Docs to Watch: Deep Dives Into Charlie Chaplin, Anthony Bourdain and Tina Turner

This week’s highlights include films about three icons of film, food and music

docs to watch
CNN//Focus Features, Showtime, HBO
This week, our Docs to Watch list includes biographical films about three icons in the worlds of film, food and music. Well known though they might be to us, documentaries are a way to dig deeper, think more and understand a person like we never have before.
The Real Charlie Chaplin / Showtime
“The Real Charlie Chaplin”
(premiering Dec. 11, Showtime)
He was once the most famous performer in the world, but the life of Charles Chaplin, who died in 1977 at the age of 88, has proven to be a tough enigma to crack. Directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney (they made 2016’s incredible “Notes on Blindness”) tell Chaplin’s story using canny dramatic re-enactments, in addition to newly unearthed recordings and home movies. And the documentary presents a riveting portrait of a complex, flawed man, one whose full legacy is only now taking shape. [TRAILER]
Roadrunner A Film About Anthony Bourdain
CNN / Focus Features

“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain”
(on streaming platforms)

Oscar winner Morgan Neville (“20 Feet From Stardom,” “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”) applies his deft directorial touch to tell the story of famed gourmet and raconteur Anthony Bourdain. Neville’s use of software to re-create the late chef’s voice garnered controversy, but the film stands tall as a tribute to someone who loved food and, despite his tragic end, loved life too. [TRAILER]
stranger than fiction
Pray Away
Kristine Stolakis/Netflix

“Pray Away”
(Netflix, streaming now)

Does gay conversion therapy qualify as stranger than fiction? Well, several lawmakers, including former New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie, believe so and have passed bills outlawing the practice. Director Kristine Stolakis takes a look at the sobering history of pray-the-gay-away entrepreneurism, as illustrated by a now-defunct organization called Exodus International. But the film is rooted, via compassionate interviews with current ex-gay advocates, in the here and now. [REVIEW]
tina turner
(Photo: Rhonda Graam/Courtesy of HBO)

(HBO Max and other streaming platforms)

“My dream is to be the first Black Rock and Roll singer to pack places like the [Rolling] Stones,” Tina Turner once said. Dreams do come true in this vibrant doc. Turner is a true survivor, though even her difficult relationship with Ike Turner is handled with complexity: She’s candid about the difficulty of her most painful memories being a source of inspiration to others. But she is simply the best – and the sweaty concert footage alone makes “Tina” indelible viewing. [TRAILER]

The Hunt for the Chicago Strangler
The Hunt for the Chicago Strangler (Discovery+)

“The Hunt for the Chicago Strangler”
(Discovery+, streaming now)

In the city of Chicago, since 1999, more than 50 women have been strangled to death, their bodies left in alleyways and abandoned buildings on the south and west side of the city. The victims are predominately Black, a detail which has raised questions in the community about police inaction. This three-episode series tracks the cases and builds to a potentially explosive revelation. [TRAILER]

(in select theaters)
This extraordinary animated documentary about an Afghan refugee’s journey to Denmark — as well as to self-discovery — is angling to become the first film nominated in the Oscar categories of Animated Feature, Documentary Feature, and International Film. (And maybe even Best Picture.) [REVIEW]

“Citizen Ashe”
(in select theaters and available for rent on streaming platforms)
The life of champion tennis player Arthur Ashe, who died in 1993 at just 49 years old, is explored in this study of character, sports and activism. [REVIEW]

(available to rent on streaming platforms) 
Fifty years after the prison rebellion that shook the world in 1971, this film from director Stanley Nelson (“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”) takes a deep look at the conditions that led to the uprising. [REVIEW]