Best Documentaries on Netflix Right Now – Variety
There are few better ways to tell a complicated true-life story than a well-made documentary. From Hulu and Netflix’s competing Fyre Festival documentaries, which both capture the mega-disaster of the exclusive event that never happened, to groundbreaking docuseries that rocked the music industry, like Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly” and HBO’s “Leaving Neverland,” 2019 has been the year for riveting documentaries.
And if you’re still itching to see more powerful scammers get exposed, Netflix has you covered. “Dirty Money” chronicles real cases of corruption and corporate greed as it takes shape in drug dealing and politics, while “The Great Hack” reveals how Cambridge Analytica became a propaganda machine during the 2016 election. Other political docs include “Knock Down the House,” “Flint Town,” “Reversing Roe” and “Trump: An American Dream.”
But if you’re craving something more upbeat, you can always watch Beyonce’s “Homecoming,” which chronicles the singer’s famous Coachella performance in 2018, or listen to Will Smith narrate the earth’s most unique features in “One Strange Rock.”
Check out the list below to see some of the best documentaries available on Netflix.
“The Great Hack”
Directed by Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, “The Great Hack” chronicles the story of Cambridge Analytica and its swift turn from British data company to “propaganda machine” by taking data from social media sites such as Facebook to sway undecided voters with targeted ads. The film also explores the role the company played in the 2016 U.S. election.
“The Black Godfather”
Featuring interviews with Quincy Jones, Diddy, Cicely Tyson and more, “The Black Godfather” follows the life of activist and music executive Clarence Avant.
“Knock Down the House”
Watch as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearingen and Amy Vilela take on wealthy politicians in the 2018 race for Congress.
With a framework that’s falling apart and few resources, the Flint Police Department struggles to care for a city with a continued water crisis and persistent violence in this Netflix documentary.
“Who Shot the Sheriff? (Remastered)”
The first installment in the once-a-month music/crime documentary series “Remastered,” “Who Shot the Sheriff?” offers a deeper look into the assassination attempt on legendary singer Bob Marley in 1976. After a prior attempt on his life, attention is brought to Marley’s upcoming performance in Kingston, spurring the artist to make a decision: either let down the country by cancelling his performance or risk another attempt on stage.
“Roll Red Roll”
Following the disturbing assault of a teenage girl by members of the high school football team, small-town Steubenville, Ohio, gained national attention. “Roll Red Roll” examines the true story of the crime and the overwhelming social media evidence that led to the sentencing of two primary offenders.
From the backdoor deals of a drugmaker to the shady dealings of Donald Trump, “Dirty Money” chronicles real cases of corruption and corporate greed.
This short film details the lives and migration of three Puerto Rican women and their families who, after being displaced by Hurricane Maria, are forced to leave New York once their federal housing aid comes to an end.
What begins as the story of a boy with major league baseball dreams takes a drastic turn as young Tony Bosch realized he had no baseball skills and eventually becomes a disgraced Florida doctor who ends up injecting steroids into MLB athletes like Manny Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez.
“The Accountant of Auschwitz”
Oskar Gröning, at 21 years old, collected the stolen belongings of Jewish prisoners as they were sent to Auschwitz, but at age 90 went on trial as a new team of lawyers attempt to prosecute the last of the Nazi war criminals before they’re all gone.
“One Strange Rock”
Narrated by Will Smith and coupled with commentary from astronauts, this Critics Choice award-winning documentary explores the wide array of Earth’s most unique features.
Named after the infamous Manhattan discotheque the film is about, “Studio 54” is an in-depth look at the club whose glitter and lewd antics attracted the city’s elite before owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager went to prison for tax evasion.
Filmmakers Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein expose the existing legislation stopping families all over the country from experiencing the benefits of medical marijuana. “Weed the People” chronicles the stories of those families as they try to save their children through medicinal cannabis exploration.
“Reversing Roe,” which begins its story in a time before Roe v. Wade, details how the topic of abortion became such a political talking point. Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, this film expands the conversation on the long-term political campaign to reverse the pivotal 1973 Supreme Court case.
“Period. End of Sentence”
By following a group of women in rural India who create their own low-cost feminine hygiene products and increase financial independence, this Oscar-winning documentary takes on the stigma around menstruation in the country where 23% of girls drop out of school once they have their periods.
“Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce”
Directed by Beyonce and Ed Burke, the Emmy-nominated film chronicles the road to the former Destiny’s Child singer’s historic Coachella performance.
“Trump: An American Dream”
From his early rise in real estate in the ’70s to his reality stardom, this four part docuseries paints the picture of Donald Trump and the events in his life which culminated in his becoming the 45th President of the United States.
“The Vietnam War: A Film by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick”
In a 10-part documentary spanning a total of 18 hours, this film separates itself from the list of existing Vietnam War documentaries by showcasing not only the American perspective, but the Vietnamese people’s idea of what they called the American War.
“Larry Charles’ Dangerous World of Comedy”
Larry Charles, the director behind “Seinfeld” and “Borat,” exposes the dark and unexpected humor of the world by speaking to former terrorists and members of militant groups like former warlord General Butt Naked in Liberia who not only talks about the taste of human remains but also his love for ’90s show “Kids Say the Darndest Things.”
“The Two Killings of Sam Cooke Remastered”
Featuring interviews from Smokey Robinson and Dionne Warwick, this investigation into the death of the soulful singer unmasks the truth of what contributed to his untimely demise in another installment of the “Remastered” documentary series.
French figure skater Surya Bonaly made history when she became the only figure skater in the world to land a back flip on one leg, but she suffered a career-altering loss at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. In a series of profiles, this documentary series showcases how athletes like Bonaly move on after big losses.
“The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story”
Shot in real time with her own vlogs and cell phone videos, author and blogger Kara Tippetts chronicles her last days with her family and friends after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in this incredible testament to love and faith.
“The Creative Brain”
Tim Robbins, Grimes and “Game of Thrones” co-creator D.B. Weiss are all interviewed in this 52-minute documentary exploring the function of the brain in each person’s creative process. Follow neuroscientist David Eagleman as he infuses all forms of creativity in this film by interviewing other unexpected professionals such as architects, engineers, biologists and creators.
In this documentary exploring the economy of poor countries around the world, economist Arthur Brooks travels the globe in an attempt to discover how the free-market system can save billions of people and eliminate world poverty.