The Best Videos of 2023 | Documentaries

Documentary films are a unique visual outlet for creative nonfiction, journalism, memoir, history, and more. Our list of the best documentaries released on DVD/Blu-ray in 2023 explores topics as diverse as sports and space.

Chop & Steele. 82 min. Drafthouse Films. 2022. DVD UPC 1010368974. $26.99.

Humorous documentaries are uncommon. This one will put a smile on faces as a pair of comedians, Nick Prueher and Joe Pickett, create a ridiculous “strongman” act that they put on to deceive local morning news shows across the country, with hilarious and litigious results.

Close to Vermeer. 78 min. Kino Lorber. In Dutch w/English subtitles. 2023. DVD UPC 3832926327. $19.99.

Go behind the scenes at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam for an extremely popular exhibition of paintings by Johannes Vermeer. Every facet of Vermeer’s life and work is discussed in what feels like a deeply enjoyable art history class.

Dear Mr. Brody. 98 min. Greenwich Entertainment. 2021. DVD UPC 3832926191. $19.99.

Watch a quirky bit of American history in this story of a 21-year-old hippie millionaire who in 1970 promises to give away $25 million. Thousands write in, desperate to get the money. Meeting the letter writers five decades later provides emotional heft.

The League. 104 min. Magnolia Pictures. 2023. DVD UPC 7696401798. $26.99.

A detailed and lively history of pro baseball’s Negro Leagues, from the 19th century through their heyday in the 1940s. This important and enlightening sports history also investigates the Negro Leagues’ power and legacy within Black communities.

New Eye on the Universe: The James Webb Space Telescope. 55 min. PBS. 2023. DVD UPC 4188704742. $24.99.

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope can look deeper into space than any other in history. In this stunning film, scientists attempt to unravel the vast amount of information that the telescope provides while also explaining the data for viewers.

Nothing Compares. 95 min. Showtime. 2022. DVD UPC 1010368654. $26.99.

This riveting examination of the early, controversial years of the late Irish musical artist Sinéad O’Connor is both an explanation of her actions and a loving validation of her powerful music.

Ruthless: Monopoly’s Secret History. 60 min. PBS. 2023. DVD UPC 4188704746. $24.99.

A lively history recounting the popularity and origins of one of the United States’ favorite board games. Part rambunctious detective story, part courtroom battle, with doses of pop culture and social commentary about capitalism; Monopoly players will never feel quite the same about the game after watching.

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb. 114 min. Sony Picture Classics. 2022. DVD UPC 043396632110. $28.99.

This thoughtful and intelligent film is an up-close and erudite look into the six-decade working relationship of writer Robert Caro and editor Robert Gottlieb, exploring their art, their partnership, and the books they’ve produced, including The Power Broker and a five-volume LBJ biography.

Whaam! Blam! Roy Lichtenstein and the Art of Appropriation. 78 min. Virgil Films. 2022. DVD UPC 2956714032. $19.99.

Roy Lichtenstein, a 1960s Pop Art legend, gets a reappraisal through the hazy, complicated lens of artistic appropriation versus theft. Many of his multimillion-dollar paintings are near copies of drawings by comic book artists who were never compensated for their influence on his work.

Your Brain. 110 min. PBS. 2023. DVD UPC 4188704766. $24.99.

Neuroscientists attempt to understand and explain how the brain works while also showing examples of how it affects perception, reality, and the confounding enigma of consciousness in this fascinating two-part series.

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