Watch the Oscar-nominated Documentaries!

Black Sheep


By Pat Mullen

Want an edge over your friends in the Oscar pool this year? While the documentary shorts have traditionally been the most elusive films to catch among the contenders, and have mostly been available only to audiences fortunate enough to catch them on the festival circuit, the recent explosion of opportunities for distribution make the short docs more readily available than ever. Many of this year’s nominees may be watched online for free. They reflect the changing landscape of documentary production and distribution with outlets like The Guardian and The New Yorker landing short docs among the nominees with Black Sheep and Lifeboat, respectively. Previous years have also yielded contenders from The New York Times Op Docs. (Read our review of the Oscar short docs here.)

The docs also feature streaming giant Netflix, which had a good day with short End Game among the nominees while the Coen Brothers’ comedy The Ballad of Buster Scruggs scored four surprise nominations and Alfonso CuarĂ³n’s Roma got the platform its first Best Picture nomination. (Netflix didn’t land a feature doc nominee, but its shortlisted title Shirkers was not widely expected to be among the final five.) Hulu has a contender in Minding the Gap, while two of the year’s feature nominees, RBG and Of Fathers and Sons, may be streamed through online library services Hoopla and Kanopy, which have really improved the reach for docs and indies.

We’ve rounded up as many of the documentaries that may be streamed for free, along with some details about where to see the other films.

Short Doc Nominees

Black Sheep – Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn

End Game – Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
-Available on Netflix

Lifeboat – Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser

A Night at the Garden – Marshall Curry


Field of Vision – A Night at the Garden from Field of Vision on Vimeo.

Period. End of Sentence. – Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton
-Now available on Netflix


Period. End of Sentence. Official Trailer from Rayka Zehtabchi on Vimeo.

Feature Docs Nominees:

-Check the POV blog for weekly updates on screenings near you.

Free Solo – Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes and Shannon Dill
-Now playing in limited release.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening – RaMell Ross, Joslyn Barnes and Su Kim
-Available to stream for free on Kanopy

Minding the Gap – Bing Liu and Diane Quon
-Now playing in limited release, TIFF Next Wave (Feb. 17), Hulu (USA)

Of Fathers and Sons – Talal Derki, Ansgar Frerich, Eva Kemme and Tobias N. Siebert
-Available to watch for free on Kanopy

RBG – Betsy West and Julie Cohen
-Available to watch for free on Hoopla