CULTURE

The Best Documentaries of 2022

From Amy Poehler’s Lucy and Desi to an exposé on the rise and fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, these are the documentary films and series we can’t wait to watch this year.

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute and A&E Networks. Gif by Ashley Peña for W.

As the year begins, we look forward to the thought-provoking and groundbreaking cinematic takes on cultural moments, icons, and social movements—some of which have already premiered as part of the documentary competitions at Sundance Film Festival. While most films shown at Sundance don’t yet have a distributor let alone a release date, there are a handful of documentaries that screened at the festival and are already guaranteed to hit theaters and streamers later this year. Below, see our most anticipated documentaries of 2022—from Sundance hits like Amy Poehler’s Lucy and Desi to Lifetime’s Janet.

Nothing Compares

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Music documentaries were big at Sundance this year, with more than one portrait of a musical artist making headlines. One of those which received positive reviews is Kathryn Ferguson’s Nothing Compares, a deep dive into the intriguing and enigmatic life of Irish musician Sinead O’Connor. However, the song referenced in the title of the film was stopped by the estate of Prince (the recording artist behind the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U”) so the documentary does lack what is perhaps O’Connor’s best-known track. But the artist’s fired up politics still remain front and center.

Janet

It’s hard to believe that a documentary has never before been made about Janet Jackson, the pop star who, starting in the 1980s, laid the groundwork for musicians that followed her decades later. Although she’s historically a private artist, all that will change with a two-part film event beginning January 28 on Lifetime. Artists like Britney Spears and Ariana Grande can be counted as her successors, and icons like Samuel L. Jackson and Mariah Carey make appearances in the documentary.

Meet Me in the Bathroom

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace put together a 2000s indie rock time capsule based on Lizzy Goodman’s book of the same name, which was an oral history including the voices of the musicians behind bands such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and LCD Soundsystem, chronicling 2001-2011 in New York City. The documentary focuses on 1999-2004, with a heavy lens on Karen O, lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The film landed generally positive reviews at Sundance, but there’s no distribution date just yet.

Lucy and Desi

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

If you didn’t care for Aaron Sorkin’s fictionalized take on the drama between I Love Lucy stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, then Amy Poehler’s documentary, which screened at Sundance and will hit Amazon Prime on March 4, might be for you.

Calendar Girls

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

A “coming of age” story doesn’t have to start at adolescence. Take the sixtysomething ladies who star in Calendar Girls, for example. Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen chronicled the lives of older women who compete on a dance team in South Florida and star in this revealing portrait.

The Janes

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

The underground abortion group, the Jane Collective, is the subject of Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes’s documentary, The Janes. Although their radical community care work lasted from 1969 to 1973, this documentary about the Jane Collective feels just as relevant today.

TikTok, Boom

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Following three popular personalities on the social media platform, TikTok, Boom attempts to understand the algorithmic, geopolitical, and commercial experiences of content creators in the digital age.

The Princess

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

No matter how much you think you know about the late Princess Diana, you still will never know enough. The Princess is proof that we’re still not over our Diana fever.

We Need to Talk About Cosby

W. Kamau Bell investigates the rise and fall of the actor who used his status as “America’s Dad” to sexually abuse and rape approximately 60 women over the course of many years in this four-part docuseries airing on Showtime beginning January 30.

jeen-yuhs

The three-part documentary about the inimitable Kanye West, which premiered at Sundance and will be available to stream on Netflix on February 16, uses archival footage of the Old Kanye, following his rise to the top of the hip-hop charts and American culture at large.

White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

White Hot chronicles the rise and fall of the brand that changed the American shopping mall and the customers in it—mostly for the worse. This investigation into how Abercrombie & Fitch’s racist hiring practices and products, as well as the brand’s emphasis on exclusivity at all levels, reveals how A&F went from being the it brand of the aughts to the laughing stock of the mall. Netflix will release the documentary on April 19.

Not So Pretty

If you’ve ever caught yourself feeling fearful of the bacteria in your standing pot of moisturizer or wondered about the potential microplastics in your shampoo, then Not So Pretty, a new HBO Max docuseries narrated by Keke Palmer is for you. Broken down into different topics ranging from hair to skincare, the docuseries traces the impact of colonialism on global communities of color, particularly of the African diaspora, interviewing hair and beauty influencers who were victims of the chemicals in popular shampoos like DevaCurl and Wen, products which are still on the market, and many of which are marketed towards Black women. The skincare episode, and the revelation that there can be 10,000 industrial chemicals used in products that pollute our hormones and endocrine systems, fertility, and more is equally as frightening. The docuseries is now available on HBO Max.

driving home 2 u (a SOUR film)

Raise your hand if you didn’t get Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour tour tickets in time. If that’s you, just watch her documentary about recording the album on Disney+ and pretend like you’re swaying with a crowd of Gen Z fans instead.

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