Last Updated on January 26, 2024
Netflix is a household name as far as streaming movies and television shows is concerned. The streaming service is so popular that, according to Statistica, the number of Netflix subscribers grew from less than 22 million in 2011 to a whopping 150 million in 2019. Presently, the company enjoys over 35% of the entire global population of internet users.
So, what is it about Netflix that has seen them maintain their stranglehold on the movie and television streaming market? To some, the company’s popularity has everything to do with its affordable subscription fee, relative to the volume of content you can stream. However, most users hail Netflix for its consistency in highlighting the most groundbreaking documentary films.
If you are a new subscriber, you may experience a bit of a challenge sifting through the thousands of documentary films on Netflix in your search for the most scintillating ones. No need to fret, as we’ve done the research for you.
The following are some of the best documentaries that Netflix has ever offered.
1. The Civil War
Director: Ken Burns
The Civil War! These three words, no matter how frequently they’re repeated, have never lost their power to awe. Most of us have always wanted to travel back in time and share in the struggles of those who braved these defining moments in US history. Well, here’s your chance to take that trip down the memory lane as you experience the exploits of Stonewall Jackson and his fellow war heroes.
The Civil War documentary by Ken Burns is as overwhelming as it’s devastating. The film will leave even the most impassive people out there drenched in sorrow for the sheer loss of blood and wanton annihilation of innocent souls. But gloom and despondency isn’t everything there is to this documentary. Occasionally, you’ll encounter scenes that will restore your faith and hope in humanity.
2. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Director: David Fairhead
Mission Control documentary takes an in-depth exploration into one of the events that changed the history of mankind – the historic moon landing. And the director, David Fairhead, couldn’t have thought of a better title. The film seeks to unveil the behind-the-scenes occurrences that defined the Apollo 13 mission, as it walks you through the life and times of these iconic astronauts.
But Mission Control isn’t only about those who made a safe landing to the moon. It also offers some insights on those who stayed behind and the instrumental roles they played in ensuring their colleagues stayed alive. Mankind landing on the moon remains the biggest milestone in NASA’s history, and no documentary captures the essence of this achievement than Mission Control
Director: Glen Zipper
Humans and dogs have had an unrequited love affair since we first domesticated these cute furballs. But while hundreds of documentaries have been made on the matchless love and deep emotional connection that exists between man and canine, none comes close to Dogs.
This documentary follows six dog owners drawn from different parts around the world, as it seeks to unpack the unique bonds that they share with their canine friends. Each episode is dedicated to one individual and their canine friend. But one thing that comes out from every episode is the strong connection between those individuals and their furry companions, regardless of their different cultural backgrounds. Some participants are drawn from as far as Syria and Japan.
Director: Ava DuVernay
How do you define progress? Should progress be measured based on the changes made or the gains realized out of those changes? Well, these are some of the questions we frequently ask ourselves in the course of our lives and careers. Indeed, Progress is one of the most poorly-defined concepts of our time.
In this documentary by Ava DuVernay, you’ll understand everything there is to know about this elusive concept, but from a more political and judicial standpoint. The documentary seeks to challenge the commonly-held notions that progress can only be measured in terms of how many constitutional amendments are instituted by politicians and legislators. 13th strives to unveil how oppressive clauses within the constitution are never abolished, but simply amended to serve the interests of the ruling class.
5. I Called Him Morgan
Director: Kasper Collin
I Called Him Morgan is a captivating documentary about the troubled life of a jazz musician named Lee Morgan. Lee Morgan is shot dead in New York in the winter of 1972. And the man (or woman) behind the trigger is none other than his wife, Helen.
But this film isn’t about solving Lee Morgan’s murder. Rather, it seeks to unearth why the crime happened as well as pay tribute to Lee, who was one of the most accomplished trumpeters of his time. As the documentary unfolds, there is an overwhelming sense of inevitable tragedy. Morgan’s friends, Charli Persip and Wayne Shorter, pay tribute to him as one of the best jazz musicians as they vividly remember some of the most auspicious moments they shared together.
6. Dirty Money
Directors: Alex Gibney, Jesse Moss, Erin Lee Carr, Kristi Jacobson, Brian McGinn, and Fisher Stevens
Do modern-day corporations care about the safety and welfare of their customers? Well, this is one of the most distressing questions that many consumers have to contend with.
Cases of banking institutions and other credit facilities colluding with state agencies and legislators to impose punitive lending terms are ever on the rise. Healthcare facilities have since revised their mottos form Service to Humanity, to Profit over Patient. As if by design, the corporate landscape seems skewed to benefit company owners and managers at the expense of their clients. And there’s no better term we can give to the proceeds of such dubious deals than Dirty Money.
The Dirty Money documentary attempts to investigate the dark corporate underworld by exposing the sheer greed and corruption of various justice-evading entities around the world.
7. Flint Town
Directors: Zackary Canepari, Drea Cooper, and Jessica Dimmock
It doesn’t matter how many movies and documentaries you’ve watched on state policing, there is something about Flint Town that makes it truly exceptional. In this film, you’ll experience the struggles faced by the police in Flint, Michigan, as they strive to maintain law and order in a city that’s grappling with serious security issues.
As an acute water crisis hits the city and a new mayor assumes office, the understaffed but overcommitted police department faces one of their worst nightmares in the force. They must struggle to defend the city and preserve law and order in the face of poverty and high crime rates.
8. Peter and the Farm
Director: Tony Stone
From a casual glance, there appears to be nothing extraordinary about this documentary apart from the lead character’s long, white beard. Peter Dunning is a solitary farmer based out of Vermont, whose life doesn’t seem to inspire any inspiration at all. Peter has tended to his farm for the last 35 years of his life, choosing the path of solitude. Everything about him looks and sounds mundane. Well, that’s before you meet the real Peter Dunning.
Beneath his cool and collected exterior lies a man grappling with deep psychological wounds. He is estranged from his ex-wife and kids, and was once in an accident that saw him lose his hand and forfeit his artistic dreams. And when Peter speaks, there’s something about him that will keep you endeared to his statements and want to find out more about his life.
9. Fire in the Blood
Director: Dylan Mohan Gray
Skeptics might easily dismiss Fire in the Blood as another cheap piece of over-sensationalized conspiracy theory. However, the events in the documentary are purely relatable. In this film narrated by William Hurt, we’re introduced to how state corruption and corporate greed caused the deaths of millions of people in the developing countries.
According to Dylan Mohan Gray, Western pharmaceutical companies colluded with various African governments beginning 1996, to prevent millions of Africans from accessing low-cost AIDS medicines. These acts of greed and selfishness heralded the deaths of millions of innocent souls before the intervention of prominent global personalities like Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu.
10. Hot Girls Wanted
Directors: Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus
Most of us often shy away from talking about porn in public. But when we are still and alone in our quietest moments, we can’t help but wonder how working in this multi-million dollar industry feels like. Hot Girls Wanted follows the lives of young and ambitious porn actresses as they try to venture into the lucrative porn industry.
One of the best things about Hot Girls Wanted is that it explores and exposes the bare essentials of what the porn industry is all about. The reception of the film was so incredible that Netflix release an accompaniment TV show known as Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, intended to further the story of the original film.
11. The Bleeding Edge
Directors: Kirby Dick
This is another documentary that seeks to explore the profit-driven mindsets of most global pharmaceutical corporations. The documentary delves into the $400 billion lucrative medical device industry, and debunks the myths that the industry is committed to serving the interests of its clients. Some of the loopholes the film highlights in this industry include lax regulations, profit-driven incentives, and underhand corporate deals that continuously put the lives of patients at risk.
The Bleeding Edge observes that most pharmaceutical companies often rush the release of their products without subjecting those products through rigorous vetting. As it were, the rush to mainstream pharmaceutical products before they’re duly vetted is purely driven by the profit motive.
Directors: Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix
The title of this film aptly captures its message and storyline. (T)ERROR revolves around the themes of terror and error, though you’ll easily miss both themes from a first glace. In this documentary, you’re introduced to the struggles of a former Black Panther who has since turned FBI informant.
Like most FBI informants, this character frequently snitches on suspicious Muslims. But it’s the motivation behind his work that makes this documentary both captivating and sobering. Unlike other snitches who act out of the sense of patriotism and civic duty, this informant is simply out to make a living. This film exposes a very upsetting side of society, where the wealthy elites and ruling class stand aloof as the poor and minorities tear into one another.
There goes our list of the top 12 Netflix documentaries that are worth watching. Remember to catch up with these films before the company adds even more to its long list of captivating, enlightening, and sobering shows.