The Top 12 Psychology Documentaries (Ranked)

I love psychology. It’s a superpower in biz & life.

So I scoured the Web and the world for the best psychology docs.

Below are the first 12 that I ranked.

Come back soon for more (or join the Daily Doc newsletter if you’re not already on it!) — cuz I’ve got a handful of awesome ones I still need to watch.

And, surely, a few more will be added to this list!

1) The Century of the Self

“The Century of the Self,” folks is a wake-up call wrapped in a history lesson inside a psychological thriller.

It’s like going on a mind-bending LSD trip through the last hundred years, but without the weird side effects.

Adam Curtis? The guy’s a magician with archival footage. He digs up stuff that makes you go, “Whoa, did that really happen?”

This doc is all about how Freud’s ideas on human nature shaped the 20th century.

Sounds heavy?

It is, but stick with me.

It’s like finding out that your brain has been on a hundred-year-long shopping spree, egged on by clever marketers.

Freud’s nephew, Bernays? This guy basically invents public relations.

He’s like the godfather of influencing *(you can be sure Dr. Cialdini (see below) loves him.

Curtis takes us on a wild ride, from cigarette ads targeting women’s liberation (yikes) to politicians using focus groups to craft messages that resonate with our deepest desires and fears.

It’s like realizing the Matrix is real, but instead of Keanu Reeves, you’ve got Sigmund Freud and a bunch of ad execs.

The style? Classic Curtis.

Rapid-fire images, a haunting soundtrack, and a narrative that connects dots you didn’t even know existed.

It’s like your history teacher suddenly became the most interesting person in the room.

It’s not just a documentary; it’s a mirror showing us how our desires have been shaped and sold back to us.

Watch it, and you’ll never look at a billboard the same way again. Trust me, it’s a trip.

“The Century of the Self” is divided into four parts, each approximately one hour long. The total runtime is around four hours

Watch it for free on YouTube here:

  • “Happiness Machines” – Part 1 focuses on the work of Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, and his application of psychoanalysis to the field of advertising, effectively turning products into symbols of desire and fulfillment.
  • “The Engineering of Consent” – Part 2 examines how Freud’s theories were used to understand and influence the masses, particularly in politics and marketing. It delves into the concept of influencing public opinion and the rise of political and product marketing based on subconscious desires.
  • “There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads: He Must Be Destroyed” – Part 3 explores the shift in the 1960s towards a more individualistic society and how businesses and politicians adapted to this change by creating new ways to satisfy the desires of the self.
  • “Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering” – Part 4 looks at the consequences of treating people as individualistic beings driven by desires, examining the impact on politics and social structure, and questioning the sustainability of a society driven by consumerism and self-gratification.

If those links don’t work for ya, someone uploaded the full doc on YouTube here:

Note to UKers. I’m American. But it looks like this doc (or docco as some of you across the pond call it) is available in the U.K. via Sky.

2) Charlie Munger Psychology of Human Misjudgement Speech

Watch the Charlie Munger speech from Harvard (June 1995) for free on YouTube by clicking the embed above or going to

Charlie opens up by mentioning the book “Influence” by Robert Cialdini. “That filled a lot of holes in my crude system,” Charlie says.

“And when those holes were filled in I thought I had a system that was a good-working tool.”

Charlie then goes on to list out 24 Standard Causes of Human Misjudgement. Here they are (roughly in order of how he covered them):

  1. Incentives/Reinforcement  — One of the best examples of incentive power is the Federal Express case. The success of their system hinged on quickly shifting all packages at a central location nightly. Initially struggling with efficiency, FedEx tried various strategies without success. The breakthrough came when they shifted from hourly pay to shift-based pay for their workers. This simple change in incentives dramatically improved the system’s efficiency.
  2. Denial — A family friend’s super athlete and student son tragically disappeared from a carrier in the North Atlantic. His mother, despite being very sane, couldn’t accept his death. This reflects a broader psychological trend where people deny harsh realities. It’s also seen in mothers of convicted criminals who insist on their innocence. It’s a defense mechanism against unbearable pain, distorting reality to make it tolerable.
  3. Incentive-Caused Bias — This causes “Agency Cost”. Charlie gives the example of “cost-plus” ” charging by service firms. E.g. Most law firms still charge this way…and that incentivizes the service firm to artificially inflate the costs. This causes “terrible abuse” by humans.
  4. Man with a Hammer Syndrome — “To the man with a hammer, every problem tends to look pretty much like a nail.” Here, Charlie gives the example of Psychologist Burrhus Frederic “B.F.” Skinner. Munger argues that Skinner took worthwhile concepts like operant conditioning and reinforcement based on his animal research, but then tried to inappropriately extend them to broadly explain all facets of human psychology and behavior. he scorned opponents who had any different way of thinking or thought anything else was important…It’s not the right way to make a lasting reputation.” There are “a lot of things that Skinner didn’t know.” Munger argues for a multidisciplinary, broader view.
  5. Consistency & Commitment Bias (47:00) — The human mind is like the human egg. It shuts down once the sperm is inside. The human brain is the same — it doesn’t easily let in new inputs. Munger uses this anecdote from the history of physics and Max Planck’s observation about how scientists cling to and defend their pre-existing conclusions. Charlie also describes how John Gutfreund of Solomon Brothers failed to properly discipline an employee who submitted false bids in Treasury security auctions. Munger argues Gutfreund fell prey to consistency bias in his desire to stand by his colleague rather than punish him, likely distorted by personal sympathy and unconscious rationalization. He suggests considering the situation more objectively, without bias.
  6. Bias from Pavlovian Association — “Three quarters of advertising works on pure Pavlov,” Charlie says. Coca-Cola Company, for instance, only wants to be associated with “wonderful image heroics and the Olympics, wonderful music, you name it…” Association really works…on a subconscious level. Munger also calls this “Association-Caused Misjudgment  at the 17 minute mark of the speech when he talks about the superstitious pigeon tests.
  7. Persian Messenger Syndrome – Charlie gives the example of Bill Baley of CBS. “Nobody wants to bring Bill Paley things he didn’t want to hear.”
  8. Envy/Jealousy Bias – “Anyone with siblings…or who’ve run a law firm or investment bank or a faculty” knows about this one. Charlie says: ” I’ve heard Warren say a half-dozen times: ‘It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.'”
  9. Contrast-Caused Distortions — “Takes the three buckets of water, one’s hot ones cold…gets the students to put one hand in the hot, one in the cold…contrast causes misjudgments.”
  10. Authority Overinfluence — Milgram experiment showing danger of authority.
  11. Deprival Super Reaction – New Coke example – “They get this huge deprival super reaction syndrome Pepsi was within weeks of coming out with old coke in a Pepsi bottle.”
  12. Liking Tendency – People tend to get mislded by someone “like” them.
  13. Disliking Tendency –This is the inverse of “Liking Tendency”. Charlie says this our “tendency not to learn appropriately from someone disliked” (e.g. this could be us not listening as closely to someone different than us). Advice: Listen to people from all walks of life. Not just yours.
  14. Social Proof Influence – Auto companies all rushed to replicate after one bought a fertilizer company; catastrophe. Another example is the case of Kitty Genovese (50+ people watched her get murdered and did nothing about it (because they thought the other people would call the police).
  15. Lose Ability through Disuse — Charlie gives himself as the example: “I was a whiz at calculus until age twenty, after which the skill was soon obliterated by total nonuse.”
  16. Say Something Syndrome – Mental confusion. The honey bee goes out and does a dance when it finds it (to tell others where the honey is). Some scientist moved the honey and the bee still did the “honey dance” (even though it didn’t find the honey). Charlie says humans are similar — they often feel the need to “Say Something”.
  17. Stress-Endused Mental Changes – Pavlov’s dogs with breakdowns. The great Leningrad flood came and the dogs in Pavlov’s cages had all their conditions reversed (from their stress).
  18. Chemical dependency – “It always causes moral breakdown… and always involves massive denial.”
  19. Gambling Addiction – This one is obvious. But Charlie explains that Gambling crosses with other biases such as commitment bias (if a lottery player picks a number then they are more committed to the outcome).
  20. Miscognition from Overweighing Extra Evidence –stock example – vivid CEO peculiarity causes poor decision.
  21. Tendency to Misjudge Combinations – McDonnell-Douglas evacuation test combining multiple biases to keep repeating.
  22. Reciprocation Tendency — Charlie admits that he has paid severance pay to someone he once fired who had taken a mistress on a foreign trip (because Charlie knew the man’s wife and family). Munger also touches on reciprocation as just one of many tendencies/biases that occur in bad situations (such as John Gutfreund of Solomon Brothers looking the other way when people on his team did misdeeds (because he felt the need to reciprocate all the favors team members had given him).
  23. Role Theory — Where you tend to act in the way other people expect. A guy named Zimbardo had students play the roles of guards and prisoners…and it got into . “It was awesome”, Charlie thought that. There’s a bit of a Consistency and Commitment Tendency in here too. “What you think may change what you do. But perhaps even more important what you do will change what you think.”
  24. Lollapalooza Effect— The effect of multiple tendencies above (usually 4+) at once.

Charlie explains that the most effective organizations use the Lollapalooza Effect with powerful results. Examples:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (e.g. an astounding 50% success rate)
  • Tupperware Parties (uses a few of these “tricks”)
  • Mooney Conversion
  • Milgram Experiment

If you want more Charlie Munger, check out the Best 4 Charlie Munger Speeches, Interviews and Documentaries of interest I ranked.

3) Crash Course: Psychology

“Crash Course: Psychology,” folks, it’s like psychology on steroids, but in a good way.

You’ve got Hank Green, the guy who makes learning feel like a wild rollercoaster ride.

This ain’t your grandma’s psychology class; it’s like sitting in a room with a buddy who just can’t stop cracking jokes.

Hank dives into the deep end of the human mind with energy and wit. He covers everything from neurons firing like fireworks on the Fourth of July to the mysteries of consciousness.

And he does it with animations that make you feel like you’re in a Pixar movie.

But here’s the beauty: Hank takes complex concepts and serves them up like your favorite comfort food.

He’s like the master chef of brain knowledge, breaking down ideas into bite-sized pieces you can digest.

Whether you’re a psychology major or just a curious cat, this course is your golden ticket.

And hey, it’s not just about memorizing facts; it’s about understanding what makes us tick as humans.

It’s about unlocking the secrets of why we do the crazy things we do. Hank makes it all relatable, like a conversation with your smartest friend at a coffee shop.

In short, “Crash Course: Psychology” is the ultimate mind-bending adventure, with Hank Green as your tour guide.

It’s like a Netflix binge you won’t feel guilty about.

Trust me, it’s a total brain treat.

Watch Crash Course: Psychology on Curiousity Stream. Check back here for other options:

4) The Mind, Explained

“The Mind Explained” takes you on a a journey into the most mysterious place on Earth—the human brain.

This Netflix docuseries is like a backstage pass to the most exclusive show in town, and boy, is it mind-boggling.

Hosted by the charismatic and knowledgeable Emma Stone (yes, that Emma Stone), this series peels back the layers of our gray matter.

From dreams to memory, anxiety to mindfulness, it’s a buffet of brainy topics served up with a side of humor and charm.

But here’s what’s truly amazing: it makes complex neuroscience feel as accessible as your morning coffee.

The experts break down brain science with clarity, using engaging animations and real-life examples.

You’ll find yourself nodding along, thinking, “Oh, so that’s why I do that!”

And let’s not forget the social and psychological aspects.

“The Mind Explained” delves into how our brains shape our behavior and how society influences our noggin.

It’s like a crash course in understanding why we humans do the quirky, fascinating things we do.

In short, this series is a mind-blowing adventure into the most complex organ in the universe—our brains.

Watch it on Netflix at

5) Stutz

Stutz, directed by Jonah Hill (yes, that actor Jonah Hill), explores the life and work of Phil Stutz, a psychotherapist to the stars (including Jonah!).

Phil Stutz introduces us to his innovative frameworks. He covers the Reversal of Desire, Active Love, and Part X.

These concepts are groundbreaking in psychology. They offer practical tools for overcoming life’s challenges.

The Reversal of Desire is about facing fears. It teaches us to embrace, not avoid, pain. Active Love focuses on transforming anger into love.

It’s a powerful approach to interpersonal conflicts. Part X deals with the inner critic. It helps in understanding and overcoming self-doubt.

Jonah Hill’s vulnerability adds depth.

He shares his own mental health journey. This personal touch makes the film relatable. It’s not just a documentary; it’s a therapeutic session.

The film seamlessly blends psychology with storytelling. It’s educational yet deeply personal.

Stutz’s wisdom shines through. His methods are not just theories; they’re life-changing tools.

I use one of them (“The Maze”) about once a week!

Watch it on Netflix at

6) Project Nim

“Project Nim”, directed by James Marsh, dives into an extraordinary experiment.

It’s the 1970s, and there’s Nim, a chimpanzee, plucked from his mother as a newborn. The goal? To see if he can learn sign language in a human family.

It’s a real-life experiment by Columbia University professor Herbert Terrace.

The idea? Test if chimps can communicate using human language. Nim’s journey is a rollercoaster.

From a cozy family in Manhattan to the harsher reality of a research lab, his life is a series of shifts.

The doc brilliantly captures the emotional and psychological dynamics at play.

You see Nim’s remarkable progress with sign language. It’s fascinating, watching him communicate his desires, feelings, even play jokes.

But there’s a twist – the experiment raises deep ethical questions. The impact on Nim’s well-being, the blurring lines between scientific objectivity and emotional attachment.

Interviews with the people who raised and studied Nim add layers to the narrative.

They reflect on their actions and Nim’s fate. The archival footage, from playful moments to challenging interactions, is compelling.

“Project Nim” is more than a story about a chimp. It’s a profound commentary on the complexities of communication, the ethical boundaries of scientific research, and the deep emotional connections between humans and animals.

For psychology buffs, it’s a treasure trove (cognitive development, language acquisition, ethical dilemmas in such research).

Watch Project Nim for free on Kanopy at See for other streaming options.

7) Brain games

“Brain Games” is a more light-hearted psychology doc — a mix of entertainment and science.

The series, hosted by Keegan-Michael Key, is an interactive series, turning psychology into play.

Each episode is a journey into our minds.

Think optical illusions, brain teasers, social experiments. It’s fun, yet educational. You’re not just watching; you’re participating.

The show explores cognitive psychology in everyday life.

Topics like memory, fear, persuasion, decision-making. It’s fascinating. You learn why your brain acts a certain way.

And it’s done with humor, thanks to Key’s charisma.

Guest appearances (Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, and Tiffany Haddish) add flavor.

“Brain Games” is great for all ages.

Kids, adults, anyone curious about the brain. It’s a show that makes you think, literally.

You’ll laugh, you’ll be amazed, you might even learn something about yourself.

Watch it on Disney+ at Check here for other streaming options:

8) Marwencol

“Marwencol” follows Mark Hogancamp’s unique coping mechanism after a brutal attack leaves him with severe amnesia.

Hogancamp creates Marwencol, a miniature WWII-era Belgian town.

It’s his therapy, his sanctuary.

The doc delves into the therapeutic power of art. Hogancamp’s detailed miniatures are more than a hobby.

They’re a form of self-therapy.

Through Marwencol, he processes trauma, rebuilds his identity, and regains control over his life. It’s a vivid display of art therapy in action.

“Marwencol” also explores memory and identity. Hogancamp reconstructs his past and crafts a new identity. His story is a profound example of how we piece together our sense of self, especially after traumatic brain injury.

The doc is intimate, respectful. It provides a window into the mind of a man reassembling his life piece by piece, figurine by figurine.

In essence, “Marwencol” is a story of resilience. It’s about finding healing and hope in the most unexpected places.

For psychology enthusiasts, it’s a fascinating case study in coping mechanisms, memory, and identity.

Watch Marwencol for free (with ads) on Plex. See for that and other streaming options.

9) Derren Brown: The Experiments

“Derren Brown: The Experiments,” is a docuseries by mental maestro Derren Brown.

Imagine a mash-up of psychology class and a magic show, and you’re halfway there.

Brown is the psychology professor you wish you had.

Brown covers such psychology concepts as:

  • Conformity and Obedience (Episode: “The Gameshow”) –Brown creates a fake game show where the audience influences the life of an unsuspecting participant. The audience makes decisions that become increasingly negative, demonstrating how individuals conform to group norms and obey perceived authority, even compromising moral standards.
  • Suggestion and Hypnosis (Episode: “The Assassin”) — In this episode, Brown hypnotizes a participant into believing he’s assassinating a celebrity. This experiment highlights the power of suggestion and hypnosis in overriding rational thought, showcasing how individuals can be influenced to perform actions they wouldn’t normally consider.
  • Social Influence (Episode: “The Guilt Trip”) — Brown places a participant in a scenario filled with actors, leading him to believe he’s responsible for someone’s death. This episode explores how social cues and group dynamics can heavily influence an individual’s emotions and decisions, making them believe and confess to actions they didn’t commit.
  • Group Dynamics (Episode: “Remote Control”) — The episode involves a crowd making decisions for an individual, showcasing how group dynamics can lead to a loss of individual responsibility and morality. It’s a stark illustration of how being part of a group can drastically alter behavior, often leading to actions that individuals wouldn’t undertake alone.
  • Psychological Manipulation (Episode: “The Assassin”) — This episode uses a combination of suggestion and staged scenarios to manipulate a participant into believing he’s an assassin. It’s a powerful example of how psychological techniques can be used to alter perceptions and beliefs, even to the point of overriding a person’s conscious will.
  • Memory and Perception (Episode: “The Guilt Trip”) — Brown manipulates the participant’s memory and perception, making him believe he’s committed a crime. This experiment demonstrates how memory can be fallible and easily influenced by external factors, and how our perceptions shape our understanding of reality.

Watch “Derren Brown: The Experiments” on Peacock, Tubi and Plex. All streaming options should be here:

10) Mind Over Murder

“Mind Over Murder,” the 2022 series, dives into a tangled web of repressed memories.

It’s set in Beatrice, Nebraska, circling back to a haunting 1985 murder case.

Six people convicted, but here’s the twist: they’re innocent.

This series isn’t just a recount of events; it’s a deep psychological exploration.

“Repressed memory” is at the heart of this doc.

These memories, buried deep and then surfaced under pressure, are central to the wrongful convictions.

It’s a startling example of how fragile and manipulative our memories can be.

You watch as these individuals grapple with memories they can’t fully trust.

The series delves into how these repressed memories were manipulated, leading to false confessions.

It’s unnerving, fascinating, and a bit scary.

Then there’s the group dynamic.

Watching how individual memories and beliefs get swayed in a group setting? It’s like watching a psychological drama unfold.

The impact on the community adds another layer.

The series paints a picture of a town grappling with the aftermath of a miscarriage of justice.

“Mind Over Murder” is a case study in repressed memories, suggestibility, and the power of the mind.

Watch Mind Over Murder on HBO Max at at For full streaming options, check back at

11) Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment

“Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment” dives into one of psychology’s most infamous studies.

The setup? A mock prison at Stanford University, students as guards and prisoners.

It’s a scenario that spirals out of control, fast.

Philip Zimbardo is the mastermind.

His experiment, meant to last two weeks, ends in six days.

Why? The psychological impact is too intense. Students, mere role-players, transform. Guards become cruel, prisoners, distressed.

It’s a stark display of power dynamics and human psychology.

What “Quiet Rage” does brilliantly is show the thin line between role and reality.

It questions how far we can go under social pressures.

The film is a chilling reminder of how easily we can slip into roles, especially those with power.

Zimbardo’s commentary is key. He reflects on the experiment’s implications and his own role.

It’s a candid, sometimes unsettling insight into the study’s ethics and impact.

“Quiet Rage” raises questions about authority, conformity, and the nature of evil.

Watch The Stanford Prison Experiment for free on YouTube here:

12) The 6 Principles of Persuasion (Dr. Robert Cialdini)

This 12-minute animated gem (with a whopping 13,923,643 views) from 2012 is a mini-masterclass in the art of persuasion (some would say the art of “getting people to say ‘yes'”).

Now, let’s talk about Dr. Robert Cialdini. This guy is the real deal, a Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University.

He’s dedicated his entire career to unraveling the science of influence. His books, including “Influence: Science & Practice” and “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” are like the holy grail of persuasion literature.

They’ve sold over 3 million copies, folks! That’s not something you achieve without knowing a thing or two about persuasion.

This video breaks down Cialdini’s six universal Principles of Persuasion:

  1. Reciprocity — It’s like the unwritten rule of returning the favor. Think of that mint the waiter gives you at the end of your meal – it’s a small gesture, but it can significantly impact your tip.
  2. Scarcity — People desire what’s limited. Remember how British Airways’ decision to retire the Concorde led to a surge in ticket sales? Scarcity in action!
  3. Authority –We tend to follow credible experts. Physiotherapists display their diplomas for a reason – it persuades patients to trust them.
  4. Consistency — We like to stick to our commitments. A small initial commitment can lead to more significant changes. For instance, placing a postcard in your window can result in supporting a local campaign.
  5. Liking. — Similarity, compliments, and cooperation play a significant role. Even online, finding common ground and giving compliments can be powerful.
  6. Social Proof (aka “Consensus”) — This taps into our natural tendency to follow others. Ever seen those hotel cards urging you to reuse towels? A study proved they work better when you know others are doing it too.

Watch it for free on YouTube at

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac of Daily Doc