Watch 2022’s 10 Most-Streamed New FRONTLINE Documentaries

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From U.S. politics to the Ukraine war, watch the 10 most-streamed new FRONTLINE documentaries of 2022.

From U.S. politics to the Ukraine war, watch the 10 most-streamed new FRONTLINE documentaries of 2022.

December 20, 2022

From the Ukraine war to U.S. politics, 2022 has been another tumultuous year.

FRONTLINE has kept pace, investigating the evolving challenges our country and our world face — and releasing documentary after documentary holding power to account.

As the year draws to a close, we’ve collected the 10 new-in-2022 FRONTLINE documentaries that, as of press time, had earned the most streams this year on all PBS platforms (browser video players and the PBS App) and our YouTube channel combined. We’ve combined streaming numbers for multipart documentaries.

Read on to discover which films made the list. All 10 of this year’s most-streamed documentaries are available to watch on demand below, as well as on the PBS App and on our YouTube channel. We’ve also listed some additional bonus viewing: the most-streamed archival documentary released on our YouTube channel this year, and the most-viewed interview released through the FRONTLINE Transparency Project, which makes our source material available to the public.


10. Michael Flynn’s Holy War

How did Michael Flynn go from being an elite soldier overseas to waging a “spiritual war” in America? This October 2022 documentary from FRONTLINE and The Associated Press examined how the retired three-star general has emerged as a leader in a far-right movement that seeks to put its brand of Christianity at the center of American civic life and institutions and has attracted election deniers, conspiracy theorists and extremists from around the country.

More to explore: Read key takeaways from FRONTLINE and AP’s reporting on Flynn.


9. Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack

When Russia began its attack on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in February 2022, many people expected the city to fall in days. But the Ukrainians refused to surrender. Filmed on the ground over the first three months of the war, this August 2022 documentary chronicled the experiences of Ukrainians living through the battle for Kharkiv: civilians caught in the shelling; first responders risking their own lives; and families trying to survive underground.

More to explore: “You Feel Safe One Second and Then Boom”: Read a Q&A with the filmmakers of Ukraine: Life Under Russia’s Attack. For additional reporting on the Ukraine war, explore a separate project: FRONTLINE and The Associated Press’s War Crimes Watch Ukraine interactive, which has tracked and verified more than 550 potential war crimes in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began. Plus, watch a documentary from FRONTLINE and AP on alleged war crimes by Russia in Ukraine and the challenges of trying to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders to account.


8. American Insurrection (2022 update)

An investigation of how the threat of far-right extremist groups evolved from the deadly 2017 white supremacist Charlottesville rally to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol — and beyond. The documentary, updated in January 2022, is a collaboration with ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program, with support from the WNET Group’s Exploring Hate initiative.

More to explore: Delve into a timeline of domestic extremism in the U.S. from Charlottesville to Jan. 6, and explore years of FRONTLINE’s reporting with ProPublica on the rise of violent extremism in America.


7. Facing Eviction

Why did some American families struggle to keep their homes during the COVID pandemic, despite a massive rent-relief program and a federal ban on evictions? Made with support from the WNET Group’s Chasing the Dream initiative, this July 2022 documentary with Retro Report examined how pandemic housing protections played out in the lives of people across the country. Our reporting found that the effectiveness of these temporary protections ultimately depended on how state and local officials interpreted and enforced them.

More to explore: See a chart illustrating how government programs impacted evictions in the U.S. during COVID-19. And listen to a conversation with filmmaker Bonnie Bertram about tenant protections, the process of making Facing Eviction and filming with people on the brink of losing their housing.


6. Lies, Politics and Democracy

This September 2022 documentary, FRONTLINE’s two-hour season premiere, investigated American political leaders and choices they’ve made that have undermined and threatened democracy in the U.S. The documentary examined how officials fed the public lies about the 2020 presidential election and embraced rhetoric that led to political violence.

More to explore: Delve into 28 extended interviews with sources from Lies, Politics and Democracy — current and former members of Congress, advisers who worked in the Trump administration, journalists, legal scholars and political scientists — via the FRONTLINE Transparency Project. Plus, listen to a podcast interview with filmmaker Michael Kirk about identifying a series of “inflection points” when Republican leaders embraced former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, even as warning signs mounted.


5. Putin’s War at Home

Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, the Russian president has signed laws that crack down on people in his country who protest the war or independently report on its human cost. Drawing on remarkable footage from inside the country, this November 2022 documentary showed how some Russian civilians have refused to stay silent about the Kremlin’s war effort, despite the threat of arrest and imprisonment. These people spoke up on camera from an artist facing up to 10 years imprisonment after posting anti-war stickers in a grocery store, to a university professor whose parents live in Ukraine, to journalists seeking forbidden information about Russian soldiers killed in the war.

More to explore: Listen to a conversation with director Gesbeen Mohammad about documenting Putin’s crackdown on dissent in Russia, and read a Q&A with Mohammad and Russian filmmaker Vasiliy Kolotilov about making the documentary.


4. Plot to Overturn the Election

How did a myth about widespread election fraud make its way to the center of American politics? From FRONTLINE and ProPublica, this March 2022 documentary traced hidden sources of misinformation about the 2020 election and investigated how a handful of people had an outsized impact on the U.S. crisis of democratic legitimacy. The legacy of their campaign extended beyond the Jan. 6 insurrection, the documentary found, influencing movements to audit the vote in battleground states, alter election law, and elect Republican candidates who falsely claimed the 2020 election was stolen.

More to explore: Listen to a conversation on The FRONTLINE Dispatch podcast about the making of an election myth with correspondent A.C. Thompson and director Samuel Black.


3. Pelosi’s Power

This 90-minute documentary tracing the life, leadership and legacy of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi premiered in March 2022. It was the first-ever documentary on the powerful and polarizing politician who was elected to the House in 1987 and became the first woman speaker in 2007 before reclaiming the role in 2019. Drawing on interviews with with Pelosi’s family; her staffers, Congressional colleagues and fierce opponents; White House insiders; and Pelosi herself, the documentary traced how Pelosi gained and wielded power across three decades.

More to explore: Peruse more than 30 in-depth interviews from the making of the documentary via the FRONTLINE Transparency Project.


2. The Power of Big Oil

FRONTLINE examined the fossil fuel industry’s history of casting doubt and delaying action on climate change. This three-part series from April and May 2022 traced decades of missed opportunities and ongoing attempts to hold the industry to account.

Part 1: Denial

Part 2: Doubt

Part 3: Delay

More to explore: Listen to a FRONTLINE Dispatch podcast episode that goes inside Big Oil’s push against climate change action and explore a decade of documentaries on climate change and other environmental threats.


1. Putin’s Road to War

Airing less than a month after the invasion of Ukraine began, this March 2022 documentary told the story of what led to Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine — examining the events that shaped the Russian leader, the grievances that drive him and how a growing conflict with the West exploded into war in Europe.

More to explore: Dive into an archive of more than 60 interviews that went into the making of the documentary, published through FRONTLINE’s Transparency Project. And stay tuned for Putin and the Presidents, a documentary coming to FRONTLINE in January 2023 tracing Putin’s clashes with five American presidents as he has tried to rebuild the Russian empire.


Bonus Viewing: Putin’s Way, our most-streamed archival re-release of 2022 on YouTube

Released for the first time on FRONTLINE’s YouTube channel this year, this 2015 documentary traced the Russian president’s ascent from unemployed spy to modern-day czar.


More Bonus Viewing: Putin’s Road to War: Julia Ioffe, our most-viewed Transparency Project interview of 2022

Through the FRONTLINE Transparency Project, we’ve published dozens of extended interviews this year from the making of our films. This interview with journalist Julia Ioffe about Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has topped the list.

Stream hundreds more FRONTLINE documentaries online and on the PBS App. Explore past years’ most-streamed films of 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018 and 2017. And watch your way through our all-time most-streamed documentaries on YouTube.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Senior Digital Writer, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@ptaddonio

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