It should come as no surprise that Netflix features an enormous number of documentaries in its catalog. Sadly, a lot of them simply aren’t worth watching. Hidden among the endless options, however, are some must-see documentaries.
So, whether you’re looking for war documentaries, space documentaries, sports documentaries, or something else entirely, keep reading. These are the best documentaries on Netflix that you can watch right now. All of which will enlighten and entertain you.
The Best War Documentaries on Netflix
Unfortunately, documentary makers have no shortage of material when it comes to wars. Many of the most important conflicts of recent centuries have a show about them on Netflix.
This 10-part documentary tells the story of the United States’ controversial 19-year conflict in Vietnam.
It features testimonies from more than 80 witnesses from both sides, never-seen-before video footage, and runs for more than 17 hours in total.
World War II in Colour is a British documentary that includes a vast amount of real video footage from the battlefields, cities, and oceans that saw action during World War II.
It has 13 episodes in total, covering everything from the North African campaign to the Japanese invasion of China.
November 13: Attack on Paris is a Netflix original about the terror attacks in the French capital during November 2015. The three-part series documents the timeline of that traumatic day.
For more options, have a look at our full list of war documentaries on Netflix.
The Best Space Documentaries on Netflix
If you’d prefer to be dazzled by scientific ingenuity rather than human suffering, check out some of the top Netflix documentaries about space and the universe instead.
A Year in Space is a 12-part Netflix docuseries that follows American Scott Kelly and Russian Mikhail Kornienko during their year-long stay on the International Space Station.
It follows their mission from takeoff to touchdown, providing a fascinating insight into zero-gravity life and the scientific work that goes on while in orbit.
The Search for Life in Space is a short 32-minute documentary about how humans are searching for signs of life beyond our planet. It’s doesn’t go into complex details, so it’s perfect for anyone who may not have the same level of background knowledge as a seasoned universe fanatic.
For more content about the universe, make sure to also check out the best space documentaries on Amazon.
The Best Nature Documentaries on Netflix
If you’d prefer to learn about Earth-based lifeforms, you’ll be pleased to know that some of the best documentaries on Netflix cover the natural world.
Narrated by the ever-lovable Stephen Fry, Dancing With The Birds follows majestic birds as they try to find a mate.
Fry’s commentary adds an element of humor to what is already a fascinating subject matter, making this one of the most enjoyable nature documentaries ever made.
Coral reefs are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. They’ve been around for 485 million years and support more than one-quarter of all marine species; the NOAA National Ocean Service calls them “the rainforests of the sea.”
The climate emergency means coral is now dying at a faster rate than ever. This documentary investigates the devastating impact that coral death is having on our planet and our lives.
We’ve written about the best nature documentaries on Netflix if these couple of suggestions aren’t enough to satisfy you.
The Best BBC Documentaries on Netflix
The British television network is one of the foremost documentary makers in the world.
Aardman Animations—creators of the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and Chicken Run—started life as a tiny animation studio in Bristol, England. A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman tracks the studio from its humble beginnings to its status as a company with more than $1 billion in revenue.
In addition to A Grand Night In, many more of the best BBC documentaries are available on Netflix. Check out our list to learn more.
The Best Travel Documentaries on Netflix
The “new normal” means it could be a while before many people feel comfortable getting on a plane again. After all, why bother when you can travel anywhere in the world from your own sofa thanks to Netflix?!
9. Dark Tourist
Tourism isn’t only about beaches and all-inclusive buffets. If you’d like to learn about the grittier side of the world, check out Dark Tourist.
New Zealand filmmaker David Farrier investigates some of the weirder travel spots you’ll find, including Pablo Escobar-themed trips in Colombia and nuclear disaster tourism in Japan.
Narrated by Robert Redford, National Parks Adventure takes viewers on a tour of remarkable spots in the National Parks of the United States. The documentary covers Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, Yosemite, and Arches. The entire documentary uses IMAX 3D cinematography.
To learn more, have a look at our complete list of the best travel documentaries on Netflix.
The Best Crime Documentaries on Netflix
True crime documentaries on Netflix have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years.
Making a Murderer is arguably the Netflix documentary that kicked off the renewed interest in the genre.
It tells the story of Steven Avery. Avery was wrongly convicted of murder and spent 18 years in jail, only to be found guilty of a different murder upon his exoneration and release. Despite doubts around the second conviction, he remains in jail to this day.
12. Amanda Knox
One of the most famous convictions of the 21st century occurred in Italy in 2007.
American exchange student, Amanda Knox, was found guilty of killing a fellow student, Meredith Kercher, in a trial littered with controversies. Rumors of police incompetence, evidence tampering, and false testimonies circulated for years after Knox’s conviction. The Italian supreme court eventually overturned the decision in 2015.
This documentary tells the story of the night of the murder and the subsequent media frenzy surrounding the court proceedings.
The Best Sports Documentaries on Netflix
Some of the best documentaries on Netflix fall into the sports category.
Ayrton Senna is widely believed to be the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. He won three world titles before being killed in a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix at Imola. He was 34 years old.
This docufilm charts his life and death.
14. The Last Dance
An obvious inclusion, the Netflix docuseries tells the story of NBA legend, Michael Jordan. Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Steve Kerr, and Phil Jackson all feature.
The Best Music Documentaries on Netflix
And finally, a couple of brilliant music documentaries for you to watch.
15. Chasing Trane
Chasing Trane is about the life of the jazz icon, John Coltrane. Coltrane was one of the world’s foremost saxophonists before he succumbed to liver cancer in 1967 at the age of 40.
His legend lives on to this day.
Spread over four seasons, the Canadian docuseries explores the rise of hip-hop.
The series starts in the 1970s with Grandmaster Flash, then goes on to cover all of the major stars and storylines through to the early 2000s and the rise of 50 Cent.
More Netflix Shows Worth Watching
Documentaries form a large chunk of the Netflix library. And if you dig down into a specific genre, you’ll be able to find some niche content to suit your tastes.
And once you have watched all of the best documentaries on Netflix and want to watch something a little different, we recommend checking out the best interactive Netflix shows instead.
Read the full article: The 16 Best Documentaries on Netflix in 2020