Documentary recs for Young Adults

I’m going to be hosting a group of middle school kids about twice for about 90 minutes each time. I’ve been asked to show a video (the primary way of dealing with tweens since three minutes after Edison marketed the first projector).

There are plenty of lists I can turn to for documentaries for kids that age, but I prefer personal recs. Anybody know of any documentaries (preferably nature themed, but that’s not essential) that can stand a better-than-most chance of semi-holding the attention of a few teens for an hour or so? (I don’t expect miracles and remember well how little attention I paid to most of the films we were shown in class when I was a kid in the post WW1 era.)
Thanks for any help.

March of the Penguins.

I watched Wild China on Netflix (I think) and it was pretty interesting. But it is 6 parts so you’d maybe have to pick one part - I’m sure they’d get bored of 6 weeks of it. Or if they like it you can keep showing them.

This documentary, “Kings of Pastry”, would probably be appealing to teenagers. It’s mind-boggling what these people could do with food.

I also liked this one, which is also appropriate for kids.

Thats a tough one… Here are some nature docs that i think will hold their attention:

If you’re still in Alabama how about Discovering Alabama?

Thanks for the “Kings of Pastry” recommendation. I just watched it and was enthralled.

Oh, and watched Buck at the theater and own 3 copies of the DVD. It’s great!


The first thing that spring to mind for me was Mad Hot Ballroom, a 2005 documentary about a dance program and competition in the NYC public school system. It’s about 5th graders, and I’m not sure whether middle schools are more likely to think it’s fun/funny to watch a documentary about kids a little younger than they are (at an age where just a year or two makes a lot of difference) or if they’ll think this is embarrassing or something.

I’m a big fan of the new Cosmos series. If you want to go in a dark and challenging direction, there’s the classic Harvest of Shame, which you can pair with Stephen Colbert’s day as a migrant farm worker. I googled and came up with two sites with lists: 12 Documentaries That Will Inspire Kids to Change the World and 10 Documentaries That Will Teach Children Real Lessons | HuffPost Parents Hoop Dreams is in the first list - I haven’t seen it myself but it’s extremely well regarded, and may get the boys to pay attention. There’s another one in the list about food waste. The Food Network did a show about that as well, where their top chefs prepared a restaurant-quality meal for a large group from food that was safe to eat, but would otherwise have been thrown away.

Less stressful to the kids are some documentaries on the New Horizons probe’s encounter with Pluto. I found some from right before or right after New Horizons took its pictures: The Year of Pluto - New Horizons Documentary Brings Humanity Closer to the Edge of the Solar System - YouTube - YouTube - YouTube

It would be nice to find something that shows the scientific findings from the pictures that are still being downloaded. Mountains made of ice, with methane snow. Geology on a world so cold that water is like rock. Awesome stuff! The New Horizons web page may have more recent info.

FYI: “Hoop Dreams” is about 3 hours long.

Just thought of another doc that I’m sure kids would really like. “Thunder Soul”, about an retired high school band director in Houston, Texas who directed award-winning stage bands in his prime. They made recordings, which have been sampled by some rappers. :cool: This is remarkable because the director was black, as were most of his students, which was unusual for the time. Whenever they showed up, the competition would always be for second place.

The weirdest thing about it? It’s rated PG for “historical smoking”. LOL

If you don’t think they could handle a full-length documentary, “Lords of the Gourd” is under an hour. It’s about people who competitively grow giant pumpkins.

For All Mankind