Watch 2020’s 10 Most-Streamed FRONTLINE Documentaries

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A collection of screengrabs and stills representing FRONTLINE's most-streamed new films of 2020.

A collection of screengrabs and stills representing FRONTLINE's most-streamed new films of 2020.

December 18, 2020

From a pandemic to protests to the polls, 2020 has been a year of turmoil.

FRONTLINE has kept on filming throughout, often in new ways, and has doubled down on asking tough questions in pursuit of the truth.

Over the past 12 months, the documentary series has released 25 new films investigating everything from Amazon’s growth and dominance, to China’s crackdown on Muslims, to the rise of conspiracy theories in American politics, to why the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. became the deadliest in the world.

As this extraordinary year draws to a close, we’ve collected a list of the 10 new FRONTLINE documentaries that earned the most streams in 2020* and have published them here in one place, for easy viewing. To find out which documentaries made this year’s most-streamed list and what ground they cover, read on. All 10 documentaries are available to stream on-demand below, as well as on the PBS Video App and on YouTube.


10. China Undercover

Cameras on every street. Camps where millions have been detained. This April 2020 documentary offers a rare look inside the Chinese government’s mass surveillance and detention of Uyghur and other Muslims in the tightly controlled Xinjiang region.

More to explore: Read an update on what has happened to several people featured in the documentary since it first aired.


9.  Plastic Wars

It’s estimated that no more than 10 percent of all plastic ever produced has been recycled. First aired in March 2020, this investigation with NPR looks at how the plastics industry used recycling as a tool to increase sales.

More to explore: Learn what kinds of plastic can be recycled easily and what types rarely are despite bearing the iconic chasing-arrows icon.


8. The Virus: What Went Wrong?

The warnings were mounting. As COVID-19 spread across the globe, why was America caught unprepared? This 90-minute documentary from June identifies fateful missteps in the world’s — and the Trump administration’s — early responses to the pandemic.

More to explore: Watch a short documentary about a New York City nurse whose family members contracted the coronavirus.


7. United States of Conspiracy

This July documentary tracks how conspiracy theories went from the fringes of U.S. politics into the White House — including the role of an alliance among the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the longtime Trump associate Roger Stone and the president.

More to explore: Learn about how conspiracy theorists have tapped into race and racism to further their message.


6. Opioids, Inc.

Bribing doctors. Making millions. With the Financial Times, this June documentary looks at how a drug company, Insys Therapeutics, pushed an opioid painkiller up to 100 times stronger than morphine — and how federal prosecutors brought Insys down.

More to explore: Review 10 key takeaways from the investigation.


5. Growing Up Poor in America

In partnership with Chasing the Dream, this September documentary tells the stories of how children in three families — one mixed-race, one Black and one white — are navigating poverty in a year that has seen a historic pandemic and a national movement protesting racial injustice.

More to explore: See the latest numbers on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted poverty in America.


4. Coronavirus Pandemic

As COVID-19 spread across the country, this April documentary told a tale of two Washingtons (state and D.C.), their very different responses to COVID-19, and what happens when politics and science collide.

More to explore: Listen to a conversation with correspondent Miles O’Brien as he began reporting on the pandemic.


3. The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden

From September, this two-hour documentary special presents interwoven biographies of President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden, focused on how they have navigated moments of crisis throughout their lives. It’s also available with Spanish subtitles.

More to explore: Pore over 47 extended interviews from the making of the documentary, as part of FRONTLINE’s ongoing Transparency Project.


2.  America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump

This two-part, four-hour documentary from January traces the evolution of America’s divisions: from race to class to partisanship, to the battle over what is true.

More to explore: Read nearly 40 conversations with sources from the documentary, some with video interviews, as part of FRONTLINE’s ongoing Transparency Project.


1. Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos

 Jeff Bezos built a business empire without precedent in the history of American capitalism. This February documentary asks: What is the cost of Amazon’s convenience?

More to explore: Delve into interviews with current and former Amazon insiders as part of FRONTLINE’s ongoing Transparency Project and read 10 key takeaways from the investigation.


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

* Of the FRONTLINE films that premiered in 2020, this list represents those with the most streams, total, between the PBS video player and YouTube combined and was accurate as of press time. Streaming numbers were combined for two-part documentaries.


Patrice Taddonio

Patrice Taddonio, Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE

Twitter:

@ptaddonio

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