30 Incredible Netflix Documentaries

500 Days Of Film Reviews 30 Remarkable And Gripping Documentaries On Netflix

Of all its online content, Netflix really excels in the documentary genre. From murder to music, profiles to protests, there is a wide variety of films to choose from.


However, too much choice can often feel overwhelming. With that in mind, I have narrowed the selection down to a list of 30 incredible documentaries that I would recommend checking out on Netflix

Top 30 Documentary Films On Netflix

1. Blackfish

Not only is Gabriela Cowperthwaite's Blackfish informative and gripping, but it has also been an impressive force for real change. This powerful documentary follows the story of notorious performing whale, Tilikum, who - unlike any orca in the wild - has taken the lives of several people while in captivity. 


2. Cartel Land

Cartel Land is remarkable for the unprecedented (and highly dangerous) access that filmmaker, Matthew Heineman, secured in order to follow two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels.


3. The Look Of Silence

Following his stunning 2012 documentary, The Act Of Killing, filmmaker, Joshua Oppenheimer, explores the impact of the 1965 Indonesian genocide on those that survived.


4. Iris

Albert Maysles' documentary, Iris, looks at the life of witty and flamboyant fashionista, Iris Apfel. However, this is much more than just a 'fashion' film. It is about individuality, creativity and passion. Watching Iris look back at her life is fascinating and inspiring.


5. 13th

Ava DuVernay's documentary, 13th, is a thought-provoking film about the criminalisation of African Americans and the US prison boom. 13th traces a line from the US Constitution, to Birth Of A Nation, via The Central Park 5 and Oscar Grant to the distressing scenes that we witness on the news and social media today. DuVernay's film tells an unbelievably powerful story that everyone should see.


6. West Of Memphis

West Of Memphis is an incredible and painful story of loss and injustice. In 1993, three eight year old boys were killed in West Memphis, Arkansas. Following a dubious police investigation, three local teenagers were arrested and then found guilty of the murders. This documentary focuses on one of those teenagers, Damien Echols, as he fights for his life on Death Row.


7. Bobby Fischer Against The World

Directed by Liz Garbus, Bobby Fischer Against The World explores the complex life of a troubled genius whose talent spurred a worldwide fascination with chess, the “game of kings”.


8. Amanda Knox

Featuring in-depth interviews with Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, documentary, Amanda Knox, explores the impact of their conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. The film also includes remarkable testimony from the key players in a case that captivated the world. 


9. What Happened, Miss Simone?

Featuring never-before-heard recordings, archive footage, diary entries and interviews with family and friends, What Happened, Miss Simone? is the

heartbreaking story of the life of troubled music legend, Nina Simone.


10. Exit Through The Gift Shop

Real or elaborate Banksy hoax (and I suspect the truth lies somewhere in between) Exit Through The Gift Shop is an interesting exploration of the value of art and an entertaining film about one man's obsession with street artists.


11. Life Itself

Life Itself explores the impact and legacy of Roger Ebert, from his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times to how he became one of the most influential cultural voices in America.


12. The Thin Blue Line

The grandfather of true crime documentaries, Errol Morris' The Thin Blue Line focuses on the arrest and conviction of Randall Adams for the murder of a Dallas policeman in 1976. This remarkable filmis credited with overturning Adams' conviction and inspiring countless reality-based television programmes and feature films. 


13. Deliver Us From Evil

Ten years before Tom McCarthy's Spotlight won its best picture Oscar, writer/director, Amy Berg, released her documentary: Deliver Us From Evil. This deeply disturbing film looks at clergy sexual abuse in the US with a particular focus on Father Oliver O'Grady - perhaps the most notorious pedophile in the history of the modern Catholic Church. 


14. Janis: Little Girl Blue

Featuring letters and interviews with her family and friends, Janis: Little Girl Blue explores the life of 1960's rock legend, Janis Joplin, and reveals a truly fragile soul.


15. Winter On Fire: Ukraine's Fight For Freedom

Over 93 days in Ukraine, a peaceful student demonstration became a violet revolution and a powerful civil rights movement. Featuring incredible on the ground footage and interviews, Winter On Fire: Ukraine's Fight For Freedom is an utterly gripping film. It is amazing to see hundreds of people (from all walks of life) coming together to fight for what they believe in - despite the real risk of harm.


16. Audrie & Daisy

Audrie & Daisy tells the story of the sexual assault of two teenage girls in America. This disturbing film also highlights the frightening trend of online victim shaming and confronts the role played by social media.


17. Dark Horse

Set in a small Welsh mining village, Dark Horse is the inspiring and poignant true story of a community who, in early 2000, decided to enter the sport of kings - the elite world of horse racing - with truly remarkable results. 


18. Searching For Sugar Man

In the aftermath of Apartheid isolation, South African fans of musician, Rodriguez, couldn’t believe that their hero was largely unknown elsewhere in the world - particularly following the stories about his tragic death. One fan, Stephen "Sugar" Segerman, decided to find out more about the elusive, mythical Rodriguez. Just who was he and how did he die?


19. The Case Against 8

The Case Against 8 looks at the historic federal lawsuit that was filed in an effort to overturn Prop 8, California’s discriminatory ban on same-sex marriage. Shot over five years, the film features behind-the-scenes footage of the legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson (and the other four plaintiffs in the suit) and examines how they took the fight for marriage equality all the way to the US Supreme Court.


20. Catfish

Catfish is a gripping documentary that explores the impact of social media, online identities and virtual relationships. Catfish became controversial after its filmmakers were accused of 'acting' in scenes to suit the film's supposedly true narrative. Regardless, this is a fascinating and relevant film.


21. Mea Maxima Culpa

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God investigates the secret crimes of Father Lawrence Murphy, a charismatic Milwaukee priest who abused more than 200 deaf children in a school under his control.



22. Dreams Of A Life

Carol Morely's film, Dreams Of A Life, tells the story of Joyce Vincent, a young, vivacious and intelligent woman who died alone in her flat and, tragically, wasn't found for three years. Morely explores how such a popular young person slipped through the cracks of society. This deeply sad film weighs heavily on its audience, reminding us all to keep in touch with those we love.


23. Cropsey

Filmmakers, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, thought that Cropsey (an escaped mental patient who supposedly lived in an abandoned mental institution, emerging at night to snatch children off the streets) was just an urban legend. However, everything changed in the summer of 1987 when 12-year-old Jennifer Schweiger disappeared. 


24. Being Elmo

Beloved by children of all ages around the world, Elmo is an international icon. However, few people know the inspirational story of his creator, Kevin Clash. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo tells this story and includes archival footage, fascinating interviews and a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop.


25. I Am Big Bird

I Am Big Bird chronicles the life of Caroll Spinney, the man who has been Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969. The documentary features incredible footage of Spinney's earliest collaborations with Jim Henson and is truly poignant as it traces Caroll's journey from bullied child to celebrated performer. 


26. Who Took Johnny

Who Took Johnny examines the thirty-year-old cold case of Iowa paperboy Johnny Gosch, the first missing child to appear on a milk carton. This heartbreaking documentary focuses on Johnny's mother, Noreen Gosch, and her relentless quest to uncover the truth about what happened to her son. 


27. Tabloid

Tabloid follows the stranger-than-fiction adventures of Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her across the globe, into jail, and onto the pages of tabloid newspapers.


28. The Last Man On The Moon

When Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan stepped off the moon in 1972 he left his footprints and his daughter's initials in the lunar dust. Over forty years later, he shares his epic but deeply personal story.


29. Talhotblond

Talhotblond tells the story of Thomas Montgomery, a married father of two young daughters whose obsession with a girl he met online (screen name Talhotblond) led to the murder of an innocent man.


30. Speed Sisters

Speed Sisters follows the first all-woman race car driving team in the Middle East. Their fascinating story grabbed headlines as, on improvised tracks across the West Bank, these five inspiring women sped their way into the heart of the gritty, male-dominated Palestinian street car-racing scene. 


What Is Your Favourite Documentary?

Have you seen any of these movies?


If so, what is your favourite? Have I missed any of your top Netflix documentaries from my list?


Whatever the case, let me know... leave me a comment in the box below! 

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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