Free Documentary Films Online

I was really excited to learn (via BoingBoing) that the National Film Board of Canada has posted over 700 films, trailers, and clips up to their website. Many NFB documentaries are now available for free online viewing. They have also created special thematic “playlists” highlighting important films in their collection. Gil Cardinal has put together one entitled: “The Aboriginal Voice: the National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years,” and NFB collections expert Albert Ohayon has put together one called “Canada’s Diverse Cultures,” both of which look very interesting.

Other good sources for free documentary films online are:,,, and all of which seem to list many of the same movies. Even more can be found at the internet archive, although it’s a little hard to find things there unless you already know what you are looking for.

UPDATE: Looking through the internet archive I discovered the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology Films collection, which has some interesting historical materials.

7 thoughts on “Free Documentary Films Online

  1. See also

    “ has two goals. One is to build a national preserve of hard-to-find documentary films about American folk or roots cultures. The other is to give them renewed life by streaming them on the internet. The films were produced by independent filmmakers in a golden age that began in the 1960s and was made possible by the development first of portable cameras and then capacity for synch sound. Their films focus on the culture, struggles, and arts of unnoticed Americans from many different regions and communities. “

  2. As a Canadian who grew up without cable–i.e. someone that watched more than their fair share of CBC, and so Canadian content in general–this has to be one of the greatest things to ever happen to me! I have snippet memories of so many of these films, going back to my earliest childhood. Many of the images in these docs were my first exposures to a plethora of phenomena beyond my lolly suburban neighborhood. I’m talking about countless, “Mommy, what are those people doing?” moments(always “mommy,” I didn’t have a father).

    I had been planning for some time to take a trip down to the NFB archives in order to retrace/ relocate some of these memories–all the while secretly hoping that they would eventually upload them online. This is so great 🙂

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