The ultimate equalizer is Netflix. When it comes to choosing from a plethora of film choices, the historically niche art of documentary may compete with Hollywood blockbusters, allowing formerly unheard stories to thrive on an equal footing. Netflix has been host to a few of the best documentaries on Netflix and docuseries in recent times, some of which were made in-house, some of which were selected for release at prominent film events and some of which were licensed from top independent production companies. Below is a constantly updated list of top documentaries on Netflix.
Murder Among the Mormons (2021)
Our next pick, Murder Among the Mormons, is one of the best crime documentaries on Netflix. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was rocked by a series of bombings in Salt Lake City in 1985. Mark Hofmann, the alleged bomber, was active in the acquisition and sale of documents pertaining to the faith’s early history, some of which contradicted or undermined what the elders instructed.
The directors Jared Hess and Tyler Measom tell the interesting tale of Hoffman and his crimes, which went beyond homicide and into the world of forgery and fraud, in the three-part “Murder Among the Mormons.” This is among the unique docuseries and one of the top crime documentaries on Netflix that explores the roots of religious belief as well as some criminal activities.
Pele, one of the best documentaries to watch on Netflix, is a fascinating look at one of the most famous soccer players in history, and released in February 2021. Most importantly, this is a documentary that doesn’t hold back. It confronts Pele with difficult questions, such as his silence during a military coup that turned Brazil into a dictatorship for years. Yeah, it’s about soccer, but this documentary recognizes that Pele’s story is the story of a whole country.
Athlete A (2020)
Athlete A is one of the best documentaries on Netflix about the US gymnastics team scandal that rocked the sports world when it broke in 2017. It’s not to be misunderstood with HBO’s At the Heart of Gold. It reflects on longtime team doctor Larry Nassar’s heinous crimes of sexually exploiting young athletes for years, including the efforts of the Indianapolis Star’s investigation team, which broke the story in the first place. As the curtain has been lifted in many realms where misogyny and violence have secretly ruled for years, Athlete A, one of the best documentaries 2020, reveals how widespread the abuse trends and power structures were in the world of gymnastics and how they went overlooked.
My Octopus Teacher (2020)
Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed’s gorgeous documentary My Octopus Teacher is a must-see for anyone looking for something calming, elevating, and utterly fascinating. Craig Foster, a filmmaker, goes snorkelling off the coast of South Africa and comes across an octopus. He makes a commitment to communicate with the octopus every day and learn everything he can about it. We see a majestic and startlingly intelligent animal working its way to survival in a deadly kelp forest thanks to their spectacular underwater photography. The film, one of the top documentaries on Netflix, never anthropomorphizes or cheapens the underwater world’s difficulty, while also never sacrificing perspective of its beauty.
American Murder: The Family Next Door (2020)
There are several top crime documentaries on Netflix, but American Murder: The Family Next Door stands out. It’s about Chris Watts, a relatively ordinary man who murdered his wife and children. The amount of footage available is incredible, and it’s edited and created in a unique way, with the story told through text messages and social media posts. It’s a harrowing reminder of domestic violence’s all-too-common occurrence. American Murder: The Family Next Door, one of the best crime documentaries on Netflix, exposes the lies that our social media accounts can contain, as well as the hostility that pervades far too many American partnerships.
The Last Dance (2020)
Our next pick is The Last Dance – one of the best docuseries on Netflix. The phrase “The Last Dance” was coined by Jackson to describe this length of time, which portrayed a troubled, struggling team battling through chaos in order to secure one more championship title before the winning lineup dissolved for good. The film is one of the most rewarding surprises to appear on television in a long time.
During the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty, a press crew was granted unprecedented entry to the squad, including Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Coach Phil Jackson, and others, during their final 1997-1998 championship season. The Last Dance, an informative, nostalgic 10-episode throwback to a time when the Bulls dominated the playground, is the culmination of that footage (plus newly filmed talking head interviews). Michael Jordan, of course, is at the core of the matter not only did he carry the squad, but his legend adds to the weight of the tale.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020)
The strange American entrepreneurs who run personal zoos — and the many laws some of them break in order to expose their dangerous critters to paying visitors — are the subject of “Tiger King,” which is as tempting as it is bizarre. The warped story of a vicious rivalry between a conservationist called Carole Baskin and a libertine known as “Joe Exotic” is at the heart of this hugely successful docuseries. Crime syndicates, sex cults, and unexplained murders are discovered as co-directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode delve deeper into a strange subculture.
Seaspiracy besides being one of the top documentaries on Netflix is the latest in a long line of documentaries on the environmental effects of meat consumption. The global fishing industry is in the crosshairs this time. As predicted, this one has sparked some debate among all stakeholders, with PETA, Greenpeace, and conservation organizations unable to agree on whether Seaspiracy is accurate or fair. Make your own decision after watching it.
Making a Murderer (2015 – 18)
When this complex true-crime story became a Netflix phenomenon at the end of 2015, its popularity paved the way for a new breed of docuseries that focuses on serious investigative reporting rather than sensationalism. Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos’ film follows the story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was released from prison after 18 years thanks to DNA testimony, only to be convicted of another murder later. “Making a Murderer” is an engrossing courtroom drama as well as an exploration of how the criminal justice system often refuses to admit its own mistakes.
The Keepers (2017)
I’ve seen a lot of best crime documentaries on Netflix, but none of them have compared to The Keepers. A powerful tale told through generations that is respectful of the victims while still being convincing. The Keepers is based on the unresolved murder of Catherine Cesnik, a nun who taught at a Catholic school in Baltimore, but it goes deeper than you would think, exposing a possible cover-up of sex abuse claims.