Best video essays for when you’ve got a few hours to kill


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A new type of YouTube content, video essays, has recently become popular, and here are a few options for the best over the past year.

Hannah Scott

Many people spend their free time scrolling through YouTube trying to find something entertaining to watch and come up dry. However, a new video format has gained popularity on the platform and may be a type of content some have not yet viewed.

Video essays are a format of video specifically on YouTube that focus on one subject, are generally long-form, and do a deep dive into the topic. Though not always, they are more highly produced and give a slightly more cinematic feel than the average Youtube video would. For those who want to learn more on a topic they may have never even known they were interested in, these videos can be a great way to open new interests to different audiences.

This list will include some of the most popular video essays uploaded to YouTube within the last year, and that will hopefully spark your interest when you are looking for something to watch.

Top Video Essays from 2021

“Disney’s Fastpass: A Complicated History” – Defunctland

Defunctland is a channel that focuses on old aspects of brands that either failed or did not last for the time that the brand perhaps thought they would. Within this video essay, Defunctland breaks down how the Fastpass system came to be within the Disney theme parks and how it eventually broke down and ended even to many visitors’ dissatisfaction. If you’re a fan of Disney and its parks, this may be one to take an hour to sit down and enjoy.

“The Neurosis of Cat Valentine” – CJ The X

A more fun and lighthearted video, the focus of this essay is on the character of Cat Valentine from the popular Nickelodeon show “Victorious.” For many, when they were watching “Victorious” as children, Cat simply seemed to be a fun and ditzy character, but as you watch the video, you will realize the issues in her character’s writing, and creation as the series continued.

“An appropriately unhinged recap of Pretty Little Liars” – Mike’s Mic

If you enjoyed the series “Pretty Little Liars” as a child or teen, this video essay will give you all the nostalgia you need while also reminding you of the craziness that came from this television series. There is also a part two and three of this essay if you are looking for a six-hour saga to take up an afternoon.

“Why Ratatouille is Pixar’s Magnum Opus” – Scaffrillas Productions

For somebody who loves film and Pixar, this video will be exactly what you need to pass your time. In the essay, the creator breaks down almost every aspect of the film “Ratatouille” and gives a clear look into why it has become one of the most beloved and highly acclaimed films that Pixar has created.

“THE Vampire Diaries Video” – Jenny Nicholson

Jenny Nicholson is a creator who largely does longer form, essay-style videos on the platform; however, her “Vampire Diaries” video has been one of her largest projects to date. Like the “Pretty Little Liars” video, Nicholson breaks down every aspect of “The Vampire Diaries” as a television show and will give you nostalgia as a past watcher or open your eyes to a new show you may not have known anything about.

“iBinged iCarly” – Quinton Reviews

This is a video essay that you may have to split up into different watch times as it is about four hours in length. However, it is still incredibly entertaining. In the video, Quinton goes through every episode of iCarly and talks about its successes and failures as a series. There is also a second half to this essay entitled “The End of iCarly” that strictly focuses on the show’s ending.

“J.K. Rowling” – Contrapoints

For anybody who loves video essays on YouTube, Contrapoints is no stranger. Natalie Wynn is one of the most successful long-form creators on the platform and was one of the first to do the long-form video consistently. In this video, Wynn breaks down J.K. Rowling’s most recent controversies surrounding transphobia and tries to understand why she holds those beliefs.

“How Midsommar Brainwashes You” – Acolytes of Horror

If you love horror films or psychological thrillers, this essay will give you exactly what you are looking for. The video goes into the ideas of how the film “Midsommar” makes you feel similar to how the main character of Dani does when getting sucked into a cult. Many have argued about the ending of this film, and this video seeks to figure out the true meaning.

For days when you simply need something to take up a few hours, video essays can be the perfect form of entertainment, and if you haven’t dived into this genre of video, perhaps this list can be a starting point.