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The best documentaries on Netflix right now (January 2023)

Comedies and dramas on streaming are the bread and butter for most audiences, but Netflix has some of the best documentaries within its catalog, too. They’re windows to different parts of the world that might otherwise go unnoticed to some viewers, and they rarely hold back. Whether it’s through the dark developments of scandals and crimes or breathtaking perspectives on the world around us, Netflix’s diverse selection of documentaries should provide hours of intrigue.

Netflix is a dominant player when it comes to documentaries, with a very full library of original docuseries and documentary films from all over the world. To make it easier for you to find a new one to watch, here are the best documentaries on Netflix right now.

We’ve also rounded up the best documentaries on Amazon Prime Video and the best documentaries on Hulu if Netflix doesn’t have what you’re looking for.

Our Great National Parks (2022) new
Our Great National Parks
tv-pg 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Barack Obama
Many will undoubtedly think of David Attenborough as the king of nature documentaries, but former U.S. President Barack Obama narrated and produced a noteworthy docuseries in the form of Our Great National Parks. A five-part miniseries, Our Great National Parks takes audiences on an awe-inspiring journey across some of the world’s greatest national parks and the wildlife that thrives within them. It’s a welcome spotlight on the various wonders that our planet provides, as well as helping to visualize what humanity should be fighting to preserve.
Stutz (2022) new
Stutz
96m
Genre Documentary
Stars Jonah Hill, Phil Stutz
Directed by Jonah Hill
Directed by actor Jonah Hill, Stutz is a poignant and intimate exploration of mental health and Hill’s titular personal therapist. It’s a fascinating and even heartwarming film that sees the two long-time friends converse about their lives, mental health, and Dr. Stutz’s approach to his therapeutic work. He’s been an accomplished therapist for over four decades, treating major business figures and creatives alike, and this documentary also sees Dr. Stutz explain and depict his famous visualization exercises dubbed “The Tools.” Stutz does well to approach sensitive topics with nuance in addition to charming and candid commentary.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020) new
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
83m
Genre Documentary
Stars David Attenborough, Max Hughes
Directed by Alastair Fothergill, Keith Scholey, Jonathan Hughes
Presenter David Attenborough is celebrated worldwide as one of the biggest voices in documentaries on natural history. That makes a documentary film on the man behind the scenes a natural next step, and that’s what David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet succeeds and excels in doing. This documentary functions in part as Attenborough’s recollection of his eventful career in this industry, as well as his eloquent and serious takes on the perils facing the natural world around us. It’s a damning indictment of how humanity has devastated the planet, but a necessary and compelling film that’s unlike any other documentary Attenborough has worked on.
Pepsi, Where's My Jet? (2022) new
Pepsi, Where's My Jet?
62 %
7.1/10
tv-y7 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Cindy Crawford, Curtis Lee Newton, Michael Davis
In 1996, as part of a promotional campaign about redeeming Pepsi points for rewards, Pepsi released a commercial that suggested an AV-8 Harrier II jump jet was available for a mere 7 million points. Pepsi clearly didn’t expect anyone to amass that many points or even to take the offer seriously. But John Leonard not only got the points, but he also took Pepsi to court over the promise of a jet. In Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?, director Andrew Renzi catches up with Leonard and other players from this bizarre tale to share their stories about what happened. One of the interview subjects is Michael Avenatti, a disgraced celebrity lawyer who represented Leonard in the case.
FIFA Uncovered (2022) new
FIFA Uncovered
7.5/10
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Sepp Blatter, Michel Platini, Gianni Infantino

Contrary to the beliefs of many Americans, baseball, basketball, and American football are not the most popular sports in the world. That honor belongs to football, or “soccer,” as we call it in this country. But with that popularity has come corruption and vice, as seen in the new Netflix documentary series FIFA Uncovered. FIFA is the governing body for the World Cup and international football leagues. It also has a very dark history that has only partially come to light. This isn’t just a sports documentary, it’s a crime story. And many of the dirtiest players in the game seemingly escape the legal and moral consequences of their actions.

Our Universe (2022) new
Our Universe
7.8/10
tv-y7 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Morgan Freeman
“The stars connect us all.” That’s not just a nice sentiment, it’s one of the central ideas behind Our Universe. This documentary series lays out the way that the formation of the universe has influenced life on planet Earth in ways that you may not expect. And who better to lead us on our journey of cosmic discovery than narrator Morgan Freeman? His voice carries us through six beautifully shot and realized episodes. You may never look at our world, or even our universe, the same way again.
The Most Hated Man on the Internet (2022)
The Most Hated Man on the Internet
58 %
6.9/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Hunter Moore
Who is the titular guy in The Most Hated Man on the Internet? Why that would be Hunter Moore, the man who created a revenge porn site that allowed users to upload NSFW pics of their ex-girlfriends online and linked the images directly to their social media. Moore was completely unapologetic about the damage that he caused, and he way too smug about it as well. The documentary follows Charlotte Laws, a mother whose daughter was victimized by Moore’s site. That’s why Laws made it her mission to take down Moore and his site for good.
The Last Blockbuster (2020)
The Last Blockbuster
59 %
6.7/10
86m
Genre Documentary
Stars Sandi Harding, Lauren Lapkus, Kevin Smith
Directed by Taylor Morden
If you’re old enough to remember Blockbuster Video, then you’re old enough to recall a world without streaming. Back in the ‘90s, Blockbuster was king of the video rental stores, and it forced most of the independent video stores out of business. Now, there’s just one Blockbuster store left in the age of streaming. The Last Blockbuster does look in on that single store, but it’s more of a broad overview of how Blockbuster Video rose to prominence and then came crashing down to Earth in the 21st century. It’s kind of ironic that this documentary is being streamed on Netflix, which is one of the outlets that ultimately took Blockbuster’s place in our society.
An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase (2018)
An American Murder Mystery: The Staircase
95 %
7.4/10
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Diane Dimond, Diane Fanning
Over two decades ago, novelist Michael Peterson was accused of murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson, after her body was found at the bottom of the family’s staircase. Peterson invited a French documentary team to follow him around as his family rallied to his defense and he went on trial. But as the cameras rolled on The Staircase, Peterson’s closely held secrets began to unravel and his wife’s daughters from her first marriage began to suspect that Peterson had in fact done the crime. It’s a compelling story in its own right, and it inspired a dramatic retelling of these events on HBO Max. But this is what really happened.
For the Love of Spock (2016)
For the Love of Spock
74 %
7.6/10
105m
Genre Documentary
Stars Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, George Takei
Directed by Adam Nimoy
There is no shortage of Star Trek documentaries, but this one is unusually personal because the filmmaker, Adam Nimoy, is the son of Leonard Nimoy, the iconic actor who portrayed Spock for five decades in the franchise. For the Love of Spock follows Nimoy’s career as the Enterprise’s First Officer and the most popular Vulcan in pop culture. Nimoy didn’t always embrace his character, but he came to accept Spock as a part of himself. The relationship between Adam and his father,Leonard, wasn’t quite as easy. And this documentary doesn’t shy away from acknowledging that as well.
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed (2021)
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed
55 %
6.9/10
92m
Genre Documentary
Stars Bob Ross, Steve Ross, Vicky Ross
Directed by Joshua Rofé
Rest assured that Bob Ross, the beloved host of The Joy of Painting, was just as good and wholesome as you wanted to believe. In his TV show, Ross shared his love of painting with the world. Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal and Greed largely focuses on what came after Ross passed away. Ross’ business partners, Annette and Walt Kowalski, assumed sole ownership of Bob Ross Inc., and used his image and reputation to expand an art supply empire. However, Ross’ son, Steve Ross, and Ross’ half-brother, Jimmie Cox, were named in Ross’ will as his beneficiaries. This led to an ugly court battle to determine who would control the name and legacy of Bob Ross.
Miss Americana (2020)
Miss Americana
65 %
7.3/10
r 85m
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Taylor Swift, Joe Alwyn, Todrick Hall
Directed by Lana Wilson
Mess with Taylor Swift at your own peril. Swift is not only one of the top recording artists of her era, she is passionately outspoken and unafraid to strike back when someone crosses her. Taylor Swift: Miss Americana chronicles a period in Swift’s life during which she tried to be everything to everybody and kept her political opinions to herself. Over the course of this documentary, Swift comes into her own as she refuses to let anyone else define who she is or what she stands for. Swift is more than just a musician, she’s a woman who is willing to use her stage and her celebrity to fight for LGBT rights and other social causes.
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch (2022)
White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch
48 %
5.7/10
88m
Genre Documentary
Stars Benjamin O'Keefe, Moe Tkacik, Lindsey Rupp
Directed by Alison Klayman
You may not realize it, but Abercrombie & Fitch has been around for well over a century. But it’s largely known as a teen fashion and line of stores that haven’t fully recovered from the company’s precipitous drop over a decade ago. White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch focuses on the company’s transformation in the ‘90s, which included its use of highly sexualized pictures of models to sell its clothes. It does not go unsaid that almost all of those faces and bodies were white, nor does the documentary shy away from examining other examples of exclusion within the company. This is a highly focused look at the root causes of the company’s decline, and it’s not a pretty picture to look at.
Pray Away (2021)
Pray Away
76 %
6.5/10
pg-13 101m
Genre Documentary
Stars Julie Rodgers, Randy Thomas, Yvette Cantu Schneider
Directed by Kristine Stolakis
Surely you’ve heard the expression “pray away the gay.” It refers to conversion therapy; which frankly, does not work, nor has it ever worked. And who better to illustrate this point than the men who popularized conversion therapy in the ‘70s? Pray Away allows the leaders of the initial conversion therapy movement to confess that they never stopped being gay; and it also explores the terrible consequences that their “treatment” had for LGBT people all over the world.
Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes (2022)
Conversations with a Killer: The John Wayne Gacy Tapes
7.2/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast John Wayne Gacy
Created by Joe Berlinger
John Wayne Gacy is one of America’s most notorious serial killers. The aspiring politician, popular contractor, and part-time clown-for-hire was a monster hiding in broad daylight, responsible for the murder of 33 young men between 1972 and 1976. He buried most of them under his house in a quiet Chicago suburb. Fifty years later, DNA scientists are still working to identify all his victims. This astonishing docuseries uses more than 60 hours of unearthed audio between Gacy and his defense team to bring a fresh perspective to Gacy’s narcissism and how he killed with impunity for so long.
Meltdown: Three Mile Island (2022)
Meltdown: Three Mile Island
1 Season
Genre Documentary
In 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania experienced a meltdown that nearly became catastrophic. This limited series follows the events leading up to the near disaster through the lens of chief engineer and whistleblower, Richard Parks, as well as the community around the plant.
Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King (2022)
Trust No One: The Hunt for the Crypto King
6.4/10
r 90m
Genre Documentary, Crime
Directed by Luke Sewell
A decidedly modern tale, this documentary follows the panic and outrage of crypto investors after the young founder of a collapsing cryptocurrency exchange suddenly dies. However, there’s more to his death than meets the eye and they’re determined to figure out what has really happened.
Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. (2022)
Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.
72 %
5.8/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Sarma Melngailis, Allen Salkin, Ilze Melngailis
Sarma Melngailis became known as the “Vegan Queen” for her visionary vegan cooking and recipes that spawned a small cooking empire. However, in 2011, she meets a man named Shane Fox who claims he can make her and her dog immortal. Soon, her life becomes careening towards becoming the “Vegan Fugitive.”
Formula 1: Drive to Survive (2019)
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
8.6/10
tv-ma 4 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Cast Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Sergio Pérez
Created by James Gay-Rees
Formula 1 isn’t remotely as popular in the United States as it is in the rest of the world, but this high-octane series has slowly been capturing the attention and imagination of American viewers. The docuseries gives viewers extraordinary access to the people behind one of the world’s most popular — and most dangerous — sports. Diving deep into the battle for the heart, soul, and direction of the multibillion-dollar business, you’ll see the drivers, teams, and decision-makers in their element and learn what kind of madness you have to have to drive 235 mph around winding tracks against dozens of other cars.
The Tinder Swindler (2022)
The Tinder Swindler
7.2/10
r 114m
Genre Documentary, Crime
Stars Shimon Yehuda Hayut, Kristoffer Kumar, Pernilla Sjöholm
Directed by Felicity Morris
Simon Leviev is the son of diamond mogul Lev Leviev, leading a jet-setting, privileged life of a billionaire. It’s no wonder he does so well on Tinder. Except that he’s not actually the son of a diamond mogul or a member of high society at all; he’s just an extraordinary con man who has swindled women into paying for his extravagant lifestyle. And now some victims want payback.
Cheer (2020)
Cheer
81 %
8.1/10
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Cast Monica Aldama, Gabi Butler, Morgan Simianer
When you think of Texas, you probably think of football before cheerleading. But Cheer will make you question which sport is really more demanding. The original docuseries follows Corsicana, Texas, cheer coach Monica Adams as she works to create the perfect competitive cheer program from a tiny pool of college athletes. It might remind you of Dance Moms or other popular reality series, but Cheer is a lot more intense.
Seaspiracy (2021)
Seaspiracy
8.2/10
r 89m
Genre Documentary
Stars Ali Tabrizi, Sylvia Earle, Richard O'Barry
Directed by Ali Tabrizi
The follow-up to CowspiracySeaspiracy takes to the sea to illuminate the truths about the widespread, human-caused environmental destruction of our oceans. Filmmaker Ali Tabrizi set out to create a film celebrating the ocean, but soon found his narrative dragged toward the irreparable damage caused by humans to the seas. From plastics polluting the water to illegal fishing and hunting practices, humanity continuously ravages the oceans, making it exceedingly difficult for the planet to cope. A challenge to the very idea of sustainable fishing and an examination of how sustainable human existence is, Seaspiracy is not for the faint of heart.
Heist (2021)
Heist
68 %
6.8/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast William Guirola, Kate Watson, Emree Franklin
Netflix has become a master of true crime television. In this dramatized docuseries, they take it up a notch, telling stories about ordinary people getting away with extraordinary heists. From a career criminal using hypnosis to pull off a theft to a family man convincing his buddies to help him steal the world’s most expensive bourbon, Heist is a fun thrill ride that might just make you wonder if you could pull something off, too.
Cat People (2021)
Cat People
6.3/10
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Created by Glen Zipper
There are dog people and there are cat people. But while you see all kinds of movies about dogs saving people, being loyal partners, or just being totally lovable — cats tend not to get the same treatment. However, to some people, cats are just as loyal and essential allies. And no, they’re not just crazy people as we’ve been led to believe. In Cat People, you’ll meet some of the most interesting “cat people” in the world in a quest to undo the negative stereotypes associated with being a cat person while revealing the true power of the bonds people make with these independent pets.

Penguin Town (2021)
Penguin Town
7.9/10
tv-g 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Patton Oswalt
This heartfelt nature documentary takes you to a picturesque South African town where the coolest kids on the block are an eclectic group of endangered penguins. Narrated by comedian Patton Oswalt, the series takes a humorous look into the lives of the penguins as they try to find mates, raise families, and mix with the local humans.

Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know (2020)
Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know
6.5/10
tv-pg
Genre Documentary
Cast Sheperd Doeleman, Stephen Hawking, Sasha Haco
Black holes are paradoxes, replete with complexity and yet surprising simplicity. To astrophysicists, they seem to represent the boundaries of knowledge itself. This documentary follows two scientific collaborations, one led by Stephen Hawking striving to show that black holes do not annihilate the past, and another group working in the world’s highest-altitude observatories to capture the first imagery of black holes. In this scientific search to demystify black holes, the documentary takes audiences to the pinnacle of human discovery.
This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist (2021)
This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Shelley Murphy, Anne Hawley, Dick Ellis
On the night before Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in 1990, two men dressed as cops conned their way into the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. After subduing the guards, they spent nearly an hour and a half walking around the museum, slashing millions of dollars’ worth of art out of their frames. The notorious crime is history’s largest art heist and remains unsolved to this day. In this investigative series, filmmaker Colin Barnicle examines some of the most likely subjects and connects with amateur sleuths and professional art thieves alike to help demystify the case.

Evil Genius (2018)
Evil Genius
7.5/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Kevin G. Calkins, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, Trey Borzillieri
A robbery gone wrong in Erie, Pennsylvania, in 2003 resulted in a terrifying public murder that captured the nation’s attention. Soon, a collection of Midwestern hoarders, outcasts, and lawbreakers became engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the FBI. Eventually, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong was arrested and pinned as the mastermind of the heist. But 15 years later, Evil Genius proves there’s much more to the conspiracy and murders than ever imagined.[/dt_media]

My Octopus Teacher (2020)
My Octopus Teacher
82 %
8.1/10
tv-pg
Genre Documentary
Cast Craig Foster, Tom Foster
Nature has much to teach us, and that is abundantly evident in 2020’s My Octopus Teacher, winner of the Oscar for best documentary. Burned-out filmmaker James Reed retreats to the southwest tip of Cape Town, South Africa, to recharge and go diving in the beautiful underwater kelp forests he visited when he was growing up. While he’s escaping the stressors of the real world and diving in the chilly waters, he strikes up a surprising companionship with an unusually docile octopus in a kelp forest. Following this almost supernatural lead, the filmmaker delves further into the mysteries and wonders of the ocean.

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal (2021)
Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal
70 %
7/10
r 100m
Genre Documentary, Crime, Drama
Stars Matthew Modine, Roger Rignack, Jillian Peterson
Directed by Chris Smith
For decades, college counselor Rick Singer ran a “side-door” hustle designed to get the children of extremely wealthy families into top American universities. Unlike a “back-door” donation of an entire building, Singer’s side doors paid college coaches and athletic directors to pass off wealthy applicants as athletic admissions and supplied students with fake scores and credentials, all for the tidy price of a few hundred thousand dollars. Through reenactments based on wiretapped phone conversations and court documents, this compelling documentary sheds light on just how corrupt America’s university system is and how wealth really does buy access.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator (2019)
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
68 %
6.7/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Larissa Anderson, Francesca Asumah, Sarah Baughn
Bikram is a household name these days as the yoga craze has officially gone mainstream. But many don’t know the story of the hot yoga founder, Bikram Choudhury. Based on the 30 for 30 podcast miniseries, director Eva Orner takes a deep dive into the rise and fall of Choudhury, who was considered near-divine by many of his followers before disturbing revelations came to light about his predatory impulses.
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2021)
Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer
72 %
7.5/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime, Mystery
Cast Gil Carrillo, Frank Salerno, Pearl Carrillo
This limited series about one of California’s most notorious and terrifying serial killers has earned criticism for being too overtly graphic and sensationalizing both the violence and the pursuit of the murderer dubbed the Night Stalker. It’s not for the faint of heart. That said, for genuine true crime fans, Night Stalker is pulse-pounding and thrilling as it doggedly investigates the peripatetic, seemingly-random series of murders and sexual assaults that plagued Los Angeles County in the summer of 1985. On the hunt are LA County Sheriff’s Department detective Gil Carrillo and homicide investigator Frank Salerno. The series is told through first-person interviews, gripping archival footage, and original photography, painting a supremely grim (yet undeniably exciting) picture of one of LA’s most iconic horror stories.
Surviving Death (2021)
Surviving Death
6.1/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Ansuman Bhagat, Sourav Kumar
We’ve all wondered what happens after you die, but nobody can really say for certain what the afterlife looks like — or if it even exists at all. This series, however, aims to investigate that question as much as possible. Based on Leslie Kean’s book of the same name, the series uses innovative new research and personal stories of near-death experiences, reincarnation, and paranormal phenomena to investigate the subject.
Fyre (2019)
Fyre
75 %
7.2/10
98m
Genre Documentary, TV Movie
Stars Billy McFarland, Ja Rule, Jason Bell
Directed by Chris Smith
In 2018, the festival destination of the year was Fyre Fest. Organized by Ja Rule and Billy McFarland, the festival boasted to be the most exclusive and exciting event of the decade, hosted on a private island with a litany of extraordinary amenities for big spenders and a performance lineup headlined by Blink-182. Fyre Fest, immortalized by its solid orange square logo, was so hyped it gained its own mystique that took the world by storm practically overnight. For those who actually attended and became stranded on the little Caribbean island where it was held, Fyre Fest became a nightmarish hellscape. This is the history of one of the largest social frauds in history.

The Social Dilemma (2020)
The Social Dilemma
78 %
7.6/10
pg-13 94m
Genre Documentary, Drama
Stars Skyler Gisondo, Kara Hayward, Vincent Kartheiser
Directed by Jeff Orlowski
One of the more shocking documentaries of 2020, The Social Dilemma shines a light on something most of us already suspect: Big tech and social media are potentially extremely dangerous. Blending drama and documentary, The Social Dilemma is driven by tech experts who have created many of the systems that drive our current social networking-obsessed age. But they’re not promoting their work, they’re sounding the alarm of what it can do.

Last Breath (2019)
Last Breath
7.7/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary
Cast Duncan Allcock, Kjetil Ove Alvestad, Stuart Anderson
Chris Lemons and his crewmates were veteran deep-sea divers carrying out a routine repair, 100 meters below the surface in the North Sea. What started as a normal day on the job quickly became everyone’s worst nightmare as Chris’ umbilical cord (the harness securing him to the repair vessel) severed, trapping Chris at the bottom of the ocean with a quickly-depleting air supply. Told through archival footage of the day’s events, as well as filmed interactions with the vessel crew, Last Breath is a pulse-pounding look at the ocean blue and an endearing display of humanity, as told by a group of men that were just doing their jobs.

Athlete A (2020)
Athlete A
85 %
7.6/10
pg-13 104m
Genre Documentary
Stars Maggie Nichols, Jamie Dantzscher, Mark Alesia
Directed by Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen
For more than two decades, Larry Nassar was a doctor for the USA Gymnastics national team. Nassar betrayed the trust placed in him, however, by sexually assaulting the young female gymnasts in his care. Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s Athlete A follows the journalists from The Indianapolis Star who broke the story that helped send Nassar to jail. More importantly, the film also provides the victims with another opportunity to share their stories about the abuse they endured and the challenges they faced when they dared to break their silence. Their harrowing tales can be difficult to hear, but it’s necessary viewing.
13th (2016)
13th
83 %
8.2/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary
Cast Jelani Cobb, Angela Davis, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The story of race in America is a long, bloody, systemically inequitable one. And that systemic inequality seems hellbent on perpetuating itself, as illustrated in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated 13th. This doc tells the story of post-slavery America by drawing attention to the 13th Amendment, which — on its surface — appears to abolish slavery. There’s a loophole, however, that permits slavery as punishment for a crime. DuVernay argues, through meticulous statistical research and archival evidence, that the criminal justice system and mass incarceration have become a modern, more insidious means of perpetuating racial inequality and bolstering racial biases, both culturally and systemically. In today’s turbulent political environment, 13th should be mandatory viewing for all Americans.
Chasing Coral (2017)
Chasing Coral
86 %
8.1/10
tv-pg
Genre Documentary
Cast Andrew Ackerman, Pim Bongaerts, Neal Cantin
Although they only cover less than 2% of the ocean floor, coral reefs are essential to marine ecosystems, providing support for nearly 25% of ocean species. It’s disturbing, then, to see the vibrant reefs of the world turn bone-white and die. Director Jeff Orlowski’s latest documentary, Chasing Coral, follows a team of researchers as they try to document the slow death of the world’s reefs. The documentary is informative, laying out for viewers why coral reefs are important in maintaining healthy oceans, and how increasing ocean temperatures are destroying them. Chasing Coral provides a human element, too. The researchers involved display a great passion for their work, and their zeal may be more persuasive than any facts or figures.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness
76 %
7.5/10
tv-ma 2 Seasons
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin
Created by Eric Goode
2020 will forever be known as the year of the coronavirus and the year of Joe Exotic, Tiger King. Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin’s docuseries on the big cat trade in the United States became a bona fide meme and take factory. It’s a documentary for the internet age, somehow consistently re-upping itself with the weirdness and insanity of its characters and stories episode after episode. Joe Exotic is an openly gay, polygamous, country-singing, gun-toting, mullet-sporting redneck who owns and operates a private big cat zoo in Oklahoma. His story is, somehow, even stranger.
The Ivory Game (2016)
The Ivory Game
73 %
7.9/10
tv-14
Genre Documentary
Cast Ofir Drori
In this Netflix Original, filmmakers Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani tell the story of elephant poaching and the inner workings of the ongoing ivory trade — from the inside out. The film paints a dire picture of the economies, both political and financial, that have emerged as a result of ivory’s value in regions where legal loopholes allow the black-market commodity to move unfettered. From Africa to China to Italy, the film looks to expose the brutality of the ivory trade and help support those looking to make it extinct. It exists in the same vein as heartbreaking documentaries such as Blackfish and The Cove, and as such, it often feels more like a loudspeaker for animal-rights activists than a work of pure journalism.
Icarus (2017)
Icarus
68 %
7.9/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary
Cast Bryan Fogel, Dave Zabriskie, Don Catlin
Bryan Fogel’s first documentary, Icarus, began as an attempt to document the effects of doping, with Fogel taking drugs to compete in a bicycle race. In an act of journalistic serendipity, Fogel meets a Russian doctor, Grigory Rodchenkov, who leads Fogel to a far bigger story: a Russian, state-sponsored doping program that could cast doubt on the validity of international sports. The story behind Icarus is interesting enough to recommend it, and it is essentially a real-life political thriller.
American Factory (2019)
American Factory
86 %
7.4/10
tv-14
Genre Documentary
Cast Junming 'Jimmy' Wang, Sherrod Brown, Dave Burrows
Winner of the 2020 Best Documentary Oscar, American Factory will not make you feel good about the state of American institutions. This look into a defunct General Motors plant in Dayton, Ohio, is the first release from Higher Ground, a production company founded by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. But before that, it was made by Participant Media, who screened it at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it also won Best Documentary. The doc depicts the Dayton plant receiving new life when a Chinese billionaire invests in it as a new American glass-making facility for his company, Fuyao. The skilled labor force subsequently struggles as human skill is sacrificed for a few pennies’ worth of savings. American Factory shows the plight of the skilled labor force, both American and Chinese, as they fall victim to the rich and powerful. It’s a good, hard look at the American Dream and whether it still exists.
Our Planet (2019)
Our Planet
83 %
9.3/10
tv-g 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast David Attenborough
Earth is a living, breathing sphere of air and water, filled with the tallest mountains and the largest oceans. Our Planet is a special collaboration between Silverback Films, Netflix, and the World Wildlife Fund. Taking place over four years, Our Planet takes viewers on a breathtaking journey from the deepest seas to the driest deserts to the thickest jungles. Our Planet not only showcases the majestic wildlife of our world but also highlights the challenges faced, as well as how humans can learn to coexist with the natural world. Our Planet is narrated by David Attenborough (Blue Planet) for English-speaking audiences, and it’s also narrated by Salma Hayek for Latin America and Penelope Cruz for Spanish audiences.
Night on Earth (2020)
Night on Earth
9.3/10
tv-pg 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Samira Wiley
Night On Earth is a revolutionary new nature documentary, utilizing state-of-the-art cinematography to view the natural world at night. Even in the pitch blackness of the night, Night On Earth illuminates the land as if the sun were out, showcasing nocturnal creatures and their behaviors under the cover of darkness. This cutting-edge filmmaking unearths an entirely new world that’s rarely seen by humans — but that can now be seen with every detail. Narrated by Samira Wiley (A Handmaid’s Tale), Night On Earth is a mesmerizing experience, bringing to light the world of the dark.
Birders (2019)
Birders
6.4/10
tv-g
Genre Documentary
Cast Esteban Berrones, Chris Birchfield, Mark Conway
Birders offers a thought-provoking view of bird-watching from opposite sides of the border between the United States and Mexico. Bird-watchers from Mexico observe birds crossing into the U.S., and watchers in the U.S. see the return. Man-made obstacles pose a threat to the birds and their habitats, which cause untold destruction to their populations and ecosystems. This short documentary showcases a world without borders and members of two countries working together to protect the habitat of these magnificent birds.
Into the Inferno (2016)
Into the Inferno
76 %
7.2/10
tv-pg
Genre Documentary
Cast Werner Herzog, Clive Oppenheimer, Mael Moses
Director and writer Werner Herzog created a feature-length documentary that focuses on one of the most powerful and destructive forces on our planet: Volcanoes. Volcanoes wield great power, and they’re able to decimate any land — but also create new land as their thunderous force completely changes the land around them. Herzog sends viewers deep into the magma-filled heart of volcanoes, as their destructive forces breed creation and civilizations praise their raw power. With breathtaking filmmaking, Into the Inferno showcases the pure power of volcanoes and how they have impacted our world.
Team Foxcatcher (2016)
Team Foxcatcher
76 %
7.3/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary
Cast Dave Schultz, Nancy Schultz, John E. du Pont
Utilizing home video footage, Team Foxcatcher recounts the downward spiral of John du Pont and the tragic murder of Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz with authenticity and depth. Team Foxcatcher sees exclusive interviews with du Pont and the families impacted by this tragedy. Directed by Jon Greenhalgh, Team Foxcatcher received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Historical Documentary. The tragedy was the central focus of this dark and dramatic film.
Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer (2019)
Don't F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
8.0/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Deanna Thompson, John Green
Ten years ago, Luka Magnotta posted a video of himself killing two kittens on camera. A few outraged viewers launched their own online manhunt, as chronicled in Don’t F**k With Cats. Several internet sleuths closely examined the video hoping to find clues about Magnotta’s identity and where he could be found. Meanwhile, Magnotta went on to kill an international student, and he proved to be even more dangerous than previously believed. Exposing Magnotta was only the beginning — the real trick was catching him.
The Great Hack (2019)
The Great Hack
67 %
7.1/10
tv-ma
Genre Documentary
Cast Brittany Kaiser, David Carroll, Paul-Olivier Dehaye
Do the words “Cambridge Analytica” mean anything to you? It’s the name of the company that illegally lifted personal information from Facebook users during the 2016 election. More surprisingly, Cambridge Analytica was working for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, as well as the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom. The Great Hack examines this story by talking to the people who were chasing the story and other individuals who were involved in the scandal. The scary thing is that the past may be prologue for companies that are stealing information from public Facebook pages. It may be a long time before the full extent of the damage is revealed.

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