119 Riveting Documentaries You Can Watch on Netflix Tonight
If you’re not already obsessed with the incredible and absolutely eye-opening documentaries on Netflix, let us be the first to tell you: now’s the time to get on board. We’re highlighting a wide range of our favorite documentaries streaming on Netflix right now, from deep dives into the lives of music icons to investigations into controversial historical events and just hilarious accounts of true-life struggles. Grab a snack, put your feet up, and get streaming – we promise these will turn you into a documentary enthusiast in no time.
– With Lauren Harano, Corinne Sullivan, Stacey Nguyen, Jada Welch, and Amanda Prahl
The Keepers is another must-watch show for anyone who thinks the case of Don Lewis’s disappearance is far from over. This docuseries examines the unsolved murder of Cathy Cesnik, a Catholic high school teacher and nun from in Baltimore who disappeared in 1969. The case was then reopened in the ’90s, when one of Cesnik’s former students claimed that the high school’s chaplain may have been involved.
Watch The Keepers on Netflix now.
Netflix’s docuseries Drug Lords explores the life of some of the world’s top drug lords, from cartel leaders like Colombia’s Pablo Escobar to Cornell Jones and his invention of Washington DC’s open air market.
Watch Drug Lords on Netflix now.
Roll Red Roll
When a young woman gets raped at a preseason high school football party in 2012, the aftermath exposes how a culture of complicity, feelings of denial, and peer pressure led to this horrific event.
Watch Roll Red Roll on Netflix now.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
Eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died due to the abuse of his mother and father. The signs were all there, but somehow the reports slipped through the cracks. The court case brought into question not only the actions of Gabriel’s family, but how the government systems failed to protect him.
Watch The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez on Netflix now.
Period. End of Sentence.
This Academy Award-winning documentary short film shines a light on a truly badass group of women in Hapur, India, who create and sell low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads. While providing women with access to these basic hygiene products, they also debunk stereotypes about menstruation.
Watch Period. End of Sentence on Netflix now.
Created by legendary filmmaker Ava DuVernay, this documentary is based upon the 13th Amendment, which freed slaves and prohibited slavery. Though, as DuVernay argues, post-Civil War America has simply found new ways to suppress and disenfranchise black Americans. From the war on drugs to mass incarceration, she explores the many means by which law enforcement has targeted black people in America.
Watch 13th on Netflix now.
Diana: In Her Own Words
This 2017 documentary will give you chills when you hear the beloved princess detailing her very own life. Made with the recordings that Princess Diana voiced for Andrew Morton’s book Diana: Her True Story – in Her Own Words, this film details the life and events that surrounded the late princess.
Watch Diana: In Her Own Words on Netflix now.
Little Miss Sumo
Hiyori Kon is banned from participating in sumo wrestling because women are not allowed to competitively participate in Japan, but this isn’t going to stop her from striving for excellence in the sport. In this documentary short, the 20-year-old wrestler defies obstacles in and out of the ring to assert her presence.
Watch Little Miss Sumo on Netflix now.
Knock Down the House
This inspiring documentary follows the political journeys of four women – a bartender from the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter from West Virginia, a grieving mother from Nevada, and a nurse from Missouri – who challenged powerful incumbents and helped the Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in 2018.
Watch Knock Down the House on Netflix now.
Making a Murderer
Filmed over 10 years, this two-season docuseries, produced by Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos, follows the case of Steven Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who were wrongly accused of raping and murdering a woman named Teresa Halbach in 2005. The first season presents the case, while the second season – released three years later – introduces Steven’s new lawyer, as well as the man who have actually murdered Teresa.
Watch Making a Murderer on Netflix now.
Though the jury is still out on whether Netflix or Hulu did it better, there’s no denying that, when it comes to con man Billy McFarland and the epic disaster that was the failed (and totally fraudulent) Fyre Festival in Spring 2017, the story is going to be entertaining either way.
Watch Fyre on Netflix now.
Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
Bikram Choudhury arrived in America in the early ’70s, introducing a (now) well-known version of yoga called hot yoga. Used by both celebrities and fitness-lovers alike, the yoga practice exploded, leading him to a massive amount of wealth. It wasn’t until the 2010s that sexual abuse cases started rolling in, and the world discovered that Birkham’s practice was nothing more than a scam.
Watch Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator on Netflix now.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
Dive into Elmo’s world – or, more precisely, the life of the man behind the adorable furry puppet. Whoopi Goldberg narrates the story of Kevin Clash, who started out in a working-class Baltimore neighborhood before hitting Sesame Street.
Watch Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey on Netflix now.
Naledi: A Baby Elephant's Tale
How could a movie about a baby elephant not soothe the soul? The emotional film features scientists and animal experts who fight to save an orphaned baby elephant and her species.
Watch Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale on Netflix now.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Leading up to her 2017 Super Bowl halftime performance, this documentary gives an intimate look into the life of Lady Gaga and the pop star’s daily physical and emotional struggles. If you’re a Gaga fan but don’t actually know all that much about her personal life, then this is a must watch.
Watch Five Foot Two on Netflix now.
Get Me Roger Stone
Known as a master in the dark arts of politics, Roger Stone is a political consultant, lobbyist, and strategist who earned a reputation in using opposition research, usually for candidates of the Republican Party, and who also serves as an advisor to Donald Trump. Filmed over five years, this film revolves around Stone and his transformative effect on modern politics, ending with the 2016 election of President Trump.
Watch Get Me Roger Stone on Netflix now.
20 Feet From Stardom
This fascinating documentary, which won an Oscar in 2014 for best documentary feature, offers a look at the people who are so rarely credited or even noticed: the backup vocalists who support some of music’s greatest legends. Featuring longtime performers such as Darlene Love and Merry Clayton, filmmaker Morgan Neville shines an overdue spotlight on the artists who have helped make our favorite songs so great.
Watch 20 Feet From Stardom on Netflix now.
The Battered Bastards of Baseball
In the ’70s, actor Bing Russell started an independent baseball team of scrappy underdogs that nobody wanted and called them the Portland Mavericks. This inspiring documentary follows their journey – you might know one of the former players, Kurt Russell, aka Bing’s son.
Watch The Battered Bastards of Baseball on Netflix now.
This documentary recounts the well-known case of Amanda Knox, a woman convicted for the 2007 murder of her roommate, Meredith Kercher, while she was living in Italy, and who was eventually sentenced to four years in an Italian prison. The film features interviews with Amanda Knox’s ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini, and Amanda Knox herself. It follows the story of Meredith’s death and Amanda’s eventual acquittal.
Watch Amanda Knox on Netflix now.
Waco is a compelling miniseries that tells the incredible true story of the 1993 Waco siege at the infamous Mount Carmel compound, where David Koresh (who claimed to be the final prophet of the Branch Davidians) took over as the sect’s leader in the 1980s. Though David Koresh and Joe Exotic probably wouldn’t see eye to eye on too many matters, they’d likely both agree that a man is only as powerful as his mullet.
Watch Waco on Netflix now.
Though Bryan Fogel first sought to explore the world of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling, the filmmaker instead happened upon a major international doping scandal when he encountered the head of the Russian antidoping laboratory. In the film, Fogel documents the means by which this lab allows athletes to take performance-enhancing drugs in a way that will evade detection from drug testing, leading to the discovery of a state-sponsored Olympic doping program.
Watch Icarus on Netflix now.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
One of the most important figures of the Stonewall riots, Marsha P. Johnson has been called the “Rosa Parks” of the LGBTQ+ rights movement. But when she was found dead in 1992, her body suspiciously floating in the Hudson River, her case went cold and was ruled a suicide. In this documentary, transgender rights activist Victoria Cruz looks into Johnson’s death while paying homage to her friend’s strides for the LGBTQ+ community.
Watch The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson on Netflix now.
This documentary focuses on both the public and private life of the country’s highest-profile women’s rights attorney, Gloria Allred, who is best known for taking on Bill Cosby and Donald Trump. The film makes a persuasive case for Allred’s skill and influence, attempting to dispel her many detractors and haters (who are not just right-wing members of misogynist media).
Watch Seeing Allred on Netflix now.
Take Your Pills
Get ready to go inside the culture of Adderall, and how it seems like everyone is on it.
Watch Take Your Pills on Netflix now.
Undefeated tells the inspirational story of an inner-city high school football team that harnesses its players’ physical and emotional strengths to reach its first playoff game. After 110 years, the team seizes the chance to break its losing streak.
Watch Undefeated on Netflix now.
Don't F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
A twisted internet video inspires a group of online viewers to find the man behind it all, before he becomes a threat to society.
Watch Don’t F**k With Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer on Netflix now.
This heartbreaking Oscar-nominated documentary follows the 1992 murder of 24-year-old William Ford Jr., made especially poignant because the filmmaker, Yance Ford, is the victim’s brother. Yance tells the story of how, 25 years ago, racial injustice and a fatal bullet changed the life of his Long Island family forever.
Watch Strong Island on Netflix now.
I Called Him Morgan
This documentary offers an account of the life of jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan and his common-law wife Helen Morgan, who was later convicted for his murder in 1972. Decades after serving her prison sentence for Lee Morgan’s killing, the film allows Helen to reflect on their lives together and the legacy that the musician left behind.
Watch I Called Him Morgan on Netflix now.
Disney’s mesmerizing French nature documentary explores how the ocean impacts human life and the environment. Melt away your troubles with the beautiful underwater cinematography!
Watch Oceans on Netflix now.
What the Health
From the makers of the award-winning film Cowspiracy, this documentary focuses on how the US government and numerous “health” organizations heavily promote meat, dairy, and eggs to the detriment of the American public. If you want to learn about the health benefits of a plant-based diet, and the far-reaching environmental impact of factory farming, check out What the Health now.
Watch What the Health on Netflix now.
Originally aired on CNN, this troubling documentary explores the world of big-game hunting and the industry’s constant battle with wildlife conservationists. The film revolves around lifelong hunter Philip Glass and rhino breeder John Hume, and though their rivalry isn’t nearly as contentious as Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin’s, it still makes for a compelling watch. Warning: this one isn’t for the faint of heart.
Watch Trophy on Netflix now.
Echo in the Canyon
There’s nothing like an oldies classic to keep the soul afloat! Echo in the Canyon follows how bands such as The Beach Boys and The Mamas & the Papas fostered the iconic California sound. These bands migrated to Los Angeles at Laurel Canyon, which became a hotbed of musical creativity in the ’60s.
Watch Echo in the Canyon on Netflix now.
Take a peek inside the life of the late star Amy Winehouse in this gripping documentary. With home videos, interviews, and real-life footage of the singer’s time here on Earth, this doc dives head-first into how she went from being a fun-loving teen to a deeply troubled star. It’s candid, raw, and a must-watch if you’re a fan of her music.
Watch Amy on Netflix now.
The Legend of Cocaine Island
The idea of “hidden treasure” has sparked plenty of reality shows and documentaries, but this one takes a different angle. A businessman facing a string of bad luck decides to try to track down a reported $2 million cocaine stash somewhere in the Caribbean.
Watch The Legend of Cocaine Island on Netflix now.
Wendy Whelan: Restless Creature
After dancing with the New York City Ballet for over three decades, Wendy Whelan prepares to leave the life she always knew. This film follows her journey while she battles a painful injury that’s keeping her from dancing and making the remainder of her career uncertain. Her strength, resilience, and hope for the future make this documentary as powerful as it sounds.
Watch Wendy Whelan: Restless Creature on Netflix now.
This 2011 documentary provides a major dose of girl power, noting the ways in which mainstream media contributes to the underrepresentation of women in powerful positions. Including interviews with Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Condoleezza Rice, and Gloria Steinem, among many others, the film works to show why there need to be more positive female role models in the media.
Watch Miss Representation on Netflix now.
Taking place two decades after the unsolved murder of child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, this documentary records the casting process for a fictional JonBenet film. Interviews with the would-be actors – during which they offer their own insight and speculation – reveal the extent of the obsession surrounding the mysterious case.
Watch Casting JonBenet on Netflix now.
In this documentary, Parks and Recreation‘s Rashida Jones covers the major milestones in the life and career of her father, Quincy Jones, the legendary 85-year-old producer who boasts an insane collection of Grammys. Though Quincy is also known for his many relationships, the film focuses on his marriage with his third wife and Rashida’s mother, The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks actress Peggy Lipton, who he is still close with today.
Watch Quincy on Netflix now.
Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo is Africa’s oldest national park and one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet, best known as being the home of critically endangered mountain gorillas. This Oscar-nominated documentary tells the true story of the individuals who risked their lives to protect the last mountain gorillas, even in the midst of renewed civil war. You don’t have to be an animal-lover to love this one.
Watch Virunga on Netflix now.
The acclaimed documentary series began its sixth volume on Netflix with a theme of “the journey home.” Profiling four chefs across the documentary, it focuses on the food as much as the chefs’ journeys to deal with the bigger issues of the world.
Watch Chef’s Table on Netflix now.
ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre
Netflix’s ReMastered series has been dropping new documentaries set in the music world. Its most recent offering looks at the mysterious murder of three musicians in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and the possibility that the government was involved in the crime.
Watch ReMastered: The Miami Showband Massacre on Netflix now.
Surviving R. Kelly
This documentary tells the stories of the women who survived the abuse, predatory behavior, and pedophilia of R&B singer R. Kelly. People from inside R. Kelly’s inner circle come forward to tell never-before-heard stories that expose the dark life of the singer. Though R. Kelly has been virtually unaffected and unpunished for any of the many accusations against him, this documentary series works to shed light on the sexual, mental, and physical abuse he perpetrated and bring his survivors justice.
Watch Surviving R. Kelly on Netflix now.
This original documentary uses sports as a lens to examine the psychology of losing. Its goal? To uncover the impact of failure in a world that focuses heavily on “winning.”
Watch Losers on Netflix now.
What We Started
In What We Started, DJs, producers, and promoters are given the opportunity to discuss the history and current state of electronic dance music. The film features a powerful cast of electronic dance music superstars, including Carl Cox and Martin Garrix, and – of course – some incredible music.
Watch What We Started on Netflix now.
In Heal, spiritual leaders, health experts, and those living with chronic illness discuss the connection between mental and physical well-being. You might have heard of the speakers, including Marianne Williamson and Deepak Chopra.
Watch Heal on Netflix now.
The Short Game
This adorable documentary is one that you’ll be able to pull up with the family, whether you’re all together in one place or putting together an online watch party. It follows some of the most competitive golfers in the world, who all happen to be in elementary school.
Watch The Short Game on Netflix now.
The Confession Killer
Henry Lee Lucas, who was thought to be responsible for many murders in the ’80s, shocked authorities when he admitted to being guilty for far more murders than they could prove.
Watch The Confession Killer on Netflix now.
If misery loves company, so does embarrassment. Get a blast from the past with footage of Mortified Live readings, where volunteers read “mortifying” passages from their teen-angst-fueled journals.
Watch Mortified Nation on Netflix now.
The investigative series Dirty Money gives an insider’s look at some of the scams and corruptions that go on inside the world of business.
Watch Dirty Money on Netflix now.
For the Love of Spock
For the Love of Spock takes on how Leonard Nimoy became Spock from Star Trek. While critics originally panned the show, it and Nimoy’s 50-year role of Spock have become beloved parts of sci-fi culture.
Watch For the Love of Spock on Netflix.
72 Dangerous Animals: Asia
In this latest installment of Netflix’s 72 Dangerous Animals series, the docuseries goes to Asia to explore the deadliest creatures that roam the continent.
Watch 72 Dangerous Animals: Asia on Netflix now.
This documentary tells the little-known story of the women who trained and tested for space flight in 1961, but whose dreams were dashed when only men were selected to become astronauts. These women – known as the Mercury 13 – took part in an unofficial program run by a NASA researcher to give women a place in space, and though the program was inexplicably shut down, this film at least allows these women to talk about their experience.
Watch Mercury 13 on Netflix now.
Betty White: First Lady of Television
Betty White: First Lady of Television gives a look into Betty White’s exciting life and career. The film features handfuls of behind-the-scenes clips of her work on TV, as well as interviews from her friends and former costars. You can also get a glimpse at how funny and down to earth she actually is!
Watch Betty White: First Lady of Television on Netflix now.
The Investigator: A British Crime Story
This true crime documentary finds new evidence and sheds light on the case of Carole Packman, whose husband was convicted for her murder though her body was never found.
Watch The Investigator: A British Crime Story on Netflix now.
The Fear of 13
This British documentary explores the life and incarceration of Nick Yarris, a Death Row inmate who has spent the last 21 years behind bars after being convicted of a murder in Pennsylvania. Since the film uses a non-linear structure full of twists and turns to tell the story, it ends up being a memorable, visually arresting hour and a half.
Watch The Fear of 13 on Netflix now.