Over the years, Netflix has built up an impressive library of documentary films and docuseries, and some of the best it has to offer all remain Netflix exclusives. True crime docuseries might be a popular trend for the streaming platform, but it’s just as successful at producing some of the best food porn out there today.
Netflix gets two new documentaries in April. One examines the philosophical life lessons of a popular Sixties spiritual leader at the tail end of his life, and the other displays some of the most beautiful desserts in the world that you will never, ever get to eat.
Plenty of new documentary films and series have been released on Netflix in the last few months. This list includes some of the best not only in recent memory but perhaps of all time.
So here’s a look at all the best documentaries you can find on Netflix, along with a nod to the two new ones coming out in April.
14. Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Neil deGrasse Tyson essentially rebooted astronomer Carl Sagan's mini-series documentary about the birth, life, and evolution of the universe. Much like Sagan before him, Tyson delivers heady scientific theories about space and the universe through digestible, compelling chunks.
13. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold
The life of beloved writer and journalist Joan Didion gets chronicled by her nephew in this intimate documentary film that hit Netflix late last year. It follows 50 years of essays, novels, screenplays, and criticism from Didion that analyzes the evolution of American culture over the latter half of the 20th century.
12. Making a Murderer
Steven Avery spent two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, and this documentary follows what happens after he's exonerated, exposes police corruption, and becomes a suspect in a terrible new crime. This real-life mystery is hard to follow, but with 10 years of footage and history, there's enough to keep viewers enthralled. Making a Murderer is perhaps Netflix's flagship documentary series, and it picked up almost a cult following after its release in December 2015.
11. The Keepers
The Keepers was widely hailed as Netflix's next Making a Murderer" on account of it taking a similar structure and applying it to Sister Cathy, a Catholic nun in Baltimore who was murdered in 1969. The story itself is more about the cover-up than the actual murder, which only makes it that much more mysterious when you realize the church may have been involved.
10. One of Us
This observational documentary from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady examines three individuals who decided to leave the world of Hasidic Judaism, which is an ultra-Orthodox community mostly centered around New York City, especially Brooklyn. These three people face ostracism, anxiety, and outright danger trying to leave their community. One of these characters, Luzer Twersky, recently had a starring episode on HBO's High Maintenance in a storyline about a young man who recently left the Orthodox community in Brooklyn.
Virunga tells the story of the people who go to extraordinary lengths to protect the world’s last remaining mountain gorillas, who live in Virunga National Park, Congo. They’re up against the interests of giant multinational oil companies, poachers, and others who would seek to make a quick buck in a resource-rich but impoverished part of the world. In a place rife with instability and violent conflict, it’s a matter of life and death, and not just for the gorillas.
8. Wild Wild Country
Netflix's newest documentary series looks at a utopian religious community in Oregon from the Eighties that's actually a heavily armed New Age sex cult. It's a mindblowing piece of U.S. history that's rarely talked about, and one that'll leave you wondering which religious extremist group is in the wrong.
7. Take Your Pills
Another newcomer to Netflix's docu lineup, Take Your Pills examines how Adderall and other prescription stimulants have defined the current generation in a culture obsessed with competition at every social level. The doc analyzes everything from education to our professional lives and even how Big Pharma's capitalistic endeavors might hurt more than help people.
6. Ram Dass, Going Home
Going Home offers a "profound and poetic encounter" with spiritual teacher and Sixties icon Ram Dass, mostly set in his Maui home 20 years after Dass suffered a massive stroke. Dass waxes philosophies on life, death, and everything in between in this light and uplifting documentary. - Release Date: April 6, 2018
5. Chef’s Table: Pastry
Chef's Table already comes in several iterations on Netflix, each worthy of inclusion on a list such as this, but in Pastry, we get to see culinary delights from some of the world's top pastry chefs. - Release Date: April 13, 2018
4. Exit Through the Gift Shop
An indelible modern classic in documentary filmmaking, Exit Through the Gift Shop is about as compelling to the viewer as it is totally bizarre and vaguely alienating. It's only fitting that this would be the case for a documentary made by Banksy about an amateur filmmaker making a movie about Banksy. (Take a minute to unpack the layers of complexity to that.)
3. The Toys That Made Us
Netflix's exploration of our commercial obsession with toys fittingly hit the platform just before this most recent Christmas. The first four episodes examined the cultural influence of G.I. Joe, He-Man, Barbie, and Star Wars, with four more episodes due out in 2018 that'll look at Lego, Star Trek, and others.
2. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
This documentary chronicles Jim Carrey's performance as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon with behind-the-scenes footage and contemporary interviews with Carrey. On the set of Man on the Moon, Carrey went full-on method to portray the sometimes unsettling idiosyncracies of Andy Kaufman in a performance that earned him a Golden Globe for Best Actor.
1. Ugly Delicious
Netflix's latest food docuseries hosted by star chef David Chang is a cross-cultural hunt for the world's best food, which doesn't sound all that novel at first. But each episode follows a single popular food and traces its cultural evolution around the world in a travelogue format. Chang is a compelling lead on globe-trotting hunts to discover what "Pizza" or "Tacos" mean in various contexts, oftentimes looking at the extreme variations that each food can take. All the while, Chang poses provocative questions about the food industry and everything we take for granted.