Netflix has been an amazing phenomenon ever since it arrived on the scene, transforming the way that we watch movies and TV series. But buried away behind all the popular television shows and mainstream movies are a selection of programmes which contain some of the most interesting viewing of all – the documentaries. Netflix has an ever-growing selection of real-life films, which shed light on some of the world’s most bizarre characters and interesting topics. Here are ten of the best.
2014, Rated 15, 1h 41m
The beautiful Virunga National Park lies on the east side of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and is famous for being the home to endangered Mountain Gorillas. But in recent years it has come under dire threat. As well as finding itself at the center of a poaching epidemic and civil war, Virunga has become a focus for exploration within its boundaries — putting the wildlife inside it at risk. The heart-wrenching documentary, including remarkable undercover footage, shows the dark side of Africa as the park struggles to survive against all the odds.
Bobby Fischer Against The World
2011, Rated 12, 1h 30m
Chess may sound boring to a lot of people, but wait until you see this. The film documents the true story of American Chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer and his Cold War clash against Boris Spassky of the USSR in the World Chess Championship of 1972, which captivated the world. The documentary also delves into Fisher’s state of mind afterwards, when he fails to play another competitive game for nearly 20 years and becomes a recluse. Fascinating viewing.
2006, Rated 18, 1h 31m
The Bridge does not make for uplifting viewing, delving into the harrowing tales of people committing suicide by jumping off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. But despite the subject matter, it is one of the most captivating films you’re ever likely to see. A number of suicides are actually caught on film, and it features heart-wrenching interviews with families of victims who have thrown themselves off the 746 ft bridge as well as people who had second thoughts. The Bridge gives an amazing insight into a topic you very rarely hear or read about in detail. Not to be confused with the Scandinavian TV series of the same name.
2010, Rated 12, 1h 27m
Yaniv ‘Nev’ Shulman makes friends with an eight-year-old child prodigy artist called Abby Pierce online after she sends him a painting of one of his photos. They become Facebook friends, and as time passes he starts a relationship with Abby’s older sister Megan. But when he goes to visit the family in Gladstone, Michigan, all is not as it seems. We don’t want to spoil the ending, so you’ll have to watch it. But believe us, it’s worth it.
The Queen of Versailles
2012, Rated PG, 1h 37m
Ever wondered how the other half live? The Queen of Versailles follows the story David Siegel, the owner of timeshare giant Westgate Resorts, and his wife Jackie as they try to build the largest single-family home in the United States, called Versailles. Unluckily for them, though, they start the project in the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2008, during which time Westgate hits some pretty hard times. Will they have to sell the house before it’s even finished? This film goes to show just how close to financial ruin some rich people live their lives.
Arnold Schwarzenegger — without doubt one of the most fascinating people on the planet. From action hero to governor of California, this man seems to have done everything. But it all started out with bodybuilding, and this documentary follows him at the height of his success as he attempts to win his seventh Mr. Olympia contest. Granted, there’s a lot of muscles and working out in this, but it’s interesting to see Arnie as a young man, joking around, playing mind games with his fellow competitors and generally showing how self-belief can help you succeed in life.
2013, Rated 15, 1h 24m
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a killer whale who took the lives of three people while being held in captivity. It follows his life from when he was caught off the coast of Iceland through to his time as a performing orca at Sealand of the Pacific in South Oak Bay, British Columbia, and SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Interviews with former trainers and footage help shed light on the potentially tragic consequences of keeping orcas in captivity.
The September Issue
She’s one of the most powerful women in the world, and formed the basis for Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada. Now you can get a real-life glimpse into the whirlwind world of Anna Wintour, the English editor-in-chief of American Vogue. Known for her no-nonsense attitude and second-to-none judgment of the fashion world, this documentary follows her and her team in the eight months leading up to the release of the magazine’s record-breaking September Issue in 2012.
2012, Rated 15, 1h 32m
Hard-hitting, gritty and poignant, McCullin is a biographical look at the life and work legendary British war photographer Don McCullin — and gives an insight into what possesses someone to put themselves in harm’s way to record stories for posterity. McCullin himself talks in-depth about his work covering the war in Vietnam, the civil war in Cyprus and the famine in Biafra in the 60s, 70s and 80s, as well as his photography projects back home in Britain.
The sequel to Godfrey Reggio’s 1982 film Koyaanisquatsi, Powaqqatsi has no dialogue at all but is one of the most captivating portrayals ever recorded on film of the third world as it adapts to modern times. With incredible footage set to an original score written by composer Philip Glass, this is the kind of artistic project that would probably never see the light of day in the modern, more commercial, world. Koyaanisquatsi and Naqoyqatsi, the third film in the series, are not yet on Netflix but are also must-sees.