back to top

17 Amazing, Eye-Opening, And Batshit Netflix Documentaries You Have To See

Let's end 2017 with real facts, not fake news.

Posted on
Asymmetrical Press

This fascinating documentary explores our obsession with stuff, and asks "how might your life be better with less?" It features interviews with various people who've given away most of their worldly goods, and the effect minimalism has had on their lives.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

2. Cartel Land

The Orchard / Netflix

If you're fascinated by Narcos, you really need to check out this 2015 documentary, which tells the story of the Mexican drug war and the various vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels. Like Dr José Mireles, who leads the Autodefensas (pictured).

Availability: US/Canada and UK

3. Terra

CALT Productions

This spellbinding and visually stunning 2015 French nature documentary was filmed over 18 months. It's voiced by veteran actor Vanessa Paradis, and explores humanity's increasing isolation from nature and from the other species on Earth.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

Advertisement

4. My Scientology Movie

BBC Films

This witty documentary has everything you expect from Louis Theroux: unconventional interviews with ex-members of the Church of Scientology, as well as startling confrontations with current members. It's a fascinating look at a shadowy organisation.

Availability: US/Canada

Magnolia Pictures

If you're interested in technology, this documentary is for you. It's directed by award-winning filmmaker Werner Herzog, who takes viewers on a mind-bending trip exploring the existential impact the internet, robotics, and artificial intelligence have on human development.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

6. Virunga

Netflix

Tragically, less than 800 mountain gorillas are left in the wild, but all hope isn't lost. This 2014 documentary film focuses on the inspiring and brave conservation work of park rangers within the Congo's Virunga National Park, and was nominated for an Oscar.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

7. 13th

Netflix

This hard-hitting look at America's penal system explores the "intersection of race and incarceration". Director Ava DuVernay argues that prisons are institutions of modern-day slavery, making vast profits from predominately black, disenfranchised workers.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

Advertisement

8. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

A.U.M. Films

This forceful movie looks at the worrying environmental effects that our addiction to meat is having on the world, focusing on various impacts such as global warming, water use, deforestation, and ocean dead zones. It's produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, too.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

9. Encounters at the End of the World

THINKfilm

This 10-year-old documentary is just as relevant now as it was in 2007. In it, Werner Herzog and cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger visit Antarctica to capture mesmerising footage, and meet various local communities as well as an unhinged penguin.

Availability: US/Canada

10. Jesus Camp

Magnolia Pictures

This 2006 film follows kids at an evangelical "Charismatic Christian" summer camp, where children spend their summers being taught that they have "prophetic gifts" and can "take back America for Christ". It's totally fascinating, and alarming at times.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

11. Notes on Blindness

Artificial Eye

Notes on Blindness is a gripping account of the writer and theologian John M. Hull's gradual loss of his sight. He documented his experiences on audiotape. Those notes were turned into a book and then (in 2016) this Emmy-winning documentary.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

Advertisement

12. The Square

Participant Media

If you've ever wondered what led to the Arab Spring (and what happened afterwards) then check out this documentary about events in Egypt since the initial uprising in Tahrir Square in 2011. It's a compelling look at a bold, energetic, and rebellious country.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

13. What the Health

A.U.M. Films & Media

This lively 2017 film takes a critical look at our dependence on meat and dairy products, and the effects that dependence has on our health. PSA: The filmmakers advocate a plant-based diet, so bear in mind that it isn't entirely unbiased.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

14. Dirty Wars

Sundance Selects

Dirty Wars follows journalist Jeremy Scahill, who travelled to Afghanistan in 2010 to follow the Joint Special Operations Command on night raids, and to war-torn Somalia. The film was made on a shoestring budget, but it's no less powerful for that.

Availability: US/Canada

15. Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Paramount Pictures

Everyone's heard of Metallica (well, most people, anyway), but have you ever wondered why this thrash metal band became so huge? This stunning film pieces their story together from studio rehearsals, fragments of concert footage, and interviews.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

Advertisement

16. Chasing Ice

Submarine Deluxe

This climate change documentary gained worldwide acclaim for managing to capture a huge glacier calving event in Greenland – the largest and longest calving ever captured on film. It's a real (and worrying) sight to behold, like watching a city break apart.

Availability: US/Canada and UK

17. Cuba and the Cameraman

Netflix

This documentary has taken its director Jon Alpert a whopping 42 years to film. He has been following Fidel Castro and three Cuban families, charting the effects that Castro's policies have had on their lives. It's candid, beautiful, and truly epic.

Availability: US/Canada and UK