If you’re looking for a great documentary, here are five that stood out in 2023:

5. Take Care of Maya

Streaming on: Netflix

Maya Kowalski, 17, won a $261 million medical malpractice case against a Florida hospital last month. The details behind what happened to her as a 10-year-old are captured in a documentary that’s sure to make any parent angry. Director Henry Roosevelt adeptly and sensitively examines a system that is supposed to protect children but failed Kowalski with tragic consequences. A rare pain condition led to an erroneous diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. Kowalski’s late mother faced abuse accusations, and her child was made an involuntary medical ward of the state. Take Care of Maya isn’t just about systematic failure, but is also about a lack of common sense and human decency.

4. Beyond Utopia

Available for rent on: Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube

Most of us know very little about North Korea. That’s what makes Beyond Utopia so fascinating. With raw footage, viewers are taken inside the secretive and oppressive Communist regime where its citizens are cut off from communicating with the rest of the world. This documentary focuses on the stories of families trying to defect while enduring difficult and dangerous circumstances. The threat of punishment if they get caught includes execution. Director Madeleine Gavin reveals what it’s like inside North Korea, highlighting brave South Korean pastor Seungeun Kim, who routinely risks his own life to bring people to safety. The revelations here are extraordinary and hard to believe.

3. Still

Streaming on: Apple TV

There was a time when Michael J. Fox was the most famous actor in America. Today, sadly, Fox, 62, is the most famous living American with Parkinson’s disease. Still is an intimate look at Fox’s life as a Hollywood star and his life dealing with a progressive disorder. He’s usually frank when talking about his 30-year battle. His candor and sense of humor will leave the audience with a sense of admiration. This is not a heartbreaking documentary even though some scenes are difficult to watch. Director Davis Guggenheim captures Fox’s magnetic personality and his deep love for his family. It’s remarkable how optimistic Fox can be while facing an incurable disease.

2. Last Stop Larrimah: Murder Down Under

Streaming on: Max

If the Coen Brothers made a documentary, it would look a lot like this. Instead, it was produced by the Duplass Brothers. Welcome to tiny Larrimah, Australia, population 11, where almost everyone is a suspect in the 2017 disappearance and probable murder of Paddy Moriarty. The body of the 70-year-old Aussie has never been found. What makes this different from your typical true-crime fare is the cast of oddball Outback characters. Many of them had a motive. Moriarty wasn’t well-liked and often quarreled with his neighbors. This includes a feud with a local meat pie maker who once threatened to kill him. In a small town, it’s hard to keep secrets but this mystery remains unsolved.

1. The Thief Collector

Streaming on: Roku

Available for rent on: Apple TV, Amazon, YouTube

When you think of art thieves, you might imagine a debonair scoundrel who wants to hang precious works in his mansion, or perhaps a brutish goon out to sell the loot for a quick buck. You would never suspect married schoolteachers from a small Nevada town. The Thief Collector was originally released in 2022 but didn’t become widely available until this year. This riveting documentary tells the story of Rita and Jerry Alter, who allegedly stole a Willem de Kooning painting in 1985. At the time of the theft, “Woman-Ochre” was worth $400,000. After the Alters died, it was discovered in 2017 and was worth over $100 million. The remarkable tale isn’t just about stolen art. You’re left wondering if the Alters committed more serious crimes.

Also recommended:

LISTEN – Streaming on ESPN+

David Holmes: The Boy Who Lived – Streaming on Max

Bill Russell: Legend – Streaming on Netflix

American Pain – Streaming on Max

Every Body – Amazon

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant, Anthony Grant, Amy Grant or Hugh Grant.