9 documentaries that made headlines this year

Top Knot FilmsNetflix began streaming ‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ in 2019.
  • Many documentaries made their debut or were released on a new platform in 2019.
  • Several of these films have gone viral for a variety of different reasons.
  • HBO’s “Surviving R. Kelly” and Netflix’s “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes,” made headlines this year.

So far, 2019 has been a big year for documentaries. From breaking streaming-service records to sparking global protests, it seems like more viewers than ever are engaging with and reacting to films that are focused on real-life events and people.

From films about bizarre kidnappings to series about serial killers, here are some of the documentaries that have made headlines this year.


There was a lot of fallout after HBO released “Leaving Neverland.”

HBO‘Leaving Neverland’ is a four-hour documentary.

Released on January 25, “Leaving Neverland” is a two-part documentary that covers some of the ongoing sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson.

In the film, Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who worked with the musician when they were children, talk about the relationships they had with Jackson that spanned several years. They also allege that Jackson had repeated sexual interactions with them when they were children. Although Jackson died in 2009, when he was alive he denied these sexual abuse allegations.

In January, in a statement to Rolling Stone, Jackson’s estate called the documentary “a character assassination,” questioning the validity of the film’s sources.

Also in a statement to Rolling Stone, the Jackson family referred to the film as a “public lynching,” adding that, “Michael is not here to defend himself, otherwise these allegations would not have been made.”

Following the documentary’s release, there was a lot of fallout for Jackson’s estate – some radio stations removed his music from their libraries, Louis Vuitton pulled their 2019 menswear designs that featured him, and the musician’s album sales fell by 39%, as per The Hollywood Reporter.


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“Surviving R. Kelly” sparked further investigations into the singer’s alleged crimes.

Bunim-Murray Productions (BMP)The documentary was released in January.

In six parts, Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” covers some of the disturbing accusations against the singer, including allegations that he groomed and sexually abused underage girls for over two decades.

The series includes accounts from multiple women who said they were manipulated by Kelly and coerced into sexual acts with him when they were younger. Kelly has denied these claims.


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12 of the most shocking allegations from ‘Surviving R. Kelly’

After the docuseries aired, investigators began looking into some of Kelly’s alleged crimes that were mentioned in the film, according to The New York Times.

Also following the docuseries’ release, RCA Records, a label owned by Sony Music, parted ways with Kelly, a source told Billboard.

On top of that, multiple artists who once worked with Kelly, including John Legend and Chance the Rapper, publicly spoke out against the musician and artists like Lady Gaga have also expressed their desire to have collaborations they have done with Kelly removed from all streaming services.

In March, Kelly was interviewed by Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.” During the interview, Kelly cried and screamed while he was discussing the sexual-abuse allegations that had been made against him.

Shortly after the interview aired, he was taken into custody for failing to pay his ex-wife over $US161,000 worth of child support.


“Three Identical Strangers” broke records when it first premiered in 2018 and when it aired on television this year.

CNN FilmsThe documentary is directed by Tim Wardle.

Featuring interviews and original footage, Tim Wardle’s documentary tells the story of how identical triplets who had been separated at birth found each other when they were teenagers. “Three Identical Strangers” later delves into the dark secrets surrounding the real reason the boys were separated as infants.

This puzzling story immediately captured audiences’ attention – the film became a financial success upon its big-screen release in the summer of 2018. That year, The Hollywood Reporter even called it “one of the most successful docs of all time.”

In January, CNN Films aired the documentary on cable television and it debuted as the network’s most-watched CNN Films premiere of all time.

Earlier this year, the documentary made headlines once again when a pair of twins that had been separated at birth said they found each other because of it. According to CNN, one of the twins said watching “Three Identical Strangers” inspired her to take the DNA test that helped her to discover she has a long-lost sister.


Many people had a lot to say about “Abducted in Plain Sight.”

Top Knot Productions‘Abducted in Plain Sight’ was initially released in 2017.

Although the documentary first aired in 2017, Netflix began streaming “Abducted in Plain Sight” earlier this year.

The film details how Jan Broberg was abducted twice by a close family friend in the ’70s. Dubbed “stranger than fiction,” this documentary features realistic reenactments and interviews from multiple members of the Broberg family and other individuals involved in the case.


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What you should know about ‘Abducted in Plain Sight,’ the true crime documentary leaving infuriated Netflix viewers on the edge of their seats

In February, the film’s creator Skye Borgman told Vanity Fair that she wants to make a sequel to “Abducted in Plain Sight.” She said it would focus on “the role that faith plays in sheltering communities,” grooming, and brainwashing.


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Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud” features an interview with Billy McFarland, the co-creator of Fyre Festival.

Hulu‘Fyre Fraud’ features many interviews from people involved in the festival.

2017’s failed Fyre Festival has been a hot conversation topic ever since the first photo of the festival’s abysmal cheese sandwich went viral. And nearly two years after thousands of attendees were left stranded on an island in the Bahamas, Hulu released “Fyre Fraud,” a documentary about the event.

The film attempts to uncover how and why so many things about the festival went wrong. Notably, the film features an interview with the festival’s co-creator Billy McFarland.

Shortly after its release, the documentary’s credibility was questioned because reports came out saying “Fyre Fraud” paid McFarland a large sum to appear in their documentary.


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In addition, this documentary was widely compared to Netflix’s Fyre Festival documentary that was released just a few days later.


Netflix’s “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened” also focused on Fyre Festival.

Netflix‘Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened’ is currently streaming on Netflix.

Four days after Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud” unexpectedly debuted, Netflix released “Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.”

This Netflix documentary gives viewers insight into what happened on the island in the Bahamas during the days leading up to the start of Fyre Festival. The film features interviews from people who worked on the event and footage that showcases the poor planning and strange circumstances surrounding the festival.

This documentary’s credibility was also called into question because one of the film’s producers is the CEO of Jerry Media, Mick Purzycki. Some wondered if the film would leave out key details because Jerry Media is one of the companies that handled Fyre Festival’s social channels, helping the festival to go viral.

“Fyre” director Chris Smith later defended the film’s objectivity, saying that Jerry Media’s involvement did not stop the documentary from covering that company’s involvement in the festival.


“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” is a docuseries about the life of a serial killer.

NetflixSerial killer Ted Bundy (left) is the topic of this true-crime docuseries.

“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” chronicles the life of Ted Bundy, who is said to have confessed to the murders of 36 people and is suspected of killing many more.

The docuseries premiered on Netflix on January 24, the 30th anniversary of the day Ted Bundy was executed via electric chair.

Following the documentary’s release, many audiences began calling attention to Bundy’s appearance, which prompted Netflix to ask viewers to stop obsessing over the “hotness” of the serial killer. Bundy was widely known for being attractive and charming, which is one of the many reasons some believe he was able to commit so many crimes.

Shortly after “The Ted Bundy Tapes” was released, a dramatized biopic of Bundy’s crimes called Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile” premiered at Sundance Film Festival. The movie is directed by Joe Berlinger, who was also the creator behind “The Ted Bundy Tapes.”


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In March, HBO released a docuseries following the first case that was profiled in the popular “Serial” podcast.

HBOAdnan Syed was profiled on season one of ‘Serial.’

On March 10, HBO aired the first part of its four-part docuseries “The Case Against Adnan Syed.” Syed’s story first went viral in 2014 when the popular podcast “Serial” dedicated an entire season to investigating his case and explaining it.

This docuseries details the 1999 disappearance and killing of Hae Min Lee and how her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was later convicted of her murder. In the two decades since the crimes took place, Syed has consistently claimed he is innocent.

“The Case Against Adnan Syed” features new interviews from members of Syed’s family and it details discoveries and new evidence that has been found in the case following Syed’s conviction.

On March 8, just before the first part of the documentary was released, the court announced that they would be reinstating Syed’s conviction – he had previously been granted a retrial in 2016 but this decision was appealed by Maryland prosecutors.


Netflix debuted “The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann” in March.

Netflix’s eight-part docuseries details the story of Madeleine McCann, who was 3 years old when she disappeared from a resort in Portugal while on vacation with her parents. The disappearance occurred in 2007 and the case is still open.


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In a statement on their website FindMadeleine.com, Madeleine’s parents, Kate McCann and Gerry McCann, wrote that they chose not to participate in Netflix’s documentary because they do not believe it will help in the search for Madeleine. They also said they feel this docuseries might potentially hinder the active police investigation.

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