One of the great things about Netflix is its abundance of thoughtful, compelling docs, from a look at volcanoes across the world to murder mysteries.
One of the great things about Netflix is that it has brought thoughtful, compelling documentaries to a much wider audience, which filmmakers could only dream of a decade ago.
And with binge-worthy titles from "Amanda Knox" to "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" being just a click away, you can get a lot of great nonfiction viewing any night of the week. You'll learn a lot more about the world, but don't worry — you'll also be entertained.
Here are 33 documentaries we think you should stream right away on Netflix:
Note: Numerous Netflix titles drop off the streaming service monthly so the availability of titles below may change.
Director Ava DuVernay looks at the history of the US prison system and shows how it relates to the nation's history of racial inequality.
2. "Amanda Knox"
The murder trial of American exchange student Amanda Knox (now free) in Italy captivated the world in the early 2000s. Now this Netflix original looks back at the case and gets the perspective of Knox and others closely involved.
3. "The Battered Bastards of Baseball"
This fascinating look at one of the more colorful stories in baseball lore, directors Chapman and Maclain Way look at the Portland Mavericks, an independent baseball team owned by movie star Bing Russell (Kurt Russell's father) who threw out all the conventions of the national pastime to build a regional sensation in the late 1970s.
4. "Biggie & Tupac"
A look back at the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry that resulted in the deaths of two icons.
Why is SeaWorld ending its killer-whale shows? It’s because of this incredible movie that looks at the abuse these magnificent creatures have endured for decades.
6. "Cocaine Cowboys"
Cocaine invaded Miami in the late 1980s, and the world has never been the same. This documentary looks at the blood-soaked era and the people who were responsible.
7. "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room"
Alex Gibney received a best-documentary Oscar nomination for this in-depth look at the rise and dramatic fall of the energy giant.
8. "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
This look at a French immigrant obsessed with street art who goes in search of reclusive artist Bansky only to have the legend turn the camera back on him is a fascinating look at the street-art scene. To this day, it's still unclear if the movie's story is authentic or just a Bansky prank.
9. "Grizzly Man"
Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog recounts the incredible footage taken by grizzly-bear activist Timothy Treadwell, who lived among grizzlies in Alaska until he was killed by them in 2003.
10. "The Hunting Ground"
An emotionally powerful account of rape crimes on US campuses and the cover-ups that take place so the schools can save face.
11. "Into the Inferno"
Director Werner Herzog travels to the corners of the world (including North Korea) to examine the beauty and danger of active volcanoes.
12. "Janis: Little Girl Blue"
A portrait of the late, legendary singer Janis Joplin with help from the many letters she wrote amid her sudden rise to fame.
13. "Jesus Camp"
Documentary filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady give us an eye-opening look inside a charismatic Christian summer camp where kids are taught that they have "prophetic gifts."
14. "Killing Them Safely"
A movie that gets more topical as the months pass, director Nick Berardini's doc examines the use of the Taser stun gun by US police departments.
Before making the acclaimed Netflix movie “Barry,” Vikram Gandhi created this documentary back in 2011 in which he impersonates an Indian guru and builds a following in Arizona. The reveal at the end is something the best screenwriters couldn't come up with.
16. "Last Days in Vietnam"
This Oscar-nominated doc by director Rory Kennedy looks at the final weeks of the Vietnam War and the exodus of Saigon by not just American soldiers and diplomats but also the South Vietnamese who helped the US during the war.
17. "Life Itself"
Steve James gives a touching portrayal of the life and work of film critic Roger Ebert, capturing his final months alive.
18. "Lost in La Mancha"
Terry Gilliam’s doomed attempt to make "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" turns into an incredible, all-access look at filmmaking at its most chaotic.
19. "Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau"
The 1996 movie adaptation of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" is one of the worst movies ever made, but the story behind how its original director, Richard Stanley, exited the film and what transpired afterward is extremely bizarre. It's a blessing it was told.
20. "Making a Murderer"
This true-crime tale about the murder case of Steven Avery became an instant Netflix binge when it hit the streaming service. Filmed over a 10-year period, it will no doubt prompt your own theory about what's really true.
21. "Man on Wire"
Winner of the best-documentary Oscar in 2009, the doc gives a powerful retelling of Philippe Petit's illegal high-wire walk across the Twin Towers in 1974.
22. "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster"
Directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky are allowed to film the making of Metallica's first album in six years, "St. Anger," and find themselves instead filming the band on the brink of collapse after the departure of their longtime bassist, Jason Newsted. What unfolds is one of the best rock-and-roll documentaries of all time.
23. "The Overnighters"
Jesse Moss explores the modern-day gold rush: men desperate for work who head to the North Dakota oil fields to find it. Many come with just the clothes on their backs and troubled pasts. A local pastor is the only one who will take them in, but he has demons of his own.
24. "Pumping Iron"
Before Arnold Schwarzenegger was the biggest action star in the world, he was a Mr. Olympia champion starving for fame. This documentary shows an Arnold on the cusp of breaking out.
25. "The Queen of Versailles"
If you want to know about the effects of the economic crisis from the point of view of the 1%, look no further than this fascinating portrait of a couple who are constructing a mansion inspired by Versailles and how their empire crumbles in the span of two years following the mortgage-bubble collapse.
Morgan Spurlock (of "Supr Size Me" fame) mixes horror and documentary to create this frightening look at the movements and habits of rats (and yes, they are all around us).
27. "Room 237"
You think you know everything about Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining"? Once you see this dissection of almost every theory that has been devised about the movie, you'll sing a different tune — and appreciate the original masterpiece even more.
28. "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine"
If the star-studded biopic "Steve Jobs" didn't give you the insight you wanted, give this Alex Gibney doc a try. Gibney uses archival footage and interviews with those who knew Jobs best to examine his life (which was in many ways his work).
29. "Street Fight"
Before Corey Booker became a senator and potential presidential candidate, he was an unknown running for mayor in Newark, New Jersey. Marshall Curry's documentary chronicles his run for office.
30. "Super Size Me"
Morgan Spurlock's directorial debut that looks at the dangers of fast food, in which he eats only McDonald's for a month, didn't just make him an instant star. It also caused the fast-food chain to eliminate its supersize menu.
31. "The Thin Blue Line"
Before "The Jinx" and "Making a Murderer," there was Errol Morris' groundbreaking investigation of a man wrongly convicted for the murder of a police officer in Texas. The new findings in the movie led to the release of the man.
32. "What Happened Miss Simone?"
This Oscar-nominated doc by Liz Garbus looks at the powerful career of Nina Simone, who went from chart-topping singer to rights activist.
33. "The Wolfpack"
Confined to their apartment for most of their childhood, six brothers learn everything they know about the outside world through the movies they watch and then reenact with homemade costumes.
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