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Documentaries to Watch for Kids and Teens

By Rounak Maiti

Many of you in our community are parents of young and teenage children, and you’re negotiating the tricky balance between keeping the cash flowing and keeping the kids at bay. We came up with a list of docs that just might help achieve that balance! Watch these documentaries that are sure to entertain, inform and spark curiosity in viewers both young and old. They're not just kids, though; adults can always stand to learn or revisit something about themselves with these films.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Morgan Neville's 2018 box office hit profiles the Presbyterian minister-turned-PBS icon, Fred Rogers, the creator of the legendary children's program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. For decades, Fred Rogers spoke to young audiences in a candid manner unlike much of children's programming at the time, addressing social, cultural and coming-of-age issues. His unique presence in public broadcasting left a lasting impact on viewers across the United States. 

WATCH: HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime

March Of The Penguins (2005)

At the end of every arctic summer, Emperor Penguins make the treacherous journey from the ocean inland towards their ancestral breeding grounds. The birth of new penguin chicks depends on this herculean journey back and forth between land and sea, and the artful cinematography of March Of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet, captures the essence of the story. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, this deeply inspiring film portrays the raw beauty of our planet's most extreme terrain in its full splendor.

WATCH: Amazon Prime

The World According To Sesame Street (2006)

It is hard to overstate the enduring legacy of Sesame Street. The show's combination of puppetry, sketch comedy, live-action, animation and children's education remains unparalleled to this day. In the mid-90s, directors Linda Hawkins and Linda Goldstein Knowlton followed the show's producers as they attempted to export the show abroad, namely to Bangladesh, Kosovo and South Africa. The film details the rewards and challenges faced by the crew as they forge cross-cultural connections through the power of Sesame Street.

WATCH: Amazon Prime

Spellbound (2002)

Following a group of kids, ranging in age from 9 to 15, as they advance to competing in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC, the Academy Award-nominated Spellbound by Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch offers a close look at the intense competition that ensues in a typical Spelling Bee tournament, where viewers feel a palpable energy akin to any global sporting event. As the pressure from schoolteachers and the children's families mounts, only one speller will emerge victorious.

WATCH: Amazon Prime

Mad Hot Ballroom (2005)

Directed and co-produced by Marilyn Agrelo, Mad Hot Ballroom chronicles the lives of 11-year-old New York City Public School children enrolled in a Ballroom Dance program run by the New York City Department of Education. The program brought together children from various boroughs of the city, allowing them to experiment and form long-lasting friendships as they skillfully navigate the brand new world of tango, foxtrot, samba, rumba and more. This film witnesses each student's incredibly personal and heartwarming relationship with learning. 

WATCH: Amazon Prime

Science Fair (2018)

When nine high-school students from around the world travel to compete in science fairs, they navigate a world of high-octane competition and unplanned challenges. Science Fair, by Darren Foster and Cristina Constantini, is a charming look into the deeply calculated yet emotional journey of exhibiting at a science fair, a story that will invoke nostalgia in most viewers who dabbled in the same. This uplifting film is a testament to the brilliant young men and women who strive for academic excellence, while also becoming older, smarter and keener to learn, along the way.

WATCH: Amazon Prime

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)

Executive-produced by Seth McFarlane and presented by renowned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Cosmos: A Space Odyssey is an awe-inspiring docuseries that pays homage to the classic series of the same name by modern physics' most insightful thinker, Carl Sagan. With state-of-the-art computer-generated graphics and impressive animation, the show brings to life many of the same themes of the original Cosmos, with DeGrasse Tyson's uniquely approachable narration making any cosmic concept immediately within reach of young viewers.

WATCH: Amazon Prime, National Geographic