Swap Stranger Things and Master of None for some serious brain food. From moving documentaries about music, ageing and the science behind happiness to Oscar-winning films about our world today, check out the very best documentary films and TV series available on Netflix UK now.
Updated November 2017
What on paper sounds like one drawn-out penis joke actually unfolds into a bizarrely funny, insightful and endlessly intriguing fly-on-the-wall documentary about a deeply flawed man, who, at one stage in his career, was seen as a potential saviour for the democratic party. Now, he’s in jail for sexting with a minor. To fill in the blanks, head to your Netflix account.
This powerful documentary – which originally aired on BBC4 in the UK – follows the 2012 news story that shocked the world: the Delhi gang rape and murder of 23-year-old Jyoti Singh. Featuring a filmed interview and confession from one of the rapists in the case, it’s proved to be a controversial film and was banned in India.
This was the movie that forced SeaWorld to halt its orca breeding programme and stop all live killer whale performances. Following Tilikum, a performing killer whale who killed several people, including trainer Dawn Brancheau, while in captivity, Blackfish challenges the relationship between nature and the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.
This dogged and heartrending documentary series begins by attempting to uncover the truth surrounding the murder of a Catholic nun, a case that has gone unsolved for 50 years. However, the film soon expands to investigate allegations of sexual abuse at the Catholic high school where the nun, Sister Cathy Cesnik, worked. The resulting investigation is told in seven meticulous and quietly raging episodes.
Lotje Sodderland was 34 when she survived a hemorrhagic stroke. The producer started filming herself as she was forced to start again in a world which now seems foreign and the results are fascinating.
The definitive portrait of one of America’s most turbulently talented musicians. Through never-before-seen archive footage and sumptuous live performances, Nina Simone’s courage, gift – and demons – are beautifully brought to life on screen.
The Academy nominated this film about the corporate food industry for Best Picture in 2009. The uncomfortable watch examines ethics around the industrial production of meat and the unsustainable way we produce vegetables and grain, as well as pesticides, fertiliser and problems with food labelling. Let’s just say it’ll make you look twice at your lunch…
How one amateur cyclist helped expose Russia’s unprecedented state doping porgramme. The sport documentary is a remarkable watch, not just because of the revelations it contains, but because of the characters that are involved in this giant web of deception and doping.
Constantly indulging your sweet tooth? You might find it easier to say no after watching this doc. Fed Up aims to shed light on sugar, the world’s obesity crisis and “everything we’ve been told about food and exercise for the past 30 years.” It calls itself “the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see.”
The Academy Award-winning documentary follows the work of the Syrian Civil Defense – also known as the White Helmets – who are first on the scene during the horror of daily airstrikes on civilian targets during the country’s civil war. It was the first Oscar win for Netflix.
The title of this potent film refers to the 13th Amendment: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” ‘Punishment for crime’ is the key qualifier here, as the documentary explores the injustices at the heart of America’s penal system.
This shocking portrayal of climate change refuses to be ignored. Over a number of years, National Geographic photographer James Balog risks everything to capture how our landscape is changing – and his findings are jaw-dropping. The filmmakers’ follow-up, Chasing Coral, is now also available to watch on Netflix.
A true crime game changer, and still one of Netflix’s most talked-about series. Filmed over 10 years, Making a Murderer follows Steven Avery, a man who served 18 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, only to be arrested for murder upon his release. The filmmakers are currently working on a follow-up – although Netflix will not rush them to tell a story that took so long to tell first time round.