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The 25 best documentaries on Netflix (November 2019)

5. Blackfish (2013)

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

Region: UK, US, Canada

The documentary: The truth behind keeping whales in captivity is chronicled in this Netflix Original, tracing the story of an Orca named Tilikum who killed three humans while at Sea World. While there's no doubt  those deaths were tragic, filmmaker Gabriela Cowperthwaite delves into why the killer whale acted in this way. Is it in his nature? Or was it because he was torn away from his family at two years of age, and kept in isolation and confinement for twenty years? Hearing the testimonies of his former trainers will only further break your heart.

Why it's worth a watch: Both sides of the nature verses nurture coin are explored here in an attempt to make sense of a chewy moral dilemma. This story is one that continues to make waves – should animals be kept in captivity for our entertainment? – making this a must-see Netflix documentary.

4. Making a Murderer (2016)

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

Region: Worldwide

The documentary: Unless you've been living under a rock, you will have heard about Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who served 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Two years after his exoneration he was found guilty of murder. So, did he do it? This docuseries covers his life extensively, beginning with his first brush with crime right up until the present day.

Why it's worth a watch: One of the best documentaries on Netflix – if not, one of the best true crime documentaries ever made – this is utterly compelling storytelling. It's the murder trial episodes that carries the most tension, as his defence team argues he was framed by the Manitowoc police department and back it up with some pretty convincing evidence. There's a reason this show has captured the public's interest.

3. Cartel Land (2015)

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

Region: UK

The documentary: Zero Dark Thirty's Kathryn Bigelow executive produces this unflinching look into the Mexican drug trade. The bravery of director Matthew Heineman is commendable, as he troops into areas where two vigilante militia groups fight to reclaim their territory from the country's most notorious drug cartels. These ordinary citizens, the Arizona Border Recon and The Autodefensas, arm themselves in the name of justice. 

Why it's worth a watch: Both groups are desperate to stop the violence – but, in a neat twist – the documentary asks: what happens when these self-appointed do-gooders become just as terrifying as the people they're trying to stop?

2. Behind the Curve (2018)

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

Region: Worldwide

The documentary: Behind the Curve focuses on something most of us take for granted, but a growing minority believe is a hoax; that the Earth is round. This documentary from filmmaker Daniel J. Clark offers an in-depth examination of the beliefs of flat-Earthers, including interviews with prominent believers and astrophysicists from Universities including UCLA and CalTech. You might think it’s not possible to create an interesting documentary about something so obviously wrong, but that’s precisely why Behind the Curve is so gripping as it shows the lengths people go to to convince themselves, and others, that the Earth is in fact flat.

Why it’s worth a watch: On the surface, Behind the Curve seems to deal in the ridiculous, but you’ll soon realise that not only do a surprising number of people believe the Earth is flat… but that they’re growing in number too! This documentary delves into why that is and how difficult it is to fight the growing trend (you’d be surprised!). Before you know it, something which sounds so ridiculous suddenly seems very serious and you’ll be racking your brain trying to think of ways to prove once and for all that the Earth is round. Or not… depending on your point of view.

1. Twinsters (2015)

Image credit: Netflix

Image credit: Netflix

Region: Worldwide

The documentary: We all have at least one point during the day when we're steered toward YouTube. Usually for a good chuckle at a dog and a ferret that have become the best of friends through an amusing happenstance. But imagine if you clicked onto a video... and you were in it. Except, you don't remember filming it. That's sort of what happened to Samantha, a Parisian fashion student, who found herself watching a video of her doppelganger. Naturally, she went on a quest to find this mysterious YouTube version of herself. 

Why it's worth a watch: Similar to last year's superb Three Identical Strangers documentary, Twinsters charts Samantha's fascinating journey (with a bit of a spoilery title) as she learns about the identical sister she never knew she had. 

Gem is GR+'s west coast entertainment news reporter. She’s a bit obsessed with all things Aliens and Terminator.