The Best Documentaries on Netflix to Stream Right Now

It’s a golden age for documentaries—new films have broken news and pushed stories forward. And it’s easier than ever to dig into Netflix to find classic and award-winning docs. But sometimes the options can be overwhelming. From Oscar-winning and -nominated works of journalism, to rock docs and pop-culture biographies, to emotional and thrilling examinations of society, Netflix’s collection of documentaries are all-encompassing. If you’re in the mood for a true story—one that is seemingly too intense, too outlandish, too exciting to be true—you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best documentaries to stream on Netflix right now.

The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann

Often regarded as the British counterpart to America’s Jon Benet Ramsey, the documentary limited series traces over the baffling disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann, who went missing while on vacation in Portugal with her family. Unlike Ramsey though, McCann was never found, prompting an onslaught of theories that targeted everyone in the area, all the way down to McCann’s parents.

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Evil Genius

If you’ve ever heard rumblings about a bank heist that resulted in a pizza guy being blown up with a collar bomb, Evil Genius tells the full, insane story about what happened back in 2003. If you haven’t heard about this case, process that first sentence and read on. Evil Genius is the four-part documentary that unwraps all the mystery behind the murder of Brian Wells and the string of events that led him to become involved in a deadly Pennsylvania bank robbery that made headlines across the nation.

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Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé

A behind-the-scenes look at Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance, which was written, directed and executive produced by Beyoncé herself.

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Abducted in Plain Sight

It’s a story nearly too outlandish to believe. The Broberg family was torn apart by their neighbor, Robert Berchtold, who manipulated the parents and groomed their daughter, Jan, ultimately kidnapping her at the age of 12 and once again two years later.

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The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

Dubbed “the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” trans icon Marsha P. Johnson was a New York City fixture whose life was cut tragically short in 1992 when her body was discovered in the Hudson River. Though police deemed her death a suicide, this outstanding documentary argues otherwise, following Anti-Violence Project activist Victoria Cruz as she reopens Johnson’s cold case.

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Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened

In 2019, there were two documentaries released about the disaster that was the Fyre Festival. The Netflix version looks at the fallout for mastermind Billy McFarland and the effect this festival had on the people in the Bahamas who helped put it all together. In one of the more memorable moments, McFarland’s business partner, Andy King, explains how he offered to go far and beyond the call of duty to get some boxes of Evian water bottles past customs.

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Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

Chris Smith directs this behind-the-scenes look at Milos Forman’s 1999 biopic Man on the Moon, for which Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe for playing celebrated entertainer Andy Kaufman. The doc looks at Carrey’s process, a sometimes laborious Method Acting effort to capture Kaufman’s spirit in his performance.

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Holy Hell

Director Will Allen looks at the Buddhafield cult—of which he himself as a member, allowing him incredible access for 22 years’ worth of footage. At the center of this unsettling documentary is The Teacher (also known as Andreas, Michel, and Jaime Gomez) whose charisma and megalomania influenced his followers.

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Amy

This Oscar-winning documentary follows the short life and career of Amy Winehouse. It’s an emotional depiction of the singer-songwriter’s talents, told by her family and friends who watched as her life spun out of control in the face of addiction.

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Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Celebrated filmmaker Werner Herzog turns his camera lens to the Internet, examining how the ubiquitous network of interconnected servers, devices, software, and people have made an undeniable (and irreversible) impact on contemporary human life and psychology.

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Wild Wild Country

A look at the Rajneeshpuram community that was started in the Oregon desert by guru Bhagwan Shree and his right-hand Ma Anand Sheela. While Shree died in 1990, Sheela sits for riveting interviews with the filmmakers.

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The Pixar Story

Pixar changed animated movies forever with the release of Toy Story, which ushered in a new generation of family films that were fun for kids and compelling for adults. This doc offers a look at the team of designers and creatives who made it happen.

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De Palma

Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow team up for this compelling portrait of writer-director Brian De Palma, whose provocative filmography—including modern classics like Carrie, Scarface, and Body Double—remain influential and provocative cult classics.

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Oklahoma City

The 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building remains one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in the United States. This PBS-produced doc examines the lead up to the disastrous event, and its complicated legacy in contemporary American history.

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Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Jiro Ono is the 85-year-old master chef of Tokyo’s Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat sushi restaurant that has earned three Michelin stars and worldwide acclaim. The documentary focuses on Ono as he continues to perfect his cuisine, and looks toward the future of the Ono legacy.

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Filmworker

Leon Vitali’s first collaboration with director Stanley Kubrick was a memorable role in the 1975 drama Barry Lyndon, but it was his work behind the scenes as Kubrick’s personal assistant that serves as the subject of this compelling biographical documentary.

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They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

The famed director Orson Welles changed cinema forever with his prestigious career, but his final film—The Other Side of the Wind—was unfinished and unseen for decades. Here’s the behind-the-scenes story of one of the most infamous movies in film history.

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Get Me Roger Stone

Before he was indicted in the Mueller Probe, Roger Stone had a long career as a right-wing dirty trickster, dating back to his work with Richard Nixon. “I live a pretty Machiavellian life and I’m a skeptic. I tend to believe the worst of people because I understand human nature,” Stone says in the doc. “That’s why one of Stone’s Rules is that ‘Hate is a stronger motivator than love.’”

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Amanda Knox

The woman at the center of one of the most gripping international true crime stories in recent memory, Amanda Knox tells her story—of her murdered roommate, her arrest and conviction of the crime, her time in an Italian prison, and ultimate exoneration.

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Icarus

Director Bryan Fogel intended to experiment with doping in order to win a cycling competition—only his investigations into the practice opened up a bigger, more sinister scandal in this Oscar-winning doc.

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Period. End of Sentence.

In this award-winning 2018 short film, a group of women in India fight the stigma against menstruation and champion the making low-cost sanitary pads.

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13th

Ava DuVernay examines the legacy of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution—which officially ended slavery—and the ensuing Jim Crow era, the mass incarceration of African Americans, and the modern-day prison industrial complex that acts as slavery-as-punishment.

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Strong Island

Director Yance Ford’s Oscar nominated feature looks into the 1992 murder of his brother William and the ensuing case, which saw an all-white grand jury chosing not to indict the white man who killed him.

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Knock Down the House

An award-winning, behind-the-scenes view of the campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, and Paula Jean Swearengin—four women with no political experience or corporate money.

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Casting JonBenet

Decades after the still-unsolved murder of JonBenét Ramsey, director Kitty Green goes to Boulder, Colorado to cast local actors in a film about the murder—only to discover the lasting impact the little girl’s murder has left on the area’s residents.

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What Happened, Miss Simone?

This film examines the career of Nina Simone, the acclaimed singer, songwriter, and activist whose tumultuous life influenced her fierce and dynamic artistry—but, at times, proved too intense for Simone herself.

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I Called Him Morgan

The turbulent relationship between jazz saxophonist Lee Morgan and his wife Helen is the subject of this fiery documentary. Told through Helen’s own narration from an interview before her death in 1996, the film is a somber recollection of an artist whose career was cut short in a tragic act of violence.

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Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened

Lonny Price reexamines the 1981 Broadway production of the Stephen Sondheim musical Merrily We Roll Along, forming a reunion for its cast, largely made up of teenage actors, who saw their first chance at stardom squashed when the show closed after 16 performances.

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Paris Is Burning

Jennie Livingston’s seminal Paris Is Burning documents the Harlem drag ball culture of the late ’80s, which helped push drag into the mainstream. More importantly, it chronicles the intersection of race, gender, and class at the height of the AIDS crisis, but does so with humor, joy, and affection for its subjects.

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Quincy

Rashida Jones produced this look at her father, the renown musician, composer, and producer Quincy Jones, which reveals the personal side of the music icon.

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20 Feet From Stardom

This Oscar-winning film follows the careers of backup singers like Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, and others, whose faces may not be immediately recognizable—but whose voices can be heard on some of the most iconic rock songs of the 20th Century.

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Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Actor-director Griffin Dunne turns his camera lens to his very famous aunt, journalist and novelist Joan Didion. This biographical documentary examines the woman whose voice captured the complicated and messy collective American identity in the ’60s and ’70s.

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The Black Godfather

Clarence Avant grew up in the segregated south and went on to become a hugely influential behind-the-scenes figure in the entertainment industry. Director Reginald Hudlin interviewed more than 75 people over three years, including Quincy Jones, Kamala Harris, Bill Clinton, Bill Withers, and Barack Obama.

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One of Us

Three former members of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community open up about their past lives, their faith, and their complex relationship to their families and former community in this emotional and provocative feature.

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The First Monday in May

The annual Met Gala is an international event, an assembly of the biggest celebrities in entertainment, philanthropy, and fashion. This behind-the-scenes look shows all of the glitz, glamour, and drama that happens during the planning an execution of the event.

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LA 92

Twenty-five years after the Rodney King trial, LA 92 looks at the emotional firebomb that detonated in Los Angeles—when the violent clashes between the police and citizens brought long-simmering racial tension to a national awareness.

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Audrie & Daisy

The social ramifications of sexual assault is the subject of this harrowing film, which follows the cases of victims of abuse and the impact their accusations have had on their families and friends when faced with cyberbullying attacks.

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Blackfish

Former SeaWorld employees open up about the theme park’s collection of killer whales—in particular the orca Tilikum, who was responsible for the deaths of three people—in this emotionally gripping exposé of animal abuse allegations.

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Prelude to War

Hollywood director Frank Capra produced this propaganda film on behalf of the Office of War Information, part of a larger series of pro-American films called Why We Fight, which picked up the 1943 Oscar for Best Documentary.

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