The era of streaming has inspired a new golden age of the documentary film. Streaming giants like Netflix have provided the money and platform for documentary filmmakers to explore projects that might not have otherwise found a home.
And with that we’ve seen an explosion of documentary films and series that cover topics ranging from everything to true crime, sports, and tigers.
Best Documentaries On Netflix
Among all the great fictional movies to binge, these are the best documentaries on Netflix.
Icarus is a 2017 American documentary film by Bryan Fogel, which chronicles Fogel’s exploration of the option of doping to win an amateur cycling race. When Bryan Fogel sets out to uncover the truth about doping in sports, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist transforms his story from a personal experiment into a geopolitical thriller involving dirty urine, unexplained death and Olympic Gold-exposing the biggest scandal in sports history.
The Great Hack
The Great Hack is a 2019 documentary film about the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal. The documentary focuses on Professor David Carroll of Parsons and The New School, Brittany Kaiser (former business development director for Cambridge Analytica), and British investigative journalist Carole Cadwalladr. Their stories interweave to expose the work of Cambridge Analytica in the politics of various countries, including the United Kingdom’s Brexit campaign and the 2016 U.S. elections.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a 2021 American true crime documentary miniseries about the life of zookeeper Joe Exotic. A rivalry between big cat eccentrics takes a dark turn when Joe Exotic, a controversial animal park boss, is caught in a murder-for-hire plot. The series focuses on the small but deeply interconnected society of big cat conservationists such as Carole Baskin, owner of Big Cat Rescue, and collectors such as Exotic, whom Baskin accuses of abusing and exploiting wild animals.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
Formula 1: Drive to Survive is a documentary series produced in collaboration between Netflix and Formula One to give an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the drivers and races of the 2018 and 2019 Formula One World Championships. It has unparalleled and exclusive access to the world’s fastest drivers, team principals and owners, as well as Formula 1’s own management team.
Dirty Money is a Netflix original television series which tells stories of corporate corruption, securities fraud and creative accounting. Each episode focuses on one example of corporate corruption and includes interviews with key players in each story. From crippling payday loans to cars that cheat emissions tests, this investigative series exposes brazen acts of corporate greed and corruption.
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates is a 2019 three-part documentary web television series created and directed by Davis Guggenheim. The series’ premise explores the mind and motivations of Bill Gates, a former CEO of Microsoft and founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, together with his wife. To explain how Bill Gates ticks, the documentary toggles between his storybook upper-middle-class childhood, the world-changing creation of Microsoft, and his current status as the world’s second-richest man.
13th is a 2016 American documentary by director Ava DuVernay. The film explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs and much more.
Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country is a Netflix documentary series about the controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho), his one-time personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela, and their community of followers in the Rajneeshpuram community located in Wasco County, Oregon. When the world’s most controversial guru builds a utopian city deep in the Oregon country, conflict with the locals escalates into a national scandal. This docuseries chronicles the conflict, which leads to the first bioterror attack in the United States and a massive case of illegal wiretapping.
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez
Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez is a 2021 American true crime documentary series about convicted murderer and former professional American football player Aaron Hernandez. The three-part documentary explores his conviction for the murder of Odin Lloyd, other murder cases in which he was a suspect and the factors in his life that shaped his behavior. It featuring exclusive courtroom footage, Hernandez’s phone calls from prison and interviews with those who knew Hernandez and Lloyd. The Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez meticulously examines the perfect storm of factors leading to the trial, conviction and death of an athlete who seemingly had it all.
Drug Lords is a 2018 American docu-series exploring real-life drug-dealing cartels and kingpins such as Pablo Escobar, the Cali Cartel, Frank Lucas and the Pettingill Clan by way of interviews from officers, gang members and journalists. It’s a compelling documentary series explaining how these drug lords came to be and what came of them.
Inside the Mossad
Shrouded in secrecy, Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, has been closed to the media since its founding in 1950. Now, for the first time since its founding, a dozen of Mossad’s former spies give us a first-hand recount into their inner work and their moral dilemmas. From capturing Eichmann to present-day operations, Inside the Mossad is an intriguing and unsettling examination of Israel’s history through the eyes of those who shaped its past and continue to influence its future.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a 2019 American documentary film about Billy McFarland and the failed Fyre Festival of 2017. The Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music experience on a posh private island, but it failed spectacularly in the hands of a cocky entrepreneur.
Amanda Knox is a 2016 American documentary film about Amanda Knox, twice convicted and later acquitted of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher. Featuring interviews with Amanda Knox, her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, and others involved in the case, the documentary chronicles the murder of Knox’s roommate Meredith Kercher and the subsequent investigation, trials and appeals.
Knock Down the House
Knock Down the House is a 2019 American documentary film directed by Rachel Lears. It revolves around the primary campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, four progressive Democrats endorsed by Justice Democrats and Brand-New Congress who ran for Congress in the 2018 midterm elections.
Get Me Roger Stone
Get Me Roger Stone is a 2017 American documentary film written and directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme. The documentary explores the life and career of Roger Stone – a notorious Republican political strategist, lobbyist and longtime advisor to Donald Trump – who helped create the real estate mogul’s political career.
The Bleeding Edge
In The Bleeding Edge, Academy Award-nominated investigative filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering turn their sights on the $400 billion medical device industry; examining lax regulations, corporate cover-ups, and profit-driven incentives that put patients at risk daily. Weaving emotionally powerful stories of people whose lives have been irrevocably harmed, the film asks: what life-saving technologies may actually be killing us? The documentary explores Bayer’s permanent birth control device Essure, vaginal mesh, the Da Vinci Surgical System, and chrome-cobalt hip-replacements.
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press is a 2017 Netflix documentary directed by Brian Knappenberger. The documentary is themed around the effects of big money on American journalism. The documentary focuses on two incidents: Peter Thiel financing wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker Media, and casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s secret purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Abducted in Plain Sight
Abducted in Plain Sight is a 2017 true crime documentary film directed by Skye Borgman. The documentary covers the kidnappings of Jan Broberg Felt, an Idaho teenager who was abducted by her neighbor Robert Berchtold in the 1970s on two separate occasions.
This documentary profiles women who were tested in 1961 for spaceflight, but had their dreams dashed when only men were chosen to become astronauts. Mercury 13 offers yet another sobering example of how institutionalized sexism has thwarted countless dreams — and held nations back from their full potential.
The Story of Diana
The Story of Diana is an American four-hour television documentary on the life of Princess Diana. It explored Diana’s life and legacy, through interviews with historians, experts and people who knew Diana personally, interwoven with archival footage. It features a U.S.-exclusive interview with Princess Diana’s brother Charles Spencer, as well as interviews with others close to the Princess, including Richard Branson, Lana Marks and Wayne Sleep, and Prince Charles’ cousin India Hicks.
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The documentary short follows a group of local women in Hapur, India, as they learn how to operate a machine that makes low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads, which they sell to other women at affordable prices. They name their brand “FLY,” because they want women “to soar.”
The Indian Army is an emotion – a living chronicle of events, that we have the luxury to forget because they remember. The army itself is a family of several regiments, each of which has its own history, identity, and glorious traditions. Regiment Diaries is a tale of the Indian Army unlike any told before. Told by the very men who follow the illustrious feats of their predecessors, it tells timeless tales that warm the heart, moisten the eye, and leave you in awe of the bravest children of India.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room is a documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall. It examines the 2001 collapse of the Enron Corporation, which resulted in criminal trials for several of the company’s top executives during the ensuing Enron scandal; it also shows the involvement of the Enron traders in the California electricity crisis.
Do watch these documentaries on Netflix and share your reviews and feedback with us. Did we miss adding any must-watch documentary in our list? Let us know in the comments below.
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