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) NC16
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) PG13
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) PG13
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) NC16
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.
Only the Dead (2015) R21
Documentary 1hr 18min
Australian war correspondent Michael Ware’s extraordinary experience during the Iraq War as he travels to Baghdad in 2003 trying to discover about a brutal Al Qaeda leader.
Paris is Burning (1990) R21
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.
Tower (2016) PG13
Documentary 1hr 22min
A fascinating recreation that uses archival footage and rotoscope animation to effectively play-by-play in great detail the 1966 UT massacre, which was the US’s first mass school shooting.
The Ivory Game (2016) PG13
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) PG13
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) PG13
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) NC16
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) 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) PG13
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 20min
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) R21
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) PG13
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) M18
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) NC16
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.