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Top 100 Best Documentaries on Netflix To Watch

Wadiur Rahman HishamWadiur-Posted Oct 2, 2021


Documentaries

 

Netflix is the biggest streaming service on the planet, with many impressive films and tv shows both acquired and Netflix Originals.

 

However, as is often the case with quantity, Netflix does not always knock it out of the park with what is streamed on the platform with many a subpar product being released on the site.

 

The outlier of this phenomenon, however, is the collection of documentaries on the platform. Netflix has perhaps the most impressive selection of documentaries out of any streaming service.

 

There are so many great ones on the platform in fact that some of my favorites did not even make it onto the list.

 

As usual, there will be certain criteria for the list. Firstly, because of the sheer quantity of great documentaries, the ranking will be based on IMDb ratings rather than personal preference.

 

Secondly, documentary series, even when they are released as individual special episodes rather than a collected show, will not be considered, i.e., Untold, ReMastered, and Wave of Cinema.

 

However, these are all great series and well worth checking out. Now, just a few honorable mentions that couldn’t meet the criteria but are still some of the best documentaries I have seen before we get into the actual list.

 

Knock Down the House follows four women as they seek to disrupt the establishment Democrat political structure with their bid for power.

 

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a fascinating insight into the unprecedented disaster that was the Fyre Festival.

 

And finally, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson tells the story of one of the most influential figures in the fight against trans oppression in America and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her death in 1992.

 

 

100. What the Health (2017)

 

What the Health (2017)

 

In this follow up to 2014’s DiCaprio-backed Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (more on that later), filmmaker Kip Andersen sets out to discover the secrets of diet and health.

 

He finds some ground-breaking health research on his journey, but no one is talking about those researches.

 

This leads him to investigate further and discovering the greed and profit-fuelled side of the healthcare and pharmaceutical corporations.

 

That the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry has become heavily profit-based in the last few decades is no secret.

 

However, the extent they go to in order to maintain their profit margins is still shocking.

 

Disclaimer: Some of the research preached in this documentary has since been criticized by many professionals as being not entirely accurate.

 

Do read up on both sides of the story.

 

 

99. Miss Americana (2020)

 

Miss Americana (2020)

 

As one of the most popular pop artists in the world, Taylor Swift has garnered a significant fanbase and respect within the music industry.

 

However, fame has many downsides. Throughout her career, Swift has been subjected to intense scrutiny by media and any little discrepancy magnified.

 

Through continued questions about her life to sully her reputation, Swift has learned to rise above the hate and use her voice and platform to help others do the same.

 

Taylor Swift documentaries have been consistently good for many years and Miss Americana is no exception.

 

This documentary is less about the music of Taylor Swift and more about the person behind the songs.

 

 

98. Period. End of Sentence. (2018)

 

Period. End of Sentence. (2018)

 

This short documentary follows a group of women in Hapur, India, as they attempt to shed light on the topic of menstruation, which is often considered taboo in India, especially within rural environments.

 

It features the social activist Arunachalam Muruganantham who has done a lot towards the production and availability of affordable sanitary pads that are also environmentally friendly.

 

The women of Hapur learn to operate a machine that produces such sanitary pads, and in doing so they not only work towards normalizing menstruation but also becoming self-reliant in the process.

 

Period. End of Sentence. is a winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

 

This documentary illuminates an often-overlooked subject in Indian society. It is also incredibly easy to watch with a 25-minute runtime.

 

Short and informative as it is, there is no excuse to not watch this one.

 

 

97. Fire in Paradise (2019)

 

Fire in Paradise (2019)

 

Another short documentary, clocking in at 40 minutes, this film documents one of the most devastating wildfires in history in Butte County, California, a state that often finds itself on fire.

 

The inferno started off small, but soon got out of control and devastated the nearby town of Paradise, killing many.

 

This documentary recounts the tales of devastation and survival through survivor and first responder interviews as well as first-hand footage.

 

In a state that is seeing wildfires at an alarming rate each year, Fire in Paradise gives an intimate account of just what it's like to live through one.

 

It highlights the pain and loss of the survivors while also recounting stories of unbelievable bravery.

 

 

96. Tig (2015)

 

Tig (2015)

 

The documentary follows comedian Tig Notaro after she is diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

 

After her overnight hit stand-up routine following her diagnosis, the film documents an incredibly challenging year in the life of the comedian as she battles cancer while coping with the loss of her mother and trying to conceive with her partner.

 

Tig provides an exceptionally open and intimate look into the life of a public figure who is quietly struggling with issues in her personal life.

 

Notaro tries her best to juggle her personal life with her newfound fame, all the while also doing all she can to bring joy into the lives of others.

 

 

95. Long Shot (2017)

 

Long Shot (2017)

 

Juan Catalan is accused and arrested for a murder he insists he did not commit.

 

However, while the murder that Juan is suspected for occurred, the alleged murderer was attending a baseball game.

 

The titular long shot refers to the attempt by his attorney to attempt to construct an alibi for the defendant by hunting down raw footage of the TV show Curb Your Enthusiasm which might show Catalan in attendance in the stadium.

 

Long Shot represents a microcosm of a major problem that has long plagued the policing and judiciary in the USA.

 

While the incredible story of Juan’s acquittance might be viewed as a victory, it serves as an example of a deep-rooted bias, where a person of color is accused of a crime he did not commit and has to gamble on ridiculous coincidence to prove his innocence.

 

 

94. They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)

 

They'll Love Me When I'm Dead (2018)

 

This documentary spotlights the final fifteen years of the life of the legendary Hollywood director, Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, The Third Man).

 

Beginning in the early 70s and leading up to his death in 1985, the film follows his attempts to bring to life his revolutionary concept with the film, The Other Side of the Wind, a plot in itself about an aging director pinning his hopes on one film to serve as his comeback to Hollywood.

 

Welles was a revolutionary filmmaker and introduced many staples of film that are used to this day.

 

This documentary provides a rare glimpse into Welles’ weird and wonderfully creative process. The Other Side of the Wind was released in 2018 and is also available to stream on Netflix.

 

 

93. The Black Godfather (2019)

 

The Black Godfather (2019)

 

The film documents the life, career, and influence of Clarence Avant, known by many as “the godfather of black music”.

 

Avant may not be a figure well known by the general public, but he is very well respected and beloved within the music industry.

 

This documentary includes interviews by many well-known artists Avant worked closely with and their testaments to just how influential the man has been.

 

It is rare for black executives and behind-the-scenes figures within the music industry to get the recognition, love, and praise they deserve.

 

Clarence Avant deserves every loving praise he receives in this documentary as the impact of his work on the industry is undeniable.

 

 

92. American Factory (2019)

 

American Factory (2019)

 

A Chinese company Fuyao opens a factory in Moraine, Ohio, in the hollowed-out shell of a general motors plant.

 

The company hires two thousand American employees and the early days prove hopeful and positive.

 

However, the reality of the high-tech Chinese production soon begins to clash with the working-class Americans.

 

The winner of the 2020 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, American Factory provides a thorough look into the day-to-day functioning of the Fuyao factory.

 

The filmmakers took a fly-on-the-wall approach to the documentary, allowing the stories and lives of the workers to speak for themselves without much external interference.

 

It also provides a tragic view of the rapidly mechanizing production which might one day render human labor obsolete.

 

 

91. Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened (2016)

 

Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened… (2016)

 

Chronicling the fall and unlikely rise to fame of Stephen Sondheim's ‘Merrily We Roll Along’.

 

The musical opened in November 1981 to scathing reviews and closed soon after with just 16 performances.

 

Over 30 years after the incident, the score of the musical has taken on a cult classic appeal, becoming one of the composer’s most beloved.

 

The documentary charts the journey of the original cast in the interim. Taking a very Sondheim approach to the subject of the documentary, Lonny Price’s theatre doc focuses on the writer-composer’s offbeat theatrical production rather than his more successful works.

 

Built around archival footage and interviews with the cast, Best Worst Thing is a nostalgic look at Sondheim and his least successful musical.

 

 

90. Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire (2019)

 

Carlos Almaraz: Playing with Fire (2019)

 

Carlos Almaraz was one of the most influential figures in the Chicano Art Movement, responsible for bringing it into the mainstream through a first of its kind art exhibition at LACMA.

 

He is also the man behind some of the most unforgettable images in the art scene of Southern California.

 

This documentary recounts Carlos’ exceptional life through archive footage and interviews. Carlos Almaraz lived a short, contradictory but ultimately beautiful life, and Playing with Fire presents the viewers with as honest a view of his time on earth as possible.

 

This is a beautifully made documentary that is inspiring, especially for art lovers.

 

 

89. Reversing Roe (2018)

 

Reversing Roe (2018)

 

Roe v Wade is one of the most hotly debated rulings in the history of US Supreme Court cases.

 

There has been a decade-long effort to reverse the outcome of the case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to abortion without excessive government interference.

 

In a time when women’s rights are being steadily encroached upon in the USA, Reversing Roe is an important look at the politics that drive these supposedly apolitical movements.

 

This documentary is a very well-balanced look at the abortion debate, presenting viewpoints from both sides of the argument through interviews with key figures.

 

While it may seem slightly weighted against the pro-life side of the debate, there is only so much the filmmaker can do to accurately represent a side that does not want women to have autonomy over their own bodies.

 

 

88. Franca: Chaos and Creation (2016)

 

Franca: Chaos and Creation (2016)

 

Through this documentary, director Francesco Carrozzini presents an intimate portrait of his mother, Franca Sozzani.

 

Sozzani is the legendary editor-in-chief of the Italian Vogue magazine. She has often been known to court controversy through her varied and wonderful magazine covers.

 

This film includes interviews from people close to Sozzani, as well as an intimate look at the editor’s creative process, through which she often seeks to shake up the status quo of fashion and occasionally redefine beauty standards.

 

This documentary is not only very insightful but often quite emotional, giving audiences glimpses at the person behind the legendary figure of the editor-in-chief.

 

Carrozzini does a wonderful job blending the professional and personal, making this film feel like more than just a documentary.

 

It is a love letter from a son to his mother.

 

 

87. Western Stars (2019)

 

Western Stars (2019)

 

Legendary singer-musician Bruce Springsteen gives a live performance of all thirteen songs from his album ‘Western Stars’.

 

Through the music from the band and a full orchestra backing him up, Springsteen weaves themes of love, loss, loneliness, family, and the passage of time, bringing to life a rich narrative unlike any other.

 

Bruce Springsteen is an undeniable heavyweight within the western music scene. Through Western Stars, the man pays a heartfelt tribute and homage to the sights, sounds, and people that inspire his music.

 

A poignant look at aging and the slowly fading West where cowboys, horses, and lone truckers are the norm, Western Stars is a wonderful example of storytelling through music.

 

 

86. Camarón: Flamenco y revolución (2018)

 

Camarón: Flamenco y revolución (2018)

 

From one legendary musician to another, this documentary tells the tale of the rise to stardom of the legendary Flamenco singer Camarón.

 

The film charts the journey of his life, from his beginnings from humble roots to his meteoric rise to stardom, to his tragic death at a young age.

 

Flamenco y revolución documents the revolutionizing and innovation of that genre of music through one of its most gifted performers of all time.

 

The story of Camarón is brought to the audiences by people that clearly have a lot of love for the singer and the genre.

 

 

85. Ask the Sexpert (2017)

 

Ask the Sexpert (2017)

 

Dr. Watsa was a very popular sex advice columnist who wrote for a daily newspaper in Mumbai.

 

Despite the man had passed away in 2020, this documentary immortalized his work, life, and ideology towards freedom of sexuality in a society that considers the topic to be taboo.

 

He gained popularity during a time when many states in the country had put a ban on comprehensive sex education in school, becoming the voice of reason in a deeply conservative country.

 

Despite being a film about Dr. Watsa, the film does a good job presenting arguments from the other side of the divide.

 

However, this film is ultimately about one man’s quest for the sexual liberation of the minds of a people who have always been notoriously conservative about such ideas.

 

 

84. Heroes: Silence and Rock and Roll (2021)

 

Heroes: Silence and Rock and Roll (2021)

 

This documentary tells the story of the Spanish rock band Héroes del Silencio, from the very early days of their rise to stardom to the end of their time together.

 

This film is as much about the rise of the band as it is about their personal lives behind the scenes and the heart-warming friendships between the band members.

 

This documentary gives an intimate look into the lives of the band members as they navigate their stardom, the effort that goes into the creative process behind their music, and their personal lives behind the scenes.

 

This film is a bittersweet chronicle of one of the biggest Spanish rock bands and a must-watch for fans of music documentaries.

 

 

83. Hitler: A Career (1977)

 

Hitler: A Career (1977)

 

This documentary dissects the life, career, and rise to power of one of the vilest, malicious, and hated figures from history.

 

The Third Reich and the ideology of hatred it was built upon is placed under a microscope and examined in an attempt to chart exactly where things went wrong and a man like Hitler was allowed to rise to power and deliver death and destruction with impunity.

 

As hated as Hitler became, it is important to realize that in his rise to power, he was a beloved figure in Nazi Germany.

 

This film depicts his mastery of crowd psychology, making people cheer for him even as he spewed hatred, something which is startlingly familiar in many world leaders today.

 

With the sudden rise of fascistic ideologies across the globe in recent years, it has become increasingly important to re-examine our history so that we may not repeat the same mistakes again, making this documentary a must-watch.

 

 

82. Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (2020)

 

Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (2020)

 

Director Caroline Suh documents the meteoric rise of the famous K-pop girl group BLACKPINK. The documentary picks up with their debut in 2016, including archival footage of their pre-debut training as a girl group.

 

It follows along as the group gathers popularity among fans. The behind-the-scenes stories and the glimpse into the members’ day-to-day lives reveal the trials and tribulations of being a K-pop star.

 

The documentary culminates with their career-defining 2019 Coachella performance. The K-pop music scene has gained unprecedented popularity in the last decade and has become a juggernaut within the industry.

 

It is rare that we get such an unadulterated look into the lives and struggles of the people behind this juggernaut.

 

 

81. City of Joy (2016)

 

City of Joy (2016)

 

Set in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region often referred to as ‘the worst place in the world to be a woman’, this documentary follows the first class of students at a leadership center founded by Dr. Denis Mukwege, Eve Ensler, and Christine Schuler-Deschryver.

 

The aim of the center is to create meaning in the lives of the women who lost nearly everything to the 20 years of war which was fuelled by greed and colonialism.

 

While the premise for this documentary might seem particularly saddening, it is anything but. The aim here is to tell the stories of incredible resilience shown by these women in the face of harrowing devastation and their will to transform their trauma into powerful forms of leadership.

 

 

80. Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

 

Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020)

 

Director Kristen Johnson decides to document the final years of her father’s life. Having seen her mother fade away and eventually lose her life to Alzheimer’s, Kristen decides to record the final moments of Dick Johnson as he is before he too succumbs to the same illness.

 

That way, the director will forever have this documentary to remember her father by. From the description you have just read, you might think this film will be grief-filled.

 

That could not be further from the truth. This film is centered around the premise of Dick Johnson ‘dying’ again and again in increasingly ridiculous skits.

 

Far from being a mural of grief, this documentary is a joyous tapestry that celebrates life.

 

 

79. Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

 

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé (2019)

 

Directed by Beyoncé in conjunction with Ed Burke, this film documents the much-celebrated 2018 Coachella performance by the singer.

 

This documentary provides an in-depth look at the emotional journey of performance, from an early creative concept to the concert of a lifetime.

 

This documentary intercuts the performance with behind-the-scenes moments that reveal the hard work and passion that went into creating this performance from concept to actualization.

 

The film also includes interludes from performers who performed alongside her. A celebration of black culture and Beyoncé’s own heritage, Homecoming is an intimate and kinetic look at one of the defining performances of the Coachella festival.

 

 

78. Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold (2017)

 

Joan Didion: The Centre Will Not Hold (2017)

 

In this documentary directed by her nephew Griffin Dunne, literary icon Joan Didion (Slouching Towards Bethlehem, The Year of Magical Thinking) reflects on her remarkable career and personal struggles.

 

This film gives viewers an intimate portrait of a literary figure who, despite her extensive work as an academic investigating themes such as gender, class, and community, tried her best to keep her personal life out of the public eye.

 

Joan Didion is not only a respected figure in the literary world, but she has also led an intriguing life behind her words.

 

This documentary gives the audience access to the personal life and years of struggle that were previously unknown.

 

It is best to go into this film without watching the trailer, as the narrative that unfolds is made so much more thrilling when you do not know what to expect.

 

 

77. Everybody’s Everything (2019)

 

Everybody’s Everything (2019)

 

Set to bring his unique blend of punk, emo, and trap to the mainstream, Lil Peep lost his life to a drug overdose at the young age of 21.

 

This documentary attempts to follow the journey of the man behind the moniker of Lil Peep, from humble on the streets of Los Angeles, to music studios in London to put on sold-out shows all over the world.

 

The unfortunate truth is that the music industry is filled with stories of loss like that of Lil Peep.

 

Artists who are on the brink of achieving their dreams succumb to one affliction or another, leaving behind a tragic legacy to be examined.

 

Through Everybody’s Everything, the filmmakers present an intimate and human portrait of a rising star lost too early.

 

 

76. Born in Gaza (2014)

 

Born in Gaza (2014)

 

A documentary about the continued oppression of the people of Gaza, Born in Gaza was filmed shortly after the Gaza War of 2014 where the Israeli forces massacred hundreds of civilians.

 

This documentary examines the effects of the violence on ten Palestinian children. The Israel-Palestine conflict has long divided opinions.

 

On the one side, you will find people denouncing the violence against Palestinians as a genocide fuelled by greed.

 

On the other are people who argue that criticizing the actions of the Israeli government is antisemitic.

 

It takes a lot of courage for a filmmaker to depict the portrait of the victims of this war, knowing that doing so will open them up to hate.

 

That is exactly what this documentary is, a portrait of the victims of a senseless war who often get forgotten about in the face of overwhelming propaganda.

 

 

75. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

 

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)

 

Documenting the band’s two-year struggles in creating and releasing their famous album, St. Anger, the music documentary examines the band members’ struggles with alcoholism, personal demons, the loss of their bass player and therapy as well as their frustration with their creative process.

 

To document the process behind St. Anger, the filmmakers followed the band around day and night and shot over 1200 hours of footage that had to be edited down to 2 hours 20 minutes.

 

To call Metallica offbeat is an understatement. If this documentary was going to capture anything about the subject material, it had to be as thorough as possible in its documentation which is exactly what the filmmakers did, bringing you both the good and the bad with equal honesty.

 

 

74. The White Helmets (2016)

 

The White Helmets (2016)

 

Syria has spent years locked in a conflict that has seen 400,000 civilians killed, millions displaced, and just as many severely injured.

 

The White Helmets are a group of volunteer rescue workers who attempt to rescue civilians caught in the rubble in the aftermath of bombardments.

 

This documentary follows three volunteers as they work in Syria, as well as three men from the same unit as they train in Turkey.

 

Another winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject), this film focuses on ordinary human beings who show strength and courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.

 

These people risk their lives in the wake of nearly daily airstrikes to pull survivors out of the wreckage and restore some hope to a bleak situation.

 

 

73. Schumacher (2021)

 

Schumacher (2021)

 

Michael Schumacher is one of the most famous people in the world of Formula 1 racing.

 

Despite so much of his time spent within the public eye, the racer went to great lengths to keep his private life obscured.

 

Now, after years of relative secrecy, Schumacher and his family and friends are ready to reveal his life story.

 

This documentary follows the titular racer from his days as a young upstart to the top of the mountain.

 

The story is told with a classic mix of archive footage alongside interviews from Schumacher and the people around him.

 

A thrilling tribute to a thrilling career.

 

 

72. Quincy (2018)

 

Quincy (2018)

 

This documentary follows the life and work of Quincy Jones, a legendary force in the music industry and popular culture for 70 years.

 

The man has managed something unprecedented in transcending racial and cultural boundaries to become one of the most recognizable icons of the American music industry, especially starting at a time when such boundaries were greatly pronounced.

 

Co-directed by Quincy’s daughter, Rashida Jones, this documentary does a fantastic job of doing justice to the decades’ long legacy of a music giant.

 

While his music is already known to the world, his unspeakable courage in contributing not only to music but also to culture, politics, and charity is prominently displayed in this film.

 

 

71. The C Word (2015)

 

The C Word (2015)

 

A documentary about cancer, this film tells two tales. One story is of a celebrated French neuroscientist and cancer revolutionary Dr. David Servan-Schreiber.

 

The other follows the film’s director Meghan O'Hara on her journey of recovery after being diagnosed.

 

The two join forces to expose the systematic failings of the society and the healthcare system in spreading information about prevention from the disease.

 

There have been many documentaries about cancer. What sets The C Word aside is the personal touch at the heart of it.

 

This is an important, and funny documentary about the industries that facilitate the spread of cancer and the science of prevention that does not get the attention it deserves.

 

 

70. A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (2015)

 

A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman (2015)

 

This documentary recounts the history of the renowned British stop-motion animation studio, Aardman Animations Studios (Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Chicken Run, Arthur Christmas).

 

Charting the studio’s journey from the 1970s to the modern-day with their lows and many triumphs and all the years of careful crafting and hard work that goes into each project.

 

A light-hearted, feel-good story about people who started off as underdogs within the animation industry, only to become household names through their passion for the craft.

 

Aardman Animations are known for producing some of the funniest animations in the world, and that signature wit, humor, and charm are prominently featured throughout this documentary.

 

 

69. Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2019)

 

Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (2019)

 

A documentary about Miles Davis, a legendary American trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Davis is one of the most influential figures in the history of 20th-century music and the world of jazz.

 

This film tells the story of his life. The tale of Davis’ life is told through archival footage, both public and some never seen before, as well as interludes from some of the biggest names in music.

 

The filmmakers did a fantastic job capturing the life, both professional and personal, as well as the aesthetic of Davis’ music, giving this music documentary a unique feel.

 

 

68. The Beginning of Life (2016)

 

The Beginning of Life (2016)

 

A documentary about advancements in neuroscience that can help doctors and psychologists understand the role of childhood and upbringing in people’s development later in life.

 

It has long been debated how much of our personality as we grow up is influenced by genetic predisposition and how much of it is affected by our upbringing.

 

This documentary investigates questions of what unites us, what separates us, and how children can be raised to be the best people they can be by investing in their early years.

 

This film attempts to give adults a perspective into what children feel at a young age, their discoveries, their perspective of the world around them, and how much these things are influenced by how they are nurtured.

 

Weaving research with interviews in a way that never gets boring, this film is an ode to the future of our world.

 

 

67. For the Love of Spock (2016)

 

For the Love of Spock (2016)

 

Leonard Nimoy became the face of science fiction to an entire generation through his portrayal of the beloved Star Trek character, Spock.

 

From the first Trek pilot episode filmed in 1964 to his final performance in 2013, Nimoy’s life on screen as Spock is well known to fans.

 

However, there are things about his life and even about his time spent playing Spock that are not known to most people.

 

After his passing in 2015, this documentary provides an insight into the life of the man behind Spock.

 

Made with a good balance of archive footage and interviews from famous Star Trek fans, For the Love of Spock manages something many biopics fail at, portraying their subject as a person rather than placing them on a pedestal.

 

This is a must-watch for all Trekkies.

 

 

66. Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

 

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

 

Alex Lewis lost his memory in a motorcycle accident as a teenager. Fortunately, he had someone to help him remember his childhood in his twin brother Marcus.

 

However, as time passes on, Alex comes to realize that his brother has omitted one very major detail from their life.

 

Tell Me Who I Am tells a story that seems unbelievable in a way that if you were to read a plot summary, you would be forgiven for thinking it was fictional.

 

Based on a book the twins wrote together with Joanna Hodgkin, this documentary tells an involved, harrowing, and ultimately upsetting tale.

 

It is also best watched with as little information as possible.

 

 

65. The Social Dilemma (2020)

 

The Social Dilemma (2020)

 

Tech experts and insiders blow the whistle on the disturbing secrets and information on how the tech and social media giants function behind the scenes.

 

It lays bare the trouble we are in as consumers of the services provided by these giants of Silicon Valley.

 

It is no longer shocking to know that the true power of these companies is the information they can sell and the influence they have over our choices, but the extent to which they are able to exercise these powers are mind-blowing.

 

What might seem on the surface like a dry topic to document turns into a rather disturbing watch about just how much control the tech companies have over our lives?

 

The Social Dilemma is one of the most relevant documentaries of our time.

 

 

64. Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese (2019)

 

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story By Martin Scorsese (2019)

 

In 1975, Bob Dylan sets out to perform his Rolling Thunder Revue tour across America, bringing joyous and uplifting music to a country sorely in need of it.

 

Yes, you read the title right. A documentary from one legend about another, Rolling Thunder Revue recounts the historic tour from the beautifully tinted lens provided by Martin Scorsese.

 

The story is told with a blend of historic footage, with the distinct influence of Scorsese’s fabled filmmaking transforming it from just another documentary to a fever dream fantasy that truly captures the essence of what Bob Dylan set out to achieve with his Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

 

 

63. Unrest (2017)

 

Unrest (2017)

 

Telling the tale of an illness that the medical world failed to acknowledge, Unrest follows a Harvard Ph.D. student, Jennifer Brea, as she is stricken with a fever that leaves her bedbound months before her wedding.

 

Told repeatedly that her illness is ‘all in her head’ by medical professionals and getting progressively more ill, Jennifer takes it upon herself to find out more about her condition with the aid of her husband.

 

She soon discovers that millions across the world suffer quietly from the same illness. More than a documentary about a mysterious illness, Unrest is the tale of perseverance in the face of life-altering changes.

 

It reminds the audience that despite recent advancements, medicine is still fallible. However, through community, courage, and the kindness of people, humans can overcome anything.

 

 

62. Fantastic Fungi (2019)

 

Fantastic Fungi (2019)

 

Tracking a journey of 3.5 billion years through informative time-lapse filmmaking, this documentary follows the eponymous fungi as it evolves and develops incredible abilities to heal and sustain.

 

This documentary highlights just how much this wonderful organism contributes to life on Earth and just how pivotal it could be in healing it.

 

Narrated by Brie Larson and filmed in a unique style, Fantastic Fungi sets itself apart from most nature documentaries.

 

Not only is it well-crafted, but it also does a great job of compressing centuries-long information into an hour and 20 minutes of enjoyable and easy-to-follow documentary.

 

 

61. The Meaning of Monty Python (2013)

 

The Meaning of Monty Python (2013)

 

30 years after the release of their final film, The Meaning of Life, the Monty Python group reunites for this special anniversary program.

 

John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin sit down to discuss The Meaning of Life, thirty years of their individual lives as well as reflecting on the changes in comedy, creativity and even discussing their own growing sense of mortality.

 

The Meaning of Monty Python is a treat to watch as the five pythons get together for one of the greatest reunions.

 

The humorous banter flies freely between five men who are clearly happy to be in each other’s company following decades of friendship.

 

This is a pleasure to watch for Monty Python fans and non-fans alike.

 

 

60. The Bleeding Edge (2018)

 

The Bleeding Edge (2018)

 

Medical science has come a long way over several decades of research and innovation. As such, the healthcare system should be the strongest it has ever been.

 

Unfortunately, years of greed have turned healthcare into just another profit-driven industry, rather than a necessity that everyone should have access to.

 

The Bleeding Edge is an expose of the sinister consequences of the new technologies being used in healthcare today.

 

An extensively researched documentary with tons of evidence to support it, The Bleeding Edge is told primarily through interviews of people who have suffered through horrifying experiences at the hands of medical technology and professionals.

 

These experiences are often accompanied by disturbing visuals, driving home the callousness of an industry that was meant to safeguard people’s health.

 

 

59. What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

 

What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

 

A documentary telling the life story of the legend Nina Simone who came to be known as the ‘High Priestess of Soul’.

 

The singer-songwriter and pianist’s oeuvre consist of songs from a broad range of musical styles from jazz to pop.

 

However, her contribution to American music was not her most impressive, as she worked tirelessly as a civil rights activist.

 

Nina Simone is a revolutionary figure, both within the music industry and as a civil rights activist.

 

However, at the height of her popularity, Simone decided to walk away from her career, family, and country and moved to Liberia, giving up entirely on performing.

 

This documentary charts her journey, from the stage to the streets and eventually, inexplicably, all the way to Liberia.

 

 

58. Athlete A (2020)

 

Athlete A (2020)

 

Larry Nassar was the team doctor of the United States women's national gymnastics team for 18 years, until the truth behind his sexual abuse of numerous female athletes came out in 2015.

 

This documentary follows the Indianapolis Star reporters as they expose Nassar’s abuse of over 200 athletes in a story that shocked the world.

 

Athlete A tells a harrowing narrative of the pain and suffering of several women at the hands of a predator.

 

This is a documentary that not only examines the isolated case of Nassar, it also heavily criticizes a system that perpetuates this kind of awful behavior and protects the criminals rather than delivering justice for the victims.

 

Athlete A tackles a very heavy subject, but it is one that needs to be talked about to ensure things like this never happen again.

 

 

57. Road to Roma (2020)

 

Road to Roma (2020)

 

In 2019, Roma became the first film primarily distributed through a streaming service to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

 

Through this documentary, celebrated director Alfonso Cuarón reflects on the decisions and creative effort that went into the making of his semi-autobiographical film.

 

Roma was one of the biggest success stories from the 91st Academy Awards, getting an unprecedented amount of attention for a foreign film.

 

The film itself earned great critical acclaim as one of the most stylistic auteur films of the past decade.

 

Through this documentary, Cuarón reveals the hard work and passion that went into crafting this unique experience.

 

 

56. Heroes (2020)

 

Heroes (2020)

 

This documentary tells the stories of five legends from the world of motorsport. The documentary is filmed over an evening in an English stately home where four racers, Mika Häkkinen, Felipe Massa, Tom Kristensen, and Michèle Mouton gather to tell their stories.

 

However, there is a fifth figure, that of Michael Schumacher, who might be absent from the group, but whose presence still looms large over the conversation.

 

Heroes recount the stories of four racers, from their love for cars growing up, to their introduction into the world of motorsport, from failures to successes and their continuing journeys.

 

The documentary is a wonderful blend of self-told stories mixed with archive footage to back them up.

 

 

55. Brené Brown: The Call to Courage (2019)

 

Brené Brown: The Call to Courage (2019)

 

Professor Brené Brown first gained fame through her New York Times bestselling books and her various well-received TED talks.

 

The Call to Courage is the logical and much beloved next step in her attempts to spread the message of courage through vulnerability.

 

The Call to Courage is a filmed lecture in which Brené Brown exercises her signature soothing, friendly, and encouraging delivery to compare courage and vulnerability as well as her own journey as an introvert who found herself gaining much fame in a short span of time.

 

Navigating through themes of shame and empathy, Dr. Brown gives an uplifting call to take chances in pursuit of happiness.

 

 

54. Human Nature (2019)

 

Human Nature (2019)

 

CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) is one of the most quietly revolutionary biological discoveries of the 21st century.

 

From curing diseases to repopulating endangered and extinct species to designing the DNA of children, the implications of CRISPR spread far and wide.

 

This documentary explores just how far-reaching these implications and CRISPR’s potential application could be through the eyes of the scientists who discovered it.

 

A remarkable documentary about a remarkable subject that speaks with authority by allowing the experts within the field to talk the audience through the implications of the discovery.

 

Human Nature not only extolls the positives of CRISPR, but it also looks at the potential negatives, making these a very even-handed look at the discovery.

 

 

53. Diego Maradona (2019)

 

Diego Maradona (2019)

 

The portrait of a legendary footballer gathered from over 500 hours of never before seen archival footage, this documentary is centered around the career and life of Diego Maradona.

 

Centered specifically around the time of his transfer from FC Barcelona to S.S.C.

 

Napoli in 1984, leading the Italian team to new heights of success. The name Diego Maradona is known to football fans and non-fans alike, such was the reach of his stardom.

 

However, as highly regarded as his career was on the field, his personal life was filled with just as many struggles, scandals, and melancholy moments.

 

Many of those are depicted here in detail.

 

 

52. Last Breath (2019)

 

Last Breath (2019)

 

Chris Lemons, a deep-sea diver, becomes stranded 100 meters below the sea after an accident in which the supporting ship is displaced due to rough waters and Chris’ umbilical tether snaps, leaving him devoid of life-saving support systems.

 

Trapped in the dark and cold water with only 5 minutes of oxygen left in the backup tank, Chris must hold out all alone until help arrives.

 

This is another one for the ‘reality that sounds like fiction’. Told through a mix of crew interviews, genuine footage, and audio from radios and bodycams, as well as some recreated footage, Last Breath does a phenomenal job of communicating the life or death stakes of the situation.

 

 

51. Fire in the Blood (2013)

 

Fire in the Blood (2013)

 

In the wake of the AIDS epidemic, western pharmaceutical companies developed cheap life-saving drugs. However, in 1996 and subsequent years these companies, aided by many Western nations, blocked access to these drugs for many lesser developed nations.

 

This lead to millions of avoidable deaths in what essentially amounted to a genocide fuelled by systematic racism.

 

In the face of adversity, a group of unlikely allies come together and fight to stop ‘the crime of the century'.

 

Fire in the Blood is a terribly eye-opening documentary that covers an often-overlooked part of history that reveals the extent of cruelty many Western governments and corporations are guilty of, while also paying homage to the brave individuals who battled to save millions of lives.

 

 

50. Crip Camp (2020)

 

Crip Camp (2020)

 

This documentary tells the tale of Camp Jened in the 1970s. A camp for people with disabilities, Jened allowed campers to experience a life free from the discrimination and isolation they experienced in the outside world.

 

Here campers got a glimpse of how joyous an ordinary life could be with a supportive community.

 

People left having made life-long friends. That sense of community grew over time, eventually blossoming into a movement that changed the way the United States treated disabilities.

 

Crip Camp is an exceptional tale of community, love, and will. An uplifting and sometimes heart-breaking story of people who turned into unlikely activists who fought for the right to be equal and in the process changed the course of history.

 

 

49. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

 

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond - Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton (2017)

 

Man on the Moon was a 1999 biographical film on the life of legendary comedian Andy Kaufman.

 

Kaufman pushed the boundaries on what was considered appropriate at the time for comedy. However, Man on the Moon gained more notoriety for Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Kaufman than for its quality as a biography.

 

Carrey gave himself over to the role so completely that he completely transformed into Andy and very little of himself remained during filming.

 

Nearly two decades on, this documentary takes you behind the scenes on Man on the Moon, revealing how exactly the film was made.

 

One legend of comedy embodied another, and magic happened on-screen. This film is about the struggles of production behind the curtain and the cast and crew’s reminiscence of what happened during filming.

 

 

48. Born in Syria (2016)

 

Born in Syria (2016)

 

In 2011, conflict erupted in Syria. In subsequent years, hundreds of thousands of civilians lost their lives, and millions were displaced, forced to flee from their homes that have been turned into warzones.

 

When these people arrive on borders as refugees, they are placed in camps while nations debate whether these people have a right to shelter.

 

Nearly half of these refugees are children who have witnessed unimaginable horrors and narrowly escaped worse.

 

Meanwhile, the Western governments that play a role in the continued devastation of Syria are reluctant to give asylum to people they are partly responsible for displacing.

 

Born in Syria is a powerful and heartbreaking look at the tragedies faced by many innocents at the hands of a needless war.

 

 

47. Sunganges (2019)

 

Sunganges (2019)

 

The once beautiful rivers of India are slowly dying out, either through drying up or at the hands of severe industrial and urban waste.

 

Three filmmakers decide to set out on an intense journey to discover the reasons behind this phenomenon as well as other adverse effects of creating energy through traditional means on the environment.

 

They also discover the quiet rise of renewable energy which could prove to be the key to restoring the landscape.

 

Suryaganga is an informative and eye-opening look at the debate of the need to save depleting non-renewable resources vs the need for energy.

 

Through great narration and beautiful cinematography, this documentary provides a well-balanced answer.

 

 

46. Amy (2015)

 

Amy (2015)

 

Amy Winehouse at one time one of the most promising young and rising stars of the music industry.

 

However, people seem to forget that stardom at a young age often comes at a cost.

 

Amy was no different, as her early promise soon took a downward spiral into alcoholism and drug abuse, ultimately claiming her life.

 

Amy tells the deeply saddening and cautionary tale of the perils of fame. This documentary, constructed from archive footage as well as interviews with people who knew Amy personally, examines the path that lead to the untimely demise of a young singer and the factors contributing to it which went beyond her destructive lifestyle as a star.

 

 

45. Bending the Arc (2017)

 

Bending the Arc (2017)

 

Today, the right to healthcare for all seems like a no-brainer. Such was not the case 30 years ago.

 

Three decades ago, a team of doctors and activists worked in a rural Haitian village to save lives.

 

Their selfless efforts to provide medical attention to as many as possible soon snowballed into a movement that culminated in battles inside parliaments across the world for the right and support to bring medical attention to the poorest who need it the most.

 

Here is another critique of how healthcare, something that should be a basic human right for everyone, has been corrupted by corporate greed.

 

More importantly, though, this is a documentary about the courageous people who fought to get healthcare recognized as a human right, culminating in a landmark victory.

 

 

44. Picture a Scientist (2020)

 

Picture a Scientist (2020)

 

The word ‘scientist’ conjures notions of enlightened people. There is an image that would have you believe that these people are less prone to fallibility than the rest.

 

However, the stories of deep-seated gender inequality and incidents of sexual harassment on female scientists by their male counterparts tell us otherwise.

 

In a male-dominated, patriarchal world, the field of science, for all its pretensions towards higher thinking, is sadly no different from any other.

 

In a society where incidents of female scientists being harassed one way or another do not get the media and news coverage that they should, Picture a Scientist is an incredibly important documentary to watch.

 

 

43. The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)

 

The Show Must Go On: The Queen + Adam Lambert Story (2019)

 

Freddie Mercury is an instantly recognizable name. Anyone who hears it will be able to tell you about the charismatic lead singer of the band Queen who sang some of the most iconic songs in history.

 

Adam Lambert is a name that fewer people will recognize. The Show Must Go On is the story of how Adam Lambert took over the role of the lead singer of Queen, trying to fill the incredibly large shoes left behind by Freddie.

 

It was never going to be easy to replace Freddie. Most would argue that it was completely unnecessary, that there is no Queen without Freddie.

 

Lambert tried his best anyway, and for his efforts was initially hated by Queen fans.

 

Lambert has proven his worth as a singer since. This documentary tells the story.

 

 

42. Underdogs (2018)

 

Underdogs (2018)

 

The director Téo Frank started his journey as a filmmaker at the age of 18.

 

He traveled to Alaska to pursue his dream where he bumped into photographer Mason Strehl.

 

This encounter led him to New York where he met Awon, Phoniks, Tiff the Gift, and Dephlow, four underground Hip Hop artists.

 

Working with these underdogs was an adventure of a lifetime for the director, one that gave birth to this documentary.

 

Underdogs tell the honest and uplifting story of artists who love their craft. This documentary gives viewers an insight into a music scene not often explored.

 

It also captures the music of these artists as well as a glimpse of their personal lives.

 

 

41. Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet (2021)

 

Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet (2021)

 

Sir David Attenborough and scientist Johan Rockström team up to provide a powerful dual narration to this nature documentary about the slow collapse of Earth’s biodiversity and how it is not too late to avert the crisis.

 

Sir David Attenborough is a household name, having been the voice behind countless nature and science documentaries.

 

He has been prolific in his attempts to draw attention to the collapsing biological structure of our world have been.

 

Johan Rockström is a man of similar inclination and together, these two examine the responsibility human beings have in our natural downfall and the responsibility we must shoulder if we are to avoid catastrophe.

 

 

40. Free to Play (2014)

 

Free to Play (2014)

 

An incredible documentary produced by Valve that follows three gamers who battle personal adversity, societal pressure, and various other obstacles to compete in a million-dollar Dota 2 tournament.

 

Winning here could change their lives and forever validate the time, skill and effort expanded in perfecting their craft.

 

Despite the overwhelming popularity of the subject, videogame documentaries are rare. Genuinely good gaming documentaries are even rarer.

 

Bolstered by the production value Valve put behind it, Free to Play is one of the highest quality gaming documentaries that tells a riveting story of three unique people from different walks of life, united by their passion for Dota.

 

 

39. Lift Like a Girl (2020)

 

Lift Like a Girl (2020)

 

This is a documentary about an unsung hero in Captain Ramadan from Alexandria, Egypt. He has made it his life’s mission to help female weightlifters find their way out of their often-miserable living conditions by giving them the tools to be successful in weightlifting.

 

Lift Like a Girl follows the story of 14-year-old Zebiba as she charts her journey from the vacant-lot training site in Alexandria to the Olympic Games.

 

This documentary tells one of the most genuinely heartfelt real-life stories about passion, dedication, and kindness.

 

Lift Like a Girl presents an incredible example of what love for one’s craft can achieve, even with no resources and little support.

 

This film is more about the people than the sport itself, and it is all the better for that reason.

 

 

38. The Last Days (1998)

 

The Last Days (1998)

 

This documentary follows five Hungarian Jews who survived imprisonment in Auschwitz. Through their stories, the documentary recounts one of the most harrowing periods in history, the events of late 1944 in what was termed the ‘cleansing’ of Hungary where over four hundred thousand Jews were either killed or deported.

 

The five tell their individual tales of horrors witnessed, and of hope kept alive in the darkest of times.

 

The Holocaust is a difficult topic to cover in any medium. There are not many documentaries that handle the subject with as much sensitivity and poise as The Last Days.

 

Rather than focusing on the large numbers, something that often washes over audiences, this documentary’s focus on just five individuals affords it a personal lens that puts the events of 1944 into an intimate perspective.

 

 

37. Whispers (1980)

 

Whispers (1980)

 

This is a documentary about Lebanon in 1980. Through their shared love and passion for the history, culture, and essence of the nation, director Maroun Baghdadi and poet Nabil Ismaïl slowly paint a beautiful and romantic portrait of the present and history of a place filled with both.

 

A slow-moving, but an ultimately enthralling documentary about a country that often gets overlooked, especially these days.

 

The cinematography and direction are stylized to make you feel the emptiness of the vast city landscapes.

 

The color-grading elicits a sense of loneliness and community at the same time. A documentary that presents a unique perspective on Middle Eastern culture, Whispers will make you fall in love with Lebanon’s atmosphere and the poetic personality of its people.

 

 

36. Unchained (2016)

 

Unchained (2016)

 

A winner of the Emmy Award for Best Sports Documentary Film, Unchained is a documentary by lovers of extreme sports about arguably the most extreme sport in the world: Freestyle Motocross.

 

The documentary follows a group of motocross racers who grew tired of the traditional racing culture and decided to create a more extreme sport that would reignite their excitement.

 

Unchained is a positive but honest examination of the history of a very dangerous sport.

 

There will be moments that will make you cringe out of worry for the racers.

 

However, the danger is just another part of what makes the sport exciting to watch and participate in, as explained by some of the most prominent figures in extreme sports.

 

With narration from Josh Brolin, Unchained is a cinematic thrill ride that will match the thrills of the subject sport.

 

 

35. Mission Blue (2014)

 

Mission Blue (2014)

 

Dr. Sylvia Earle is a renowned American marine biologist, oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. One of her lifelong ambitions has been the creation of a global network of marine protected areas akin to national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.

 

With the help of more than a hundred scientists, philanthropists, and activists, Dr. Earle sets out on an expedition to turn her dream into a reality while man-made disasters continue to endanger marine wildlife.

 

Mission Blue follows Dr. Sylvia Earle on her tireless campaign of increasing the number of protected areas in the oceans from 3% to 20%.

 

This documentary provides Dr. Earle’s eye-opening perspective on just how important the oceans are in the continued survival of mankind.

 

 

34. The Ivory Game (2016)

 

The Ivory Game (2016)

 

This is a documentary about the incredibly brave and committed organizations and individuals who fight against the brutal and illegal ivory trade.

 

From going on undercover meetings with foreign dealers to dangerous confrontations with poachers, The Ivory Game covers all aspects of the lives of the people fighting against this business, despite the odds being stacked against them.

 

The Ivory Game covers a very important topic about our nature and endangered wildlife and does it in a way that never feels boring or overbearing.

 

If anything, there are moments when this feels less like a documentary and more like a thriller, with great camerawork and stunning cinematography.

 

However, the focus of the narrative is always placed firmly on the serious subject matter and the courageous individuals fighting the good fight.

 

 

33. A Secret Love (2020)

 

A Secret Love (2020)

 

Pat Henschel and pro baseball player Terry Donahue fell in love in 1947, back in a time when their love would have earned them the scorn of the people and society around them.

 

Their love for each other only grew stronger as they faced prejudices and overcame hardships together.

 

A Secret Love tells the story of their 65 years together. Same-sex couples face prejudices and hardships in society to this day.

 

How difficult it would have been in the 1940s is unimaginable to most people. A Secret Love puts that into perspective.

 

While cinema is filled with romance films, there are not many love stories as heart-warming as this one.

 

Their life together was not happiness and rainbows, but Pat and Terry’s love for each other was real and beautiful, and their story will make you cry.

 

 

32. Salam - The First ****** Nobel Laureate (2018)

 

Salam - The First ****** Nobel Laureate (2018)

 

A documentary about the extraordinary life and achievements of Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. In 1979, Salam became the first Pakistani to be awarded the Nobel Prize, and while his accolades are still celebrated in the world of physics, he has been mostly forgotten by his own country.

 

Salam has been vilified and hated by the right-wing because he belonged to the Ahmadiyya community, a minority group within Pakistan.

 

This film attempts to give a true reflection of the man, one unencumbered by prejudices. The mistreatment of Salam’s image and legacy serves as a reflection of similar biases across the world.

 

Many great people are hindered in achieving what they could have because of the hatred of the ignorant ideological extremists within their communities.

 

Despite any obstacles though, greatness will always find recognition in this world.

 

 

31. Icarus (2017)

 

Icarus (2017)

 

Director Bryan Fogel sets out to find the truth behind doping and performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

 

However, the rabbit hole goes far deeper than he had expected, as he finds out after a chance encounter with a Russian scientist.

 

With the added help and perspective, Fogel realizes that what he had once imagined being a small issue is in fact one of the biggest scandals in sports history.

 

A documentary that begins with a humble question, but soon expands far beyond its initial conceit, Icarus is one of the most thrilling and shocking documentaries of the last decade.

 

 

30. The Game Changers (2018)

 

The Game Changers (2018)

 

UFC athlete James Wilks travels the world on a quest to uncover the truth about protein and how important meat is to maintaining performance as a fighter.

 

He discovers that a lot of what we have been told about food and protein since our childhood has been incorrect, that meat in fact be more harmful than good overall, not just for the performance of the athletes but for the entire world.

 

Featuring many interviews from athletes and prominent figures from across different sports, The Game Changers is a balanced examination of all the myths about the importance of meat and protein in one’s diet.

 

The filmmakers uncover and present a lot of alternatives through this documentary that is not only healthier for people, but for the planet as well.

 

 

29. Armed to the Teeth (2018)

 

Armed to the Teeth (2018)

 

Mexico is plagued with a corrupt and brutal government and deadly drug cartels. Where the two align, there is only destruction, as was the case in an incident back in 2010.

 

The Mexican government released information on the death of two hitmen in Monterrey. The two men were allegedly heavily armed and extremely dangerous.

 

It was not long before it was discovered that this information was entirely false and the two had in fact honored students who were captured and tortured by the military.

 

This film presents the facts of the investigation on the deaths of the two students and how it was the result of an avoidable error.

 

Through their story, Armed to the Teeth explores the damage a corrupt, incompetent, and uncaring regime does to its people on nearly a daily basis.

 

 

28. A Plastic Ocean (2016)

 

A Plastic Ocean (2016)

 

Journalist Craig Leeson sets out in search of the elusive blue whale. What he finds instead is the vast amounts of plastic in parts of the ocean that are meant to be pristine.

 

Teaming up with free diver Tanya Streeter and a team of scientists and researchers, Leeson travels to twenty different locations over four years to examine the fragile condition and oversaturation of the oceans with plastic.

 

With special contributions from the likes of Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Sylvia Earle, this documentary is a deep dive into the underwater world and what needs to be done to sustain it.

 

Unlike many other documentaries about Earth’s deteriorating condition, A Plastic Ocean is not all doom and gloom, but instead presents viewers with actionable ideas that can be implemented right now to help.

 

 

27. The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

 

The Battered Bastards of Baseball (2014)

 

Bing Russel had been a big name in Hollywood for many years, until 1973 when he decided to crossover into the world of sports by setting up an independent baseball team.

 

The team which was named the Portland Mavericks played in a city that was most considered to be a dead zone for professional baseball.

 

The Mavericks proved their critics wrong and became an unprecedented success story. They signed Kurt Russel as a player and team Vice-President, re-launched the career of controversial Jim Bouton, and became the first baseball team to hire a female general manager, all the while regularly breaking attendance records.

 

The story of the Mavericks is just as much an inspiring story of misfits and outlaws who banded together to create something no one believed they could as it is about baseball.

 

 

26. Hating Peter Tatchell (2021)

 

Hating Peter Tatchell (2021)

 

The titular Peter Tatchell has made his name over the years through his campaigns for gay and LGBTQ rights that were considered controversial at the time.

 

His aim has always been to disrupt the establishment and expose the tyrannical attitudes towards homosexuality within it.

 

As the public attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have changed, Tatchell’s status has changed from a renegade to a beloved revolutionary figure.

 

This documentary follows Tatchell on his latest campaign to disrupt the FIFA world cup in Moscow to draw attention to the persecution of the LGBTQ community at the hands of the Russian and Chechen governments.

 

Hating Peter Tatchell is a celebration of the work of the titular man, containing interviews from prominent figures as they recount his exploits, while also drawing attention to his ongoing work for equality across the globe.

 

 

25. Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018)

 

Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski (2018)

 

This is a documentary about the life and art of famed Polish American artist Stanislav Szukalski.

 

The film Szukalski from his early years in Chicago, to his time in Poland and Los Angeles.

 

A lot of the footage used is available thanks to Glenn Bray, who had a chance to meet with Szukalski in Burbank and realized that he was in the presence of a revolutionary figure in the world of art.

 

The two became friends and Bray decided to film Szukalski to document his life and career.

 

It will not be an exaggeration to say that Stanislav Szukalski revolutionized art through his avant-garde work in creating extensive mythos around his paintings with the help of extensive manuscripts.

 

His influence can be seen through the works of contemporary artists like Simon Stålenhag.

 

 

24. Chasing Coral (2017)

 

Chasing Coral (2017)

 

The coral reefs, which are the lifeblood of the oceans and contribute significantly to maintaining the environment, have been disappearing from the planet at an alarming rate.

 

This documentary follows a team of divers, photographers, and scientists as they set out on an adventure to discover the reason behind this phenomenon and how it might be reversed in order to preserve the oceans.

 

Another in a list of great ocean documentaries, Chasing Coral proves just how important even some of the seemingly small parts of the ocean are to preserving Earth.

 

Chasing Coral is an eye-opening and inspiring call to action to protect the coral reefs and in turn, protected humanity from climate change and global warming.

 

 

23. Rising Phoenix (2020)

 

Rising Phoenix (2020)

 

From humble beginnings, the Paralympic Games have grown to become the third-largest sporting event in the world.

 

This documentary recounts the history of the event and charts its history from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to one of the most significant sporting events today.

 

Rising Phoenix is an inspiring, uplifting, and emotional documentary about some of the most talented athletes in the world today.

 

Despite the large funding gap between the Olympics and Paralympics, the latter is still widely recognized by people as a showcase of strength, agility, and willpower to overcome adversity like no other.

 

 

22. My Octopus Teacher (2020)

 

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

 

One day, filmmaker Craig Foster has an unlikely encounter with a wild octopus in the ocean at the tip of the African continent after swimming in the freezing waters every day for years.

 

The young octopus displays remarkable curiosity and helps Foster learn more about oceanic flora and fauna, a task that Foster had been attempting for a long time.

 

After a few months, Foster manages to win complete trust with the octopus, forming an unprecedented bond between humans and wild sea animals.

 

A vastly informational and surprisingly heartfelt and emotional journey of one man’s mission to learn about the oceans.

 

The bond between Foster and the octopus is a reminder of just how intelligent octopuses are and how important it is to preserve the lives and habitats of these creatures.

 

 

21. Seaspiracy (2021)

 

Seaspiracy (2021)

 

A documentary by Ali and Lucy Tabrizi. The idea for the film began with Ali’s love for the oceans and he decided to make a documentary about the beauty of oceanic wildlife.

 

However, he soon discovered many issues that are threatening the continued existence of said wildlife every day.

 

Ali and Lucy decided to begin this documentary by investigating the large industry of illegal whaling and dolphin hunting.

 

From there, the documentary grew to encompass the investigation of several other illegal and dangerous fishing operations that are putting both aquatic and human lives at risk.

 

Seaspiracy is told through a rare first-person perspective and often plays out as a thriller due to the dangerous nature of the subject matter.

 

With contributions from individuals deeply entrenched in combating the various problems, Seaspiracy exposes the mind-boggling scope of the conspiracy against the preservation of marine wildlife all over the world.

 

 

20. The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo (2020)

 

The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo (2020)

 

This film documents the events surrounding the 2008 murder of 16-year-old Rubí Frayre. Rubí’s murderer was arrested, confessed to the crime, but ultimately acquitted on the grounds of lack of evidence.

 

The decision exposed yet again the corruption of the Mexican government and justice system. However, Rubí’s mother did not give up and instead set out on a crusade to see her daughter’s murderer brought to justice.

 

The case of Rubí Frayre’s murder shocked the world, not because of the brutality of the crime, but because of the justice system’s failure to indict the murderer in a blatantly obvious example of deep corruption.

 

The Three Deaths of Marisela Escobedo is a haunting and depressing documentary, but also a very important one to watch.

 

 

19. Virunga (2014)

 

Virunga (2014)

 

Virunga National Park in the forests of eastern Congo is home to the last of the mountain gorillas.

 

Despite the beauty and biodiversity of Virunga, the National Park is a dangerous place as it is always under threat from militias, poachers, and corporations aiming to rob the land of its natural resources and hunt down the gorillas.

 

However, Virunga is not without its protectors who fight to keep the area safe from any forces that seek to harm it.

 

This documentary exposes the biggest threats to our natural habitats, and it's not the militias and poachers.

 

The biggest threat to places like Virunga is companies like SOCO International, large corporations who seek to exploit the natural resources of impoverished nations and trample over natural habitats and destroy the flora and fauna in their pursuit of money.

 

Virunga also showcases the bravery of individuals who put their lives on the line to keep these destructive forces at bay.

 

 

18. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

 

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)

 

Filmmaker Kip Andersen had been environmentally minded since he watched a nature documentary at a young age.

 

As he grew older, Andersen decided he needed to do something to help in protecting the environment and getting the truth about sustainability to a wider audience.

 

Cowspiracy is the culmination of that campaign, as Andersen exposes the truth about one of the most destructive forces in the world that even the largest environmental organizations are failing to address.

 

Cowspiracy is a poignant and in-depth look at the sustainability issue that the world is facing today.

 

Despite the serious problems it tackles, this documentary is also at times light-hearted and funny as it exposes the extent of corruption within the environmental sphere.

 

 

17. Apollo 11 (2019)

 

Apollo 11 (2019)

 

A recounting of the most significant space mission in history. Apollo 11 follows the events of the titular space mission, from the preparations for the launch to the safe return of the space capsule.

 

Apollo 11 is the very best documentary about the historic mission to the moon. The mission made household names out of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, whereas the third, just as important, astronaut, Michael Collins has faded from people’s memory.

 

This documentary pays homage to them all, as well as the people on the ground control team who were just as pivotal to the success of the mission.

 

Apollo 11 is told entirely through archived footage, audio, and still images from the mission, giving the documentary a unique and close perspective on the historic space mission.

 

 

16. Inside Job (2010)

 

Inside Job (2010)

 

This documentary recounts the events of the global financial crisis of 2008. The crisis caused 20 trillion dollars’ worth of losses and resulted in millions of people losing their jobs and becoming homeless.

 

The film examines the events leading up to the crisis and what transpired behind the scenes to cause the biggest financial meltdown since the Great Depression.

 

The 2008 financial crisis is the biggest and most significant economic crash in recent memory.

 

The fallout from the crash is being felt to this day. As such, Inside Job does the very important work of investigating the events that led to the crisis.

 

This documentary is simultaneously eye-opening and terrifying as it reveals just how fragile the world economy is.

 

 

15. cgc13th (2016)

 

cgc13th (2016)

 

Despite what assertions the United States government might make, racial inequality is an ongoing issue within the very systems of the country that are meant to prevent it.

 

The justice system and prison complex of the country is one of the most blatant examples of how entrenched systematic racism is in America.

 

Director Ava DuVernay uses the prisons of America to examine how racism has become a systemic reality.

 

With interviews from renowned activists and academics, this documentary is a horrifying and eye-opening look at racism within the United States.

 

Understanding the historic racial inequality within American society is more important than ever in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

 

There are few documentaries as enlightening on the topic than the 13th.

 

 

14. Kiss the Ground (2020)

 

Kiss the Ground (2020)

 

Regenerative Agriculture is a newly invented form of agriculture that is not only more sustainable than traditional methods of farming but is so much better that it in fact makes the soil healthier.

 

This documentary follows a group of activists, scientists, farmers, and politicians who came together to create a global movement promoting Regenerative Agriculture in an effort to combat climate change, world hunger and replenish the rapidly depleting water sources.

 

Kiss the Ground is an inspiring and informative examination of the damage traditional means of agriculture causes to the soil, and it does so without being heavy-handed in its criticisms.

 

This documentary is ultimately an appeal to humankind to stop over-extending the natural resources and to let the Earth do what it does best.

 

 

13. Disclosure (2020)

 

Disclosure (2020)

 

The representation of transgender people in Hollywood has been questionable at best and has often slipped into parody until quite recently.

 

The use of transgender characters in films has often either been for comedy or giving trans traits to the villain, especially in horror, to make them seem more sinister.

 

However, what often gets overlooked is how this kind of negative representation in media affects the lives of trans people.

 

Disclosure documents this social phenomenon. Disclosure is an informative and intimate look at how damaging negative media representation can be to an entire section of society.

 

With interviews from prominent trans activists, actors, and filmmakers, this documentary explores how the negative representation has impacted both trans lives and the American culture over the years.

 

 

12. Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018)

 

Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (2018)

 

Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby performs her Netflix comedy special, Nanette. However, the comedy special turns out to be more than just another stand-up routine, as Hannah takes the audience on a journey of ups and downs, of failures and triumphs, of personal struggle, all wrapped up as an almost non-stop hilarious rollercoaster ride.

 

There are many great comedy specials on Netflix, but none of them met the criteria for this list.

 

However, Nanette is more than a comedy special. It is a unique blend of stand-up, art lectures, motivational TED talks, and biographical stories.

 

Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette is a comedy special like no other and a must-watch for everyone.

 

 

11. Dancing with the Birds (2019)

 

Dancing with the Birds (2019)

 

The various avian societies are some of the most fascinating and wonderful on the planet.

 

Narrated by Stephen Fry, this documentary follows some of these majestic creatures as an attempt to impress mating partners with their elaborate dances and melodic songs.

 

Dancing with the Birds is not only a pleasingly informative insight into the mating rituals of various birds, it is also just as funny as it is enlightening.

 

The documentary is astonishingly well made, with an obviously high production value and great cinematography and direction.

 

Stephen Fry’s hilarious narration is the perfect cherry on top. A must-watch for nature enthusiasts.

 

 

10. Cuba and the Cameraman (2017)

 

Cuba and the Cameraman (2017)

 

Celebrated documentary filmmaker Jon Alpert (Baghdad ER, Rock, and a Hard Place) documents the journeys of three Cuban families over 45 years of their lives as they struggle to find the good life that was promised.

 

What started off as cautious optimism in the 1970s turned into a terrifying period in the ‘90s after the fall of the Soviet Union.

 

The film culminates with the biggest moment in Cuba’s recent history, the death of Fidel Castro in 2016.

 

The documentary examines the effect of each historical event on the lives of the common people of Cuba.

 

Rather than focusing on the sprawling events of the Cuban revolution and all its socio-political and economic implications, this documentary instead focuses on how such vast historical moments affect the people.

 

As is the case with most big historical events, the individuals who are most affected by the turmoil in Cuba are often overlooked in the media.

 

Alpert aims to change that with this heart-warming personal look at the lives of ordinary, everyday people.

 

 

9. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010)

 

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010)

 

Canadian rock band Rush started their career in 1968. The documentary follows them over a 40-year long journey, from the start of their careers leaning into the progressive rock sounds of the ‘70s, to their changing musical style until landing on their current heavy rock style.

 

The documentary follows more than just their onstage music career though. It also charts the behind-the-scenes journey of the band members.

 

A documentary about a divisive band that was as beloved by fans as it was maligned by critics.

 

Beyond the Lighted Stage follows the band’s ups and downs but most importantly, it lets viewers in on the relationships between the bandmates.

 

Their story is told through archive footage of performances as well as interviews by the band members themselves as they recount their long journey in the industry and why their music was disliked by critics but loved by the fans.

 

Telling the story of a band that was always ahead of its time, Beyond the Lighted Stage showcases just how good the three are as musicians, friends, and people.

 

This documentary will leave you feeling that Rush did in fact deserve every success that came their way.

 

 

8. Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour (2018)

 

Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour (2018)

 

This film documents Taylor Swift’s 2018 stadium tour following the release of her sixth album Reputation, which became the best-selling album of 2018 in the United States.

 

The film showcases the unparalleled creativity of Taylor Swift as we go from one brilliant performance to another, each backed by stunning choreography and unique visuals.

 

Watching Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour on Netflix will make you feel like you are right there with the live crowd, which is the highest praise there can be for any filmed music tour.

 

It is a marvel that Swift not only made the experience great for the live audience, she also, with the help of the director, found the best way to film the performances so that people watching it on a screen can also have the best experience possible.

 

Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour is two hours of unadulterated musical bliss that all fans of Swift and music need to experience for themselves.

 

 

7. Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (2015)

 

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom (2015)

 

In 2013, after the then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych was seen by the people to be reneging on his promise of closer ties with the European Union, students across Ukraine started protesting the tyranny of the government and demonstrating in support of European integration in what came to be known as the Euromaidan protests.

 

The protests started off peaceful, but things escalated when the government accepted new anti-protest laws which led to a violent crackdown on the protestors by the state and an equally violent response from the protestors.

 

The protests grew to demand the resignation of the government. Winter on Fire is an intimate portrait of the life of a revolution.

 

The aim of this documentary is to spread awareness amongst the world about what has happened and what is still happening in Ukraine.

 

With liberal use of real-time footage from protests, this documentary is an eye-opening and inspiring look at the courage of the Ukrainian people to stand firm in the face of tyranny and fight back.

 

 

6. Emicida: AmarElo - It's All for Yesterday (2020)

 

Emicida: AmarElo - It's All for Yesterday (2020)

 

Emicida is one of the most popular names in the Brazilian rap scene. Through the release of his third album AmarElo, the activist rapper seeks to celebrate his heritage and culture as a Black Brazilian and the rich legacy that comes with it.

 

This film documents his concert in the Theatro Municipal in São Paulo, bringing the viewers both the song performances as well as the behind-the-scenes in between sets.

 

It’s All for Yesterday is a loving celebration of a heritage that does not often get the spotlight in pop culture.

 

Emicida has made no secret of his desire to represent and highlight Black Brazilian culture through his music and AmarElo is an evolution of that.

 

Through incredible songs and great performances, Emicida talks about the rights of Black people in Brazil and their position in society.

 

For such a heavy topic, Emicida handles the balance of music and activism with remarkable delicacy and subtlety, never letting one overshadow the other.

 

 

5. I'm Glad I Did (2020)

 

I'm Glad I Did (2020)

 

Metin Akpinar is one of the most beloved actors and successful comedians in Turkish cinema.

 

With this documentary, the filmmaker aims to capture the essence of the man’s 60-year long career to the screen and make his presence and comedy known to the rest of the world.

 

I’m Glad I Did is a unique endeavor that captures not only the comedian’s career but also his personal life.

 

There is a lot here that is funny, but also a lot that is heart-breaking.

 

However, through the highs and lows of life, Metin Akpinar has always managed to keep a smile on his face and bring joy to thousands of others.

 

The life of the man is just as humorous as one would expect but it is also supremely inspirational.

 

I’m Glad I Did provides an insight into a culture of comedy that is not often represented in western media.

 

If you are a fan of comedy, Akpinar’s style of comedy will feel like a breath of fresh air.

 

 

4. Sky Tour: The Movie (2020)

 

Sky Tour: The Movie (2020)

 

Vietnamese singer-songwriter Sơn Tùng M-TP is one of the brightest rising stars in the Asian pop music industry.

 

His recent Sky Tour concerts were highly praised for his performance and creativity. This film documents the process of putting the performances together, from behind-the-scenes preparations to the on-stage delivery.

 

More than a filmed concert, Sky Tour: The Movie is a showcase of the Vietnamese pop idol’s passion for his craft.

 

Unlike many other concert documentaries, Sơn Tùng M-TP gives his crew, both on-stage and behind the scenes, the respect they are due for their hard work in putting the concerts together.

 

What is even more surprising is the fact that the film is directed by the singer himself.

 

The man shows talent not just for singing and music, but also for all other aspects of his craft, including filming the performances to perfection.

 

If you are a fan of the Asian pop scene, you are likely already aware of the talent of Sơn Tùng’s talent.

 

Whether or not you already know about the man, Sky Tour: The Movie is a must-watch for any music fan.

 

 

3. Untamed Romania (2018)

 

Untamed Romania (2018)

 

Romania is home to some of the most beautiful and naturally diverse biospheres on the planet.

 

From ancient forests to expansive wetlands, Romania’s habitats are home to some of the most wonderful creatures in Europe, if not the world.

 

This documentary focuses on the Carpathian Mountains and the Danube Delta regions of Romania and celebrates them for the wonderful wildlife they are home to.

 

Untamed Romania is one of the most beautifully shot nature documentaries on Netflix. The skill behind the cinematography of this documentary deserves heaps of praise and needs to be experienced first-hand.

 

With narrations from the iconic Victor Rebengiuc and Mark Strong, the filmmakers have spared no expense in bringing the beauty of Romania to the viewers in its purest form.

 

A must-watch for any nature lover, Untamed Romania will make you want to experience the beauty and wonder of the country by yourself.

 

 

2. Unbroken (2019)

 

Unbroken (2019)

 

Unbroken is a collection of three heart-breaking real-life events from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s.

 

Through stories titled 'Orphan and the Convict', 'The Farmer and the Nun', and 'The Terror and the Mom', Aamir Khan narrates the incidents that set these people on their path to anger, pain, and ultimately forgiveness.

 

This documentary recounts some of the most saddening tales of individual tragedy. Through a mix of interviews with people close to the situation and the use of archive footage from the news and personal recordings, Unbroken documents the stories of the affected from the beginning of their tragic journeys, all the way through their struggle to find justice and finally to the moment they found the courage to forgive those who had wronged them.

 

Unbroken’s direction works hard to put you in the shoes of these individuals through personal shots of the individuals going through their lives.

 

That alongside Aamir Khan’s narration ensures that the documentary provides an intimate portrait of the stories depicted.

 

 

1. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

 

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

 

Over his nearly 80-year career, Sir David Attenborough has seen more of the natural world than anyone else on the planet, probably in history.

 

Through his work as a broadcaster for BBC and later with Netflix, Attenborough has done more to introduce people to nature and the many environmental problems than anyone else.

 

Through A Life on Our Planet, Attenborough finally tells his own life story, from his greatest triumphs to his biggest let downs and the moments that defined his career and even his life.

 

He also recounts the changes he has witnessed in nature and the deteriorating environment since the start of his career till now.

 

A Life on Our Planet is a fascinating look at the decades-spanning and gargantuan body of work of one of the most respected and celebrated individuals in the world.

 

This documentary proves yet again that Sir David Attenborough is deserving of all the praise he gets and more.

 

A Life on Our Planet is a beautiful, expansive, and eye-opening examination of Attenborough’s career and life, while simultaneously serving as a wake-up call to people who might not be aware of the urgent need to preserve Earth and its natural order.