Documentaries were originally meant for awareness and educational purposes. However, over the years, documentaries have emerged in the entertainment sphere. With charismatic stories, in-depth research, and real-life experiences, documentaries have become very interesting and captivating.
Furthermore, documentaries are available on a range of topics such as expository, poetic, essayistic, observational, participatory, performance-based, interview type, drama, and animation. Moreover, documentaries provide the viewers with complete knowledge about a particular topic.
Hence, in recent times a lot of people prefer watching documentaries. Best documentaries are those which deliver the audiences a complete package of entertainment and information. Thus, infotainment is an emerging genre of interest. Several TV channels present documentaries on a variety of topics.
However, Netflix documentaries receive love from the audiences for their uncensored streaming of content. Therefore, we present to you a list of the 19 best documentaries of all time, which will also feature the best Netflix documentaries. All the documentary enthusiasts and binge-watchers will definitely enjoy and find our blog, “19 BEST DOCUMENTARIES OF ALL TIME,” informative.
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Table of Contents
BEST DOCUMENTARIES OF ALL TIME
WHEN WE WERE KINGS
DIRECTOR: LEON GAST
The documentary traces one of the most historical and iconic matches of boxing history. It takes us back to the year 1974, Kinshasa, Zaire, wherein the “Rumble in the Jungle” match event between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali takes place. Furthermore, this archival documentary records the intricacies of the match and depicts the relationship shared by African-Americans with the African continent.
It also portrays the power of the Black era in terms of pop culture and politics. Certain scenes depict the tortures caused by the then-dictator of Zaire, Mobutu Sese Seko. When We Were Kings is one of the best documentaries in the field of boxing.
MARCH OF THE PENGUINS
DIRECTOR: LUC JACQUET
This beautiful documentary displays the discrete language of love, passion, and adventure of the Emperor penguins in the heart of Antarctica. Furthermore, it is one of the best documentaries shot in a very uninhabitable area. It also traces the reproductive cycle of these penguins, which is extremely distinct from that of others.
However, human beings were able to discover the unique built-up of these penguins only by the 20th Century. Hence, this film chases the magnificent life of Emperor Penguins amidst the ultimate cold climate. The cinematography of the March of the Penguin makes it even more enthralling.
THE LAST WALTZ
DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE
The documentary traces the final performance by The Band in 1976 in San Francisco. It is one of the best documentaries to capture the tearful separation of The Band, which was on the road for around 16 years. Furthermore, this finely made film records the backstage moments and efforts of the vocalists and instrumentalists.
Moreover, the maker also interviews the five members who talk about their friendship, life on the road, and the beautiful music that they created. Thus, the documentary is like an ode to music and is sentimentally named The Last Waltz.
PARIS IS BURNING
DIRECTOR: JENNIE LIVINGSTON
This is one of the best documentaries as it is thought to be ahead of its time by many critics. Furthermore, it beautifully captures the involvement of African-Americans, gays, transgenders, and the Latino community in the ball culture of New York City.
Moreover, the story brilliantly conveys the message of acceptance and love. Infused with high-end fashion and competitions, Paris is Burning has a distinct appeal. The maker is also seen interviewing members of such communities. Hence, Paris is Burning is an ode to a suppressed urban community.
DIRECTOR: AVA DUVERNAY
The documentary film 13th unfolds the historic racial inequality, which is still prominent in the United States of America. Furthermore, the documentary is an informative one and highlights the fact that the prisons in the USA are inordinately flooded with African-Americans.
Moreover, it shows several political leaders and highlights the statistics about the number of prisoners. Hence, this is one of the best documentaries and is very enlightening. It also talks about how the minority has been demonized by the majority, which has continued in some form or the other.
DIRECTOR: ASIF KAPADIA
Amy is one of the best documentaries in the category of music. Amy was born with a beautiful and melodious voice. The documentary harmoniously analyzes Amy’s life as a celebrity singer. Furthermore, it witnesses the rise and fall of this legendary artist, the documentary is a gut-wrenching story with Amy’s “party girl” record at its center. The audiences get to know a lost star through this film.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
DIRECTOR: TIM WARDLE
The documentary is one of the best documentaries and is known for being unique. It features a story about triplets who got separated at birth. It is an emotion-evoking story of three siblings who find out the reasons for their separation. Furthermore, the documentary leaves the audience with a teary eye as some shocking circumstances led to the separation.
DIRECTOR: TAMARA KOTEVSKA AND LJUBOMIR STEFANOV
Honeyland is one of the best documentaries that revolves around the traditional method of beekeeping in the North Macedonian mountains by a woman. Furthermore, it traces the tensions that arise when another family adopts the same methods of beekeeping and completely disregards the bits of advice given by the woman. It is a well-researched film and is much loved and remembered.
THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE
DIRECTOR: KEN BURNS AND SARAH BURNS
The plot of this one from the list of best documentaries revolves around the story of Trisha Meili, a 28 years old woman who was jogging in Central Park in the year 1989. Furthermore, as tragic events occur suddenly, Trisha was raped and assaulted. Moreover, the same night five black teenagers, one Hispanic, were arrested and accused of assault, rape, robbery, and attempted murder of Trisha.
The American tabloid was filled with racist remarks as well as the courtroom. This is one of the most dramatic and scandalous cases. However, after ten years of this gruesome event, another man confessed to committing this heinous crime. Thus, Central Park’s Five were released. It is a very thrilling documentary, showcasing the mindsets of the men in power in those days.
DIRECTOR: MICHAEL APTED
This is a very intriguing and unique documentary film. It has a great concept and in-depth research. The filming of this one from the list of best documentaries began in the year 1964 with the director choosing 14 children as representatives of England and its culture. Moreover, the filming has continued till date and it traces the same subjects and their lives.
Every 7 years the director returns to his subjects to evaluate and record the changes in their lives. Furthermore, the documentary witnesses the cultural, societal, economic, and political impacts as well as the role of class on British culture. There is also a focus on the primary human experience which is considered universal. It is thus, a must-watch for all documentary film lovers.
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BEST DOCUMENTARIES ON NETFLIX
Netflix is known for its mind-blowing and deeply researched documentaries. Here’s a list of Netflix Documentaries:
DIRECTOR: BONNI COHEN AND JON SHENK
This is a very enlightening Netflix documentary. Athlete A revolves around the investigation undertaken by the journalists into the physical abuses by Doctor Larry Nassar on the young girl Athletes. Furthermore, the film highlights the structure of the US gymnastics program. Hence, through this documentary, the power dynamics are revealed, which helped foster the physical and verbal abuses as well as the environment in which it happened.
Moreover, the makers interviewed the journalists and the survivors to know the truth. It is a story of an era bygone, though the abuses of this kind are still reported there is much more awareness about it than before.
MY OCTOPUS TEACHER
DIRECTOR: PIPPA EHRLICH AND JAMES REED
The Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher traces Craig Foster under the waters. As he goes snorkelling off the coast of South Africa, he meets an octopus. Furthermore, Foster spends days with the octopus and learns about the creature.
The film is for all those who are nature enthusiasts. It, thus, explains life underwater and presents its splendour and magnificence. Moreover, the film talks about the survival techniques of animals in dangerous water.
AMERICAN MURDER: THE FAMILY NEXT DOOR
DIRECTOR: JENNY POPPLEWELL
It is an original Netflix documentary. The documentary film American Murder has a deeper meaning. It is not only about a murder investigation but also about the toxicity that a sham on social media can create in reality. Furthermore, the film revolves around the life of an American family and examines the sudden disappearance of a pregnant Shanann Watts and her two daughters.
Hence, the events that unfold horrify and enrage the community and the watchers. Shanann’s husband is found to be guilty of murdering his pregnant wife and his two daughters. It shows a brilliant police investigation and a gut-wrenching true story.
HIGH SCORE | THE FIRST COMPUTER GRAPHIC GAME | NETFLIX DOCUMENTARIES
DIRECTOR: WILLIAM ACKS, SAM LACROIX, FRANCE COSTREL, AND MELISSA WOOD
High Score is a docu-series and one of the best documentaries on Netflix. This one from Netflix Documentaries talks about the origin of video games. Furthermore, the makers of these games are interviewed. A deep insight into the functioning and shift from arcade games to in-home games documents the transformation and challenges. Moreover, it is based on in-depth research and is extremely captivating.
THE LAST DANCE
DIRECTOR: JASON HEHIR
The Last Dance is another docu series amongst the Netflix documentaries. Even a person who is not a sports enthusiast will be engaged while watching these episodic yet best documentaries on Netflix. It revolves around the final season of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. Furthermore, the story traces the life and career of the Bull team members like; Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. The story runs in flashbacks and the present day, which makes it more interesting.
Moreover, the beautiful documentary is also very enlightening as it showcases the candid moments of some of the greatest athletes. Hence, it takes the viewers back to the glorious 90s, where a talented and brilliant man spent his life thriving and achieving greatness. The series has 10 episodes, with each episode being an hour long. The viewers will undoubtedly fall in love with the personality and will of Michael Jordan after watching The Last Dance.
CRIP CAMP: A DISABILITY REVOLUTION
DIRECTOR: NICOLE NEWNHAM AND JIM LEBRECHT
Keeping alive the spirit of the former president Barrack Obama, here is a beautiful Netflix Documentary produced by him and his wife, Michelle Obama. Crip Camp is an enlightening and eye-opening film, which focuses on those noble people who have spent their lives working and fighting for human rights. Furthermore, the film opens with the archival footage of Camp Jened, a camp for the disabled in the 1970s.
The activists spent their adult lives struggling for the rights of the disabled and pass legislation for making the world and materials accessible to them. Hence, the message is clear; it is a fight for which the need to fight shouldn’t have arisen. Thus, it is both enraging and enlightening to witness the hardships and struggles that these revolutionaries face in order to bring about a revolution.
DIRECTOR: LANA WILSON
This is one of the best documentaries on Netflix about a celebrity. It revolves around the life of the famous female singer named Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift has inspired a whole generation and has made the millennials fall in love with her heart-touching and relatable music. However, this one from the Netflix Documentaries is far from a typical music documentary.
Miss Americana simply examines Taylor Swift as a human being and studies her personality. Furthermore, it is about her journey of recognizing true joy in music. It is her transformational life wherein she learns to stop focusing on what other people think about her, which thus leads to a feminist awakening. Hence, the story is truly inspirational and is a feel-good film. Though there are certain heavy moments, it is extremely inciteful.
DIRECTOR: EDDIE SCHMIDT, JASON ZELDES, LAURA GABBERT, AND MORGAN NEVILLE
This one is a very tasteful one from the Netflix documentaries and explains to the audience that food is culture. It is a combination of a food show, travelogue as well as a documentary. The first season is all about Pizza, Barbecue, and Tacos. Furthermore, the host, David Chang, explains the constituents of these mouth-watering food items.
Furthermore, it investigates how the type and taste of food varies from place to place and its significance. Ugly Delicious is much more than a man talking about food; it addresses issues such as food and displacement as well as food and culture along with its shifting nature. The show is bound to make the audience hungry for more food-based documentary content.
CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES
DIRECTOR: JOE BERLINGER
CONVERSATIONS WITH A KILLER: THE TED BUNDY TAPES follows the Present-day interviews, archival footage, and audio recordings of the dangerous and fearful serial killer Ted Bundy. In this one of the best documentaries on Netflix, Ted reportedly murdered 30 women before getting executed. Furthermore, the series analyzes the personality of the dreadful Ted Bundy.
The conversational tapes do not provide much information. However, the well-researched documentary does. Moreover, the makers also interviewed those who were related to Ted Bundy and compared the testimonies. Ted Bundy always managed to avoid the cops. How he committed the heinous crimes is depicted in the series, making this an extremely engaging and captivating docu-series.
Documentaries, when made correctly, can be extremely appealing and likeable. Making successful documentaries generally requires extensive research and analysis. Even finding a watchable documentary takes a lot of time. We hope that our list of best documentaries and best documentaries on Netflix has made it easier for you to select an interesting documentary.