We’re all connected by documentaries. There’s an unbelievably intimate sensation as if we are allowed brief access into the mind of the filmmaker, even in situations where the film’s general focus is constricted to match a preconceived storyline. Great films convey something intensely intimate by employing fragments of the real world in a variety of formats, showcasing images of common, everyday living. Netflix offers an abundance of excellent documentaries spanning a wide range of topics, from filmmaking to true crime. We’ve put up a list of the top documentaries we think Netflix has available right now below.
1. Crip Camp
The 2020 Netflix original film Crip Camp recounts the tale of Camp Jened, a summer camp in New York for teenagers with disabilities. The children from the camp who went on to become activists for the disability rights movement are the main subject of the 1971-set documentary. After receiving an audience award at its Sundance premiere, Crip Camp went on to win more accolades on Netflix, including a nomination for an Oscar.
2. Wild Wild Country
A behind-the-scenes glimpse at Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) and his devotees in the Oregon hamlet of Rajneeshpuram is provided by Wild Wild Country. After being expelled from India in 1981, they made their way to Oregon, but their reception in America did not go well; most people saw them as a cult.
The village they arrived in barely had forty inhabitants, but Osho sent thousands of followers to overrun the place and seize it for themselves. A terrorist attack, immigration fraud, attempted murder, and other events are all covered in detail in this documentary. Five Emmys were given to the cult documentary, which ultimately won for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series.
3. The Last Dance
ESPN debuted the sports documentary The Last Dance in 2020. This occurred after Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls played in the NBA Finals during the 1997–1998 season, the last one of Jordan’s career. This season, Jordan aimed to add a sixth NBA championship to the five he had helped lead the Bulls to.
Nevertheless, the season was turbulent as his relationship with Scottie Poppen collapsed and the squad might have been nearing its end, as the Netflix documentary reveals. This is one of the most comprehensive and engaging sports documentaries ever produced, spanning ten episodes and 90 interviews.
4. American Factory
The 2019 documentary American Factory followed the story of a Chinese corporation that employed 2,000 Americans at its facility near Dayton, Ohio, thanks to the efforts of its wealthy owner. It was all about how he might change America’s perception of China, according to millionaire Cao Dewang.
The GM plant that was housed in the building that Dewang purchased closes at the beginning of the documentary, and its place is taken by a new Chinese company that hires American labor. The film takes a sinister turn when hope gives way to mistrust and terror. With its Oscar and Emmy wins for Best Documentary Feature, the film was an enormous hit.
5. Dirty Money
Dirty Money is, in essence, the unvarnished account of insane capitalism. The documentary series, which centers on evidence-based narratives exposing corporate malfeasance, is the brainchild of Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney.
The episodes devoted to the ascent of Donald Trump, the controversies with Jared Kushner’s real estate holdings, and the dishonest, destructive, yet lucrative operations of mining, banking, and manufacturing firms are the most noteworthy. It is an enlightening and frustrating look at the unscrupulous methods that create millionaires.
6. Don’t F**k with Cats
The documentary Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer follows a crowdsourced investigation into the death of two kittens by a man who uploaded the footage to the internet. It is revealed that the offender also killed a foreign exchange student while filming the act, and the police were closing in on him while the producers were tracking down the man.
Despite being worth watching on Netflix in the end, viewers should be aware that the first episode involves graphic scenes of animal brutality. For real crime enthusiasts, Don’t F**k with Cats is a compelling and unsettling story, yet it omits facts that have also drawn criticism.
7. The Movies That Made Us
The Movies That Made Us is a documentary series that explores iconic films from the 1980s and 1990s and their tales, from how they were developed to why they have become so significant in many people’s lives. It is a spinoff of the Netflix original series The Toys That Made Us.
It transports viewers of a particular age back to their childhood in a manner that few other documentaries could, thanks to films like Home Alone, Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, and more. For younger viewers looking to learn about the original films that gave rise to today’s hit reboots and sequels, this is one of the greatest documentaries available on Netflix.
With its dramatic telling of Pamela Anderson’s life, the limited series Pam & Tommy was a huge hit and won praise from critics. Anderson, though, took issue with the series and responded by making a documentary to present her version of events. Pamela: A Love Story chronicles the life and ascent to prominence of Pamela Anderson, along with her reflections on becoming the center of attention for things she would have preferred to remain private.
Among the best documentaries on Netflix right now, it includes never-before-seen material, diaries, and insights about Pamela Anderson that may change viewers’ perceptions of her life.
9. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
Jim Carrey is arguably the most well-known illustration of how some of the best comedic actors in the world can also transition into dramatic parts with ease. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is an odd and intriguing documentary that delves into this. The film chronicles Carrey’s journey to become Andy Kaufman in the biopic Man on the Moon. Carrey says that during this process, he truly evolved into the groundbreaking comic, to the point where he refused to deviate from his role for the duration of the filming.
It’s one of the best documentaries available on Netflix, whether you want to learn more about one of Jim Carrey’s most serious parts or you just want to admire his thoughtless method of acting.
10. My Octopus Teacher
While there are plenty of Netflix documentaries depicting animal life and its relationship to human activity, not many have a friendship as central to the story as My Octopus Teacher. The film chronicles the contact and friendship between filmmaker Craig Foster and an octopus, which he made with the inquisitive and sentient creature after years of diving in African seas.
One of the most inspiring documentaries of the past several years is My Octopus Teacher, which skillfully strikes a balance between an intensely personal tale and important teaching points on humanity’s interactions with the planet’s environments. The Oscar for Best Documentary Feature went to My Octopus Teacher in 2021.
11. Making a Murderer
Years after being wrongfully convicted and released from prison, Steven Avery was again behind bars on another dubious charge. Making a Murderer sheds light on how flawed and prejudiced the American legal system is. The fact that the Making a Murderer director supports Avery may not be appreciated by everyone, but it still makes for an engaging true crime narrative—among the most well-known to date. For Netflix customers looking for a decent documentary, Making a Murderer is worth watching, regardless of the side of Avery’s legal battle they find themselves on.
Icarus is an interesting film because it demonstrates the unexpected and surprising ways documentaries can take unexpected turns. A fortuitous encounter with a Russian scientist reveals a multinational conspiracy far larger than the filmmakers could have ever dreamed up at the start of the movie, which starts as an investigation into doping in sports. Few spy films are as intense and captivating as witnessing this genuine story’s unintentional unfolding, despite the existence of compelling spy films based on actual events. In 2018, Icarus took home the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
Documentaries have a unique ability to connect us, offering a glimpse into the minds of filmmakers and the real world through various formats. Netflix, a treasure trove of documentaries, covers a broad spectrum of topics, from filmmaking to true crime. These documentaries on Netflix offer a diverse and captivating exploration of real-world stories.