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It took 11 years for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to include Best Documentary Feature in its list of categories. The first-ever Oscar for a Documentary feature was given in 1941. Since then, it has become one of the most important categories at the prestigious event. Interestingly, most of the initial winners in the category were titles depicting the horrors of World War II. As time progressed, the Academy started to acknowledge several genres of documentaries.

In recent years, documentaries about people doing extraordinary work in their respective fields have won the golden statuette and become popular among audiences. In March 2024, a documentary based on the Ukraine-Russia war, 20 Days in Mariupol, won the prestigious accolade. After its win, the documentary started trending on social media and Google, making everyone realize how popular this genre has become. So, if you are looking for Oscar-winning documentaries, here are some of the best titles.

An Inconvenient Truth

Directed by David Guggenheim, this 2006 documentary primarily focuses on former Vice President of the United States Al Gore and his campaign to raise awareness about global warming. An Inconvenient Truth is a detailed look at how Gore presented lectures to make people understand the “planetary emergency” due to rising temperatures. The documentary went on to become a hit among the critics as well as the audiences. Moreover, some viewers noted that the film encouraged them to know more about the subject.

An Inconvenient Truth is not just about a man trying to teach about the environment. It is also about his effort to make people see what their future might look like. The documentary won two awards at the 79th Academy Award, including Best Documentary Feature. It was the first documentary to win two awards. 

It can be streamed on Paramount Plus’ YouTube channel.

Citizenfour

The 2014 Oscar-winning documentary chronicles the journey of the filmmaker Laura Poitras, who was present in the same hotel room where Edward Snowden leaked documents about the US government. Snowden, a former computer intelligence consultant, leaked documents about how the US government was monitoring millions of people worldwide. Subsequently, Poitras decided to turn these revelations and its aftermath into a documentary. Interestingly, the title doesn’t shy away from sharing sensitive information.

Citizenfour is a nerve-wracking espionage thriller that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. From revealing code names to classified information, the documentary is a testament to a man’s sacrifices for the greater good. The documentary won Best Documentary Feature at the 2015 Academy Awards.

Citizenfour is available to stream on Prime Video.

Navalny

In 2020, Russia’s former political activist Alexei Navalny was poisoned on a flight from Tomsk to Moscow, following which he was taken to the hospital and treated. The documentary Navalny primarily focuses on the poisoning and its aftermath. It also focuses on how Navalny made the bold decision to contact the perpetrators and know why they poisoned him. The scene where he talks to one of his perpetrators is spine-chilling. It is a testament to his determination to expose the government’s lies and stand for the people who loved him dearly.

The documentary received universal acclaim and won several accolades. Subsequently, it won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2022. Navalny was in prison when the film won the award. However, in February 2024, Alexei Navalny died in jail. Although the Russia Times revealed that he died because of a blood clot, many believe that he died due to other reasons.

Navalny is available for streaming on MAX.

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