14 documentaries on Netflix right now that will make you smarter

One of the great things about Netflix is that it has brought thoughtful, compelling documentaries to a much wider audience that filmmakers could only dream of a decade ago.

And with binge-worthy titles like “Making a Murderer” just a click away, you can get a lot of great nonfiction viewing any night of the week. You’ll learn a lot more about the world, but don’t worry — you’ll also be entertained.

Here are 14 documentaries we think you should stream right away on Netflix:

1. '13th'


Director Ava DuVernay looks at the history of the American prison system and shows how it relates to the nation's history of racial inequality.

2. 'Amanda Knox'

Amanda Knox

The murder trial of American exchange student Amanda Knox (now free) in Italy captivated the world in the early 2000s. Now this Netflix original looks back at the case and gets the perspective of Knox and others closely involved.

3. 'Blackfish'

Magnolia Pictures

Why is Sea World going to end killer-whale shows? It's because of this incredible movie that looks at the abuse these magnificent creatures have endured for decades.

4. 'Cocaine Cowboys'

Magnolia Pictures

In the late 1980s, cocaine invaded Miami and the world has never been the same. This documentary looks at the blood-soaked era and the people who were responsible.

5. 'Food, Inc.'

Magnolia Pictures

This powerful look at how the food we put into our mouths is really produced is shocking and scary. You'll probably want to change your eating habits after watching it.

6. 'Indie Game: The Movie'


There's a world of gamers outside of those who play 'Call of Duty' and the 'Madden' NFL games. Here we look at the creators behind indie games and the struggles they go through to make work that's different but also profitable.

7. 'Into the Inferno'


Director Werner Herzog travels to the corners of the world (including North Korea) to examine the beauty and danger of active volcanoes.

8. 'Last Days in Vietnam'


This Oscar-nominated doc by director Rory Kennedy looks at the final weeks of the Vietnam War and the exodus of Saigon by not just American soldiers and diplomats, but the South Vietnamese who helped the US during the war.

9. 'Life Itself'

Magnolia/Life Itself trailer

Steve James gives a touching look at the life and work of film critic Roger Ebert as well as capturing his final months alive.

10. 'Making a Murderer'


This true-crime tale about the murder case of Steven Avery became an instant Netflix binge when it hit the streaming service. Filmed over a 10-year period, it will no doubt prompt your own theory about what's really true.

11. 'Man on Wire'

Magnolia Pictures

Winner of the best documentary Oscar in 2009, it gives a powerful retelling of Philippe Petit's illegal high-wire walk across the Twin Towers in 1974.

12. 'What Happened Miss Simone?'


This Oscar-nominated doc by Liz Garbus looks at the powerful career of Nina Simone, who went from chart-topping singer to rights activist.

13. 'The Overnighters'

Drafthouse Films

Jesse Moss explores the modern-day gold rush: Men desperate for work who head to the North Dakota oil fields to find it. Many come with just the clothes on their backs and troubled pasts. A local pastor is the only one who will take them in, but he has demons of his own.

14. 'Super Size Me'

Roadside Attractions

Morgan Spurlock's directorial debut that looks at the dangers of fast food, in which he eats only McDonald's for a month, didn't just make him an instant star. It also caused the fast-food chain to eliminate its supersize menu.

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