“Netflix and chill” almost always entails putting on a TV show or movie on the telly, but what about those nights when such programs just don’t cut it? Documentaries may be your answer, and there are plenty of options to choose from on Netflix. Below is our list of the 70 best documentaries on Netflix of all time.
70 Best Documentaries on Netflix
- Abducted In Plain Sight
- Amanda Knox
- American Factory
- American Murder: The Family Next Door
- Athlete A
- Audrie & Daisy
- The Bleeding Edge
- Casting JonBenet
- Catwalk: Tales From The Cat Show Circuit
- Challenger: The Final Flight
- Chef’s Table
- Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
- Crip Camp
- David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
- Dirty Money
- Don’t F**K With Cats
- Evil Genius
- Five Came Back
- Formula 1: Drive To Survive
- Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
- Get Me Roger Stone
- The Great Hack
- High Score
- Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce
- Hot Girls Wanted
- I Called Him Morgan
- Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons
- Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
- Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
- Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
- The Keepers
- Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez
- Knock Down The House
- Last Chance U: Basketball
- The Last Dance
- Making A Murderer
- Mercury 13
- Miss Americana
- Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado
- Murder Among The Mormons
- My Octopus Teacher
- Night Stalker: The Hunt For A Serial Killer
- One Of Us
- Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal
- Our Planet
- Pandemic: How To Prevent An Outbreak
- Power Of Grayskull: The Definitive History Of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe
- The Ripper
- Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat
- The Social Dilemma
- Strong Island
- The Speed Cubers
- The Staircase
- They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
- Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness
- The Toys That Made Us
- Ugly Delicious
- Unsolved Mysteries
- What Happened, Miss Simone?
- The White Helmets
- Wild Wild Country
One of the best documentaries on Netflix is 13th, which follows the events that unfolded after the 13th amendment’s passage. It details the systemic racism experienced by Black Americans — and it’s not just a product of culture. Instead, 13th goes deeper to expose how racism is, in fact, profitable and financially motivated. Moreover, it uncovers how the government, media, and businesses all played a part in perpetuating a new form of slavery.
If you like disturbing true-crime narratives, Abducted in Plain Sight. This documentary tells the story of Jan, the daughter of the Broberg family, who was kidnapped two times. Moreover, these abductions were committed by the same person: their neighbor Robert ‘B’ Berchtold. Abducted in Plain Sight might seem like an ordinary true-crime documentary at first sight, but the methods used and events that unfold are certainly chilling—even almost wildly insane.
Amanda Knox offers a fascinating investigation to look into: the case of Amanda Knox and her roommate’s murder. The investigation eventually turns towards Amanda Knox as a possible perpetrator, chronicling the deep-seated misogyny within the media. It’s certainly one of the best documentaries on Netflix and one that’ll keep you interested throughout.
The summit of an iceberg only portrays one small part of an unimaginably larger whole. Likewise, large enterprises and corporations only display their success and power while maintaining a friendly facade towards the masses. However, deep within lies exploitation, greed, and a ruthless culture that devalues its foundation — its skilled labor force. This exposure is perhaps the reason why American Factory is one of the best documentaries on Netflix. In addition to this, the documentary also unmasks the lie that is the American Dream and the threat of automation.
American Murder: The Family Next Door documents the 2018 murder of the Watts family and exposes just how twisted the whole fiasco was.
The documentary creatively uses multiple sources like home videos, texts, recordings, and social media posts to weave the narrative. These only add to the horror of the events, starting from the disappearance of Shanann Watts and her two children. Moreover, the film’s emphasis and intentional focus on the victims make it that much more compelling. Overall, the documentary brilliantly portrays toxic American relationships and the deceptive nature of social media.
Sometimes, even hundreds of victims and witnesses are unable to receive justice, even if it’s against just one man. Thankfully, one of the best documentaries on Netflix steps up to hold one man accountable for his crimes.
Athlete A is the story of Maggie Nichols, one out of over 500 female assault victims. She goes up against Larry Nassar, a gymnastics trainer and the perpetrator of this abuse. The film chronicles the incident in 2015, along with the local newspapers that propelled the scandal into the national spotlight.
Audrie & Daisy is not for the faint-hearted, touching on the difficult issues of sexual assault, abuse, and suicide. This documentary recounts the story of 15-year-old Audrie and 14-year-old Daisy, who were relentlessly cyberbullied after video footage of their sexual assault was released online. Within the documentary, Daisy attempted to reach out to Audrie, only to learn that she had already committed suicide.
This documentary captures both the horrors of abuse and the failures of the institutions meant to protect victims.
The Bleeding Edge chronicles and exposes the horrors and filth embedded in the medical device industry. If you’re unaware, roughly 70 million Americans are told they need a medical device implanted in their bodies every year.
While this industry is largely beneficial to mankind to an extent, what lies beneath its altruistic veneer is truly sinister. That’s because many of the devices and procedures haven’t even been tested. What’s worse is that the medical institutions we trust, like healthcare practitioners and the FDA, are complicit in the act.
Casting JonBenet is a documentary that follows the tragic murder of JonBenét Ramsey in 1996, a case that continues to go unresolved to this day. This documentary goes beyond the details and circumstances surrounding the homicide to paint a realistic picture of how it impacted JonBenét’s family and community.
Cat lovers, this one’s for you: Catwalk: Tales From the Cat Show Circuit covers Canada’s catwalks competitions, where actual cats are the stars of the show. Contrary to expectations, the film isn’t just adorable but also quite memorable and entertaining. It’ll certainly keep your attention as you watch two cat owners struggle to get their cats to cooperate with them.
It’s not often you find a documentary on Netflix that tackles a topic with less intrigue and mystery. However, the Challenger: The Final Flight is sure to keep your interest nonetheless. It looks back on the events of 1986 when NASA’s Space Shuttle Challenger failed and exploded, and also the aftermath of the disaster.
Cheerleading is an integral part of America’s high school culture, and Cheer does a pretty insightful deep dive into this beloved national activity. This documentary certainly brings newfound respect and appreciation for the sport as it beautifully portrays the making of a team.
In an age before ours, food might have been considered a simple necessity for survival. However, times have changed and it has become an art form and strict discipline in the culinary world. That’s what Chef’s Table portrays as it examines six world-renowned chefs and their journey to become who they are today. If you enjoy the art of food, this is certainly one of the best documentaries on Netflix to watch.
Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes follows the well-known serial killer Ted Bundy and the conversations people had with him during the investigations. This documentary takes a unique spin on the case, contrasting Ted’s description of himself against how those who had interacted with him perceived him. It’s certainly a fascinating film to watch and one that’s famous among many fans of crime documentaries.
Fighting for the rights of the disabled is more widespread today. Things weren’t always like this in the past, however; a fact that Crip Camp showcases through its chronicle of the lives of activists for the disabled. This documentary follows their relentless fight for equality, and the arduous struggle it took to pass simple legislation.
Living in an age of global warming, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet is definitely a must-watch. It draws attention to David Attenborough’s life as he details the changes in the environment throughout his lifetime. Moreover, it’s also a shocking wake-up call, showing how humanity has wreaked havoc and destroyed nature almost irreversibly.
A story about corruption and greed in the business and financial worlds is, unfortunately, nothing new to us. However, this doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be stopped, a fact expounded by Dirty Money. This documentary exposes the corruption rife in various industries, including the pharmaceutical, financial, and automotive industries. What’s worse is that these criminals in suits tend to get away with their actions through power and greed.
Don’t F**K With Cats opens on a group of cat lovers who band together to take action against a man who nonchalantly kills two cats on camera in cold blood. Their investigations lead them down a very dark road, as Luka Rocco Magnotta, the perpetrator, ups the ante by murdering 33-year-old Chinese student Lin Jun. This man’s sickening thirst for fame further motivates him to commit necrophilia on Lin Jun’s corpse before dismembering it.
Evil Genius is a true-crime documentary that opens on a pizza delivery man who dies in an attempt to rob a bank with a bomb wrapped around his neck. What starts as a crime gone wrong leads investigators down a dark and twisted path, as the case proves itself to be not as clear-cut as it originally appears.
Five Came Back is a docuseries about five filmmakers who contributed to various documentaries during WWII. It chronicles their experiences making documentaries to train troops, garner support, and bring attention to the horrors the war brought. It also covers the lives of these iconic filmmakers and how they changed forever through those experiences.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive details the events of the Formula 1 World Championships in 2018 and 2019. Watch as tensions rise and competition brews within the docuseries as it documents one of the most beloved sports worldwide.
The Fyre Festival was a well-known disaster that served as inspiration for Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. This documentary focuses on Billy McFarland, the main organizer, as he fails to bring this supposed masterpiece of a party to fruition. Watch as the purportedly “greatest party” was utterly mismanaged and brought about chaos thanks to his overconfidence.
One of the most shocking events in US politics was the presidential election of Donald Trump. However, what is, perhaps, even greater of a shock is the man behind the ordeal: Roger Stone. Get Me Roger Stone falls under the category of controversial politics, this particular documentary daring to suggest that Roger Stone, the Republican political strategist, is the mastermind behind Trump’s presidential election strategy.
There have been many scandals throughout history, but the Cambridge Analytica scandal is one unique to our time. It involves political and data science, the sketchy use of data, and a $5 billion fine to Facebook. The scandal shook the tech industry and forever altered Facebook’s reputation.
As a result, The Great Hack is unsurprisingly popular as it divulges the details of that event. Moreover, it’s all the more compelling because it’s told from the perspective of the whistleblower, among other people related to Cambridge Analytica.
We have the rise of technology and the digital age to thank for the modern-day video game industry. However, it wasn’t always like this as video games came from humble beginnings and evolved.
If you’re interested in its history, then High Score is a fantastic watch for you. It closely examines video games, their origins, and their evolution from arcades to consoles.
Modern-day celebrity icon Beyonce created her own film: Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce. This documentary takes a look at all the happenings behind the curtain at Beyonce’s 2018 Coachella performance. It’s certainly a stunning watch, especially if you’re a fan of the artist. Moreover, it’s all the more interesting because she wrote, directed, and produced the documentary herself.
There is, unsurprisingly, a lot of money in the porn industry. However, something that’s great for business oftentimes isn’t necessarily great for the humans and workers themselves. Hot Girls Wanted portrays just that as it follows 18 and 19-year-old women’s venture into amateur porn. As you dive into their worlds, it portrays the darker side of things and the toxicity in the career path.
I Called Him Morgan recalls the unstable relationship between a saxophonist, Lee Morgan, and his wife, Helen. The story is told from Helen’s point of view based on her pre-death interview in 1996. It illustrates a grim tale about Lee Morgan and the violent events that preceded the downfall of his music career.
Bryan Fogel initially wanted to test the effectiveness of the Haute Route race’s drug testing. However, through his experiment with doping, he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into one of the sports’ biggest scandals. Icarus explores Fogel’s doping scandal and is positively dark, interesting, and thrilling to watch throughout.
The title of this documentary says it all: Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons chronicles the experiences of two journalists who voluntarily become inmates. Afterward, they’re plunged into a world of brutality and intimidation, exposing what goes on in the world’s toughest prisons.
Scandals abound in the circles of the filthy rich and famous. However, no one is still prepared whenever they do happen among well-known figures of society. That’s why Jeffrey Epstein’s conviction as a sexual offender still shook the world in 2019. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich goes beyond Epstein’s arrest, life, and mentality to hone in on the survivors of his abuse and the stories they bravely share.
Method acting is a well-known technique in Hollywood, but it isn’t always examined in detail. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond changes that by exposing films of Jim Carrey’s method-acting for Man on the Moon. It’s certainly fascinating to watch, especially with the contrast between footage and 2017 interviews with Jim Carrey.
Journalists are often the voices and writers behind what we see and read in the media. Hence, it’s not often that you find biographical documentaries about the journalists themselves. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is exactly that. It chronicles the life of Joan Didion, a journalist-novelist who was in her prime during the 60s and 70s. What’s also interesting about this documentary is the fact it was filmed by her actor-director nephew, Griffin Dunne.
The Keepers focuses on a nun named Sister Cathy Cesnik who disappeared and was later found murdered. However, this documentary is no ordinary tale of the disappearance and murder of a religious figure.
Instead, there’s something more sinister behind her death as the documentary unveils the reason behind her murder. Cathy had discovered that two priests were sexually abusing girls at an all-girls high school. She was subsequently silenced for trying to bring the crime to light.
Money and success in your area of expertise do not always guarantee a straight-laced life. At least, that’s the case in the life of Aaron Hernandez, a successful American football player for football’s best team.
Killer Inside: The Mind Of Aaron Hernandez explores Hernandez’s psyche and examines the question: why? How and why does a high-profile man like this commit cold-blooded murder? Whether you’re a fan of football or not, this documentary is certainly worth a watch, even despite its flaws.
Knock Down the House shines the spotlight on four women—including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—in their quest to change US politics following Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency in 2016. These four people sought change, and change they did find. As a result of their efforts, more candidates popped up for both Congress and the Senate in 2018. What’s more, these aren’t just any ordinary candidates, but candidates from less represented groups like ethnic minorities and women.
From the creators of Cheer, Last Chance U: Basketball is another sports documentary that focuses on another aspect of American high school culture: basketball. Follow D1 basketball players from East Los Angeles College in this heart-warming, humorous, and dramatic documentary.
The Last Dance is one documentary you don’t want to miss if you’re a fan of basketball and Michael Jordan. That’s because this ten-episode docuseries recounts his final season with the Chicago Bulls while also revisiting his earlier years.
There’s a constant back-and-forth between the past and the present that puts everything into perspective much more. Even non-fans might find Jordan’s determination and athleticism amazing regardless of how they viewed him previously.
Making a Murderer is a classic true-crime documentary that recounts the life of Steven Avery and his arrest, imprisonment, and trials for the murder of Teresa Halbach. This documentary is credited for being a pioneer of the true-crime genre, setting the tone for many other crime documentaries produced today.
Mercury 13 recalls the life of women in the 60s who underwent rigorous training to become astronauts. However, their dreams were shattered due to the vile sexism so rampant in society at the time. As a result, most people won’t remember who these women were, as they were effectively erased from history. To honor their dedication and expose the prejudice at the time, Mercury 13 gives a voice to their stories.
While Miss Americana places Taylor Swift front and center, this documentary is not focused on music. Instead, it zooms in on Taylor Swift herself, who she is, and her thoughts over the years. Specifically, this documentary recounts her struggle as she tries to stop caring about other people’s opinions. Throughout the film, you see her slowly evolve into a feminist and a more politically expressive person. It’s truly fascinating to watch, especially given Taylor Swift’s current fame and cultural prominence.
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado is a biographical documentary that pays tribute to the famed Puerto Rican astrologer who always appeared in flamboyant outfits. The documentary celebrates him, his life, and his showmanship all while revealing his vulnerability as a human being.
Murder Among the Mormons takes you back in time to October 1985 in Salt Lake City. Selling rare Mormon documents was a profitable endeavor, but two people died trying to make a quick buck through this method. Subsequently, Mark Hoffman, a man skilled at discovering historical documents used against the Mormon church, was severely injured. This documentary examines these incidents and explains the events that unfold afterward.
My Octopus Teacher showcases the beauty of nature through the eyes of Craig Foster, who goes snorkeling in South Africa and encounters a majestic octopus. Afterward, Craig commits to meeting the octopus every day to learn about it and its way of life. Throughout the documentary, you’ll find many beautifully captured underwater shots and the wonder of life under the sea.
Serial killers have always fascinated the public, their motivations and actions terrifying people both in fiction and real life. Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer is a documentary that follows one such killer.
This documentary focuses on Richard Ramirez, a serial killer in California who was at large back in the 80s. It is largely told from the investigators’ perspective, where they expressed their frustration at trying to catch Ramirez.
Hasidism isn’t a very well-known branch of Orthodox Judaism, at least not by name. However, you may recognize it based on its iconic round beaver-like hats. Regardless of what you know, however, One of Us is sure to interest you. It recounts the stories of three defectors from the religion: a teenager, an aspiring actor, and a homemaker. The documentary tackles all their experiences: their faith, what they discover, and what they leave behind.
Documentaries aren’t all about tales of ages past. In fact, some of them tackle recent topics like Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal does. This documentary focuses on a scandal that occurred in 2019.
If you’re unaware, the college admissions scandal was an FBI investigation into college admissions. It was a huge deal because big names, specifically actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were convicted. However, the documentary focuses not on the convicts but the key perpetrator: Rick Singer.
Our Planet tackles nature and climate change, serving as a stunning exposé with a big-picture perspective on nature and its beauty. It’s also a wake-up call to climate change and the importance of preserving our planet’s beauty before it’s too late.
It may be a little on the nose, but Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is certainly a must-watch. This six-part docuseries strives to portray what it takes to prevent a pandemic—something we should have done for COVID-19. What’s even more chilling is the fact that its release was aptly timed, only three weeks after COVID-19’s first report.
The title of this documentary is self-explanatory and delivers exactly what it says. Power of Grayskull focuses on He-Man’s history, rise, and fall. If you’re a fan of the hero, this is certainly one of the best documentaries on Netflix for you. However, even non-fans might find it fascinating to watch the creative process, industry changes, and how franchises come to life.
If you’re interested in music and the industry’s top performers, Quincy is the documentary for you. This documentary recounts the life of the eponymous Quincy Jones, a world-renowned composer, producer, and musician. Produced by his daughter Rashida Jones, this documentary is inspiring and compelling to watch.
The Ripper covers the Yorkshire Ripper, a serial killer whose name is inspired by Jack the Ripper because of their commonality of targeting women. However, unlike Jack the Ripper, the Yorkshire Ripper was caught and revealed to be someone right under the police’s noses.
Food documentaries aren’t always about chefs and the art of culinary. Rotten, for one, focuses on the messiness of the food industry and what goes on behind the scenes. From garlic lobbyists to hormone-induced chicken, the documentary exposes a variety of dirty food scandals. Moreover, it also shows the startling reality of why rich countries like the US can even afford food security.
The foundations of the culinary arts rely on four main elements: Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat. At least, that’s what famous author and chef, Samin Nosrat, claims. In this documentary, she travels internationally and tests her theory, exploring various cuisines and how these elements make them great.
Human greed and selfishness have no bounds when it comes to meeting our basic needs. Unfortunately, not everyone believes just how destructive we are to Mother Nature. In Seaspiracy, we see just how much human “progress” and industry have damaged the oceans of the world.
Your first project as a filmmaker is always one of the most memorable. However, if someone steals your hard work and makes off with it, it becomes even more unforgettable. That’s exactly what Shirkers is about. It follows Sandi Tan, a now successful filmmaker and novelist, who recounts the memories of her stolen project. Named after her original work, Shirkers dives into the details of the event and Sandi’s life and journey.
Social media might be a fairly recent phenomenon, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t drastically changed the world. In fact, The Social Dilemma posits that it’s social media that is the driving force behind many aspects of society. This includes the polarizing nature of modern-day politics, mental health issues, and many other deeply disturbing effects of social media. However, while some of it is slightly exaggerated, it’s worth watching to seriously examine social media’s impact on cultures the world over.
Strong Island is a true-crime documentary that follows the murder of Yance Ford’s brother. A personal project designed to emotionally appeal to its audience, this documentary genuinely examines the victim’s life and family before delving into the horrific details of his murder.
A more lighthearted documentary on our list is The Speed Cubers. It follows one peculiar yet interesting hobby: competitive Rubix cubing. This short documentary centers around Felix Zemdegs and Max Park, two of the best competitive Rubix cubers worldwide. However, while you might expect competitors to become heated rivals, they become friends in a refreshing subversion of expectations. Both their friendship and the sport take the stage in this wonderfully heartwarming documentary.
If you haven’t gotten enough of true-crime documentaries, then The Staircase should be next on your watchlist. It follows the haunting and iconic story of Kathleen Peterson in murder mystery format.
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead covers the turbulent creation of Orson Welles’s final, unfinished film The Other Side of The Wind, which was released in November 2018 following a series of legal battles. It is through the chaos of the creation process that Welles’s frenetic final years, when he was beset by financial difficulties, are explored.
At first glance, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness seems to be about Joe Exotic’s big cat zoo. However, the docuseries quickly switches from a documentary about a zoo into mayhem, with deception, weapons, and even a murder-for-hire factoring into the equation. It’s certainly stranger than what you’d expect but entertaining nevertheless.
Toys mold our minds and impact our childhood more than we know. However, the making and history behind those toys are often forgotten or left unknown. In The Toys That Made Us, we discover precisely exactly what makes toys like Barbie, G.I. Joe, and Lego such enduring icons in living memory. Discover everything you love about your nostalgic favorites in this wonderfully made documentary.
Join David Chang as he explores food through travel and uncovers its relationship to culture in Ugly Delicious. How is a pizza perceived to Italians compared to those who want simple take-out in America? Why is taco the way it is and what truly makes a taco, a taco? These are the important questions he explores in this mouthwatering documentary.
Unsolved Mysteries is an all-in-one true-crime documentary that explores a variety of unsolved cases. These cold cases are often left open-ended, leaving much room for any number of hypotheses and deductions. Just make sure you have enough free time to fall into this rabbit hole.
Virunga promises to tug at your heartstrings, as it follows a group of rangers who are dedicated to saving Africa’s most beloved national parks and its endangered gorillas. There’s greed from oil companies, poachers, and all sorts of devious acts that stand in the way.
Interesting yet disturbing—this is perhaps the best description for Voyeur. It follows Gerald Foos, a Colorado motel owner who spies on his patrons. The premise itself is disturbing, a tone set by the documentary to invite criticism against the relationship between subjects and journalists.
The life of Nina Simone is complex and controversial, but that’s what makes it all the more intriguing. Through What Happened, Miss Simone?, we see her life depicted in all its fullness through interviews and performances. It’s certainly a must-watch, especially for fans of the singer-composer and activist, Miss Simone herself.
War certainly destroys lives—and not just the victims alone. In The White Helmets, the spotlight is cast on first responders who are deployed to rescue victims in war-ridden Syria. Through great distress and difficulty, they achieve their goal even as they worry for their own families.
Cult documentaries are always interesting and Wild Wild Country is no different. It follows Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and the large scandal that ensued after he purchased land in Oregon. The documentary is certainly taxing — asking for six hours of your time — but it’s entertaining nonetheless.
The best documentaries on Netflix range from a multitude of genres so you’ll never run out of any interesting topics. There are documentaries about crime, food, curious biological and natural phenomena, and even the supernatural. Regardless of which suits your tastes, there’s bound to be one that is perfect for a lazy afternoon at home.