incarceration of black Americans - slavery has been allowed to continue under another name. The wide range of interviewees includes Angela Davis, Newt Gingrich and Michelle Alexander.
8) Audrie and Daisy (Film)
Creators: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk Cert: G Year: 2016
In a nutshell: This bold, uncompromising documentary about sexual assault and social media made waves at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Husband-and-wife directing duo Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk explore the aftermath of two high-profile rape cases involving underage girls living in America.
9) Bobby Fischer Against the World (Film)
Subject: Sport, Psychology Creator: Liz Garbus Cert: 12 Year: 2011
In a nutshell: The protracted struggle between chess masters Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the summer of 1972 was one of the great sporting events of the last century.
Over 21 games, the American and Russian fought out a sporting version of the Cold War that was beamed all around the world - but for Fisher, the real struggle was against his own inner demons. Liz Garbus's documentary paints a portrait of a sad genius who grew up alienated and grew old alienating the people who might have helped him.
10) What Happened, Miss Simone? (Film)
Subject: Music Creator: Liz Garbus Cert: 15 Year: 2015
In a nutshell: Liz Garbus's Oscar-nominated biopic of Nina Simone is a no-holds-barred account of the singer's life, capturing the essence of her volatile personality. As you'd expect, it has a seriously good soundtrack; alongside Simone's own hits, listen out for Jazmine Sullivan's Baltimore and Lauryn Hill's take on Feelin' Good.
11) Blackfish (Film)
Subject: Nature Creator: Gabriella Cowperthwaite Cert: 15 Year: 2013
In a nutshell: Blackfish is the film that forced SeaWorld to clean up its act. Following on from the death of SeaWorld orca handler Dawn Brancheau, Gabriella Cowperthwaite created a documentary around the life of Tilikum, the orca that killed her. In the process, she revealed some distressing facts about how the park was treating these creatures, and pushed for them to change their ways.
12) Exit Through the Gift Shop (Film)
Subject: Art Creators: Banksy, Mr Brainwash Cert: 15 Year: 2010
In a nutshell: Banksy, who directed this very entertaining account of art-world laughing-stock Thierry Guetta, appears on screen veiled by his hoodie, and even got an Oscar nomination. He claims it's not all a big hoax, but then he would, wouldn't he?
13) Chuck Norris vs Communism (Film)
Subject: Film, Politics Creator: Illinca Calugareanu Cert: G Year: 2015
In a nutshell: For a brief time in the 1980s, Irinia Nistor had the best-known voice in Romania.
A film critic and translator, Nistor was fed up with her day-job censoring films for Romania's state TV station, and began producing illicitly dubbed versions of blacklisted American blockbusters, smuggled through the iron curtain. In this compelling documentary, Calugareanu makes a case for the importance of Nistor's part in the Cold War.
14) Making a Murderer (TV)
Subject: Crime Creators: Laura Ricciardi. Moira Demos Cert: 15 Series: 1, 2015
In a nutshell: The true crime documentary that got everyone talking, tweeting and signing petitions over the 2015 festive period. It is an astonishing, almost Kafka-esque story of a miscarriage of justice, a police-lead witch hunt and a draconian, obtuse justice system - all focused on one man, Steven Avery. After spending 18 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, Avery was soon re-arrested and charged with murder. Was he guilty this time or was the system determined to see him suffer? It's a modern-day In Cold Blood.
15) David Bowie: Five Years (Film)
Subject: Music Creator: Francis Whately Cert: G Year: 2013
In a nutshell: Like Martin Scorsese's films about Bob Dylan, Francis Whately's Bowie pic is not so much a documentary as a cinematic collage, a deftly crafted jumble of clips old and new, chronological without feeling linear. Fans might not learn much from Five Years - this is celebration more than investigation - but the footage makes it a long and satisfying dip in the bubble-bath of nostalgia.
16) Cooked (TV)
Subject: Food Creators: Alex Gibney, Michael Pollan Cert: PG Series: 1, 2016
In a nutshell: This globe-trotting four-part collaboration between food writer Michael Pollan and documentarian Alex Gibney (Going Clear) is themed around the four classical elements of earth, air, fire and water.
On paper, it sounds like an overly earnest affair. But Pollan has a contrarian, subversive approach that sets him apart from the average celebrity chef, whether cajoling a vegetarian friend into trying slow-roast pork, or lashing out against "gluten-free ice-cream". Meanwhile, Gibney's cinematography is a joy to behold, from the first sumptuous, panoramic shot of an Australian bush-fire onwards.
17) Deep Web (Film)
Subject: Crime, Technology Creator: Alex Winter Cert: G Year: 2015
In a nutshell: Deep Web follows the 2013 arrest and prosecution of Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of founding the shady online drug bazaar Silk Road. Ulbricht has been sentenced to life imprisonment, and Silk Road has been shut down, but many other 'dark net' sites are still active. Alex Winter offers a compelling (and mostly jargon-free) primer on these sites and the people who run them.
18) Virunga (Film)
Genre: Nature, Politics Creator: Orlando von Einsiedel Cert: 15 Year: 2014
In a nutshell: Set in Africa's oldest national park, this Bafta- and Oscar-nominated Netflix film begins with the struggle to protect the world's last mountain gorillas from poachers - and, the film alleges, the illegal interference of a British oil company.
As if that weren't enough, the film-makers soon find themselves in the middle of a violent conflict, as fighting breaks out around them in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
19) The Look of Silence (Film)
Subject: War, Politics Creator: Joshua Oppenheimer Cert: 15 Year: 2014
In a nutshell: In this follow-up to the vociferously acclaimed The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer goes back to Indonesia and films a confrontation between aggressor and survivor: the brother of a man killed in the 1965 communist purge takes his grievance directly to the men responsible.
20) Life Itself (Film)
Subject: Film Creator: Steve James Cert: 15 Year: 2015
In a nutshell: This loving tribute to veteran film critic Roger Ebert deserves his famous 'two thumbs up.' It doesn't shy away from the physical pain of his later years, but shows how his prodigious work-rate carried on despite a battle with cancer and the removal of his lower jaw.
Director Steve James's approach is more televisual than cinematic, but there's an impressive range of talking heads (including Martin Scorcese and Werner Herzog). It does justice to Ebert's passionate optimism, his faith in the positive influence of film: "For me," he once said, "the movies are a machine that generates empathy."