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It’s 4 p.m. on a sleepy Saturday, you’re hours into a Real Housewives marathon and you feel your brain slowly rotting away. There must be something more, you think. Well, we don’t like to toot our own horn, but we watch a lot of TV, too, and these 11 HBO documentaries are the emotionally and intellectually stimulating equivalent of a good damn good Cabernet. So drink up, buttercup, and add these fascinating docs to your must-watch list, stat.

HBO Documentaries Mommy Dead and Dearest

‘Mommy Dead and Dearest’

Everyone who met the diseased, wheelchair-bound Gypsy Rose Blancharde and her mother, Dee Dee, felt compelled to help the close-knit family. It wasn’t until Dee Dee was murdered and Gypsy could suddenly walk that it became very clear things were not as they seemed.

HBO Documentaries Tickled


Tickled’s look at a day in the life of a “competitive endurance tickler”—and the potential ethical and legal faux pas that come along with it tickled (sorry, we had to) our senses and, um, expanded our horizons? Turns out the Tickle Monster is real...and relentless in every sense of the word.

HBO Documentaries Tashi and the Monk

‘Tashi and the Monk’

After her mother’s death and father's abandonment, poor little orphaned 5-year-old Tashi is sent to a unique spiritual community in the Himalayas, where she yearns to find her place among her 84 new (and also orphaned) brothers and sisters. Hint: This one’s a tearjerker.

HBO Documentaries The Loving Story

‘The Loving Story’

This powerful film dives into the 1965 mixed-race marriage of Mildred and Richard Loving. One of the most important love stories of our time, the Lovings' marriage incited a historic civil rights case that put an end to laws banning mixed-race marriages in 16 states.

HBO Documentaries Bright Lights
Fisher Family Archives/HBO

‘Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds’

With the twinge of a Grey Gardens feel, Bright Lights celebrates the close bond that the late Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, shared in the years before their tragic deaths. 

HBO Documentaries Going Clear

‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’

Whether you've visited one of their many impressive and monolithic churches or centers across the nation or you've just seen a Tom Cruise movie, Going Clear is a startling exposé on the history of Scientology and its many, ahem, unique beliefs and practices.

HBO Documentaries Life According To Sam
Life According to Sam

‘Life According to Sam’

Thirteen-year-old Sam Berns has a rare disorder called progeria that makes him age at a rapid rate, but his positive attitude and charming sense of humor are what really stand out in this courageous documentary.

HBO Documentaries Beware of Slenderman

‘Beware the Slenderman’

Remember a few years back when two young girls attempted to murder their friend in order to appease a fictitious (but really creepy) Internet character named Slenderman? Well, this terrifying doc dives into that whole debacle in vivid detail.

HBO Documentaries Everything is Copy

‘Everything Is Copy’

We’re journalists here at PureWow, so it may not come as a complete surprise that this 2015 exploration of famed writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron touches our hearts. Ephron’s son, who directed the film, borrowed Ephron’s famous catchphrase for the title of a documentary that explores what went on behind the scenes of some of his mother’s most famous films, such as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and You’ve Got Mail.

HBO Documentaries a Girl in the River

‘A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness’

There’s a reason this short yet incredibly powerful film won an Oscar in 2016. It paints the horrifying picture of a young Pakistani woman whose family tried to kill her in order to preserve her honor in the only type of society the family has ever known.

HBO Documentaries Project Nim

‘Project Nim’

This poignant and thoughtful story of an infant chimpanzee (named Nim Chimpsky), who is raised by humans as part of a Columbia University experiment, will make you laugh, cry and feel all sorts of complex human emotions. 

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