The 14 best documentaries on Netflix

Netflix has hit it out of the park with a trove of quality documentaries ready to stream now.

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If you’re after some guilt-free edutainment to wash away the shame from your ritual Married At First Sight viewing, you can’t really go past Netflix these days. There are sobering documentaries like The White Helmets or the heartbreaking biography Amy. If they sound a little heavy, you can look back on your childhood through a new lens with Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.

Below we’ve listed our top picks from Netflix’s vast selection of documentaries.

Survivor’s Guide to Prison (2018)

Runtime: 1hr 42min

Rating: TV-MA

If you live in or plan to visit the US, you ought to memorize these tips given by prison staff, investigative journalists, cops and inmates who had to shiv to live.

Survivor's Guide to Prison

For the Love of Spock (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 51min

Rating: PG-13

Directed by Adam Nimoy, this is a moving documentary about his father’s fifty-year journey as both a father and an actor, plus there’s insight into the sort of illogical fan reactions one can expect when they’re a sci-fi superstar.

For the love of Spock

The White Helmets (2016)

Runtime: 40min

Rating: TV-14

This truly gripping documentary centers on a crack team of selfless Syrian first-responders who run the gauntlet of daily air strikes in order to rescue victims from the rubble.

The White Helmets

Amy (2015)

Runtime: 2hr 08min

Rating: R

This documentary offers a heartbreaking look at the tragic life of Amy Winehouse, from developing a precious singing talent in her teen years to largely unwanted fame, followed by a downward spin into substance abuse.


Paris is Burning (1990)

Runtime: 1hr 11min

Rating: R

Rediscover the burgeoning drag scene of 1980s New York, an era awash with warmth, vitality and voguing posing in the most outrageous frocks imaginable.

Paris is Burning

Shirkers (2018)

Runtime: 1hr 37min

Rating: PG-13

When a 16mm film about her surfaces, Sandi Tan, a successful LA novelist, goes on the hunt for her eccentric American mentor who vanished 20 years ago.


Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

Runtime: 1hr 34min

Rating: TV-MA

This fils offers a bizarre behind-the-scenes look at the incredible lengths actor Jim Carrey went to in order to portray his eccentric idol, the late-great Andy Kaufmann.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

End Game (2018)

Runtime: 40min

Rating: PG-13

This incredibly moving documentary explores the power of palliative care, those end-of-the-road support systems that help bridge the final gap between life and death.

End Gamed

Team Foxcatcher (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 31min

Rating: PG-13

A home video delves into the downward spiral of John E. du Pont, the multimillionaire who had a fatal obsession with Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz.

Team Foxcatcher

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011)

Runtime: 1hr 16min

Rating: PG

This film explores the origin story of Kevin Clash, the man behind the most famous muppet in the world who achieved his dream of working alongside master puppeteer Jim Henson.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 37min

Rating: TV-MA

Follow the twisty tale of one John McAfee, the millionaire software visionary who reinvented himself from virus buster to Kurtz-esque jungle hermit, yogi, crypto enthusiast and presidential candidate.

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee

Virunga (2014)

Runtime: 1hr 40min

Rating: TV-MA

UNESCO presents the desperate plight of the African region of Virunga, a bastion sanctuary for the critically endangered mountain gorillas and surrounded on all sides by bloody civil war.


Strong Island (2017)

Runtime: 1hr 47min

Rating: TV-MA

An emotional roller-coaster ride that examines the senseless police slaying of William Ford and the continuing devastation and injustices inflicted on his family and investigative filmmaker and brother Yance Ford.

Strong Island

The Bad Kids (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 41min

Rating: TV-MA

A group of Mojave-Desert-based teachers go above and beyond for a campus of “last chance” troubled youths who are otherwise destined for the corrections system.

The Bad Kids

Watched them all already?

If you’re looking for even more documentaries to broaden your mind, check out our complete list of documentaries currently available on Netflix. And for even more content, compare other streaming services.

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