The 20 best documentaries on Netflix

An image from Evil Genius - one of the best documentaries on Netflix

Often stranger than fiction, there's something exceptionally horrifying about documentaries, which often to tell the true story of the some of the most shocking events in our history. Not wonder we can't stop watching! Fulfil your need for real life drama with the best documentaries on Netflix, from true crime documentaries like Making a Murderer and The Witness, to human interest series such as Twinsters and Wild Wild Country. Whether you've always wanted to know what it's like to work in the porn industry or a Michelin star restaurant, there's a Netflix documentaries for you. Just keep scrolling for 20 of the best documentaries on Netflix and get ready to be obsessed, shocked, and entertained in equal measure.  

20. Hot Girls Wanted

Region: US, UK

Porn is something that none of us feels 100% comfortable talking about, but, if we're honest, we're all familiar with in one way or another. If you've ever wondered what it's like to work in the multi-million dollar porn industry, American documentary film Hot Girls Wanted is for you. Directed by filmmakers Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus it follows the lives of several 18- to 19-year-old pornographic actresses and premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2015 before being snapped up by Netflix. This documentary doesn't pull any punches and shows some of the best and worst aspects of working in the porn industry, but Netflix is obviously please with its reception as it released an accompanying documentary TV show last year called Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On to further explore the story.  

19. Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

Region: US, UK

If you're a fan of comedian Andy Kaufman, Jim Carrey, or the 1999 biopic which starred Carrey as Kaufman, Man on the Moon, this is the documentary for you. Director Chris Smith focuses on Carrey during the filming of Man on the Moon in which he stayed in character as Kaufman throughout production, using contemporary interviews with Carrey and never-before-seen footage of the making of Man on the Moon. It's almost scary how easily Carrey brings his idol Kaufman back to life and the studio reportedly didn't want the behind-the-scenes footage to ever be released (once you see it, you'll understand why). It's clear that Carrey's commitment to the role caused problems on set, but Jim and Andy is a compelling story about two of the world's biggest comedians and why they do what they do. 

18. Wild Wild Country

Region: US, UK

You might remember the controversial Rajneeshpuram community, which set up shop in Wasco County, Oregon in the '80s... or you might not. Either way, you're going to want to watch Wild Wild Country, which premiered at Sundance Film Festival and is one of the best documentaries on Netflix right now. Brothers Maclain Way and Chapman Way dissect one of the biggest stories in America at the time as they try and explain how Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh convinced thousands of people to follow him. But it's not just about the community itself, but also the conflict which grew between them and the surrounding towns and people. An incredibly interesting look at the 'good vs evil' narrative, which sprung up in the media at the time, you won't be able to stop watching. 

17. Icarus

Region: Worldwide

Icarus is definitive proof that twists and turns aren't reserved for the fictions of Hollywood. Filmmaker and cyclist Bryan Fogel planned to make a film about doping in the sports industry, choosing to load himself up on steroids and document the experience. Think of it like Super Size Me, but with pharmaceutical-grade meds instead of Big Macs. His plan was to see how easy it is to get away with doping in professional sport. That alone is an intriguing enough premise in light of Lance Armstrong's shenanigans. What he winds up discovering after speaking with a Russian doctor completely changes the purpose of the doc turning Icarus into a powerful, political thriller.

16. Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo

Region: Worldwide

Mission Control is an uplifting, compelling piece of filmmaking that goes behind-the-scenes of NASA's biggest achievements: mankind landing on the moon. It's a gorgeous look back at the history of those iconic lunar jaunts, delving into the lives of the astronauts who journeyed to space and those who stayed behind during the Apollo missions. Paying tribute to the men and women who helped keep those astronauts alive during the bungled Apollo 13 mission, this is emotionally-charged stuff that's packed with details historians will love and a beating heart that reminds you of how people discover their calling in life. 

15. The Witness

Region: Worldwide

You might not know it, but you've probably heard the story of Kitty Genovese before. Murdered in Kew Gardens, Queens, while 38 neighbours supposedly watched and did nothing, the 28-year-old's tragic demise is often trotted out to illustrate a point about human behaviour; we're all rather selfish and we think that someone else will step up when bad stuff happens. For Genovese's brother Bill, something didn't sit right and so he began to dig deeper into the theory of the 38 people who ignored his sister's cries for help. The Witness consists of interviews with Kew Garden residents and a journey back into the library archives to find where that 38 number originated. Gripping stuff. 

14. Amanda Knox

Region: Worldwide

The case of Amanda Knox is a controversial one. In 2007 the American student was put on trial for the murder of Meredith Kercher. Both had been studying abroad in Perugia, Italy, when Kercher was found brutally butchered. A hotbed of speculation sprang up surrounding Knox's involvement and the media painted her as the villain. She, her boyfriend, and a third party were all tried for murder with the former pair eventually walking free after serving four years behind bars. Filmmakers draw out many interviews with Knox, whose cold, sterile recitation of facts really makes you wonder...

13. Evil Genius

Region: Worldwide

This latest Netflix Original is poised to swipe the ‘best true crime docuseries’ mantle from Making a Murderer. A pizza deliveryman is the victim of the infamous “Collar Bomb” bank heist, in Erie, Pennsylvania. Or is he? 46-year-old Brian Wells walked into the PNC Bank with a bomb strapped to his chest, and walked out with a load of cash and mere moments left to live, yet this story continues after his demise. The robbery is just the beginning of what turns out to be a much stranger case, expertly depicted by director Barbara Schroeder who mixes together testimonials and eyewitness accounts, delving into Wells’ recent past to figure out what in the hell really happened. Get ahead of the spoilers now and start watching!

12. The Toys That Made Us

Region: UK, US

A Netflix Original docuseries, The Toys That Made Us dives into the past to explore how certain toys shaped our childhoods. I know, I know. It sounds like perfect fodder for an angry sub-Reddit, but honestly, this isn’t about that. It’s an eye-opening and compelling watch, that chronicles the rise and fall of some of the world’s biggest toy franchises. The first season dips into Star Wars, and features a striking interview with the lawyer from Kenner who brokered that initial deal with George Lucas that made him a billionaire. Even if you have a passing interest in toys, the fact is, movie and TV merchandise (of which I am a big fan) is now a huge aspect of the film industry and a large part of that is down to Mr. Lucas. This is a great watch to see how trends have changed and what types of toys, movie-related or not, we dug as kids. 

11. Best of Enemies

Region: UK, US

If last year's US Presidential debates captured your interest, then this documentary about two sparring politicos ought to be added to your list immediately. The opposing ideologies of Gore Vidal and William Buckley, both authors and commentators, clash time and time again in this compelling edit of their rivalry during the 1968 presidential race. Using archival footage, decades before televised debates would become commonplace, the film chronicles their frequent disagreements and inability to really listen to the other. Entertaining? Yes. It's also a masterclass in how to undermine your opponent and really harness your inner passive-aggressive side.