The best documentaries to watch on Netflix right now
Wild Wild Country
You’ve probably heard of Wild Wild Country as it’s been storming our social media feeds since its worldwide release on 16 March. The six-part documentary follows Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, an Indian spiritual guru and alleged sex cult leader, who created a ‘utopian city’ in the desert in 1980s Oregon. It’s a story ‘full of unbelievable twists’, so it’s no wonder the series has already received a 100% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes.
Do you ever find yourself laughing uncomfortably when the universe is against you? Those times where, when everything seems so bleak, you find yourself saying “You’ve just got to laugh!”. That’s exactly what comic Tig Notaro did, and her legendary stand-up set is the basis for this documentary. The set where, in 2012, she announced her breast cancer diagnosis, shortly after being diagnosed with a severe bacterial infection, and the death of her mother. Her search for humour in the midst of devastation is unforgettable.
Bobby Sands: 66 Days
In 1981, Bobby Sands – an imprisoned Provisional Irish Republication (IRA) soldier – lead a hunger strike at HM Prison Maze in Northern Ireland. He, along with nine other hunger strikers, lost his life after 66 days, aged 27. This documentary gives us an insight into Bobby’s beliefs – and his final journey.
The Defiant Ones
This four-part documentary miniseries follows the partnership between music legends Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre, co-founders of Beats Electronics. If you’re a Dre fan: you’ll love it. If you’re not a Dre fan: you’ll still love it.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
There’s a reason this seriously compelling documentary, about the life and work of Nina Simone, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary (Feature). This remarkable woman was so much more than a singer and musician – she was an activist who wanted real change – and this movie, with her most-loved music, shows that.
The Ivory Game
As African elephants become even more endangered, filmmakers and wildlife activists take on poachers and ivory dealers in this must-watch doc.
In 2009, motivational self-help speaker, James Arthur Ray, took more than 50 of his followers on a ‘spiritual warrior’ seminar in the Arizona desert. They paid $10,000 or more to attend. After meditating without food or water in the desert for days, Ray asked attendees to sit in a crowded, makeshift dome in extreme heat. This culminated in mass hallucination and people screaming for help. Three people eventually died from heatstroke, while 18 were hospitalised. Ray was sent to prison for two years for negligent homicide, and was released in 2013. Enlighten Us follows his story since then. ‘Emotionally gripping’ doesn’t quite cut it.
This is another new docu-series, which is gathering serious attention. And we can see why. From the point of view of the police force in Flint, Michigan, we’re taken into the heart of the town’s troubles, from poisonous water to crime, drugs and poverty. It’s unflinching and impossible not to binge.
Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
Just finished What Happened, Miss Simone? and craving another story of an inspirational woman? Look no further than Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. Directed by her nephew, the literary icon reflects on her incredible career, and the personal struggles she’s faced along the way.
Welcome to Leith
Only 24 people live in the tiny town of Leith, North Dakota, which is why it became the target of white supremacist, Craig Cobb. His plan was to buy up a few of the houses and take over the local government, so that he and a group of other racists could have the town to themselves. Welcome to Leith shows the battle for leadership of the municipality, and as upsetting as such bare-faced hatred is to watch, it’ll have you hooked.
Girls Incarcerated: Young and Locked Up
Just as 13th centred on mass incarceration in the US, Girls Incarcerated goes behind bars to take a look at life in prison. Except with this gritty documentary, we get an insight into youth imprisonment, and the struggles faced by teenage girls at Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility. It’ll tug at your heart strings and keep you hooked.
Daughters of Destiny
Filmed over 7 years, Daughters of Destiny follows a group of girls in rural India, who are part of the country’s most impoverished families. The girls attend the Shanti Bhavan school, which provides free education to poverty-stricken children. You’ll be totally absorbed in, and bowled over by, their journey for a brighter future.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Picking up where Katy Perry’s documentary left off, this film reveals the woman behind the meat dress. Filmmaker Chris Moukarbel follows Lady Gaga as she records her latest album, Joanne and her journey towards her now infamous Super Bowl half-time performance, including her battles with severe illness.
Whitney: Can I Be Me
Unpacking one of the most troubled and talented stars of recent times, Nick Broomfield discovered the forces and people who made and broke Whitney Houston.
Making A Murderer
After spending nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he says he didn’t commit, Steven Avery took revenge against his prosecutors and filled a law suit against Manitowoc County and the key characters in his arrest. Whether or not, he did in fact commit the murder of twenty-five-year old, Teresa Halbach the case has become of the most discussed crime mysteries of recent times.
This heartwarming documentary follows fashion icon, Iris Apfel. Famed for her love of a jolly good accessory or ten on one arm at once, this film by critically acclaimed, Albert Maysles is a fantastic tribute to the nonagenarian and interior designer’s wit and style.
Novelist, Michael Peterson called 911 in 2001 claiming he had found his wife covered in blood, having fallen down the stairs of their house. However the Police and medical team who attended the scene believed the injuries were that of someone who had been murdered. The husband became chief suspect and a blaze of publicity followed his trail before he was acquitted of any crime. Featuring interviews with the suspect, his legal team, family and friends this documentary is one of the best ‘who did it’ docuseries around.