From time to time, the lives some people have lived fascinate like no other stories.
The Netflix platform takes full advantage of this phenomenon with a number of captivating documentaries and docu-series.
From the criminal justice system and all its flaws to comments on social issues of the day, Netflix has something to say about all of it.
That said, for anyone who wants to see life from another person’s perspective, a Netflix documentary is a perfect way to do just that.
The great thing about all of the documentaries on Netflix is that there is something for everyone. The difficult thing about all the documentaries on Netflix is that there are so many options.
Monsters & Critics has come up with the following list for viewers who don’t know where to start.
Here are the 15 best documentaries to stream on Netflix right now.
Updated on September 4: Every month, Netflix removes several movies and TV shows from the streaming service. As a result, we will come in each month, and make changes. We will remove those documentaries that are no longer on the service and replace them with more current additions.
We will also keep our eye out for new releases that might surpass those on the list. Make sure to bookmark this page for the newest releases.
After watching the shows on this list here are some newer additions to the streaming library: Operation Ouch, Connected, Pick of the Litter, World’s Most Wanted, Nasha Natasha, Stars in the Sky, Tony Creatures, (Un)Well, High Score, John Was Trying to Contact Aliens, Rising Phoenix, I AM A KILLER, Chef’s Table: BBQ, Waiting for Superman, The Social Dilemma, and Cold Case Files Classic.
Immigration Nation is a new Netflix documentary that brings the plight of illegal aliens to the forefront.
What makes this documentary so interesting is that law enforcement officials are allowed to be themselves, which is not a good thing. These officers insult the immigrants and also call those who never broke the law as “collateral damage.”
The documentary also looks at the danger in the countries these immigrants come from, them trying to escape and get to a safe place to live.
There are even people who fought for the U.S. in the military who are kicked out of the country. This is a polarizing documentary that is one of the hot spots in today’s society.
The Devil Next Door
The idea of a man escaping the heinous crimes he committed against a whole group of people is widely considered despicable. But what if the criminal was actually innocent?
There is perhaps no other better-known crime against humanity than the crimes committed during the Holocaust by Ivan the Terrible, a person who looked forward to hurting anyone his authority gave him power too.
The Devil Next Door, a must watch on Netflix, considers whether or not Ivan the Terrible is actually the Nazi people have been convinced he is. In fact, The Devil Next Door lets the viewer debate the notion throughout the series.
Don’t F**k with Cats
Trigger warning. Fans of true crime know that there are certain “tells” that prove someone could be a serial killer. The Netflix original “Don’t F**k With Cats” is a wild realization of this phenomenon.
Any viewers who love animals may have a difficult time viewing this show.
That said, a young man filming himself torturing and murdering cats convicts himself of a much deeper crime: the murder of another human after internet warriors help track him down.
Don’t F**k With Cats is proof that online investigators can sometimes make a difference simply by getting behind the keyboard.
Abducted in Plain Sight
If getting angry while watching a documentary is a viewer’s idea of a fun time, Abducted in Plain Sight will do the trick.
The story centers around a family who becomes close friends with a man named Robert Berchtold. He ends up abducting the daughter, Jan Broberg Felt, not once but twice — and the parents barely make any attempt to save her because of their own naive beliefs about Berchtold.
This story that takes is partial to the victim will like mesmerize but will also likely make viewers want to rip their hair out.
Possibly the most timely documentary of all the picks on this list is Ava Duvernay’s powerful exploration of the prison system and how it was built by the 13th Amendment as a tool for systemic racism.
The documentary deep dives into the historical implications of the amendment with rich articulation. Past presidents such as Bill Clinton and his policies during his eight years in office are part of the story.
Given the current political landscape, 13th is essential viewing for those seeking to expand their own ideas of how policies are able to influence racism.
Conan Without Borders
While most of these picks are quite serious, Monsters & Critics decided to throw some humor into the mix.
Conan Without Borders includes segments of the same name from Conan O’Brien’s show on TBS, giving all of them one place to be viewed and appreciated.
The comedic late-night talk show personality travels around the world, giving his audience a slice of life in each country. While providing laughs, he also conveys the beauty of each distinct culture and environment.
As discussed in a previous list, Unsolved Mysteries is back — and the show is just as chilling as it was back in the 1990s.
The format has changed a bit. Instead of one episode covering numerous unsolved cases, the Netflix revamp focuses on one documented case per episode.
While the latest episodes tend to be absolutely gripping, Unsolved Mysteries will never be the same without legendary Robert Stack as host. Still, the new approach offers one thrilling experience after another.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
Some may find it odd that society is obsessed with serial killers and utterly fascinated with sociopaths.
No such person has been quite so fascinating as Ted Bundy.
The series Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes takes a look at the extended interviews he had while in prison.
The creepiest aspect of this Netflix offering is his charming nature. The Netflix docuseries does justice to just how charismatic this evil man truly was.
Surviving R. Kelly
By now, most of the world knows about R. Kelly’s legal troubles.
His career will probably never be what it once was, with most of this thanks to the eye-opening documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which originally aired on Lifetime.
While some may feel hesitant to journey down the troubling career of Robert Kelly, some may find this to be an important experience for people who are unaware of the grooming tactics employed by predators.
For this alone, Surviving R. Kelly is a docuseries worth watching for any protective parent.
The Fear of 13
The Fear of 13 is not a conventional documentary.
Where most bring in numerous interviews and locations, The Fear of 13 focuses on one man as he recounts his decades of imprisonment.
The stories Nick Yarris tells are emotional, compelling and, by the end of the story, inspiring.
This is the perfect documentary to put on after rewatching The Shawshank Redemption. Just like that movie classic, the overall message from Yarris is one of hope.
Lately, it seems like the United States is ensconced in a neverending culture war, with all sides trying to understand the others. With that said, sometimes a documentary comes along and shows that struggle on a microscopic scale.
This is the case with American Factory.
The Academy Award-winning documentary tells the story of Fuyao, the Chinese company that takes its operations to an old General Motors plant. The result shows how middle America workers needed to come together with Chinese workers to prove their livelihoods are essential.
Between clashes, communication concerns, and cultural differences, American Factory takes a compelling look at how we ultimately all want the same things.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
This pick isn’t for the faint of heart.
Just like Abducted in Plain Sight, The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez will make viewers ready to throw something at their television.
The reason? Mainly because hearing about a child being ruthlessly abused to the point of murder is harrowing. And, to make matters worse, the documentary lays out all the things that could have prevented the event from ever happening.
The series is tough but it’s a much-needed reminder of how our systems can be broken under the wrong leadership — and how children can suffer because of it.
Home Game is a rather interesting pick because it dives into the world of sports. Specifically, sporting events that are rather unique or strange in nature.
As stated in our review, some are not as obscure such as the Highland Games. But others are extremely fascinating.
For example, one such game follows similar rules to football but on horses and the ball is a dead goat. Yes, a dead goat.
As far as docuseries are concerned, Home Game is a worthwhile series that expands the worldview outside of our own.
Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country is one of the most unbelievable docuseries to ever hit Netflix.
This is mainly because the documentary tells the story of such an extraordinary event in history, one that is hard to believe ever happened. Once the program ends, viewers will be asking themselves, “Why have I never heard about this?”
The docuseries chronicles the story of a cult formed by the guru Osho who gained a massive following. In fact, many people became part of the cult that the group tried to form their own city/state. A major controversy ensued with the locals that surrounded their community.
It’s truly a wild, wild experience.
Making A Murderer
There are few documentaries more compelling than Netflix’s Making A Murder. It is mind-boggling to think the American justice system could let down its people so easily yet such a sincere possibility.
Even more terrifying is the thought that since we the people could all be put on jury duty, all viewers of the popular show could just as easily convict an innocent man of a heinous crime.
Making A Murder is a must-watch for anyone interested in the flaws of a justice system that claims to believe suspects are “innocent until proven guilty.”