The 10 Best Documentaries on Sociology (Ranked)

Sociology is like the ultimate people whisperer, decoding the mysteries of human groups and societies.

Below are the top sociology docs I know of (ranked in order of watchability).

And if you care more about the psychology of just the individual (instead of the group), here’s my list of the best psychology documentaries (also ranked).


1) The Up Series

Watching the “Up Series” feels like binge-watching humanity.

It’s a sociological experiment, courtesy of directors Paul Almond (7 Up) Michael Apted (all subsequent episodes).

We kick off in ’64 with fourteen kids who have no idea they’re about to become the longest-running reality stars, minus the reality TV drama.

Every seven years, bam, there’s Apted with his camera, checking in (for 63 years now!):

  • “Seven Up!” (1964): It’s like the first round of a sociological draft. We meet our team: 14 kids from varied backgrounds. It’s the ’60s in Britain, and the class system’s in full swing. Here’s the pitch: Every seven years, we catch up with them. It’s like a real-life Hogwarts, minus the magic and more of the reality.
  • “7 Plus Seven” (1971): The kids are 14, and it’s teenage rebellion, but with a sociological twist. We see the seeds of their futures starting to sprout. Tony’s got dreams bigger than East End, and Neil’s already on a path that you just know is going to tug at your heartstrings.
  • “21 Up” (1977): Now they’re 21, and it’s like watching life decisions in real-time. Careers, love, the works. The class divide is showing: some are graduating, others are hustling. It’s a cross-section of Britain, with punk rock playing in the background.
  • “28 Up” (1984): Fast-forward to the ’80s. It’s Thatcher’s Britain. Some are settling down, others are still figuring it out. Tony’s a cabbie, Neil’s journey is turning bittersweet, and you’re starting to see how society’s playbook is influencing their lives.
  • “35 Up” (1991): It’s the ’90s, and adulthood’s hit full force. Mortgages, kids, and mid-life reflections. The series is more than a time capsule now; it’s a study in social mobility (or the lack thereof).
  • “42 Up” (1998): The millennium’s around the corner. It’s like a reality check – some dreams realized, others deferred. You’re rooting for them, but also getting a sobering look at how upbringing and social structures keep playing out.
  • “49 Up” (2005): New century, new challenges. Health, aging, and looking back. The kids from ’64 are almost 50, and it’s a masterclass in sociology. How much has really changed from their parents’ generation?
  • “56 Up” (2012): Now they’re 56, and it’s about legacy, loss, and looking forward. The series is no longer just about them; it’s about us as viewers, reflecting on our own lives through theirs.
  • “63 Up” (2019): The latest check-in. It’s a powerful mix of nostalgia, reality, and the relentless march of time. You’re seeing the culmination of life choices, societal pressures, and just plain old fate.

The genius here isn’t just the time-lapse of life; it’s how these stories unwrap layers of society.

You can’t help but connect with characters.

Take Tony, the cabbie. He’s like your classic underdog, chasing his dreams from London to Spain.

And then there’s Neil. This guy’s journey from a Liverpool suburb to the Shetland Islands and beyond is more than a plot twist; it’s a raw look at mental health, stability, and how society sometimes sidelines the most vulnerable.

What Apted nails is this: life isn’t just about the choices we make.

It’s a cocktail of societal pressures, class ceilings, and the occasional curveball.

“Up Series” is a playbook of sociology.

It shows that whether you end up a professor, a cabbie, or wandering in the wilderness — your path is a mixtape of personal choices, social class, and a bit of fate.

Watch “Up Series” on BritBox directly here or get the BritBox channel added to Prime Video account here or your Apple TV here or Prime Video accounts (there’s a 7 day free trial and then it’s around $8.99 per month after that). . Find all the streaming options here .

2) A Class Divided

“A Class Divided,” wow, this isn’t just a documentary, it’s a psychological expedition. Jane Elliott, a teacher in a small Iowa town, becomes a social psychology genius overnight.

Following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, she divides her class by eye color. Blue eyes? Cool, you’re the in-crowd. Brown eyes? Sorry, you’re out. Simple, yet explosively effective.

This classroom experiment turns into a profound study of discrimination and its psychological impact. Watching these kids, it’s like a live demo of how prejudice is learned and how fast it can warp young minds.

One day they’re pals, the next, they’re looking sideways at each other. It’s wild.

Elliott’s experiment reveals the deep-seated roots of bias and prejudice in society. It’s a direct look into how easily attitudes are shaped and how quickly we can dehumanize others.

This doc isn’t just about kids in a classroom; it’s a snapshot of society.

The long-term effects? Mind-blowing. The documentary revisits the kids as adults. The lessons they learned about empathy and inequality are etched into their lives.

It’s a testament to the lasting impact of psychological experiments in understanding human behavior.

“A Class Divided” is more than a documentary; it’s a crucial tool in psychology. It helps us understand the mechanisms of prejudice and the importance of teaching empathy and equality from a young age.

If there’s one thing to take away, it’s this: the seeds of bias are sown early, and it’s on us to uproot them. Everyone should watch this – it’s a game-changer.

Watch A Class Divided for free on YouTube via Frontline’s channel here:; or for free on PBS here:

3) The Persuaders

Alright, let’s dive into “The Persuaders” like we’re breaking down the latest Super Bowl ads.

This Frontline doc classic is like the coach’s playbook of the marketing world – and it’s a page-turner.

First up, emotional branding. It’s not just about what you’re buying; it’s about how it makes you feel.

Think Coca-Cola or Apple. They’re not selling drinks or gadgets; they’re peddling happiness and cool. It’s like your can of soda is a ticket to the cool kids’ table.

Then, there’s Song Airlines. Remember them?

They tried to turn a boring flight into the hippest place above 30,000 feet. It’s like they wanted to be the Airbnb of airlines – not just a seat on a plane, but a whole ‘fly in style’ experience.

Political marketing gets the spotlight too.

The 2004 presidential campaigns were more like a branding war than a political race. It’s like your candidate isn’t just a guy with policies; he’s a lifestyle choice, a pair of Nikes for your political feet.

And let’s talk about Clotaire Rapaille. This guy is the Freud of branding, digging into our ‘reptilian brains’ to figure out why we buy what we buy.

It’s like he’s not just reading consumers’ minds; he’s reading their instincts.

Data mining and focus groups? That’s the secret sauce.

It’s like they’re not just selling stuff; they’re crafting a personalized commercial just for you, based on your own data. It’s part marketing, part Big Brother.

So, “The Persuaders”? It’s not just a documentary; it’s a reality check.

It shows you’re not just a consumer; you’re the target of the most sophisticated persuasion machine ever created.

Next time you feel the urge to buy something, remember, it might just be the reptilian part of your brain talking, egged on by some marketing genius.

Wild, right?

Watch “The Persuaders” for free on YouTube at

4) Secret of the Wild Child

“Secret of the Wild Child” is a doc from PBS’s Nova about Genie, a girl raised in isolation.

Discovered at 13, she couldn’t speak or walk. It’s a heartbreaking start.

Genie’s case is a rare opportunity for psychologists.

They study her ability to learn language after years of deprivation.

It’s a critical test of the critical period hypothesis in language development.

The doc is as much about psychology as it is about Genie. It explores how nurture shapes us.

Genie’s progress, though limited, offers insights. It suggests that social and emotional development are crucial for language learning.

Ethical questions arise, too. Genie becomes a subject of intense study.

But what about her emotional well-being? The film doesn’t shy away from these tough issues.

It challenges the viewer to think about the balance between scientific inquiry and human compassion.

“Secret of the Wild Child” is essential viewing for psychology students and anyone interested in language and development.

Watch it on Daily Motion for free at

5) Stars in the Sky: A Hunting Story

“Stars in the Sky: A Hunting Story” is like the Michael Jordan of hunting documentaries.

It’s not just about guys in camo with rifles; it’s a deep, almost philosophical look at why people hunt, and man, it’s eye-opening.

Picture this: It’s not your usual guns-blazing hunting story.

This documentary takes you into the woods, sure, but it’s more like a walk with Thoreau than a scene from ‘Duck Dynasty.’

It dives into the soul of hunting, peeling back layers you didn’t even know existed.

You’ve got hunters talking about conservation like they’re the unsung heroes of the ecosystem.

And get this – they kind of are. It’s like flipping the script on the whole ‘hunter as the bad guy’ narrative.

The film makes a case that hunting isn’t just about the hunt; it’s about respecting and preserving nature.

But wait, there’s more. It’s not just a nature thing; it’s a people thing.

“Stars in the Sky” shows hunting as a tradition, a bonding ritual passed down through generations.

It’s like Thanksgiving, but in the woods and with more adrenaline.

Sure, it tackles the tough stuff too. Ethical dilemmas? Check. Changing societal views? Double-check.

It’s not avoiding the controversy; it’s wading right into it, asking the hard questions without pretending to have all the answers.

Whether you’re a hunter, an animal lover, or just a doc-junkie, this film’s got something for you. It’s not just changing the game; it’s showing us there’s more to the game than we thought.

I can’t find a place to watch “Stars in the Sky” right now. Check back at for streaming options.

6) Lord of the Ants

“Lord of the Ants,” narrated by Harrison Ford, is a fascinating deep-dive into the life and work of E.O. Wilson, the renowned biologist and ant expert.

It’s like a biopic meets a scientific adventure, and Ford’s narration adds that sprinkle of Hollywood charm.

The doc takes us into the world of ants, but it’s really the story of Wilson’s groundbreaking research that steals the show.

It’s like following Indiana Jones if he were a biologist.

You’ve got Wilson, trekking through rainforests, studying these tiny creatures with the enthusiasm of a kid and the brain of a genius.

But it’s not just ants for the sake of ants.

The doc shows how Wilson’s work with these little critters provides profound insights into human behavior and societal structures.

It’s like finding the secrets of human societies in an ant colony. Who knew ants could tell us so much about ourselves?

One of the standout aspects of “Lord of the Ants” is how it delves into Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis.

It’s this idea that humans have an innate connection to nature, and the documentary weaves this concept beautifully into its narrative.

It’s not just academic; it’s almost spiritual.

“Lord of the Ants” is a masterful blend of biography, science, and environmental activism, all wrapped up in a visually stunning package.

Watch “Lord of the Ants” for free by clicking the embed video above or this link on YouTube:

7) Spaceship Earth

“Spaceship Earth” is like the wacky brainchild of a sci-fi saga and a reality TV show, except it’s 100% real-life drama.

This doc takes you on a wild trip into Biosphere 2, the ’90s eco-experiment that’s so out-there you have to keep pinching yourself.

Imagine a squad of dreamers and science buffs sealing themselves in a giant terrarium to play Mother Nature. Sounds like a “Star Trek” episode, right?

But nope, this crew was dead serious. Think “Big Brother” with a sprinkle of Discovery Channel magic, but the houseguests are plants, and the drama is all about survival.

These guys were like the Elon Musks of the ’90s, trying to prove we could hack it on other planets.

It’s ambitious, a tad loony, but totally inspiring.

They’re not just playing with test tubes; they’re rewriting the rulebook on sustainable living.

But “Spaceship Earth” isn’t just a science fest; it’s a deep dive into the human fishbowl.

You’ve got these visionary leaders and geek-chic scientists rocking the ’90s looks, all trying to juggle their big brains and egos in a glass dome.

It’s like a reality show, but the stakes are higher than just a million bucks.

The doc is a goldmine for sociology buffs. It peels back the layers on human dynamics, teamwork, and how people deal with being cooped up with each other when things go south.

Oxygen dropping, food running low, tensions rising – it’s like “Survivor,” but instead of voting people off, they’re trying to keep Mother Earth alive.

In short, “Spaceship Earth” is the ultimate ride for anyone into science, adventure, or just a crazy-good human story.

Watch “Spaceship Earth” for free on Kanopy (with library card or student ID) or on Hulu or rent it on Amazon, Apple TV et al. Streaming options are at

8) Obedience


Watch “Obedience” for free on YouTube at

9) The Human Behavior Experiments

Alright, strap in for Alex Gibney’s “The Human Behavior Experiments,” which is basically the “Ocean’s Eleven” of psychology documentaries.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill science flick; it’s a wild ride into the twisted maze of the human mind.

Gibney, like a master chef of documentaries, cooks up a feast of infamous psychology experiments.

We’re talking about the heavyweights: Milgram’s shock experiment, the Stanford prison study.

Each one is like a round in the psychological Hunger Games, showing just how quickly Mr. and Ms. Average Joe can flip to the dark side.

But here’s where Gibney flips the script: He ties these mind-benders to real-world craziness.

Abu Ghraib? Check. It’s like he’s saying, “Think this stuff is just for textbooks?

Nope, it’s happening in your backyard.” Gibney’s linking lab coats with real-life, and it’s as eye-opening as your first cup of coffee.

The docis like a magic trick revealing how ordinary folks can be nudged into doing extraordinary (and sometimes scary) things. It’s a sneak peek into the power of authority and groupthink.

You’re not just watching experiments; you’re getting a VIP pass to the psychological mechanisms that drive them.

After watching, you’ll be questioning everything. Would I press the button?

Would I play the guard? It’s like Gibney’s holding up a mirror to your inner moral compass, and maybe the compass is spinning a bit more than you’d like.

Buckle up, because this is one sociopsychological journey you won’t forget.

Watch “The Human Behavior Experiments” for free on YouTube at .

10) Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment

As a fan of social psychology documentaries, I consider this to be an all-timer in the genre.

Director Philip Zimbardo takes us inside his infamous 1971 experiment, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Talk about a crazy idea that actually worked – Zimbardo converted the basement of the Stanford psych department into a mock prison and randomly assigned 24 psychologically healthy male college students to be either “prisoners” or “guards.”

The experiment was meant to go for two weeks but was stopped after only six days.

Why? Because things went full Shawshank way too quickly.

Watching the arbitrariness with which these students descend into their roles is both fascinating and deeply disturbing.

We witness the guards become sadistic and the prisoners spiral into depression and rebellion.

It’s like watching the Dark Side slowly take over everyone. And these are good kids! What the hell?

While tough to stomach at times, Quiet Rage is a mesmerizing watch.

Zimbardo lets scenes breath, giving us fly-on-the-wall access to his scientific nightmare.

Montages of prisoners killing time in their cells, guards synchronizing punishments, rebelling prisoners gettingstripped and bagged – the imagery sticks with you.

I did have a couple “Wait, WHAT?!” moments with some of Zimbardo’s research decisions.

Even he admits they could have pulled the plug earlier.

But hey, hindsight is 20/20. Doesn’t take away from the documentary’s raw power.

Watch The Stanford Prison Experiment for free on YouTube here:

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac of Daily Doc