Get real: The best Netflix Originals documentaries
Netflix loves documentaries. Loves them! Case in point? Seven Netflix Originals documentaries and docuseries will be premiering on the streaming service in March, including Girls Incarcerated, Flint Town, Ladies First, and Wild Wild Country – all of which appear to be intensely watchable, so get your bingewatching snacks at the ready.
It’s also hardly a surprise, considering how Netflix have released a staggering amount of original documentaries in the past few years, many of them actually of high quality, as well. Here are ten of the very best Netflix Originals documentaries and docuseries released by the streaming behemoth thus far.
Shot in the Dark (2017)
Following three rival freelancers as they rubberneck to the front of brutal crime scenes, traffic accidents, and fires in Los Angeles to score the best news footage, Shot in the Dark is a trashy, disturbing delight. Compulsively watchable, Jeff Daniels’s docuseries is full of horror, human tragedy, and some serious low-life sniping between a set of overly competitive grown-ass men.
Casting JonBenet (2017)
On the one hand, Kitty Green’s unique documentary offers a vast examination of the mystery and many theories surrounding the unsolved murder of JonBenét Ramsey. On the other, Casting JonBenet is a sublime, surrealist spectacle in which a set of amateur actors dramatize key events in the murder case and offer their inexpert opinions on what they think really happened.
Last Chance U (2016 – )
Set at East Mississippi Community College where the football team is comprised of players removed from more prestigious teams due to academic or disciplinary issues, Last Chance U follows young men who could be on the brink of NFL superstardom – but only if they don’t let their troubled pasts ruin their futures. You don’t have to love or even understand football to enjoy Last Chance U – but you will need to have a set of tissues nearby to mop up your tears.
Named after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery, Ava Duvernay’s Oscar-nominated feature documentary remains one of the most powerful projects Netflix has ever slapped their name on. Exploring the “intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States”, the documentary is a marvel of furious contemplation.
Making a Murderer (2015 – )
Exploring the twisted mess of a sloppy murder trial in which Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey were accused of murdering Teresa Halbach, Making a Murderer set the precedent for true crime documentaries everywhere – particularly ones that make the viewer feel so invested in a case one feels like a totally qualified legal investigator from the safe comfort of a couch.
Amanda Knox (2016)
Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn’s controversial documentary about a young woman twice convicted and acquitted of murder makes for startling viewing. Featuring footage of Knox speaking about her experiences for the first time on camera, the documentary delves into the complexities of the trial, while also exploring how the early noughties media appeared to take great glee in turning Knox into a macabre celebrity.
The Keepers (2017)
Examining the decades-old murder of Sister Catherine Cesnick, The Keepers unravels a harrowing mystery explored with the help of an entire community still shook by her death. Ryan White’s docuseries delved into potential links to child abuse and shocking allegations the church may have had something to do with it.
Chelsea Does (2016 – )
Comedian Chelsea Handler’s humor can be divisive, but her short-lived docuseries went above and beyond simply providing punchlines for drawn-out jokes. While investigating hot topics like racism, drugs, Silicon Valley, and marriage, Handler manages to provide surprising levels of insight alongside some seriously sharp wit. The whole series may be worth it just to see Handler spinning out on Ayahuasca.
Hot Girls Wanted (2015)
Filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus (Sexy Baby) shed light on Florida’s amateur porn scene through the experiences and perspectives of of five young women working in the business. Intimate and occasionally alarming, the documentary highlights the exploitation of mistreated and often low-paid workers without offering too much judgement regarding the sex industry itself.
White Rabbit Project (2016 – )
Starring Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara, this Mythbusters spinoff sees the three science fiends investigating curious events from history and pop culture. Though it fails to match the slapdash charm of Mythbusters, White Rabbit Project does feature enough fun experiments, cute reenactments, and interesting scientific theory to be perfect for anyone who loves that type of thing.