From family secrets to life's big questions – and some hair-raising survival tactics! – these are the documentaries you loved most in 2020.
By
SBS Guide

17 Dec 2020 - 12:08 PM  UPDATED 17 Dec 2020 - 4:59 PM

Who Do You Think You Are

Join the fascinating, surprising hunt through history as well-known Australians go in search of their family history. With four seasons of the series currently streaming, you can join country music icon Troy Cassar Daley as he goes on a quest to find his ancestral homeland, renowned neurosurgeon Charlie Teo as he looks for answers about his cultural heritage, or performer Noni Hazlehurst who goes in search of the secrets her parents held so tightly. It's often an emotional journey, and every participant learns more about the family history that has helped make them who they are. 

Four seasons of Who Do You Think You Are are streaming at SBS On Demand. If you missed the most recent series, start here:

Alone

The struggle to survive is a tough one on Alone, when 10 hardcore survivalists are left alone in the wilderness – no camera crew, no teams (except season 4, where people were sent out in pairs). The series has sent participants into the wilds of Vancouver Island, Patagonia in Argentina, Northern Mongolia and near the Arctic Circle, far enough apart that they won't see each other. Each of them faces extreme isolation and psychological distress as they plunge into the unknown, self-documenting their experience. 

Seasons 1-6 of Alone are streaming on SBS On Demand

Filthy Rich and Homeless

Five high-profile Australians swap their privileged lives to discover what life is like for the nation's homeless. They'll find it challenging, lonely, and potentially life-changing. 

All three seasons of Filthy Rich and Homeless are now streaming at SBS On Demand. Season 3 is also available with Arabic and Simplified Chinese subtitles).

The Beach

Filmmaker Warwick Thornton’s international success has come at a personal cost. He has reached a crossroad in his life and something has to change. He has chosen to try giving up life in the fast lane for a while, to go it alone, on an isolated beach in one of the most beautiful yet brutal environments in the world, to see if he can transform and heal his life. This six-part series joins Thornton in his tiny hut by the water in Jilirr, on the Dampier Peninsula in remote north-western WA. Will the isolation give him a chance to see a different future? 

The Beach is streaming at SBS On Demand

On the beach at the end of the world with Warwick Thornton and his unruly chooks
Getting back to basics, filmmaker Warwick Thornton exorcised his inner demons in remote WA.

Couples Therapy

This documentary series from the US follows four couples in their weekly therapy sessions. Guided by world-class therapist, Dr Orna Guralnik, the couples move through struggles, confrontations and breakthroughs. This insightful series unlocks the hidden world of other people’s relationships, and doesn’t feel as voyeuristic as you might think.

Season 1 of Couples Therapy is streaming at SBS On Demand. One-hour special, Couples Therapy: The COVID Special airs on SBS VICELAND on Sunday 20 December at 10.10pm.

Hillary

A remarkably intimate portrait of a public woman, four-part series Hillary interweaves revealing moments from never-before-seen 2016 campaign footage with biographical chapters of her life. Featuring exclusive interviews with Hillary Rodham Clinton herself, Bill Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, friends and journalists, the series examines how she became at once one of the most admired and vilified women in the world.

Hillary is streaming at SBS On Demand

Country Music

Acclaimed director Ken Burns (The Vietnam War) traces the history of country music and its evolution throughout the 20th century, from its roots in ballads, hymns and the blues to its mainstream popularity. Meet unforgettable characters and storytellers including Jimmie Rodgers, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and Reba McEntire.  

The full 9-episode season 1 of Country Music is streaming at SBS On Demand.  

In Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’, Dolly Parton is country’s unlikely star
Among the boozing, hard-living outlaws dominating the scene, country icon Dolly Parton stood apart through her camp image and incredible song-writing talents.

100 Vaginas

In a provocative documentary, artist Laura Dodsworth photographs and interviews 18 British women – from teenager to pensioner – as they tell frank, funny and powerful stories of periods, pubic hair grooming, the trauma of rape and FGM, the joy of orgasms, the secrets of the clitoris, the wonders of birth and the impact of porn, gender and religion to better understand this part of themselves and its role in women's lives.

100 Vaginas is streaming at SBS On Demand

Every Family Has A Secret

Noni Hazlehurst meets Australians who are grappling with a family secret. Over three weeks, participants travel around the world uncovering powerful truths about themselves, their families and Australia. From a mother's path through the Holocaust to a woman's childhood with an acrobatic school in Taiwan, these are deeply personal and potentially life-changing journeys of discovery. 

Seasons 1 and 2 of Every Family has a Secret are streaming at SBS On Demand. Season 2 is also available with Arabic and Simplified Chinese subtitles.  

Struggle Street 

The third season of this thought-provoking documentary series explores the complex issues faced by Australians in rural and regional communities. With drought, fire and more, there are tough challenges facing rural Australians.

Season 3 of Struggle Street is streaming at SBS On Demand

Life Drawing Live

Keen to brush up your skills or try life drawing for the first time? In this two-hour special, triple Gold Logie winner Rove McManus is joined by a group of amateur artists, including some famous faces (cook, TV presenter and author Adam Liaw, actress Claudia Karvan, actor Hunter Page-Lochard, and comedian, actor and writer Susie Youssef) to sketch live life models as they strike various poses. Guided by some of the country’s leading art experts, the artists complete a series of life drawing exercises before attempting to capture a challenging final scene.

Life Drawing Live is streaming at SBS On Demand. If you want more, try Life Drawing UK, a similar two-hour event, or The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.  

Australia Come Fly With Me

Justine Clarke investigates the turbulent history of Australians in the air, from the daredevil aviators who lifted spirits of Australians after World War I to globetrotting migrants and people with great visions, revealing bravery, social injustice and the changing face of flying. 

Australia Come Fly With Me is streaming at SBS on Demand. Episodes are also available with Arabic and Simplified Chinese subtitles. 

Marry Me Marry My Family

Explore the chaotic and colourful road to intercultural relationships. Six couples try to straddle the gulf between cultures and the gap between their parents' relationships and expectations, and their own dreams. 

Seasons 1 and 2 of Marry Me Marry My Family are streaming at SBS On Demand. Season 2 is also available with Arabic and Simplified Chinese subtitles.

Punk

This four-part docu-series explores the history of punk music featuring global music icons. Interspersing stories from America's punk pioneers with those of UK bands of the same ilk looking to conquer the USA, Punk defines the genre's American DNA and explores its subsequent propagation across the Atlantic. It features a seamless blend of rare and unseen photos and gritty video, a crackling soundtrack of punk hits and misses, original interviews and VIP access to the scene's biggest movers and shakers.

Punk is streaming at SBS On Demand. 

Who Gets to Stay in Australia?

Narrated by Brooke Satchwell, this series captures the life-changing moments of 13 permanent residency applicants and their families as they navigate their way through our complex, rigorous, ever-changing immigration system.

Who Gets To Stay In Australia? is streaming at SBS On Demand. The series is also available with Simplified Chinese and Arabic subtitles. 

Through The Wormhole

Hosted by Morgan Freeman, Through the Wormhole explores the deepest mysteries of existence, from whether robots are the future of human evolution to whether a zombie apocalypse is possible. Do you make your own luck, or does luck make you? Will sex become extinct? Can we survive the death of the Sun? All this and more in this science documentary series. 

Seasons 4 and 5 of Through the Wormhole are streaming at SBS on Demand

Karla Grant Presents

Journalist, presenter and producer Karla Grant hosts this diverse collection of documentaries created by Indigenous filmmakers from around Australia. She brings her journalism background and personal insight to delve deep into each story. Discover a wide range of special documentaries and specially chosen episodes, from the profile of a woman who's carved a successful career in the male-dominated hip hop music industry to Our Law, the story of Western Australia's first indigenous-run police station.

Karla Grant Presents is streaming at SBS On Demand.


The Clinton Affair

From Academy Award-winning documentary director Alex Gibney, this seven-part series focuses on an extraordinary sequence of events that are an indelible part of American identity. 

The Clinton Affair is now streaming at SBS On Demand

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