Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

If you’re looking for an engaging and educational experience that doesn’t feel like traditional schooling, documentaries are the way to go. They offer a wide range of subjects and emotions, dispelling the notion that they are solely severe and dull. You can dive into a sports documentary that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, discover an inspiring or infuriating historical account, or explore the tender and spine-chilling world of nature films.

With so many options available for streaming, it can be overwhelming to choose. That’s why we’ve curated a list of documentaries that cater to any mood or area of interest you may have. 

So grab some snacks, get cosy, and prepare for an enriching experience. The best part? There won’t be a quiz at the end. It’s your chance to enjoy the thrill of a movie day while learning something new and fascinating.

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Sly (2023)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Sly is a captivating documentary that is about the career of film legend Sylvester Stallone, which spans over 50 years. Directed by Thom Zimmy, known for his work on The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, the film takes us from Stallone’s humble beginnings in New York to his rise as an iconic Hollywood action star. 

The documentary boasts an impressive lineup of celebrity appearances, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Quentin Tarantino, Henry Winkler, Talia Shire, and more. It offers a glimpse into Stallone’s life through interviews with his family and captivating archival footage. Whether you’re a fan of Stallone’s classic films like Rocky and Rambo or his recent projects like Creed and The Suicide Squad, Sly is a must-watch for any movie enthusiast. 

13th (2016)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution officially abolished slavery and forced labour, but this powerful documentary contends that these oppressive practices have merely transformed into different manifestations over time. Directed by the acclaimed filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the Emmy-winning film explores the ongoing systemic oppression faced by Black Americans since 1865. 

It sheds light on issues such as segregation, the disproportionate targeting of minorities in the war on drugs, and the profit-driven prison-industrial complex. Through a carefully crafted narrative, DuVernay reveals how each instance of disenfranchisement paves the way for the next, making 13th a compelling call to action. It confronts complex forms of corruption, urging viewers to recognise and challenge the interconnected systems that perpetuate inequality.

The Deepest Breath 2023

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Laura McGann’s gripping documentary, set to release in 2023, tells the story of two individuals who found love, glory, and tragedy, all underwater. Alessia Zecchini and Stephen Keenan met through free diving, a dangerous sport in which divers hold their breath instead of breathing through an apparatus like scuba divers. 

Zecchini is a champion free diver, and the documentary follows her journey as she attempts to set a new world record with Keenan’s help, who is a safety diver. The dive takes place in Dahab, Egypt, and the location is notoriously dangerous. The film offers a profoundly human story and thrilling extreme-sport element, as well as extraordinary footage of the depths of the ocean.


Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Disclosure is about the historical portrayal of transgender individuals on screen, revealing a troubling pattern. Going further back than expected, the film explores how transgender characters have often been depicted as objects of ridicule, fear or subjected to violence, highlighting the real-world impact of such representation.

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Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Chris Smith, the director of the acclaimed 1999 documentary American Movie, has made a new documentary about the final days of Robert Downey Sr., a legendary director of independent films. Downey Sr. was famous for his offbeat comedies in the 1960s and 1970s, such as Putney Swope and Greaser’s Palace, and was a character in himself. 

Smith’s documentary explores Downey Sr.’s relationship with his son, Robert Downey Jr., as they navigate the challenges of Parkinson’s disease. The film is both moving and funny, with Downey Sr. sharing his story in his signature humorous style. Unfortunately, Downey Sr. passed away in 2021 before the documentary could be released.

My Octopus Teacher

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed, the film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2021. It follows the story of a man named Craig Foster who forms an unlikely bond with a wild octopus while free diving in the waters of the South African coast. Through his regular visits to the octopus’s den, Foster develops a deep connection with the creature, observing its behaviour and gaining insights into the natural world. 

The film explores themes of friendship, interconnectedness, and the wonders of marine life. 

Pamela, A Love Story (2022)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The top-rated limited series Pam & Tommy, which dramatised Pamela Anderson’s story, received both critical acclaim and criticism. In response, Pamela Anderson herself released a documentary called Pamela: A Love Story, presenting her perspective on her life and journey to fame. This captivating Netflix documentary provides audiences with never-before-seen footage, personal journals, and candid revelations that shed new light on Anderson’s experiences. 

Pamela, A Love Story has garnered widespread praise, boasting a remarkable 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Additionally, the documentary earned two Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, recognising its excellence in the categories of Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special.

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Icarus (2017)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

“Icarus”, a Netflix documentary, showcases the unexpected and intriguing ways in which documentaries can take new directions. The film initially aims to reveal the truth about sports doping. However, a chance meeting with a Russian scientist leads to the discovery of a more significant international conspiracy beyond the filmmakers’ expectations. 

The story follows Grigory Rodchenkov, the director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, who testifies that the 2014 Winter Olympics replaced steroid-tainted urine samples with clear ones with the help of the Federal Security Service. The real-life intrigue that unfolds is as gripping as any spy movie based on actual events. “Icarus” won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2018 and received nominations for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Writing at the Emmy Awards.

Saint of Second Chances (2023)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The Saint of Second Chances, directed by Jeff Malmberg and Academy Award-winner Morgan Neville, is a captivating sports documentary that delves into the renowned Veeck family, known for their significant contributions to professional baseball. While patriarch Bill Veeck gained fame as an owner of several teams, the film focuses on his son, Mike Veeck, whose actions led to his father’s downfall and his exile from the sport. 

With a compelling narrative reminiscent of fictional sports movies, this documentary explores the complex father-son relationship and delves into the role of media in family conflicts. The Saint of Second Chances has garnered widespread critical acclaim for its honest portrayal and is relevant for viewers who want to understand the dynamics of their relationships.

Take Care of Maya (2023)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Take Care of Maya, directed by Henry Roosevelt, is a documentary that recounts the tragic true story of Maya Kowalski. Maya, who suffers from a rare illness, is prescribed Ketamine for pain relief. While initially effective, her symptoms resurface, leading her doctors at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital to suspect parental abuse and place Maya in state custody. 

This event triggers a profound investigation into the flaws of the American child welfare system, revealing a more significant crisis within the medical and bureaucratic realms. Through the perspective of the Kowalski family, the film exposes the nightmarish ordeal they endure, culminating in the devastating loss of one of Maya’s parents. Take Care of Maya presents a heart-wrenching real-life tale that sheds light on the urgent need for awareness and change.

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Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me (2023)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Anna Nicole Smith: You Don’t Know Me, directed by Ursula Macfarlane, delves into the tragic life of the iconic model. The documentary challenges the media’s shallow understanding of Smith by presenting unseen footage and a detailed account of her rise to fame and subsequent downfall. It explores her humble upbringing, controversial marriage, and the damaging effects of celebrity culture that ultimately contributed to her untimely death. 

While the film received mixed reviews, it serves as a critique of tabloid sensationalism and voyeurism, shedding light on the mistreatment of women by the media. Despite its flaws, it offers a fresh perspective on a misunderstood figure.

American Factory (2019)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

American Factory, the debut film from Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, offers an unbiased exploration of a Chinese-owned windshield factory in Dayton, Ohio. The documentary, which won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, examines the challenges faced by American workers who endure increased work demands for reduced wages. At the same time, their Chinese employers grapple with cultural differences in adapting to life in the United States.

American Symphony

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

American Symphony, directed by Matthew Heineman, offers a unique perspective on Grammy-winning musician Jon Batiste. Far from a typical music documentary, the film chronicles a year in the lives of Batiste and his wife, Suleika Jaouad. While Batiste experiences success at the Grammy Awards and works on a symphony for Carnegie Hall, Jaouad battles the return of leukaemia. The film beautifully captures the couple’s journey, showcasing their shared joys and struggles and painting a heartfelt portrait of their life together.

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Stamped from the Beginning

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Stamped from the Beginning, a poignant documentary directed by Roger Ross Williams draws inspiration from Ibram X. Kendi’s influential nonfiction book. The film delves into the deep-rooted history of anti-Blackness in America, spanning from its origins to the present day. 

Through captivating animated sequences and insightful interviews with experts such as Kendi and Angela Davis, Williams skillfully presents this complex narrative. The documentary serves as a compelling testament to the profound impact of racism on the shaping of the United States, capturing the urgency of understanding and addressing this enduring issue.


Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

In this enraging documentary, director Nancy Schwartzman explores the ongoing issues surrounding the #MeToo movement. Through the eyes of journalist Rae de Leon, the film unveils disturbing truths about the American justice system. De Leon’s solo investigation reveals a troubling pattern: instead of receiving support, young women who report sexual assault find themselves charged with filing false police reports. 

Through interviews with victims, law enforcement, and legal experts, the documentary sheds light on the systemic failures that leave sexual assault survivors without the justice they deserve.

The Devil on Trial

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Have you ever come across the demonic possession defence? It made headlines during the 1981 murder trial of Arne Cheyenne Johnson, who claimed that the devil forced him to kill his landlord. In the thought-provoking documentary directed by Christopher Holt, the case’s timeline unfolds, captivating viewers with authentic photographs, audio recordings, and interviews with key figures, including Johnson himself. 

Holt skillfully pieces together the intriguing history of this infamous trial that has also inspired fictional retellings, proving that the devil truly lies in the details.

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The Redeem Team (2022)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

It sounds like a story too good to be true: Following a disappointing performance at the 2004 Olympics, the US Olympic men’s basketball team faced immense pressure to prove themselves at the 2008 Games in Beijing. Led by team captain Kobe Bryant and head coach Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, the “Redeem Team” silenced their critics. Directed by Jon Weinbach, this captivating documentary features interviews with Coach K, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and others, along with extensive archival footage, including the legendary Kobe Bryant.

Descendant (2022)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Margaret Brown’s documentary is a poignant account of American history that had remained obscured for a long time. In 1860, after 52 years of the prohibition of the Atlantic slave trade, the last known illegal shipment of enslaved Africans arrived on US soil via a ship named Clotilda, which was later destroyed. 

The wreckage was discovered in 2019, after which Brown and her team investigated its legacy. They focused on the descendants of the enslaved Africans who had been on the ship. Some of these descendants formed their community in Alabama, which they named Africatown.

The Tinder Swindler (2022)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Are you fascinated by true crime, tech paranoia, and chilling dating app tales? If so, you’re not alone. The Tinder Swindler, a compelling documentary directed by Felicity Morris, combines all three elements in a way that both captivates and unnerves viewers. The film follows the story of a man who allegedly used Tinder to deceive women, posing as a wealthy bachelor to win their trust, only to exploit them financially and vanish without a trace. It’s a cautionary tale that might make you think twice before swiping right again.

Athlete A (2020)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The shocking sports scandal involving Larry Nassar, the USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused his patients, and the organisation’s failure to report the abuse to authorities was brought to light by investigative journalists at The Indianapolis Star in the mid-2010s. In their impactful documentary, directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow The Star’s team as they uncover the distressing abuse, corruption, and the brave athletes who endured it. It’s a gripping and disturbing account that sheds light on a dark chapter in sports history.

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Into the Inferno (2016)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

When it comes to learning about a new subject, there are few better guides than Werner Herzog. In his documentary film Into the Inferno, the acclaimed filmmaker delves into the study of active volcanoes. Teaming up with volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer, Herzog examines active volcanoes from around the world, sharing awe-inspiring, often-terrifying footage and examining the belief systems and spiritual practices that have been inspired by them.

MH370: The Plane That Disappeared

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

In 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was scheduled to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The flight was supposed to be routine, with 239 passengers and crew on board. However, shortly after takeoff during a calm night, the plane with the plate number MH370 disappeared from radar screens. Unfortunately, the aircraft was never found, causing great distress for the passengers’ families and inciting global searches for answers. The commercial airliner’s sudden disappearance made international headlines and sparked riots.

Curry & Cyanide – The Jolly Joseph Case (2023)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The case of Jolly Joseph, a woman suspected of poisoning six family members with cyanide over ten years, including a two-year-old child.

Our Father (2022)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Imagine receiving an email that shatters the life you’ve always known. For numerous individuals, this was their reality when they discovered that there was a 90% likelihood their biological father was the same man. From the 1970s to 1989, Dr. Donald Cline, a married fertility doctor in Indiana, used his sperm during medical inseminations. Our Father focuses on the emotions of confusion, grief, anger, and the unexpected connections formed between these half-siblings.

Miss Americana (2020)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

The Eras Tour by Taylor Swift sparked a significant pop culture discussion in 2023. While Swift showcased her undeniable talent, it’s worth reflecting on a time when her reputation was questioned, and her work received less recognition. In the revealing documentary Miss Americana, Swift strips away her carefully constructed image, sharing her vulnerabilities and shedding light on her struggles with feuds, fame, disordered eating, political frustrations, and the profound sense of responsibility she feels towards her fans, music, and legacy.

The Greatest Night in Pop (2024)

Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

Do you remember that awkward moment in 2020 when Gal Gadot and other celebrities recorded a sing-along to John Lennon’s “Imagine” during the start of the COVID pandemic? Let’s go back to 1985 when 46 music legends came together to produce a hit that made a real impact. Written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, the song “We Are the World” brought together artists like Bruce Springsteen, Cyndi Lauper, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross to record the chart-topping anthem in A&M studio.

The song raised more than $80 million to combat famine in Africa and won four Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year. “We Are the World” became one of the best-selling singles of all time. If you ever wished to witness that historic night of music-making, you can watch this Netflix documentary that includes archival footage, firsthand accounts, and plenty of nostalgia.

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