50 Best Documentaries On Netflix That Will Provide You With A Reality Check
Previously on Bored Panda, we’ve compiled lists of the best Netflix original series and must-watch Netflix films. Today, we will stray away from the lovey-dovey rom-coms, once-in-a-lifetime adventures, spine-chilling thrillers, and nightmarish horrors we’re all aware Netflix has plenty to offer. Every once in a while, everyone needs a reality check or a “serious watch,” not a fictional or a based on a true story-kinda tales, but actual, real people accounts that happened in real life.
Other than successfully adapting some of the greatest novels to films, Netflix does a beautiful job of conveying true accounts that happened to real people to the screen. Netflix documentaries are your way to go if you are looking for retellings of significant historical events, true crime accounts, and other factual stories that matter. Arguably the first Netflix documentary I saw and believe initiated the consequent heavy production of other documentaries on Netflix was Mark Lewis’ documentary Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer.
Arguably one of the best Netflix documentaries, it told the horrific account of the “Internet Killer” that shocked the audiences to the core. This documentary made me, and perhaps many more people, realize that there are far scarier and more disturbing things than those depicted in horror movies. Maybe the reason why these Netflix true crime documentaries are performing so well is because they touch the viewer on levels so deep that no fictional story ever will.
Below, we’ve compiled some of the best documentaries on Netflix that will surely stick in your memory long after you’ve watched them. But don’t worry, we totally get it if you are not a particular fan of true crime and murder stories. Therefore, we’ve also added plenty of good documentaries on Netflix centering around investigation and exploring different yet no less interesting subjects other than homicide. Which documentary on Netflix left a long-lasting impression on you? Let us know!
6.6/10 IMDb score based on 12k ratings
2022 | 1 hour 37 minutes | Directed by Lucie Jourdan
Starring Jacoba Ballard, Julie Harmon, Matt White
Our Father is a distressing story about half-siblings who find one another and discover the bitter truth. It turns out that their biological father is their mother's fertility doctor. The documentary doesn't hold anything back. It gives the siblings a chance to express their opinions and explain how this experience has affected their lives in many ways. Very well-made, neatly put together, and brutally honest material. It's one of those documentaries that makes you think, "Oh my God, that's awful," only for it to keep getting worse.
Murder Among The Mormons
7/10 IMDb score based on 6.5k ratings
2021 | 2 hours 40 minutes | Directed by Tyler Measom and Jared Hess
Starring Dorie Hofmann Olds, Shannon Flynn, Brent Metcalfe
Murder Among the Mormons retells the little-known case of convicted murderer and forger Mark Hofmann, a former member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. Hofmann terrorized the Mormon community with numerous bombings to end his string of false documents. This three-part series about the sins of one man and how they rocked the Mormon Church to its very core is well-presented and enlightening. The docu-series examines a genuinely unprecedented crime in great detail using extensive modern-day interviews with those intimately involved and a ton of archive material and press reports.
6.5/10 IMDb score based on 3k ratings
2021 | 1 hour 41 minutes | Directed by Kristine Stolakis
Starring Michael Bussee, Alan Chambers, Ricky Chelette
Nothing is stronger or simpler to wield against someone than faith. Docu-film Pray Away focuses on five evangelicals who formed a group and claimed that gay people can become straight through prayer and conversion therapy. These Christians previously preached and embodied principles of gay conversion therapy, guiding many with their damaging, heteronormative image of family, faith, and freedom. This way of thinking, which views gay inclinations as a psychiatric issue, a product of trauma, or a holdover from a negative parent-child connection, once gained the support of hundreds of millions of people. Pray Away is about providing the victims of conversation therapy screen time to confirm that it's all just a horrible falsehood.
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
7.5/10 IMDb score based on 2.7k ratings
2017 | 1 hour 34 minutes | Directed by Griffin Dunne
Starring Hilton Als, Tom Brokaw, Dick Cheney
Filmed by actor and director Griffin Dunne, who is also Joan's nephew, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a remarkable documentary about the West Coast writer involved in politics, society, and literature. In this documentary, Griffin Dunne conducts an interview with the fragile, elderly woman with multiple sclerosis, which is how Joan was when the documentary was being filmed. In the documentary, it's clear that Joan was intelligent and that despite being in her 80s at that time, one could still see a spark in her eyes. Only 94 minutes into the documentary, you feel like you've known Joan for a while. You should watch this documentary even if you are learning about Joan Didion for the first time. Literary enthusiasts and fans of Joan's work will find it a charming experience.
8.2/10 IMDb score based on 5.5k ratings
2020 | 1 hour 48 minutes | Directed by Sam Feder
Starring Laverne Cox, Bianca Leigh, Jen Richards
Sam Feder delivers a penetrating documentary about the history of trans culture in Hollywood and the largely unfavorable and false representations that have come to be associated with it. Many of the stereotypes, preconceptions, and prejudices that people connect with trans people's lives are debunked by a group of trans people who work in the entertainment industry. They provide their viewpoints on the experiences they've had on screen throughout their lives. Very human, very nicely produced, and very eye-opening. If you've ever questioned whether representation matters, this film demonstrates how both bad and good representation can impact those trying to make their way in life.
Black Holes: The Edge Of All We Know
6.6/10 IMDb score based on 2.6k ratings
2020 | 1 hour 39 minutes | Directed by Peter Galison
Starring Shep Doeleman, Stephen Hawking, Andrew Strominger
The Edge of All We Know is a documentary tracing the investigation into the universe's most mysterious objects - black holes. It's about scientists working together, committing their life to study and furthering human knowledge, and pushing themselves to new limits. The documentary also takes you inside the S. Hawking team and the groups responsible for making the first black-hole image. For anyone who has worked in research, this is more than just entertainment. Black holes pose a mind-bogglingly complex problem to comprehend. It is impressive to see people from all over the world putting aside their differences and cooperating to solve this enigma. The docu-film is fantastic when seen in this light.
7.4/10 IMDb score based on 20k ratings
2020 | 1 hour 25 minutes | Directed by Lana Wilson
Starring Taylor Swift, Andrea Swift, Scott Swift
As one can guess from the cover, this documentary is about Taylor Swift. No need to be a fan of hers or a "Swifty" to watch and actually enjoy this docu-film. We can see Taylor being wholly frank and transparent with no fear of letting the world witness diverse aspects of her success and personal life. She strikes the viewer as an intelligent and kind woman who, despite having achieved enormous success at a young age, nevertheless remains grounded and compassionate. The film covers a lot of what happens in her life behind the scenes and demonstrates that it's not all fun and games. It's for everyone, not just the Swifties, who wishes to comprehend what it implies to live in the public eye for most of your life.
Challenger: The Final Flight
7.8/10 IMDb score based on 7.1k ratings
2020 | 2 hours 59 minutes | Created by Steven Leckart and Glen Zipper
Starring June Scobee Rodgers, William Harwood, Frederick D. Gregory
This documentary recalls the catastrophe of 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded, and its crew was engulfed in a ball of flames. It goes into great length regarding the accident's underlying causes, how they were a well-known problem, and how and why NASA chose to rationalize away the dangers to keep the shuttle program "on schedule." However, this documentary spends just as much time discussing the seven people who died. Many of the astronauts' relatives and friends took part in interviews to provide a deeper understanding of these individuals, what their lives were like before the tragedy, and what they might have been had their lives not been lost. Engrossing, informative, and very much historically significant.
Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting An Internet Killer
8/10 IMDb score based on 54k ratings
2019 | 3 hours 7 minutes | Directed by Mark Lewis
Starring Deanna Thompson, John Green, Claudette Hamlin
Watching this, you soon realize that this documentary has nothing to do with cats. It follows an online community's efforts to find a cat killer who later commits murder. The documentary is in-depth and features discussions with online community members and the Canadian police. The director made an excellent decision on how to present and unveil the plot. You receive information in bits and pieces at strategic times that make you think you understand what is occurring. Still, then another piece of information is disclosed that completely blows your mind and makes you doubt everything you have previously assumed. There is a great deal of tension, and it never lets up. It gets you wholly engrossed from start to finish. It is utterly terrifying and gripping.
Tell Me Who I Am
7.6/10 IMDb score based on 15k ratings
Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend Of Walter Mercado
7.3/10 IMDb score based on 3.3k ratings
Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy
6.7/10 IMDb score based on 3.5k ratings
2021 | 1 hour 29 minutes | Directed by Stanley Nelson
Starring Elizabeth Hinton, Nelson George, Alan Charles
The 1980s crack epidemic in the US and its consequences, which had a detrimental impact on inner-city areas of the country, is the main focus of the documentary. It offers a refreshing account of the crack cocaine epidemic's origins that attempts to get beyond the evident suffering and violence to the bigger picture. Stanley Nelson's documentary also brings a social conscience that was lacking at the time. The film brings us both back in time and forwards to a more somber and mature present when we can clearly see how crack transformed society.
7.6/10 IMDb score based on 11k ratings
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
7.1/10 IMDb score based on 25k ratings
7.5/10 IMDb score based on 80k ratings
The Last Dance
9.1/10 IMDb score based on 121k ratings
6.1/10 IMDb score based on 6.3k ratings
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
6.7/10 IMDb score based on 7.7k ratings
7.2/10 IMDb score based on 3.8k ratings
My Octopus Teacher
8.1/10 IMDb score based on 55k ratings
8.1/10 IMDb score based on 23k ratings
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
8.3/10 IMDb score based on 26k ratings
Trainwreck: Woodstock '99
7.4/10 IMDb score based on 16k ratings
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
7.2/10 IMDb score based on 47k ratings
The Girl In The Picture
7.2/10 IMDb score based on 17k ratings
Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story
6.7/10 IMDb score based on 7.5k ratings
The Tinder Swindler
7.1/10 IMDb score based on 65k ratings
Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed
6.9/10 IMDb score based on 6k ratings
David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet
8.9/10 IMDb score based on 32k ratings
Wild Wild Country
8.1/10 IMDb score based on 31k ratings
8.2/10 IMDb score based on 36k ratings
The Most Hated Man On The Internet
6.8/10 IMDb score based on 6.1k ratings
The Bleeding Edge
7.6/10 IMDb score based on 2.8k ratings
6.9/10 IMDb score based on 25k ratings
Keep Sweet: Pray And Obey
7.3/10 IMDb score based on 12k ratings
Who Killed Little Gregory
7.4/10 IMDb score based on 3k ratings
7.9/10 IMDb score based on 50k ratings
9.3/10 IMDb score based on 43k ratings
Salt Fat Acid Heat
7.7/10 IMDb score based on 2.5k ratings
Misha And The Wolves
6.7/10 IMDb score based on 2.6k ratings
Five Came Back
8.3/10 IMDb score based on 4.8k ratings
This Is A Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist
6.5/10 IMDb score based on 4.5k ratings
14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible
7.7/10 IMDb score based on 26k ratings
What Happened, Miss Simone?
7.6/10 IMDb score based on 14k ratings
6.9/10 IMDb score based on 6.4k ratings
6.1/10 IMDb score based on 5.5k ratings
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
7.6/10 IMDb score based on 26k ratings
7.4/10 IMDb score based on 5.2k ratings
I Called Him Morgan
7.3/10 IMDb score based on 1.8k ratings
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