10 Best Non-Fiction TV Shows for Students

Sometimes, reality is just as thrilling, compelling, and thought-provoking as the best fiction TV shows out there. And given the right subject and delivery, non-fiction TV shows can hook just as fast as Better Call Saul or The Last of Us. You just need to know which ones are worth your time!

So, if you’re looking for a great non-fiction TV show to unwind to – and learn something in the process – you need to be careful about your pick. After all, students aren’t known to have tons of free time!

Is homework stopping you from diving into a new TV show? Don’t worry: that’s what nursing essay writing services exist for! So, let a professional worry about your next assignment – and stream one of these ten award-winning, engaging documentary TV shows for any taste!

Abstract: The Art of Design (2017-2019)

  • Episodes: 14 (2 seasons)
  • Running time: 42-48 minutes
  • Original network: Netflix


Study design in any of its forms? This is a must-see TV show for you! And even if you don’t strive to become a designer, Abstract will help you understand the intricate research that’s behind the images you see and the products you use. Abstract’s episodes focus on multiple areas of design, from graphic design and photography to shoe and automotive design.

Explained (2018-Present)

  • Episodes: 44 (3 seasons)
  • Running time: 14-26 minutes
  • Original network: Netflix


Looking for a documentary series to quench your curiosity about the world in short 20-minute episodes? Check out Vox-produced Explained! Every episode aims to explain a specific concept or phenomenon, from designer DNA and animal intelligence to K-pop and flags. And if you love the show’s format, make sure to check out one of its many spin-offs:


  • The Mind, Explained
  • Money, Explained
  • Coronavirus, Explained
  • Sex, Explained
  • Whose Vote Counts, Explained

One Strange Rock (2018)

  • Episodes: 10
  • Running time: 60 minutes
  • Original network: National Geographic


If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming an astronaut, this is the documentary for you. Hosted by Will Smith, One Strange Rock features testimonials from Chris Hadfield, Nicole Stott, and other astronauts and are interwoven in a singular story. That story revolves around life on Earth: how it came to be, how it survives, and how it thrives on this blue marble.

Through the Wormhole (2010-2017)

  • Episodes: 62 (8 seasons)
  • Running time: 44 minutes
  • Original network: Science Channel


Hosted by Morgan Freeman himself, Through the Wormhole will take you on a journey into science. You’ll find out if time travel is possible and what the universe is made of, among other things. So, if you’re a STEM student struggling with some classes, Through the Wormhole is a must-see for you. As a nice bonus, it’ll also reignite your passion for science!

Secrets of the Whales (2021)

  • Episodes: 4
  • Running time: 50 minutes
  • Original network: National Geographic, Disney+


Secrets of the Whales is an Emmy-winning nature documentary series on, you guessed it, whales. Narrated by Sigourney Weaver, it manages to draw you in and spark interest in this amazing species. Every episode focuses on a specific type of whale, from orca to narwhal and beluga whale.

Dirty Money (2018-2020)

  • Episodes: 12 (2 seasons)
  • Running time: 50-77 minutes
  • Original network: Netflix


Have an inkling the corporate world is full of greed and scandals? Dirty Money won’t disappoint you then. It’s here to break down examples of fraud, corruption, and “creative” accounting. From the Volkswagen emissions scandal to HSBC laundering money for the Sinaloa Cartel, every episode of Dirty Money can rival the plots of House of Cards and Succession.

Our Planet (2019)

  • Episodes: 8
  • Running time: 48-53 minutes
  • Original network: Netflix


If there’s one nature documentary you watch in your lifetime, let it be this one. Narrated by the legendary David Attenborough, it’ll take you on a journey from jungles and coastal seas to deserts and frozen worlds. Our Planet will show you the diverse beauty of the planet you inhabit – and forever change your perspective on nature.

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (2015)

  • Episodes: 6
  • Running time: 38-51 minutes
  • Original network: HBO


This miniseries revolves around Robert Durst, a real estate heir, and his possible involvement in several disappearances and murders. It became famous due to one scene: after the interview, unaware the mic was still recording, Durst admitted his guilt while muttering to himself. He was arrested the day before the final episode aired on HBO and later sentenced to life in prison.

How to Become a Tyrant (2021)

  • Episodes: 6
  • Running time: 25-30 minutes
  • Original network: Netflix


Ever wondered how Hitler, Stalin, or Gaddafi rose to power – and stayed there? Then this history docuseries is for you! Narrated by Peter Dinklage, it’s presented as a playbook for aspiring tyrants. With solid storytelling, humor, and mind-blowing historical facts, How to Become a Tyrant is a binge-worthy series for everyone, not just history majors.

Cunk on Earth (2022)

  • Episodes: 5
  • Running time: 28-29 minutes
  • Original network: BBC Two


Diane Morgan’s character, Philomena Cunk, is back to take you on a trip through the history of humanity – and make you laugh until your abdomen hurts. This mockumentary series is a great antidote to gloomy moods and stressful times, all thanks to Cunk’s ill-informed investigative journalism and Morgan’s deadpan delivery of absurd questions and statements.

In Conclusion: 4 Honorable Mentions

There are just the 10 top documentary series worth your time – many other great TV shows just haven’t made the cut. Still, it wouldn’t be fair to omit them altogether in this blog post. So, here are the four runners-up that will keep you on the edge of your seat:


  • Planet Earth (2006) & Planet Earth II (2016). Before there was Our Planet, David Attenborough presented these two nature documentaries about the farthest corners of the Earth.
  • Tiger King (2020-2021). If for some reason you didn’t binge it during the pandemic, get ready for a wild ride as you get introduced to Joe Exotic, a former zookeeper and convicted felon.
  • Storyville (2004-2018). It’s a collection of standalone BBC documentaries on topics ranging from the life of journalists in Raqqa after the Islamic State took control of the city to West Virginia citizens suing a corporation over poisoning the waters.
  • Dirty Jobs (2003-2012, 2022-Present). Some jobs are disgusting, but someone still has to do them. Mike Rowe is here to take you on a tour of such jobs.