10 best documentaries about understanding the internet

by Mihail Angelov
documentaries, about internet, about web



The Internet and every subject around it have always been a hot topic.

Taking into consideration the privacy of customer data, cyber-attacks, hacking, data leaks, social media and other stuff, has challenged people to get more informed and open their eyes when making a move on the web.

Here is a list of documentaries that reveal some facts and truths about the internet that you cannot find otherwise.

1. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz (2014)


IMDB score: 8.0

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

The story of one of the most advanced programmers, a prodigy, hacker and information activist Aaron Swartz.

As a young boy, Aaron developed home-crafted video games at home and a proto-Wikipedia called The Info Network at the age of 12. The film also explores his work on Creative Commons, Reddit, RSS, access to public documents and the advocacy against SOPA – the controversial United States bill called Stop Online Piracy Act.

Taking his own life at the age of 26 makes this fact very suspicious and this documentary tells the story otherwise.

2. Citizenfour (2014)


IMDB score: 8.0

Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%

Citizenfour is Laura Poitras’ film concerning the fascinating story of Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal. In this documentary the journalist Glenn Greenwald and Poitras have secret meetings with Snowden, talking about the privacy of customer data and illegal covert programs of mass surveillance of being charged by the National Security Agency and other U.S. intelligence agencies.

Located in a hotel room in Honk Kong, the intense debate shows the courage of one government intelligence analyst who leaked information and sharing that information publicly.

3. The Pirate Bay: AFK (2013)


IMDB score: 7.5

Rotten Tomatoes score: n/a

TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard is a documentary film based on the lives of the three founders of The Pirate Bay: Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij and Gottfrid Svartholm. They redefined the world of media distribution with their hobby homepage.

It explores the life and the work of the three main characters, their triumphs and defeats against the media industry showing how they have become the center of a controversy that has shaken the whole Internet.

4. Catfish (2010)


IMDB score: 7.1

Rotten Tomatoes score: 80%

A reality thriller that serves as a shocking product of our times, a touchstone for the Facebook age, Catfish is a story of love, deception and grace within a labyrinth of online intrigue.

This documentary is an intriguing modern tale of online communication, romance, deception and intimacy and the web: very similar to The Social Network.

It just goes to show that there are some crazy people out there and it is difficult to trust those you meet online. In today’s society, not everyone is who they appear on the internet.

5. Terms and Conditions May Apply (2013)


IMDB score: 7.3

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

This documentary explores the dangers of agreeing to the well-known, yet seldom read, terms and conditions and privacy policies found in user agreements.

It explains the way that various online companies like e-commerce sites, internet service providers, search engines, or social media networks collect, store, and share their users’ personal information when people agree and accept those long and usually unread terms of service agreements.

6. Startup.com (2001)


IMDB score: 7.0

Rotten Tomatoes score: 93%

This dot.com adventure of two childhood friends is giving an insider look at the rise and the fall of their Internet company called GovWorks.com, whose inspiration was to be the destination site for all on-line transactions with local government, by everybody.

Showing the small group of entrepreneurs energized by their dreams of a successful business, Startup.com captures all the obstacles, challenges and disappointments in order to sustain the anatomy of a rising Internet company.

The most interesting part is that the film “stars” that are devoted friends from high school were able to document an extraordinary process of psychological decay that made them learn more through failure than through success.

7. We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (2013)


IMDB score: 6.9

Rotten Tomatoes score: 91%

This is an independent documentary film about Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks that shows the whistleblowing impacts by releasing secret information about the three biggest scoops, which are part of the largest security breach in the U.S history.

Assange founded Wikileaks in 2006, but the website went viral in 2010 with the release of a document by the sacrificial act of the US intelligence officer, Bradly Manning.

Exposing classified information for wider public consumption, this film shows a comprehensive, eloquent and provocative analysis of one of the most controversial people of the information age.

8. We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists (2012)


IMDB score: 7.3

Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%

A documentary that takes us inside the complex culture and history of Anonymous, the “radical” group of hacktivists that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age.

Deeply motivated by a set of diverse issues like police brutality, copyright abuse and online censorship, this group of hackers has organized both offline and online protests. This includes cyber-attacks on various foreign governments, especially during the Arab Spring, and providing technical support to the Occupy Movement.

9. Deep Web (2015)


IMDB score: 7.0

Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%

Deep Web is a documentary produced by Alex Winter, exploring the events surrounding bitcoin, cryptography, digital rights, the politics of the dark web, and Silk Road before the FBI shut it down.

Winter dives deep into the rise of a new internet that is not controllable by governments and banks and the murky extent of cyberspaces while focusing on the arrest and trial of the alleged maker of Silk Road, an online black market where users were able to buy and sell illegal drugs registered close to 900,000 users and generated more than $1.2 billion in sales.

10. We Live in Public (2009)


IMDB score: 7.2

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

A documentary focusing on the controversial life of the less known dot-com entrepreneur Josh Harris who has founded the first internet streaming TV network and recruited many young men and women who agreed to broadcast their lives online. 

Exploring the role of technology in our lives, as it charts the fragile nature of the dot-com economy, this documentary features a disturbing but fascinating perspective on what the digital age has done to our perceptions of how we see ourselves.

Final thoughts

A lot of the internet has changed through the years, but these documentaries still represent the core things that are incorporated in the society and the digital culture.

Without a doubt, we all live in a digital age, whether we accept it or not.

For those who aren’t very into the internet and web things that are shaping our reality, these interesting documentaries bridge the gap between the digital and real life.

Enjoy watching.

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