Netflix has hit it out of the park with original productions like Jim & Andy, The White Helmets and a trove of quality documentaries ready to stream now.
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 docos like the streaming provider’s own The White Helmets or the heartbreaking biography Amy. If they sound a little heavy, you could just watch giant pandas roll around in a lush forest with BBC’s Earth: One Amazing Day.
Below we’ve listed our top picks from Netflix’s vast selection of documentaries.
Survivor’s Guide to Prison (2018) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 42min
If you live in or plan to visit the US, you ought to memorise these tips given by prison staff, investigative journalists, cops and inmates who had to shiv to live.
For the Love of Spock (2016) PG-13
Documentary 1hr 51min
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.
The White Helmets (2016) TV-14
A truly gripping documentary centred 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.
Amanda Knox (2016) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 32min
A documentary of the infamous trial, conviction and acquittal of American exchange student Amanda Knox for the 2007 murder of another student in Italy.
Korengal (2014) R
Documentary 1hr 24min
Korengal picks up where Restrepo left off; the same men, the same valley, the same commanders, but a very different look at the experience of war.
Paris is Burning (1990) R
Documentary 1hr 11min
Rediscover the burgeoning drag scene of 1980s New York, an era awash with warmth, vitality and voguing posing in the most outrageous frocks imaginable.
ReMastered: Massacre at the Stadium (2019) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 4min
The shocking murder of Chilean musician and activist Victor Jara in 1973 turned him into a powerful symbol of the country’s struggle. A quest for justice unfolds decades later.
The Ivory Game (2016) PG-13
Documentary 1hr 52min
A suspenseful on-the-ground documentary of wildlife activists putting their lives on the line in taking on poachers to end the illegal ivory trade in Africa.
Chasing Ice (2012) PG-13
Documentary 1hr 15min
A documentary about one National Geographic photographer chasing the holy grail that is to “capture the effects of climate change in a single shot”.
Shirkers (2018) PG-13
Documentary 1hr 37min
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.
Chasing Coral (2017) PG
Documentary 1hr 31min
Coral reefs are disappearing at an unprecedented rate around the world. Scientists, photographers and expert divers teamed up on an ocean adventure to find out the reason and to reveal the mystery of the so-called “coral bleaching” phenomenon.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 34min
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.
End Game (2018) TV-PG
An incredibly moving documentary exploring the power of palliative care, those end-of-the-road support systems that help bridge the final gap between life and death.
Team Foxcatcher (2016) PG-13
Documentary 1hr 31min
A home video delve into the downward spiral of John E. du Pont, the multi-millionaire who had a fatal obsession with Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2011) PG
Documentary 1hr 16min
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.
Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee (2016) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 37min
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.
Virunga (2014) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 40min
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) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 47min
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.
Behind the Curve (2018) PG
Documentary 1hr 36min
The flat Earth movement appears to be growing despite the hundreds of years’ evolving scientific thought and technology disproves the idea. Meet the small but growing contingent of people who firmly believe that the Earth is flat.
The Bad Kids (2016) TV-MA
Documentary 1hr 41min
A group of Mojave-Desert-based teachers who go above and beyond for a campus of “last chance” troubled youths who are otherwise destined for the corrections system.