This guide is continually updated to reflect recent availability. Last update: July 23, 2014. Drew Prindle and Emily Schiola contributed to this article.
Netflix has a gazillion different movies available for instant streaming (approximately), and even though the service starts to get weirdly accurate with its suggestions after you’ve been using it for a while, it can sometimes be hard to find something worth watching. For this reason, we’ve taken the time to wade through the ridiculous amount of content in order to bring you a list of some of our choices for the best movies on Netflix Instant.
See the film that is causing some major waves — pun intended — for Sea World. Featuring interviews from former trainers spliced with live video footage of killer whales in the wild and captivity, Blackfish examines if it’s truly safe for humans to hose the enormous creatures in captivity. The film showcases the horrid living conditions the captive whales are exposed to, along with the deaths of multiple trainers. Prepare to have you memories of Free Willy shattered in 123 minutes.
You’ll never look at a pink ribbon in the same way again after seeing this eye-opening documentary about the rise of “cause marketing,” and witness how capitalism has bastardized charity. A National Film Board of Canada film, it examines the story behind breast cancer and explores who benefits from the pink ribbon campaign. It’s based on Samantha King’s book of the same name, highlighting candid interviews with various cancer victims, and medical researchers.
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining has been terrifying audiences for years. However, many film critics believe there is more to the film than just blood and nightmares. Room 237 delves into the different theories regarding the meanings and symbols behind the iconic movie, delivering nine segments focusing on different elements within the film. Some of it may seem like complete nonsense — ahem, the minotaur poster — but the documentary raises some intriguing questions.
You’ll never look at the California Roll the same way again after watching this fascinating documentary about one of the best sushi chefs in the world. Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old legend in Tokyo, charges $300 a plate at his small restaurant. The film follows his never-ending quest to perfect the art of sushi, while profiling his two songs along the way, the latter of which is poised to succeed Jiro and carry on the family tradition at the renowned restaurant (Sukiyabashi Jiro).
Charles Bradley never had it easy. The 65-year-old soul singer grew up in impoverished parts of the country, from Seattle and Florida to Maine and Brooklyn, working odd jobs and playing small gigs with various backing bands on the side. Gabriel Roth, co-founder of Daptone Records, eventually discovered Bradley, an encounter that eventually spurred a record deal alongside the Menahan Street Band and one of the finest underground records of 2011 (No Time for Dreaming).
Rising from Ashes
Some people had more baggage than most when they began their stride toward the 2012 Summer Olympics. Case in point: Rwanda’s first national cycling team. Under the direction of cycling legend Jack Boyer, the remarkable film follows the team as they push beyond the horrific genocide that left the riders traumatized and orphaned a decade earlier, documenting the all-African team’s astonishing achievements along the way. Thankfully, it’s not overly political, either.
Chris Malloy’s 180° South is an adventure documentary in the most basic sense. The film revolves around surfer-mountaineer Jeff Johnson’s journey retracing Patagonia founders Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins’ epic 1968 trip to Patagonia, Chile. Questions of ecological conservation and wanderlust belie the footage of rock climbing and surfing, though, prompting you to reconsider our role on this planet amid a phenomenal Ugly Casanova-anchored soundtrack.
Premiering at the Los Angeles Film Festival in 2012, A Band Called Death is a story about three brothers from Detroit struggling to make it as one of the first black punk outfits in the mid-’70s. It features harrowing interviews, chronicling a band that was ahead of its time and the untimely death of eldest brother and guitarist, David Hackney. Eventually, record collectors rediscover the band, ultimately leading to the release of their debut LP, …For the Whole World to See, in 2009.
In possibly one of the best pot documentaries of all time, stoner comedian Doug Benson sets out to show the true effects of marijuana use in a 60-day experiment. The first 30 days is the control experiment — he takes a series of tests while being completely clean and sober. The next 30 days is where it gets really funny, as Benson takes the same tests while staying high as a kite 24/7. It’s also far more amusing than the Morgan Spurlock film from which it takes it’s name.
As the old adage goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” The Oscar-nominated Waste Land follows contemporary artist Vik Muniz on a journey to Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. There, Muniz collaborates with a band of Brazilian catadores — pickers of recyclable materials — to create art out of garbage. It’s both uplifting and astonishing, especially when the artwork finds its ways to the auction houses of London.
Due to the fact that some movies are only available on Netflix Instant for a limited amount of time, there’s a chance that some of these movies are no longer available by now. If that’s the case, let us know in the comments and we’ll swap out the movie in question for a flick that’s currently available. Also, feel free to share your favorites in the comments!