The 16 Best Documentaries You Can Watch on Netflix Right Now
World-famous sushi. Illegal doping in sports. Child pageant queens. What more could you possibly ask for? These are the 16 best documentaries you can stream on Netflix right this second.
While investigating illegal doping in sports, filmmaker Bryan Fogel connected with a Russian scientist who was the director of Russia's national anti-doping laboratory. As their experiment, and friendship, progressed, the scientist eventually revealed that, contrary to his official title, he oversaw Russia’s state-sponsored Olympic doping program. Twist!
What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)
Combining previously unreleased archival footage and interviews, this biographical documentary focuses on the life of Nina Simone, from her struggles and successes as a singer-songwriter, to her time as a civil rights activist who moved to Liberia after the turbulence of the 1960s.
Paris Is Burning (1991)
Jennie Livingston’s groundbreaking documentary was filmed in the mid-to-late ‘80s, and chronicles New York City’s ball culture and the African-American, Latino, gay and trans communities involved in it. Come for the voguing, stay for a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012)
This tentpole of Netflix documentaries follows Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-star Michelin restaurant inside a Tokyo subway station. Even if you’re not a sushi person, the film is a beautiful and compelling exploration of passion and creativity.
Tilly was an orca whale captured in Iceland in 1983 and eventually brought to SeaWorld. Blackfish explores the dire consequences of keeping orcas like Tilly in captivity, and contributed to SeaWorld’s announcement in March 2016 that it would end its orca breeding program and begin to phase out all live performances using orcas.
Audrie & Daisy (2015)
When they were 14 and 15 years old, respectively, Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott were both sexually assaulted. Using social media, court documents and police investigations, this eye-opening doc chronicles the abuse and cyberbulling the girls and their families experienced after the assaults.
The Thin Blue Line (1988)
Before there was Making a Murderer, there was Errol Morris’s Thin Blue Line, the story of Randall Dale Adams, a man convicted and sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit. The film is often credited with pioneering modern crime-scene reenactments, and features a score by Philip Glass.
Directed by Ava Duvernay, 13th is named for the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery—with the exception of slavery as punishment for a crime. It’s a powerful look at race, justice and mass incarceration.
Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (2017)
You probably know that Hedy Lamarr was a stunning actress from the ’30s to the ’50s. You might not know that she was also an accomplished inventor, and that the principles of her work were incorporated into Bluetooth technology. Bombshell examines her youth, her rise to fame, her six marriages, landmark inventions and her death at the age of 85 in 2000.
The Wolfpack (2015)
Homeschooled and raised in confinement on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, seven fascinating siblings learned about the world through watching films, sometimes re-enacting scenes from their favorite movies.
Amanda Knox (2016)
Twice convicted—and later acquitted—of the 2007 murder of Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox is endlessly fascinating. This eponymous documentary features interviews with Knox, her ex-boyfriend and others involved in the case, and chronicles Kercher’s murder and the subsequent investigation, trials and appeals.
20 Feet from Stardom (2013)
The winner of the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, 20 Feet from Stardom takes a closer look at the backup singers who support your favorite artists, and features interviews with the likes of Mick Jagger, Sheryl Crow and Bette Midler.
The First Monday in May (2016)
Every year, on the first Monday in May, the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosts a star-studded fundraising event, the Met Gala, to support its Costume Institute. This dramatic, ultra-glamorous film chronicles a year's worth of preparations for the 2015 exhibit, China: Through the Looking Glass.
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)
Filmmaker Nick Broomfield’s follow-up to his 1992 film Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer focuses on serial killer Aileen Wuornos's declining mental state in jail and the questionable judgment to execute her despite her being of unsound mind.
Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning in 2011 at the age of 27. This heartbreaking documentary covers the singer’s life, struggles with substance abuse and untimely death, including the paparazzi’s and public’s fascination with—and role in—her demise.
Casting JonBenet (2017)
Observing how the 1996 death of JonBenet Ramsey became a point of cultural obsession and conspiracy, this film documents the casting process for a fictional movie about the case, as Colorado-area actors test for the roles of real people involved and offer their own speculations.