Nothing to watch? Binge the best documentaries on Netflix now!

Sometimes reality can be stranger than fiction. Whether it’s a true crime docuseries, a captivating nature special, or an uplifting sports biopic; Netflix has plenty of documentaries that’ll have you saying, ‘that can’t be real’. In fact, with hundreds of documentaries on subjects from crypto currency to space exploration, browsing Netflix can feel overwhelming.

That’s why we’ve narrowed down a list of the 15 best Netflix Originals documentaries that will excite, delight, and inform about the world around us. So grab some snacks, pop on the tv, and enjoy a night of some of the best documentaries streaming on Netflix now!

The Best True Crime Documentaries on Netflix:

Making a Murderer, 2015 – 2018

The mesmerising docuseries Making a Murderer seeks to uncover the truth behind the case of Steven Avery, a man convicted and imprisoned twice since 1985. Like any good true crime series, the filmmakers explain in exhausting detail the cause, uncovering haunting new details along the way. By questioning whether there may have been ulterior motives to Avery’s imprisonment, this ground-breaking docuseries may have changed the course of someone’s life over just two seasons. One of the best true crime documentary series on Netflix, binge through this Emmy Award winning series to see firsthand the power of looking deeper.

Amanda Knox, 2016

Based on the real-life case of Amanda Knox, the self-titled documentary gives audiences a peak into just how good true crime can be. The 2016 Netflix Originals documentary follows a young American journalist in Italy falsely accused of murder, struggling to tell her truth. Along the way you’ll see the darker side of a woman trapped in the Italian legal system, a harrowing investigation, and the pressure of the global tabloids.  One of the best crime documentaries on Netflix, you’ll be on the edge of your seat for this twisted tale.

The Tinder Swindler, 2022

Love can be a dangerous game. And in the age of dating apps, the 2022 documentary The Tinder Swindler shows viewers firsthand just how dangerous these apps can be.  Directed by Felicity Morris, the Netflix Originals documentary tells the story of an Israeli conman exploiting people on Tinder to support his expensive lifestyle, manipulating others desperation for love with devilish efficiency. You’ll be second guessing who’s behind that Bumble profile after watching this tantalising true crime documentary.

The Best Nature Documentaries on Netflix:

Our Planet, 2019

A spiritual successor of the BBC nature series Planet Earth, Netflix teamed up with David Attenborough and company to produce Our Planet a breathtaking exploration of life on our little blue ball. Split across eight episodes, viewers are taken on a trip through wild jungles, harsh deserts, and rich forests to find the diverse and beautiful animals that exist among us. With stunning cinematography and captivating narration from David Attenborough, you’ll see not just one of the best nature documentaries on Netflix, but also an important message about conservation and our impact on the environment.

David Attenborough: A Life on Out Planet, 2020

This 2020 nature documentary follows the famed conservationist David Attenborough as he recounts his life, his career, and the challenges we face in preserving our planet Earth. Here you’ll see how our remarkable planet has changed since Attenborough began his career in the 1950s. You’ll be bewitched by stunning nature and animal wildlife footage from years past, available to stream on Netflix right now!

The Best Sport Documentaries on Netflix:

The Last Dance, 2020

Few careers in sports are as captivating as Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players to ever hit the court. Get a glimpse into the life and times of Michael Jordan with the 10-part Netflix miniseries The Last Dance, released in 2020 to universal acclaim. With never-before-seen footage of Jordan’s illustrious career, viewers can embrace how one Chicago Bull transformed the NBA into a global sport, and became a cultural icon along the way. Fans of the star athlete, basketball or even sports in general should not miss out on one of the best sports documentaries on Netflix.

Icarus, 2017

Like the Greek myth it’s named after, Netflix’s 2017 documentary Icarus is a tale of soaring highs and crashing lows. What started as an attempt by the director Bryan Fogel to win an amateur cycling race slowly reveals itself to be about so much more. This high-stake documentary reveals the addicting role that doping plays in modern sports, and the extent countries will go to win gold. This investigation even led to a wider discussion on state-sponsored doping by the Russian Olympic Committee, and eventually winning an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2018.

Athlete A, 2020

Behind those podium smiles can often be a darker reality. Released by Netflix in 2020, this award-winning sports documentary reveals the darker under belly in the hunt for medal glory. Athlete A follows a team of investigative journalists as they uncover the sexual assaults committed by Doctor Larry Nassar, the allegations by the USA Gymnastics Team, and the coverup that left so many voiceless. Don’t miss this important and significant expose, streaming only available on Netflix.

The Best Biography Documentaries on Netflix:

What Happened, Miss Simone?, 2015

One of the most talented musicians of her generation, Nina Simone, became an icon of the civil rights movement, only to disappear from public life. In Netflix’s sensational documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone?, the filmmakers ask that very question: why? Released in 2015, the biographical documentary gives viewers a peep into the rise of this seminal musical talent, her activism for black empowerment, and her disillusion with the country she once called home. Directed by Liz Garbus, the Netflix Originals documentary was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Tune in to see one of the best music biographies on Netflix!

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead, 2018

It’s not uncommon for films to go through development hell before they make it to the big screen; but few are as notorious as Orson Welle’s 48-year development of The Other Side of the Wind. The acclaimed director behind Citizen Kane spent decades trying to get his triumphant return to Hollywood onto the big screen. The making of that passion project is retold to audiences in Netflix’s They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead. Released in 2018, this behind-the-scenes documentary including chaotic filming, financial hardships, and even the Iranian government. One of the best Hollywood documentaries, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead shows the bizarre underbelly of the movie business.

The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson, 2017

One of the best biographical documentaries on Netflix, The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson is a captivating documentary of a little-known figure who has left an enormous imprint on the present. Trans activist and icon, Marsha P Johnson, led a life of extremes: joy and sadness, fear and hope, life and death. This Netflix Originals documentary, released in 2017 by David France, chronicles her activism for queer and trans issues, the internal struggles within the queer community, and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic on the community she fought so hard for. The mysterious circumstances around her death haunt the documentary from the very first frame, though never detract from the aspiring contributions of her life.

The Best Documentaries on Netflix:

American Factory, 2019

Produced by Michelle and Barack Obama’s production company, American Factory tells the story of an economic revival gone awry. After years of economic decline, Chinese investment in a new glass factory gives hope to a former industrial city in Ohio. That glistening hope shatters after setbacks, classes between employees and shady business machinations. This award-winning documentary received rave critical reviews when it was released on Netflix in 2019, exposing the fractures of this new economic reality.

13th, 2016

History is often with us, even when we don’t realise. Released in 2016, 13th shows the reality of modern race relations in today’s United States. Netflix’s 13th reveals how even after slavery was abolished in the United States, this system continues to this day in one form or another. Brought to screens by director Ava DuVernay (Selma), this harrowing documentary examines how mass incarceration, lynching and voter laws have simply let history repeat itself, only under a different name. One of the best documentaries on Netflix, this powerful film was even nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 2017. With the recent protests around racial injustice around the world, now is the time to educate ourselves on an important chapter of the past and present.

Chef’s Table, 2015 – Present

For those wanting a tastier slice of reality should look no further than Chef’s Kitchen. This original Netflix documentary series takes viewers into the kitchens of some of the most acclaimed restaurants in the world, as each episode highlights one singular chef. You’ll be jet-setting from Paris to Bangkok, seeing how the ‘sausage gets made’ along the way. With multiple Emmy nominations, don’t starve yourself of this culinary conquest!

Explained, 2018 – Present

The YouTube sensations at Vox have teamed up with Netflix to deliver Explained, an expanded documentary series that touches on the curiosities of our world. Each 20-minute-long episode delves into fascinating and broad subject matter, everything from chess to cryptocurrency to cults. Enjoy being entertained by one of the best docuseries streaming on Netflix!

Looking for more chills after streaming all the true crime you can? Here are the 10 Best Horror Movies to Stream on Netflix. For those wanting an animated escape, here are the 10 Best Adult Cartoon TV Series Streaming Now!

Feature image: Photographed by Mollie Sivaram. Image via Unsplash.
This article was first published on April 16 2017. It was updated and edited by Hunter and Bligh on May 03 2022.