One of the great things about Netflix is that it has brought thoughtful, compelling documentaries to a much wider audience, which filmmakers could only dream of a decade ago.
And with binge-worthy titles from “Amanda Knox” to “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster” being 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 18 documentaries we think you should stream right away on Netflix:
Note: Numerous Netflix titles drop off the streaming service monthly so the availability of titles below may change.
Director Ava DuVernay looks at the history of the US prison system and shows how it relates to the nation's history of racial inequality.
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.
This fascinating look at one of the more colourful stories in baseball lore, directors Chapman and Maclain Way look at the Portland Mavericks, an independent baseball team owned by movie star Bing Russell (Kurt Russell's father) who threw out all the conventions of the national pastime to build a regional sensation in the late 1970s.
An emotionally powerful account of rape crimes on US campuses and the cover-ups that take place so the schools can save face.
Director Werner Herzog travels to the corners of the world (including North Korea) to examine the beauty and danger of active volcanoes.
A portrait of the late, legendary singer Janis Joplin with help from the many letters she wrote amid her sudden rise to fame.
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 also the South Vietnamese who helped the US during the war.
Steve James gives a touching portrayal of the life and work of film critic Roger Ebert, capturing his final months alive.
The 1996 movie adaptation of 'The Island of Dr. Moreau' is one of the worst movies ever made, but the story behind how its original director, Richard Stanley, exited the film and what transpired afterward is extremely bizarre. It's a blessing it was told.
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.
Winner of the best-documentary Oscar in 2009, the doc gives a powerful retelling of Philippe Petit's illegal high-wire walk across the Twin Towers in 1974.
Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are allowed to film the making of Metallica's first album in six years, 'St. Anger,' and find themselves instead filming the band on the brink of collapse after the departure of their longtime bassist, Jason Newsted. What unfolds is one of the best rock-and-roll documentaries of all time.
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.
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest action star in the world, he was a Mr. Olympia champion starving for fame. This documentary shows an Arnold on the cusp of breaking out.
Morgan Spurlock (of 'Supr Size Me' fame) mixes horror and documentary to create this frightening look at the movements and habits of rats (and yes, they are all around us).
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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