6 Science and Tech Documentaries on Netflix to Make You Smarter

Backcountry firefighters, surfing veterans, snow leopards, it's all here.

fire chasers

There’s plenty of goodies coming to Netflix in September 2017, from Disney’s Hercules to a Dolph Lundgren action flick. But for those who like their entertainment just a pinch more highbrow, consider these six documentary specials and series with a tech and science flair to them.

It’s a diverse offering, from firefighters in the California backcountry to a humorous exploration of menopause to a famous British baker driving awesome cars across Europe. Let’s take a gander.

Fire Chasers

This documentary series looks at nature at its most visceral and intense, as it tells the story of backcountry firefighters in California. The series mixes terrifying, awe-inspiring views of wildfires with the personal lives of those who work for Cal Fire and the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Fire Chasers details all that goes into controlling these infernos, from the training of new recruits to those photographers who also brave the fires to document the blazes. Arrives on Netflix: September 8, 2017

Ghost of the Mountains

Anyone who has ever felt a twinge of wanderlust is going to be hooked by this line in the trailer from one of the filmmakers: “I’ve never worked in a place where the mountains don’t have names, even the rivers apparently don’t have names.” Throw in the fact that this team of nature documentarians have headed to China’s most remote plateaus in search of the elusive snow leopard, and you’ve got a film that promises to take you to the very edge of the known world. The documentary also promises an exploration of the struggles the filmmakers face as they explore this unforgiving terrain, but let’s not lose sight of the main selling point: Ghost of the Mountains is going to be unbelievably pretty. Arrives on Netflix: September 13, 2017


September 11 marks the 16th anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the unofficial beginning of the United States’s War on Terror. With President Donald Trump now promising a troop surge in Afghanistan, it remains crucially important to understand the human cost of nearly two decades of conflict. Resurface looks at the brutal physical and psychological toll the War on Terror has exerted on American veterans, and how various organizations are now looking at surfing as a powerful therapy to help soldiers begin the healing process. The movie focuses in particular on veteran Bobby Lane, who begins the documentary wanting to surf so he can cross it off his bucket list before he plans to commit suicide. Arrives on Netflix: September 1, 2017

Love, Sweat, and Tears

This September 4 marks three years since the death of comedian Joan Rivers, and it’s hard to imagine a more appropriate final on-screen appearance for her than in a documentary that uses humor to break down the taboos and misconceptions around menopause. Dr. Pamela Dee Gaudry, who calls herself “America’s Menopause Romance Doctor,” is the star of the documentary, as she takes a sex-positive approach to discussing menopause with Rivers, other celebrities, experts from medicine to religion, and a whole bunch of ordinary people on the street. Even if menopause isn’t in your future, this looks worth checking out for the understanding it offers on a topic too many women don’t feel comfortable talking about. Arrives on Netflix: September 19, 2017

Paul Hollywood’s Big Continental Road Trip

The The Great British Bake Off judge trades in the sedate yet somehow thrilling confines of televised baking for a driving tour of Europe. Hollywood gets to indulge his love of racing by getting behind the wheel of cars both classic and high-tech. This is British-style car porn for those who used to love old Top Gear but prefer their big, boisterous personalities to punch slightly fewer cameramen than Jeremy Clarkson. Arrives on Netflix: September 29, 2017

Murder Maps: Season 3

Murder Maps uses a mix of archival footage and historical reenactments to look at how how forensic science has evolved and shaped criminal investigations from its dawn in the 19th century to the present day. Centered on London, the first season looked at the time of Jack the Ripper in the late 1800s, while the second season moved its focus to the early 20th century. The third season is set to kick off with 1934’s grisly Brighton trunk murders. This should be just the right mix of lurid and educational, with a posh British presenter to help it go down smooth. Arrives on Netflix: September 30, 2017

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