Looking for something to watch but feel guilty about going on a TV show streaming binge? As far as we're concerned, Netflix binges aren’t a guilty pleasure when you’re locking and loading thought-provoking, eye-opening documentaries. From tense sports dramas and shocking crime investigations, to globetrotting foodie adventures that’ll have you experimenting in the kitchen, these are our picks for the best documentaries on Netflix. Take note!
Best Documentaries on Netflix: Crime
If you haven’t yet seen the docuseries everyone’s been talking about, you’re in for a wild ride. This crazy chronicle of lawless big cat breeder Joe Exotic’s life and crimes is a can’t-believe-what-you’re-seeing spectacle that has it all. From guns, money, and drugs, to polygamy, murder and all-out mayhem, backed up by a cast of eccentric characters, you won’t forget this doco anytime soon.
One season, Eight Episodes
He seemed to have it all – a dazzling NFL career, multi-million dollar salary and doting young family – making Aaron Hernandez’s sudden arrest for the shooting murder of a friend all the more shocking. This docuseries unravels his dark double life by unveiling a long history of violence, crime and personal tragedy. This crime documentary offers new insight into what might have motivated him to do the unthinkable.
One Season, Three Episodes
It was supposed to be the music festival of the century, an exclusive party for the rich and famous, but ended up being a nightmare served on a cold cheese sandwich. This gripping documentary forensically uncovers the scammers and grifters behind Fyre Festival, who used the allure of supermodels and Instagram stars to con cashed up millennials. The Greatest Party That Never Happened is one of the best documentaries on Netflix, if for no other reason than allowing us to relive the insanity all over again.
Feature-length Film: 1h 37min
Best Documentaries on Netflix: Sport
Whether or not you’re an NBA fanatic, this fascinating docuseries on one of the greatest athletes of all time is a must-watch. With the help of never before seen footage and hundreds of interviews, The Last Dance provides a definitive account of Michael Jordan’s career with the all-dominating 1990s Chicago Bulls as they manage intense fame, pressure and internal tensions in their quest for a sixth championship.
One Season, 10 Episodes
Formula 1 is often thought of as an esoteric sport that only interests motorheads and the rich – after all, what could be so thrilling about watching cars zoom around a circuit over and over again? As it turns out, a whole lot. Even if you don’t know your oversteer from your understeer, you’ll be sucked into the F1 world of speed, money and life-endangering risk, as cameras unveil the fierce rivalries and larger than life characters that drive this billionaire’s sport.
Two Seasons, 20 Episodes
Forget what you saw in Bring It On – the real world of competitive cheerleading is tough as nails, with tears, late nights and broken bones. Cheer takes viewers to the small town of Corsicana, Texas, where no-nonsense head coach Monica Aldama leads the unparalleled Navarro College cheer squad in their pursuit of the National Cheerleading Championship. Along the way she nurtures some unforgettable characters, many of whom have been rescued from difficult backgrounds, pushing them to flip, twist and stunt their way to glory.
One Season, Six Episodes
Best Documentaries on Netflix: Music
All hail Queen Bey! This behind-the-scenes look at Beyoncé’s journey to her unforgettable 2018 Coachella performance is intimate, illuminating, and confirms the superstar’s status as the hardest working person in entertainment. Charting the long process from creative concept to cultural moment, Homecoming reveals the emotional toll of a difficult pregnancy and the history that motivates her; interspersed with jaw-dropping footage from her two Coachella sets.
Feature-length Film: 2h 17m
Asif Kapadia’s moving portrait of the life, career and death of Amy Winehouse showed the world that despite the unending media coverage that hounded her, the public didn’t know the real Amy at all. Extensive archival footage and personal interviews reveal her precociousness, vulnerability and extraordinary talent, from her beginnings as a bright-eyed prodigy to a tortured global star.
Feature-length Film: 2h 7m
Beyond the meat dresses and wild stage performances, for most of her career people knew very little about the ‘real person’ behind Lady Gaga – Stefani Germanotta. This insightful doco chips away some of the mystery, following the superstar as she records her 2016 album Joanne and strives to present a more ‘stripped down’ version of herself, both publicly and artistically. The film delves into many personal topics like her breakup with longtime partner Taylor Kinney, chronic pain and family trauma.
Feature-length Film: 1h 40m
This Grammy award-winning documentary tells the story of music icon, Mr Quincy Jones ̶ a record and film producer, instrumentalist, singer and 28-time Grammy award winner. Providing viewers with an intimate look inside his day-to-day life, Quincy also delves into the legend’s career defining moments, like his involvement in Michael Jackson’s Thriller and collaboration with Frank Sinatra. Essential viewing for any music fan, this is not only a documentary, but a homage to music history.
Feature-length Film: 2h 4m
Best Documentaries on Netflix: Food
This delightful four-part series follows author and chef Samrin Nosrat around the world as she enlightens viewers to the four fundamentals of good cooking – salt, fat, acid and heat. With humour and insatiable curiosity, she explores each through the lens of a country’s cuisine, from the fat in Italy’s cheese, meats and olive oil to Japan’s salty love affair with soy sauce and miso. Along the way, she meets lively characters and shares timeless recipes that will boost your confidence in the kitchen.
One Season, Four Episodes
In Ugly Delicious, Momofuku’s swashbuckling founder and chef David Chang embarks on a mouthwatering cross-cultural hunt for the world’s most satisfying grub. Each episode he explores the cultural, sociological, and culinary history behind a beloved piece of tucker, be it dumplings, tacos, BBQ or fried chicken, inviting food-loving peers and celebs to ponder big questions while digging in. Our tip: don’t watch this while hungry!
Two Seasons, 12 Episodes
Chef’s Table changed the food doco game, introducing lush cinematography and gorgeous art direction never before seen in the genre. The series captures some of the most renowned chefs in the world, exploring their unique cooking styles, awe-inspiring creations and the personal histories that drive them. Australia even gets some love in episode five, which follows Ben Shewry of Melbourne restaurant Attica.
Six Seasons, 30 Episodes
This captivating cooking travelogue stars writer, director and food enthusiast Jon Favreau, alongside chef Roy Choi, who worked together on the movie Chef. The pair reunite to travel around the world celebrating different flavours and cultures, with a few notable chefs and celebrity friends who join them along the way, making it one of the best documentaries on Netflix.
Three Seasons, 20 Episodes