We’re sharing five of the most captivating celebrity memoir documentaries from 2023 to stream this summer!
The wave of documentary tell-alls has really kicked off in the last few years. Taking a page out of the true crime genre’s playbook, these celebrities are reclaiming the narratives surrounding their lives during and after their rise to fame in a documentary style. This format is unique in that it can recontextualize what we know now of these huge industry names into what was actually going on in history when they came to be well-known. Including a roster of high-profile celebrities whose credits and work in the industry precede them, let’s break down a list of some of the most compelling tell-alls in the documentary genre and in no particular order.
Elliot Page – In His Own Words (2023)
Oscar-nominated actor & trailblazer Elliot Page shares his story beginning with his Canadian upbringing to young adult stardom to coming out as transgender in the last few years. Paired with his new memoir PageBoy (2023), Page invites us into the true story of being queer in Hollywood, and shares with us a true elation like he’s never felt before since coming out and living life as who he really is for the first time ever. Both the memoir and the documentary support his goal to highlight trans joy in a way that lets individuals grant themselves permission and freedom to live as their authentic selves, even in the face of a cruel and misunderstanding society.
Available on Hulu
Brooke Shields – Pretty Baby (2023)
Exploring what happens when a young girl is placed in the limelight before she has even exited childhood; Brooke Shields shares her story of growing up as an actress and model while the world watched. From her ground-breaking Calvin Klein ads to her starring role as a barely-clad teen marooned on an island in Blue Lagoon, Brooke Shields was both adored for her beauty and criticized for the controversial nature of the projects she was featured in. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, she was dealing with the repercussions of her mother’s alcoholism, her college years at Princeton, and her celebrity status. Shields takes us on a journey through what it means to be a woman in entertainment while being “past their prime” and what it is like to find one’s own voice when they haven’t yet had the opportunity to be the narrator of their own story.
Available on Hulu
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Arnold (2023)
The original “comeback kid,” Schwarzenegger is no stranger to a second or even third act, beginning with a historic bodybuilding career that launched itself into Hollywood stardom on the big screen to his later adult career in politics as a former Governor of the state of California. This three-part docuseries tells the tale of Schwarzenegger’s three acts: “Athlete” explores his upbringing in Austria pre-fame, and what led him to his launch into competitive body-building. “Actor” details his rise to acting fame starting with his initial fear of rejection due to his size and that limiting his roles, and eventually his gaining his first role in Pumping Iron (1977) and his rocky path before gaining widespread commercial success in the Terminator franchise. The final part, “American,” features his rise into his civic duty as an American and creating a path forward for himself, his family, and his country in light of his great success and in building a better world than he was brought up in. This captivating story of this cinematic icon allows him to straighten out the facts of his own story once and for all, and to bravely tell us all the whole damn thing.
Available on Netflix
Pamela Anderson – Pamela: A Love Story (2023)
You might have known Pamela Anderson as the woman connected to the body on the cover of Sports Illustrated or running through the beachy waves in Baywatch, but for the first time, in her own words, she reveals the true story. Through personal videos and diaries, Pamela Anderson shares the truth behind her rise to fame, turbulent romantic history, and infamous sex tape scandal. What we uncover is an ordinary girl, a dark and tumultuous upbringing, and the charming and elusive persona that skyrocketed her to fame as a symbol of sex and beauty. She poses the question in response to criticism after the non-consensual release of her sex tape, “Why do grown men hate me so much?” which seems contradictory as grown men are her primary audience. But what we are able to gain is the perspective of a young girl exploited for what seemed to be the only thing of value others wanted from her, which tells the indeed disillusioning tale of the rise to fame and settlement in infamy that many celebrity women seem to fall into as a result of institutional misogyny in the world of entertainment. Perhaps this documentary is a wake-up call for how we treat female celebrities after society has deemed their physical appearance no longer useful, and how we can look beyond the scope of their greatest scandal and see them as humans once and for all.
Available on Netflix
Mary Tyler Moore – Being Mary Tyler Moore (2023)
Imagine a time when it was considered revolutionary, if not scandalous, for a single mother to be the star of her own show, working in the real world and having to answer absurd questions in job interviews such as “How old are you?” and “where is your husband?” The reality of just a few decades ago can be unfathomable for a generation that has too soon taken for granted the simple liberties as small as being able to date casually and holding a real job but was very real during the time of Mary Tyler Moore and her female counterparts in entertainment during the early days of Women’s Liberation.
The illuminating story spanning six decades of Mary Tyler Moore, whose television personality as a modern, female comic has truly shaped the historical landscape of what it means to be a woman and comedian on television. It lends insight into what brought Moore to stardom and what choices, both creatively and in her personal life, allowed her to catapult into success as she did, and even the roadblocks that prevented her from advancing her career even more. The success of the actress surpassed the success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, due to the fact that Moore truly broke barriers in the way her character was presented as a modern, independent, and competent single woman. Unlike the doting housewives and slapstick comedy of some of the others on air at the time, Moore created what was then a monolith of a woman–one who could do it all and do it while thriving, which in turn shaped how women at the time felt about themselves and how they were treated by the men in their lives. This documentary takes us down the path of what it means to create history as a woman on television and is a story unlike any other.
Available on Max