40 Best Documentaries on Netflix You Should Watch (2019)


All of us love Netflix for the unique kind of content it produces and acquires from various distributors. You have movies on many popular genres like Action, Comedy, Bollywood, etc.  However, what I particularly love about Netflix is its determined effort to create path-breaking documentaries on topical issues from all around the world. Netflix chooses to create documentaries on subjects which are disquieting, but enjoyable as a whole. So in this article, we bring you the 40 best documentaries on Netflix to watch right now. We have done thorough research and have compiled the list of best Netflix documentaries. So without any delay, let’s get started.

Note: All of the mentioned documentaries are available in the US. However, if you are based out of another country, click on the movie links provided below to confirm the availability.

Best Documentaries on Netflix in 2019

Here, we have included documentaries from multiple categories and subjects. To name a few, the list has documentaries on nature, sports, history, politics, science, internet, food, medicine, and many more. I am pretty sure you are going to love each of the documentaries mentioned below. Now having said that, let’s start with our selection of best Netflix documentaries.

Note: The Rotten Tomatoes ratings are shown in the Expert / Audience format.

List of Best Netflix Documentaries on Netflix

1. Planet Earth II (2016)

Planet Earth II is one of the most spectacular documentaries ever created about Earth’s nature and wildlife. It’s a six-part documentary series having episodes on islands, jungles, grasslands, deserts, mountains, and cities. This docuseries is a sequel to Planet Earth I which was released by the BBC in 2006. After a decade, BBC produced Planet Earth II in 4K for the first time. The series is incredibly shot using unique camera techniques and the cinematography is splendid giving a new dimension to our perspective. The narration by David Attenborough makes Planet Earth II a visual treat as well. Simply put, you should absolutely watch Planet Earth II no matter you like nature documentaries or not. It lets you peek at our planet in a way you have never seen or imagined before. Here is something to make you excited, Planet Earth III is coming in 2022.

  • IMDb: 9.5
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 98%

Check Out Planet Earth II on Netflix

2. Our Planet (2019)

Our Planet is an eight-part nature docuseries produced by Netflix. The overall theme is very similar to Planet Earth, but this docuseries dwells deep into how humans are causing climate change and that is affecting our planet. There are eight episodes which include seas, frozen world, forests, freshwater, etc. Our Planet is also narrated by David Attenborough so you will have a great time hearing his soothingly gruff voice. After Planet Earth II, you should definitely watch Our Planet for its stunning visuals and to understand how we are destroying our nature without giving a thought. Simply put, it’s one of best documentaries on Netflix and you should not miss it.

  • IMDb: 9.3
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 93% / 90%

Check Out Our Planet on Netflix

3. The Vietnam War (2017)

The Vietnam War is a ten-part documentary series on US’s involvement in the Vietnam War. It’s created by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The documentary uses rare war footage and classified documents to prove that America was deeply complicit into creating the mess in Vietnam. This documentary is considered one of the most prolific works done in armed conflict countries. If you want to know the true picture of the Vietnam War, this documentary is highly recommended.

  • IMDb: 9.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 98% / 96%

Check Out The Vietnam War on Netflix

4. Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (2013-18)

If you are a food and travel connoisseur, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is the best documentary series you can watch on Netflix. Chef Anthony Bourdain who was known for his humane way of cooking, travels to lesser-known parts of the world and discovers local cuisine and food habits. It’s truly a delight to watch Anthony Bourdain speaking to locals and finding uncanny similarity in food habits across different parts of the world. There are a total of 12 seasons and 104 episodes covering almost all the continents. You should not miss this gem of a docuseries, it’s one of best documentaries on Netflix right now.

  • IMDb: 8.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available / 99%

Check Out Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown on Netflix

5. World War II in Colour (2009)

World War II in Colour is a documentary series which chronicles the events of World War II in a comprehensive way. If you are a history buff, you will absolutely love this series to bits. With rare footage and uncovered documents, this documentary series creates a gripping storyline. There are a total of 13 episodes which include major events like Pearl Harbor bombing, war strategies of the Axis and the Allies and much more. The footage is colorized with modern techniques and it’s available in HD. So to sum up, if you love history, you should simply not miss this docuseries.

  • IMDb: 8.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available

Check Out World War II in Colour on Netflix

6. Formula 1: Drive to Survive (2019)

Let me tell you first, if you have never seen Formula 1 before or don’t have interest in this game, I would strongly recommend you to watch Formula 1: Drive to Survive. It’s a terrific documentary series which will completely change your outlook towards this sport. The 10 part documentary series lets you peek into what goes behind the scenes and the cut-throat competition this sport has. You will be fascinated by the end of the series and will be looking forward to the next Grand Prix. 

  • IMDb: 8.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available

Check Out Formula 1: Drive to Survive on Netflix

7. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)

Dear Zachary is kind of a unique and fascinating documentary about a father named Andre Bagby and his unborn son Zachary. The father is murdered soon after he ends the relationship with his wife. This documentary is directed by Bagby’s friend, Kurt Kuenne. There are many plots and sub-plots and you would be surprised every time the story would shift to a new plot. I am not spilling the beans here, but the story unfolds into a real-life crime thriller as Kuenne continues to interview more people. All I would say is go ahead and watch this unnerving documentary in one go.

  • IMDb: 8.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 94% / 96%

Check Out Dear Zachary on Netflix

8. Senna (2010)

Senna is a fast-paced documentary about one of world’s greatest motor racing drivers, Ayrton Senna. Senna hailed from Brazil and went on to win three Formula 1 championship. Soon, he became the national hero and was a living icon of the game. But soon a tragedy struck him and the rest became history. If you loved watching Formula 1, I would highly recommend Seena for its epic story and high paced drama.

  • IMDb: 8.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / 95%

Check Out Senna on Netflix

9. The Cove (2009)

The Cove is a suspenseful documentary about the covert killings of dolphins in Japan. Richard O’Berry, a renowned American animal trainer goes to the coastal areas of Japan to shoot the covert slaughter of dolphins. In all of this, he discovers a business economy of million dollars thriving on the slaughter of dolphins. The Cove went on to premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and received high praise from critics worldwide. This documentary has everything from suspense, drama, visuals, and revenge. Among the best documentaries on Netflix, The Cove ranks really high and you should not miss it at any cost.

  • IMDb: 8.4
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 95% / 94%

Check Out The Cove on Netflix

10. Winter on Fire (2015)

Winter on Fire is a brilliant Netflix documentary which captures the student movement in Ukraine demanding freedom and civil rights. The story turns into a nightmare when the student-led protest turns violent and clashes with the administration. So much so that, a separate student revolution is born and they demand the resignation of the president. The documentary is a true depiction of the events and you would be terrified of seeing the human cost for seeking civil rights.

  • IMDb: 8.4
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 88% / 92%

Check Out Winter on Fire on Netflix

11. Tickling Giants (2016)

Tickling Giants is a documentary about Bassem Youssef, a heart surgeon from Arab who quits his profession to become a full-time comedian. What makes his story fascinating is that in the midst of Arab spring, he took on the despotic government through satire and jokes. The documentary follows his life, physical threats he receives and the degree of violence against his jokes. If you want to understand what it’s like to be a Jon Stewart in an undemocratic country, Tickling Giants is for you. Without mincing words, Ticking Giants is one of best documentaries on Netflix right now.

  • IMDb: 8.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 91%

Check Out Tickling Giants on Netflix

12. Inside Job (2010)

Inside Job is one of the most detailed documentaries on the great recession of 2008. When the US was hit by the financial meltdown, the whole world was affected. This documentary, however, finds the reasons behind the economic slowdown and the findings are a startling revelation. The documentary is narrated by Matt Damon who examines the key factors behind the collapse. What is fascinating is that there were key political figures and financial players who shook the economy from its foundation. If you want to watch one documentary on the financial world, let it be Inside Job.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 98% / 91%

Check Out Inside Job on Netflix

13. Wild Wild Country (2018)

Wild Wild Country is an unbelievable six-part documentary about the controversial Indian guru, Osho Rajneesh. Osho moves to America, Oregon in particular to create a utopian society. But as the story unfolds, it will completely blow your mind. To give you an idea, the conflict with Oregon locals and Osho followers lead to a massive civil attack overthrowing the mayor of the state. If you truly want to believe this story, you will have to watch Wild Wild Country. It’s an epic story told at an epic scale. Among all the best documentaries on Netflix, personally, Wild Wild Country is my favourite.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 98% / 88%

Check Out Wild Wild Country on Netflix

14. 13th (2016)

13th is a Netflix documentary about the never-ending racial subjugation in the US. The documentary is named after the 13th amendment of the US constitution which abolished slavery. Ava DuVernay, the director of this documentary goes on to show that most American prisons are filled with African-American people as there is inherent bias against the black people. 13th won many international acclaims and a BAFTA award in the best documentary category. If you want to understand racial inequality in the US, 13th is a must-watch.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 97% / 91%

Check Out 13th on Netflix

15. The Keepers (2017)

The Keepers is a seven-part documentary series about the unsolved murder of Cathy Cesnik. Cathy Cesnik was a nun and a Catholic teacher at the City High School in Baltimore. The story is absolutely fascinating as no government agency could conclude as to who killed the beloved nun. But director Ryan White goes behind the obvious and finds some interesting things and puts together the pieces to find the truth. It’s a story of sexual abuse and the church-state relationship. You should not miss this gripping documentary because it’s one of best documentaries on Netflix.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 97% / 94%

Check Out The Keepers on Netflix

16. The Act of Killing (2012)

The Act of Killing is a terrifying documentary on the mass execution of communists in Indonesia. In the year 1965, when the democratic government was overthrown by the military, a death squad was created who executed intellectuals and communists on a whim. The documentary is painful to watch and shakes you from deep inside. The Act of Killing went on to win BAFTA and got nominated for the Academy Awards. If you want to feel the power of documentary cinema, The Act of Killing is an absolute must-watch.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 95% / 85%

Check Out The Act of Killing on Netflix

17. Searching for Sugar Man (2012)

Searching for Sugar Man is a fascinating documentary about a US musician, Rodrguez in the late 70s. Rodriguez didn’t see much of a success in the US, but his songs were hit in South Africa. For two years, Rodriguez was missing and was announced dead, but his fans in South Africa were not sold on the theory. Two of his fans went out to find the truth and the story became absolutely enthralling. Searching for Sugar Man went on to win the Oscars and several international awards. If you love suspenseful documentaries, Searching for Sugar Man must not be missed.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 94% / 92%

Check Out Searching for Sugar Man on Netflix

18. The Fog of War (2003)

The Fog of War is a documentary film about the Former Secretary of US Defense, Robert S. McNamara. In this documentary, McNamara goes on to detail about US’ complicity in massacres in South Asian countries. He also reveals some back of the room decisions which worsened the crisis in Vietnam. This one of a kind documentary is absolutely thrilling and you should watch it to understand what went behind the White House during the Vietnam war.

  • IMDb: 8.2
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 96% / 93%

Check Out The Fog of War on Netflix

19. The Internet’s Own Boy (2014)

The Internet’s Own Boy is a must-watch documentary for anyone who supports free speech and universal education for all. The documentary is about Aaron Swartz, a computer programmer and a student at MIT. To provide government-funded research papers and journals for free, Aaron goes on to hack MIT and JSTOR’s servers. As a result, the US government charges him under multiple digital frauds and abuse act. But what happens next is too horrifying and painful to watch. I would highly recommend The Internet’s Own Boy to anyone who values access to education an essential right.

  • IMDb: 8.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 93% / 91%

Check Out The Internet’s Own Boy on Netflix

20. CitizenFour (2014)

CitizenFour is one of a kind, a real-life thriller about the whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the year 2013, Snowden sends encrypted emails to Laura Poitras, a Pulitzer Prize-winning filmmaker about the surveillance done by the government agencies. Poitras without losing a minute travels to Hong Kong to meet Snowden and documents everything. This documentary details everything that goes behind NSA and FBI and how they keep a check on citizens of their own country. You should not miss this documentary at any cost.

  • IMDb: 8.1
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 96% / 87%

Check Out CitizenFour on Netflix

21. Going Clear (2015)

Going Clear is a disturbing documentary about the methods and strange practices of the Church of Scientology. It’s a searing watch seeing the members of the church describing sexual abuse as a normal practice. The documentary also highlights how the government protects the higher-ups and partakes in State-Church complicity. This documentary film is a must-watch for anyone who wants to understand how religion is intertwined with the state.

  • IMDb: 8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 95% / 90%

Check Out Going Clear on Netflix

22. The Mind of a Chef (2012)

The Mind of a Chef is a multi-part documentary series about chefs around the world and how do they dissect cuisines in their mind. It also goes on to show how they would cook the same thing in their part of the world. The documentary is a treasure trove for any food connoisseur. There are a total of 6 seasons and 86 episodes. If you have got time to kill, The Mind of a Chef is a great and joyful watch.

  • IMDb: 8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available / 100%

Check Out The Mind of a Chef on Netflix

23. Icarus (2017)

Icarus is an absolute must-watch if you are a sports enthusiast. The documentary exposes a major doping scandal in Russia in the backdrop of the Olympics game. The film is shot by an American filmmaker and a Russian scientist. The film goes on to show how doping is part of Russia’s state-backed program. If you want to understand how far countries can go to win Olympic’s medal, Icarus is the best documentary to watch on Netflix.

  • IMDb: 7.9
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 94% / 94%

Check Out Icarus on Netflix

24. Explained (2018)

Explained is one of my favorite documentary series on Netflix. The series is part of Vox-Netflix partnership where they pick a topical subject and dissect the common myths about it. In fact, the series goes way deeper and finds some uncomfortable truths. So far, there are 20 episodes which include Astrology, The Female Orgasm, Tatto, etc. If you want to understand on-going topics with a much better perspective, you can’t afford to miss Explained on Netflix.

  • IMDb: 7.9
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available / 90%

Check Out Explained on Netflix

25. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an interesting documentary about the world’s greatest sushi chef Jiro Ono. The documentary is unabashedly about Jiro Ono, his legacy and the way he cooks sushi. Jiro Ono who is 85, runs a makeshift, 10-seater restaurant in Tokyo where people throng to have a bowl of sushi. The documentary also talks about his son, if he can live up to the legacy of his father. If you are a food lover, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a must-watch.

  • IMDb: 7.9
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 99% / 92%

Check Out Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix

26. Chasing Ice (2012)

Chasing Ice is a documentary film about melting glaciers in the Arctic and how climate change is rapidly affecting our ecology. The film is directed by National Geographic photographer James Balog who sets out to the brutal part of Arctic region to provide undeniable truth of climate change. James Balog has done a prolific work to bring attention towards preserving our nature and Earth. Do watch this documentary to understand how climate change is real and the consequences of our silence.

  • IMDb: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 96% / 85%

Check Out Chasing Ice on Netflix

27. Zero Days (2016)

Zero Days is a frightening documentary about a modern-day cyberwar. The documentary follows a malware called Stuxnet which was unleashed by the US and Israel to destroy the nuclear facility of Iran. But what happens afterward is even more frightening as the malware spreads beyond the targeted mission bringing the entire country to halt. If you are interested in cyberwarfare, Zero Days is the one to begin with.

  • IMDb: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 91% / 75%

Check Out Zero Days on Netflix

28. Food, Inc. (2008)

Food, Inc. is a documentary film about the modern-day food industry in the US. It’s a riveting watch for anyone who is health-conscious. The documentary dives deep into how the food economy works and how few big corporations control the diet of the entire country. Food, Inc. is a fascinating documentary which gives a glimpse into the least-talked industry. You should not miss this gem of a documentary at any cost as it’s one of best documentaries on Netflix.

  • IMDb: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 95% / 86%

Check Out Food, Inc. on Netflix

29. Grizzly Man (2005)

Grizzly Man is a remarkable documentary about the grim relationship between humans and animals. The documentary follows the wildlife conservationist, Timothy Treadwell who sets out to the Alaskan reserve to live with wild grizzly bears. The movie turns on the head when one of the wild bears takes on Treadwell. It’s a thrilling watch about a man who spent most of his life protecting wildlife and forests. I would highly recommend this documentary to anyone who wants to understand the fraught relationship we have with animals.

  • IMDb: 7.8
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 92% / 85%

Check Out Grizzly Man on Netflix

30. Meru (2015)

Meru is one of my favorite documentaries and I won’t shy away from recommending it to anyone having a remote interest in the mountains and Himalayas. The film is about three ace mountaineers who have climbed Mt. Everest and K2 several times in the past. But this time, they set out to climb the world’s toughest peak, Mt. Meru in Uttarakhand. Many elite mountaineers have tried and failed to summit this peak in the past, but this documentary takes you on a journey of immense determination and grit. Even if you don’t have any interest in the mountains, I would highly recommend this documentary to understand the limits of human endeavor.

  • IMDb: 7.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 89% / 91%

Check Out Meru on Netflix

31. Fire in the Blood (2013)

Fire in the Blood is a powerful documentary about how western pharmaceutical companies blocked access to cheap antiretroviral drugs to African countries. The drugs are used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS and US pharma companies were selling them at an unbelievably higher cost. The documentary is gut-wrenching seeing many US pharma companies holding patents and blocking others to provide low-cost drugs. The documentary takes a great leap when an Indian pharma company, Cipla goes against the US sanction and provides its own patented drugs to the African people at a fraction of the US medicine cost. It’s a modern-day story of horror and hope and how powerful countries can starve third-world nations to death to extort more money. Fire in the Blood is an absolute must-watch and you can’t afford to miss it.

  • IMDb: 7.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 90% / 87%

Check Out Fire in the Blood on Netflix

32. Fire in Babylon (2010)

Fire in Babylon is a path-breaking documentary about the West Indies’ cricket team in the 1970s and 80s. The documentary shows how the cricket team came out of huge civil unrest and race riots during the apartheid period. It also goes on to show how the Indies team led by Vivian Richards won the World Cup snatching the trophy from their colonial masters. It’s a story about the triumph of a country ravaged by riots and unrest and you should not miss it.

  • IMDb: 7.7
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 91% / 87%

Check Out Fire in Babylon on Netflix

33. Evil Genius (2018)

Evil Genius is one of best documentaries on Netflix available right now. It’s a brilliant tale of investigative film-making about the murder of Brian Wells in the year 2003. The director of the documentary, Mark Duplass goes ahead and unearths enough evidence which points to some bizarre clues. It’s a true-crime documentary captured in real life which brings more light to the reasons behind the murder. Evil Genius is a four-part documentary series and you should watch it if you love investigative documentaries.

  • IMDb: 7.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 80% / 82%

Check Out Evil Genius on Netflix

34. The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes (2017)

The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes is a documentary series about the world’s most unique and interesting abodes. It has a total of 18 episodes which include homes from the US, Israel, UK, Europe, and Asia. Architect Piers Taylor travels around the world to find and explain the various complexities of homebuilding. This British documentary went on to win many awards and is considered one of the best documentaries to understand architecture. If you love building homes or want to understand the various aspects of design and architecture, you should watch this remarkable documentary.

  • IMDb: 7.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: Not Available / Not Available

Check Out The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes on Netflix

35. What Happened Miss Simone? (2015)

What Happened Miss Simone is a musical documentary and a tribute to the legacy of pianist Nina Simone. Simone, who was an influential symbol for black people, tells her story about the struggle of living in white America, the racial subjugation, and how she dealt gross inequality. The documentary is a searing tale of determination and finding success against all odds. Do watch this documentary to learn more about the legendary pianist Nina Simone along with her struggle to overcome racial inequality.

  • IMDb: 7.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 89% / 85%

Check Out What Happened Miss Simone on Netflix

36. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo (2017)

It’s the 50th anniversary since men walked on the moon for the first time so here is the best documentary on Apollo Mission Control. The documentary interviews many of the unsung heroes of Mission Control who were at NASA supervising the Apollo program. It also shows the backroom footage where the officials were coordinating with the onboard crew. The documentary is a fascinating watch and you should watch it to feel the atmosphere inside the Mission Control room.

  • IMDb: 7.6
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 77%

Check Out Mission Control on Netflix

37. The White Helmets (2016)

The White Helmets is a disturbing documentary about the rescue volunteers who were operating daily and saving lives in the middle of violence between Syria and Turkey. The documentary is frightening to watch given the risk the filmmakers had to take to shoot such real-life encounters. The tension is palpable in the documentary and you would be on the edge of the seat seeing the defiant cross-firing and airstrikes from both the sides. You should watch this documentary to understand the degree of Syrian violence and how a few volunteers went on to save lives.

  • IMDb: 7.5
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 84%

Check Out The White Helmets on Netflix

38. Get Me Roger Stone (2017)

Get Me Roger Stone is one of best documentaries on Netflix about the Republican political strategist, Roger Stone. In this hilarious yet unnerving documentary, he shows his true potential acumen and lobbies for Donald Trump as the presidential candidate. From Wall Street to different circles of businessmen, he puts forward Trump as the one and only way to save America. To understand how Trump won the presidential election in 2016, you just have to watch Get Me Roger Stone. It’s a brilliant documentary narrated in the most hilarious way. 

  • IMDb: 7.4
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 88% / 83%

Check Out Get Me Roger Stone on Netflix

39. Shirkers (2018)

Shirkers is an unusual documentary about a teenager from Singapore named Tan, who shoots her first road movie with her American guru, Georges Cardona. But just after the shoot, Cardona steals the footage and disappears from Singapore. 20 years later, Tan founds the footage and re-tells the story in a new way. The documentary is a story about a filmmaker’s lost world, coming to terms with the past and missed opportunities. You should watch this documentary for some great filmmaking, stunning visuals and for developing different perspectives.

  • IMDb: 7.4
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 100% / 79%

Check Out Shirkers on Netflix

40. Fyre (2019)

Fyre is a hilarious documentary about the fraudulent music festival which was supposed to happen on an island of Bahamas. It promised a luxurious stay with A-list musicians, top models and plenty of booze. However, when the guests arrived, it was far from what was promised. This documentary is a comical take on the wealthy people and their whims. If you have time to kill, watch this modern-day documentary to understand how this fraud was actually devised and executed.

  • IMDb: 7.3
  • Rotten Tomatoes: 90% / 86%

Check Out Fyre on Netflix

SEE ALSO: 25 Best Horror Movies on Netflix You Should Watch

Watch the Best Documentaries on Netflix

So that was our selection of 40 best documentaries on Netflix streaming right now.  We have included a variety of documentaries including sports, politics, entertainment, nature and many more. You can pick any of them and I am sure you would enjoy a lot watching this form of cinema. I love watching documentaries because of its non-fiction genre and the reality associated with it. Anyway, that will be all from our side. If you want more dedicated lists of Netflix content for different genres, do let us know in the comment section below. Until then, Netflix and chill!

 





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