The most-watched CBC documentaries in 2021

Catch all the fan-favourite documentaries on CBC Gem

Catch all the fan-favourite documentaries on CBC Gem

The most-watched docs in 2021 include Enslaved, Wild Canadian Weather: Cold, Harry and William: What Went Wrong? and Becoming Nakuset. Watch them all on CBC Gem. (CBC Docs)

2021 was an unusual year, when we were finally allowed to break out of our pandemic bubbles and begin exploring the world around us again. All the while, documentary filmmakers were busy capturing stories for you to enjoy. 

Here are the 10 most-watched films from CBC Docs — all streaming free on CBC Gem.

10. Green Everest

Every spring, hundreds of mountaineers and their teams of Sherpas set off with their supplies for Everest, hoping to scale the world's highest peak. But along the way, they leave behind torn tents, broken ladders, oxygen tanks, cans and wrappers. The mountain has earned an unfortunate nickname: 'the world's highest garbage dump'.

In the spring of 2017, ten experienced Sherpas climbed up the mountain to collect all that trash and transport it, by yak, to a vast dump near Kathmandu. 

With spectacular cinematography, Green Everest captures the Sherpa's mission as they risk their lives to clean up the mountain.

9. Becoming Nakuset

During the Sixties Scoop, Nakuset was taken from her home in Thompson, Manitoba and adopted into a wealthy Jewish family in Montreal. 

"My parents were like, 'just assimilate into this culture, be brought up as a nice Jewish girl, it will be easier for you,'" recalls Nakuset.

With help from her Bubby (her Jewish grandmother) she reclaims her Indigenous identity and becomes a powerful advocate for her people. 

8. Enslaved

Hollywood icon and activist Samuel L. Jackson goes on a personal odyssey to explore the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Over 12 million African people were trafficked over centuries. Roughly two million died en route. 

In this 6-part series, a team of investigative journalists and divers locate and explore long-lost slave shipwrecks, collecting and documenting the artifacts left behind.

At the same time, having traced his DNA to the Benga people of Gabon, Jackson returns to his ancestral homeland where he is welcomed as a long-lost son.

7. The Skin We're In

Journalist Desmond Cole travels across the country to pull back the curtain on racism in Canada. He meets with Black Canadians in big cities and small towns, and listens to their stories. 

6. The Real Neanderthal

Neanderthals have been long portrayed as sturdy, brutish and dim-witted: the ultimate cavemen. But ever since the first Neanderthal fossil was discovered in the mid-19th century, it's been impossible to grasp who they really were and how they lived — until now.

New archeological discoveries, combined with cutting-edge scientific techniques, are bringing us closer than ever to the real Neanderthals. Follow experts around the world as they uncover evidence that shows Neanderthals were actually much more like us than we ever imagined.

5. Searching for Cleopatra

The legendary last queen of Egypt was the wealthiest, most powerful woman in the world. But most of what we know about the iconic woman is wrong.

The myth of a scheming, sinister and seductive sex kitten has been immortalized by poets, painters and, of course, Hollywood. But the real Cleopatra was a scholar and tactful politician; she spoke nine languages and ruled over a vast empire. 

In this documentary, archeologist Kathleen Martinez is on a personal quest, hunting for the famous queen's resting place by excavating a massive dig site in the catacombs of an ancient temple outside Alexandria, the capital of Cleopatra's empire.

4. Harry and William: What Went Wrong?

An insider look at the building tension between Prince Harry and Prince William, two brothers who were once the best of friends. The breakdown in their relationship led Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, to leave the Royal Family.

Royal insiders describe the private fallings-out that occurred long before their issues became public, revealing a rift that has been building for years. 

3.  Wild Canadian Weather: Cold

From the filmmakers that brought us Wild Canada and Wild Canadian Year, the series Wild Canadian Weather explores Canada's fascinating wildlife, incredible landscapes and extraordinary people through the lens of our dramatic weather. 

Canada has some of the coldest weather on the planet; it transforms our landscape and shapes life for wildlife and people, creating both hardship and wonder. 

Discover the cold as you've never seen it before: from harp seals taking their first plunge into the icy Atlantic waters to flying squirrels who survive the coldest nights by snuggling together in 'cuddle puddles' inside their treetop dens to a rare underground cavern where icicles grow up instead of down.

2. Prince Philip for Queen and Country

A celebration of the remarkable life and legacy of Prince Philip, one of Britain's most fascinating modern royals. Featuring rarely-seen archive footage and interviews with Royal Family members, we uncover his contributions to history and see glimpses into his family and private life.

1. We Were Children

The heartbreaking story of two residential school survivors: Lyna Hart and Glen Anaquod. They both endured years of sexual, emotional and physical abuse at the church-run boarding school they were sent to as children. Told through interviews with survivors and dramatic recreations of their experiences, their story gives voice to a national tragedy. 

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