It’s “Rocky” meets “Bourne Identity”.

Alexei Navalny is the Russian equivalent of David going up against the Putin Goliath.

I rank CNN’s “Navalny” it as #1 on my Best Documentaries on Russia list (out of 21!).

Watch “Navalny” Online

You can stream CNN’s “Navalny” on HBO Max at

The documentary’s released date by CNN in the US was April 24, 2022. It was also released on the streaming platform CNN+.

Following the closure of CNN+, the doc was released on HBO Max on May 26, 2022. In the United Kingdom, it was broadcast on BBC2 on March 25, 2022.

Check back here for any changes in streaming options:


  • My Rating: 96/100
  • IMDB Rating: 7.7 /10
  • Rotten Tomatoes Ratings: 88 /100 (Users); 97/100 (Critics)

My Review of “Navalny”

For those of you who don’t follow this stuff obsessively like I do, Alexei Navalny is basically the Russian equivalent of David going up against the Putin Goliath.

On August 20, 2020, the unthinkable happened – the charismatic dude is poisoned with a freaking nerve agent.

It’s reportedly the same poison (Novichok nerve agent) as was used to kill double-agent/ex-Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4, 2018.

Novichok is a preferred poison of the Kremlin because it “shuts down the body one nerve at a time and then, within hours, any trace of it disappears.

That’s where the “Navalny” doc picks up, and holy shit, it’s quite a ride.

Director Daniel Roher somehow managed to embed himself with Navalny’s crew as this insane story unfolded in real-time.

The documentary’s Executive Producer is super-sleuth Maria Pevchikh.

Backstory on Maria: In 2010, Maria Pevchikh stumbled upon Navalny’s blog and got totally hooked. Fast forward a year, and she’s basically Navalny’s right-hand woman, digging into all sorts of juicy investigations that pop up on the blog (including Putin’s Palace).

Maria and Roher make a great team on this doc:

We’re talking clandestine meetings, high-stakes investigations, prank calls to Russian spies.

And the Roher/Navalny interview part is stirring:

Navalny tells Roher that because he was “famous” he thought “it would be problematic for them to kill me…”

The “them” meaning Putin, Russia.

“Boy were you wrong,” Roher responds.

“Yes, I was very wrong”, says Navalny. This story is truly stranger than fiction.

It’s like a Jason Bourne movie, but with way more dad jokes (Navalny’s a funny dude).

A little inside baseball on the origin story of the documentary:

Roher tells The Hollywood Reporter:

“I later learned that when Alexei woke up from his coma in Berlin, he had two visions: One was of doing this gigantic investigative video about Vladimir Putin’s palace and his illicit wealth. And the other was to do this big, in his mind, Hollywood documentary movie. So they were open to the idea, they were open to the concept.”

What really hits you watching this film is the sheer guts it takes to do what Navalny is doing.

This is a guy who knows he has a bullseye on his back, and he’s still out there every day, speaking truth to power and mobilizing the masses.

And the craziest part is, even after getting poisoned and nearly dying, he still goes back to Russia.

There’s some laughable spy shit anectodes.

Like how Navalny says one of Putin’s right-hand men’s computer was hacked so he changed the password from “Moscow1” to “Moscow 2”. When the PC was hacked again, he changed it to “Moscow3.”

And how Internet sleuth Christo Grozev of narrows down the list of hitmen of Navalny to 4 of Putin’s henchmen.

Putin, the doc says, refuses to mention Navalny by name.

Then, it gets even weirder.

Navalny calls them and asks one:

“Why did you want to kill me?”

In another call, Navalny impersonates a senior Russian official and gets the suspsected assassin to talk about the attemped assassination.

Knowing full well he’s probably gonna get tossed in jail (spoiler alert: he does).

Navalny’s family is a key part of the doc.

His daughter says: “Ever since I was 13 years old I wondered what I’d do if my dad was killed.”

You learn that during downtime Navalny’s wife plays chess while Navalny prefers Call of Duty.

Navalny, recovered from his posioning, decides to return to Moscow January 17.

As Navalny is in the air on his descent to Moscow, Russian police arrest throngs of Navalny supporters, and reporters, waiting for him at the airport.

Bedlam ensues.

The plane diverts to land at another airport (Navalny apologizes to fellow passengers).

Navalny is arrested as he goes through customs. Navalny faces up to 20 years in prison.

Now, I’m not gonna pretend I understand all the ins and outs of Russian politics.

But I know bravery and principle when I see it, and Navalny has that in spades.

Thanks to Mia Galuppo of The Hollywood Reporter for first putting this on my radar; and Ron Heller for moving it up in my queue.

Thanks for reading!

Rob Kelly, Chief Maniac, Daily Doc