40 best documentaries on Netflix to watch right now – The Sun

IF you're looking for a new documentary to binge then look no further.

With some harrowing, some humorous and some downright bizarre, there's a variety for all documentary lovers on Netflix.

  • The best series on Netflix
  • The best movies on Netflix

1. The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

Thi harrowing new documentary reveals how eight-year-old Gabriel was bound, gagged and made to sleep inside a tiny cabinet before he was murdered by his evil mother and her partner.

The little boy was repeatedly beaten and tortured by mum Pearl and Isauro Aguirre in 2013 because they thought he was gay, and put inside a cabinet they nicknamed the “the box”.

The series doesn't shy away from detailing what poor Gabriel went through during his short life, and it has left many viewers struggling to watch it.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 80%

 

2. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

This Netflix seven-part series follows the now-infamous Joe Exotic and his passion for big cats.

He ran his own private zoo in Oklahoma for over 20 years containing the likes of tigers, bears and 1,200 lions.

The docuseries delves into the controversial and eccentric life of the self-professed Tiger King as he spirals out of control.

We see him come face to face with animal activist Carole Baskin and their rivalry escalates when Joe Exotic tries to hire a hitman to kill her.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%

 

3. Don't F**K With Cats: Hunting an internet killer

This Netflix documentary is about an online manhunt for Luka Magnotta.

It follows a group of internet sleuths as they follow his moves after he shares a graphic video of him killing two kittens.

They follow clues from objects in the room, examining each tiny detail to predict his next move.

Eventually this game of cat and mouse comes to a close as those investigating discover their target has more horrors to come.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%

 

4. Dark Tourist

Dark tourism follows a journalist on his quest to find the wackiest and darkest tourist attractions.

David Farrier visits old nuclear bomb sites and forests associated with suicide in this series.

He examines the history behind the sites and explores why people would pay money to visit the harrowing places.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 70%

 

5. Reggie Yates: EXTREME

Reggie Yates is back with another award-winning series where he travels the world to explore different social issues.

He examines the climate of homophobia in Russia, what it's like to live as a prisoner, addiction and racism.

The acclaimed film maker sheds light on the ever-shifting global landscape, but don't expect feel good vibes.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

 

6. Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

The docuseries brings the infamously twisted mind of serial killer Ted Bundy into the light for the very first time, with never-before-heard interviews from the “Jack the Ripper of the United States,” himself.

This unique series focuses on a man whose personality, good looks and social graces defied the serial-killer stereotype, allowing him to hide in plain sight as he committed the brutal sex-crime slayings of more than 30 women before being caught in 1978.

While on trial, Bundy received extraordinary adoration from American women, which made his gruesome crimes doubly haunting, even in an era of anything-goes mayhem.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 74%

 

7. Making a Murderer

After two Colombia students read Steven Avery's story, they thought it would make a good idea for a documentary.

Little did they realise just how successful it would go on to be.

The film follows Steven Avery, who spent nearly twenty years in prison for a crime he maintains he didn't commit, delving into the complexities of the American justice system.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 98%

 

8. Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez

American football player Aaron Hernandez had it all: a multi-million dollar contract for the New England Patriots, a Super Bowl appearance, a fiancée and a daughter.

So how did one of the NFL’s most promising rising stars end up jailed for life for a brutal gangland-style murder – and on trial for two more?

That’s the question posed by this three-part series, and the answers aren’t as simple as one might think.

What starts as a character portrait swiftly turns into an examination of wider issues: masculinity, the college football system and the NFL’s attitude towards player safety.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

 

9. Surviving R. Kelly

Me Too ignited a movement that the world wouldn't forget and this documentary traces R. Kelly's history and speaks to the survivors of his allegedly predatory behaviour.

The documentary series exposes the dangers of enabling celebrities and gives the needed voice to his alleged victims.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 95%

 

10. Louis Theroux Weird Weekends

Britain's favourite journalist heads Stateside to talking to some of the weirdest, most offensive people imaginable.

From the West-borough Baptist Church to The Tiger King, Theroux explores why these people are liked or hated by the majority of people.

Expect to meet America's most hated family, Nazis, prisoners and all other manner of misfits.

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: N/A

 

11. Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce

Homecoming provides an insight into the most accomplished pop star in the world.

Beyonce shows her historical 2018 Coachella performance where she reunites Destiny’s Child and pays homage to America’s black colleges and universities.

The rare candid footage details her journey with creativity and cultural movements.  

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 98%

 

12. Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story 

In 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Denise Brown was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee for murdering a 43-year-old man who picked her up to have sex.

After being tried as an adult and being sentenced she thought that would be the end of the line for her.

However, after 10 years, multiple appeals and new evidence in the form of her own biology and public campaigns she was released.

Now on a new path in life, she looked back at the complexities of her life being a product of three generations of violence against women in her family.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 77%

 

13. Blackfish 

The emotional story about 8000 pound orcas or ‘killer whales’ as they’re also known.

The story follows the beautiful animals captivity stories and how one orca named Tilikum made international headlines.

After killing several people in captivity, the orca was still kept at SeaWorld despite multiple public pleas to release him back into the wild or improve the squalid conditions for these huge mammals.

The documentary explores SeaWorld’s involvement in orca’s captivity and other organisations that contribute towards this cruel practice. 

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 90%

 

14. Amanda Knox 

The Netflix Original Documentary questions whether Knox was actually a cold-blooded psychopath who murdered her roommate brutally.

Alternatively, she was just a naive student who was trapped in a nightmare that was not her fault.

The notorious case is explored in depth with interviews from Knox herself talking about her time on trial.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 71%

 

15. Miss Americana 

A raw and emotional look at the life of one of the most iconic artists or our time.

Taylor Swift gives a rare insight into her album making process and her life as a songwriter and performer.

The documentary is candid when Swift speaks of the year she didn't go out and the shelf life of women in the industry, 

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 92%

 

16. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

The American miniseries looks at the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

It is based on the 2016 book of the same name, where the survivors of Epstein’s crimes describe how he used power and wealth to get away with his offences.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 70%

 

17. The Keepers

This docuseries examines the decades-old murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik and its suspected link to a priest accused of abuse.

Sister Cesnik taught English and drama at Baltimore's Archbishop Keough High School, and her former students' believed that there was a cover-up by authorities after Cesnik suspected that a priest at the school, A. Joseph Maskell, was guilty of sexual abuse of students.

The series was directed by Ryan White and released on Netflix in 2017.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating not available

 

18. Becoming

Michelle Obama is one of the most inspirational women in the world, and if you didn't know that before, you will after watching Becoming.

The former First Lady turned her life into a best-selling memoir in 2017 and the docu-series follows the mother-of-two on her book tour around the United States.

The series documents moments in Michelle's life including her childhood in Chicago and her time in The White House.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating not available

 

19. Evil Genius

The four-part series focuses on the death/murder of Brian Wells in 2003.

The pizza delivery man robbed a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest and neck, but evidence later emerged that he may have been forced to commit the crime and wear the device.

Despite the subject matter of the series, viewers were still horrified to see footage of Brian blow up within the first 10 minutes of episode one.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 83%

 

20. Cheer

This documentary follows the story of the Navarro College competitive cheer squad.

The episode follows their emotional highs and lows and dealing with being part of a longstanding legacy.

Even if you're not a fan of cheerleading, it still makes a riveting watch.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 93%

 

21. Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts

This documentary about RuPaul's Drag Race winner Trixie Mattel gives viewers an unprecedented look behind the scenes of what it is to be a world famous drag queen.

Trixie (Brian Firkus) shows the warts and all of life on the road, her rollercoaster friendship with fellow queen Katya and crazed fans.

A must for any Drag Race fans, but for anyone who loves music and human stories about family, survival and comedy.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 89%

 

22. Paris is Burning

Before Madonna's Vogue and RuPaul's Drag Race there was Paris is Burning

The seminal documentary that brought the Harlem ballroom stream to the mainstream.

If you love Pose or Drag Race then this documentary is for you and a great choice for history lovers.

Telling the story of black and Latinx voguers, this documentary was one of the first to give voice to that community of LGBTI people.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 98%

 

23. A Secret Love

Make sure you have the tissues ready for this beautiful love story of two women who kept their relationship a secret for seven decades.

Terry Donahue was a professional baseball player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, made famous by the Madonna movie, A League of their Own.

She met fellow baseballer Pat Henschel and the two fell in love, but had to stay hush about their relationship.

Director Chris Bolan made A Secret Love about his great aunts who kept their secret for decades.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 100%

 

24. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

It takes a super talent to voice and control one of the world's most famous Muppets.

Kevin Clash who is the puppeteer behind Elmo, is that talented as he tours the world with the loveable orange Muppet.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey was one of the most talked about documentaries at the Sundance Film Festival when it premiered there in 2011.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 96%

 

25. The Queen

The 1968 documentary has a cult following and opened to mixed reviews at the time.

One of the first films to explore the world of drag, The Queen follows Sabrina, the 'mistress of ceremonies' Miss All-America Camp Beauty Contest in New York.

Contestants in the drag beauty pageant discuss identity, homophobia and other cultural issues which show the world has not changed so much since 1968.

It also stars Crystal LaBeija from the Paris is Burning's House of Beija.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 96

 

26. Worlds Most Wanted

World's Most Wanted is a thrilling new docuseries which tells the story of international fugitives that have managed to evade the justice system.

Netflix's description of the show says: “Heinous criminals have avoided capture despite massive rewards and global investigations.

"This docuseries profiles five of the world’s most wanted.”

Each episode will deep-dive into the story of the notorious fugitives and examine how they have managed to avoid capture.

Northern Irish terrorist Samantha Lewthwaite, Sicilian Mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, Rwandan businessman Félicien Kabuga, Mexican drug lord Ismael El Mayo Zambada, and Russian crime boss Semion Mogilevich all get their own dedicated episode.

 

27. Trial of the Chicago 7

Trial of the Chicago 7 – which is released on October 16, 2020 – IS based on real life events.

What was intended to be a peaceful protest at the 1968 Democratic National Convention turned into a violent clash with police and the National Guard.

The organisers of the protest were charged with conspiracy to incite a riot.

The trial that followed was one of the most notorious in history.

 

28. Hot Girls Wanted

Hot Girls Wanted lifted the lid on the amateur porn industry and its exploitative nature.

Released in 2015, its shows how a group of 18 and 19 year-olds from across the US have been recruited by agent Riley Reynolds to live in his home in Miami and work in his films.

Hot Girls Wanted was produced by Rashid Jones, who famously played Ann Perkins in Parks and Recreation.

 

29. Down To Earth with Zac Efron

Zac Efron swapped the glitzy lights of Tinseltown to go travelling around the world in search of solutions to climate change.

The Hollywood star examined healthy and sustainable ways to live in his new travel show Down To Earth.

In this new series Down to Earth the former High School Musical favourite travels to Iceland, Costa Rica, Sardinia, France and Peru, eating food and learning about sustainability.

He experiences first-hand how food and new technologies are being used as alternative sources to provide for towns and cities.

 

30. The Last Nazis

A landmark documentary series comprised of three compelling stories regarding the hunt for the last remaining Nazi war criminals.

It first aired on the BBC before being snapped up by Netflix.

The first episode follows Dr Efraim Zuroff in his hunt for the Second World War concentration camp doctor Aribert Heim, one of the world's most wanted Nazi war criminals.

 

31. I Am a Killer: Released

This documentary follows Dale Wayne Sigler, who was convicted of the murder of a Subway employee in Texas in April 1990.

Dale was sentenced to death but this was later changed to life, and was eligible for parole after 30 years.

The documentary follows his release and how he adjusts to life outside of prison, while also looking at the fact his version of events change dramatically once on the outside.

 

32. The Speed Cubers

A lighthearted entry, this documentary tracks the world of competitive Rubik cubing.

Australian Feliks Zemdegs reigned unchallenged until an unknown challenger called Max Park from California took the gold medal in 2017.

The two trade wins with neither able to fully dominate the field but instead of being bitter rivals, the documentary shows how they have developed a tender yet complicated friendship.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 88%

 

33. The Last Dance

This 2020 sport documentary tracks the career of basketball legend Michael Jordan.

It particularly focuses on his last season with the Chicago Bulls and features all-access footage to the team as well as interviews with Michael and other NBA stars including Dennis Rodman and Phil Jackson.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 95%

 

34. The Staircase

The Staircase follows a war novelist accused of killing his wife in 2001 and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival before it arrived on the streaming giant.

Eight episodes aired in 2004 and the follow-up runs for three installments.

Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade was granted access to the case immediately following Kathleen’s death.

De Lestrade captured every moment of the story from arrest to verdict, following in intimate detail Peterson’s home, the family and his defence team as it considered its strategic options.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 84%

 

35. Fear City: New York vs The Mafia

Throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the 'Five Families' of the New York mafia – Bonanno, Colombo, Gambino, Genovese and Luccese – held a powerful, and seemingly insurmountable, grip on the city.

This three-part docuseries, from the creators of Don’t F**K With Cats, details the incredible story of the history-making organised crime investigation and prosecution case brought against New York’s most formidable mob bosses.

Through interviews with dozens of law enforcement officials, ex-mafia associates and others, Fear City: New York vs The Mafia sheds light on how the mafia’s control of unions, high-rise construction and other industries netted billions for organised crime.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 73%

 

36. David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet

Everybody's favourite 95-year-old animal lover released his most recent documentary 'David Attenborough: A Life On Our Planet to discuss the impact we've created on nature and what steps we can take to help the planet out.

The documentary acts as a "witness statement," where David – who is the narrator – recalls everything that he has seen over the years.

His latest plea with us humans to try and help the planet was released on October 4 2020 and he touches on his hopes for the future of our beloved planet.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 97%

 

37. 60 Days In

The A&E docuseries follows the journey of volunteers who are incarcerated as undercover prisoners for 60 days.

The first season premiered back in March 2016, followed by a second series which followed in August of the same year and was set in Clark County Jail in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Sherrif Jamey Noel decided to get some help from non-criminals who would go into his jail and pretend that they are a real inmate to get information on how he can improve his facility with a proper insiders view.

 

38. Babies

The 12-part American series, which is divided into two seasons, first hit our screens in February this year and focuses on the science behind having a baby, as well as the emotional side of things that come with it too.

It follows around 15 families in different parts of the world and how their baby develops of the first year of their life over the course of three years and how they develop from a new-born to a growing toddler.

A number of scientists also appear on the show to talk about their knowledge on iron and nutrients and how important they are for growing babies, as well as how key sleep is for tots.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 75%

 

39. Inside the worlds toughest prisons

The docuseries, which originally hit our screens in 2016 on Channel 5, followed journalist Paul Collony visit some of the world's scariest prisons, including ones in Honduras, Poland, Mexico and the Phillippenes.

Then seasons 2, 3, and 4 were taken over by popular streaming service Netflix.

Journalist Raphael Rowe, who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he never committed, also took over as presenter.

The eye-opening documentary shows just how different the criminal justice system is in each country and the resources that certain prisons have.

Raphael has visited a number of places including Brazil, Ukraine, Costa Rica and Germany.

But his most scary visit was to Lesotho, where he had to stay with aggressive cellmates at Maseru prison who had been convicted of rape.

And there's some great news for fans of the series as a 5th season is currently underway and due to hit our screens in July 2021.

 

40.  [Un] Well

The American docuseries, which was produced by Left/Right Productions and aired on Netflix in August 2020, focuses on the wellness industry.

It highlights the question of if we're just being fed empty promises by various companies in the industry.

A range of different people talk out about their experiences and how they tried certain things to try and improve their health and well-being.

Each episode is an hour long and focus on different things, including: the use of essential oils, engaging in tantric sex, drinking breastmilk, bee sting therapy, fasting and the use of ayahuasca.

Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating: 86%

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