The most-watched CBC documentaries in 2020

This year kept us home, but looking for ways to explore and understand the world. Here are some of the incredible stories our viewers enjoyed in that time.

This year kept us home, but looking for ways to explore and understand the world.

We had lots of time to enjoy stories on our screens in 2020. We debuted over 100 docs this year, working hard to keep your playlists fresh.

Here are your 10 most-watched films from CBC Docs — it's an interesting mix and they're all streaming free on CBC Gem.

10: William & Harry: Princes at War

Remember when 2020 started with the shocking news that Prince Harry and Meghan were quitting their roles as working Royals? The big announcement fuelled speculation that the famously close brothers had grown apart as they married and started families of their own. Princes at War goes beyond the headlines and looks at what the future might hold for the British monarchy. 

9: Dinosaur Cold Case

Everybody loves a good mystery. A Canadian mine operator found a perfectly preserved dinosaur fossil, buried for 110 million years, in Alberta's oil sands. But how did it die? And why was found lying upside down, at the bottom of what was once an inland sea, hundreds of kilometres from land?  Paleontologists at Alberta's Royal Tyrrell Museum use forensics to unlock its incredible secrets.

8: The Oland Murder

Dennis Oland was the prime suspect in the murder of his father — New Brunswick multi-millionaire Richard. With exclusive access to Oland, his family and defence team, the series follows unexplored leads and digs into new evidence in a search for the truth, capturing every moment until the surprising outcome at the trial's end.

7: Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind

Gordon Lightfoot is a beloved and iconic Canadian performer, famous for many 1970's-era ballads. Following his career from Christian choirboy to troubled troubadour to international star, notable music industry greats recall intimate moments and behind the scenes stories on the road with the legendary musician. 

6: Selling Sex

Filmmaker Louis Theroux meets three female sex workers in the UK, where exchanging money for sex is legal. While some feel that selling sex can be a valid, empowering choice for those who choose to engage in it, others consider it exploitative and damaging, driven by a society still shaped by the desires of men. With intimate interviews, Theroux searches for the real answer. 

5: A Bee's Diary

Seven weeks, 8,000 km and countless adventures … the life of a honey bee is full of drama. Although the queen is at the centre of any hive, worker bees are the real stars; raising young, foraging for food and fighting off invaders. Told through the life of a single bee from birth to death, incredible cinematography tells her story in eye-popping detail.

4: The Prince and the Paedophile

An investigation into the extraordinary friendship between Prince Andrew and multi-millionaire Jeffery Epstein details where and when they spent time together. As the Prince stands accused of having sex with a seventeen-year-old girl supplied by Epstein, journalists investigate how the unlikely friendship persisted, even during Epstein's criminal charges.

3: Assholes: A Theory

Acclaimed Canadian filmmaker John Walker looks into the breeding grounds of contemporary asshole culture and searches for signs of civility in an increasingly rude and nasty universe. From frat clubs of elite colleges to the bratty princedoms of Silicon Valley and bear pits of international finance, Walkers asks: what explains their perverse appeal and success?

2: Coronavirus

It's no surprise one of our most popular docs is about the biggest story of the year. Edited from interviews and cell phone footage from inside Wuhan, China — ground zero for the deadly global outbreak — empty streets and overflowing hospitals signaled what all of humanity would endure in 2020. Take a look back at how the outbreak began and whether a cover-up by Chinese authorities allowed the virus to spread out of control.

1: Toxic Beauty

Are cosmetics and personal care products making us sick? Associated with everything from headaches to cancer, potentially hazardous ingredients are found in many personal care products like makeup, shampoo and even shaving cream. Whistleblowers, lawyers and world class scientists expose the truth about dangerous, unregulated chemicals and toxins we use on our bodies every day.


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