Celebrity documentaries run the gamut. There are hagiographies, which all but deify their subjects. (We’re looking at you Jonas Brothers: Chasing Happiness.) Some feel like pure cash-in opportunities: “So-and-so died? Let’s throw something together and sell it somewhere!” Netflix buys many of these, including Bowie: The Man Who Changed The World, a pastiche of old clips and talking heads that added nothing to the legend of the Thin White Duke. And then we get to the good stuff: revealing, brutal, and intimate docs that peel back the layers on their subjects.
The best of these often come courtesy of the subjects themselves, as they—likely with the blessing of their therapists and possibly their publicists and lawyers—get real about addictions, obsessions, the price of fame, and so much more. So far in 2023, we’ve seen two such documentaries— Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie and Pamela: A Love Story—so we thought we’d pick up their non-fictional baton and run down the least fluffy and least self-congratulatory celebrity documentaries. And since we have to draw the line somewhere, we’ll focus on movies and two-parters, meaning the epic and engrossing Michael Jordan miniseries The Last Dance, the disturbing Surviving R. Kelly, and others like those didn’t make the cut.