best netflix documentaries

Every once in a while Bri posts a list of her Netflix documentary favs. When I saw her most recent list, I decided maybe I'd do a list too. It turns out I've watched A LOT of documentaries on Netflix, a lot more than I realized. I have this weird thing where more often than not the idea of hitting play on a movie, with all its potential plot complexities, feels really daunting. Documentaries, however, are usually pretty straightforward depictions of stories, real stories, and that's always been a comforting viewing choice for me. Like it's just more relaxing and easy, I think. And I also enjoy learning, so I tend to basically be a documentary fiend.

So these are the ones that I think are worth a watch. Sometimes Netflix can really be hit or miss, so I always find it helpful to see other people's recommendations. There are a lot of exciting-looking documentaries still chilling in my queue (which, annoyingly, is now called "my list") so expect another post like this in the near future.

Beauty is Embarrassing
About the life of cartoonist Wayne White, who is famous for his work on Pee-wee's Playhouse. White is really witty and sarcastic and hilarious, and this film is generally just really delightful.

After Tom dies tragically, his partner Shane is left to deal with Tom's homophobic and hostile family. A tear-jerker, but an important watch. Inspired by Shane's video diary recorded in the days following Tom's death.

Chasing Ice
A beautifully crafted look at the reality of the planet's disappearing ice caps through the work of James Balog and the Extreme Ice Survey. Climate change is real and happening, folks. Also, I know some of the crew members who helped make this film, wahoo!

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
Kurt Kuenne made this film after his best friend Andrew was murdered. The idea was that it would serve as a way for Andrew's son Zachary to get to know his father, who died before he was born. There's nothing else like this film. It's heart-wrenching and frustrating and beautiful and real. Do it.

Exit Through the Gift Shop
A film by famous graffiti artist Banksy. I have a hard time really calling this a documentary, but that's all I will say, other than this is one of my favorite movies of all time.

How to Die in Oregon
This film kind of changed my life, and also really hit home for me. An exploration of Oregon's Death with Dignity Act through interviews with several terminally ill people. Beautifully done, heart-wrenching, but powerful.

How to Survive a Plague
I didn't grow up in a time when AIDS was a major threat in the U.S. anymore. Or at least, it was on the decline when I was born. A lot of the information in this film, which mostly focuses on the organization Act Up, was completely new to me, and it made me wonder how such a chaotic and scary time in our history seems to have been removed from our minds so quickly.

I Think We're Alone Now
This is my favorite kind of documentary. The kind about a weird thing that happened, something that I would never know about otherwise. Basically two friends recorded their whacky neighbors fighting one day, and the recording become a pop culture sensation. Absolutely love this.

I'm Carolyn Parker
The story of a family struggling to rebuild their lives in the lower 9th ward after Hurricane Katrina. You will absolutely fall in love with Carolyn Parker. She is the soul of this film. [Tragically, this film has been removed from Netflix. But I still highly recommend finding a way to see it.]

The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
This may not be for everyone. I'm a little bit obsessed with Jeffrey Dahmer, but not in a weird way. I'm just so fascinated by how someone so smart, articulate and even-tempered could do such horrific things to others. If that seems interesting to you too, you might enjoy this.

Jesus Camp
A look at camps designed to get kids excited about Jesus. This is a little bit scary, a little bit incredible and a lot fascinating. 

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Such a good one. Jiro is basically the most famous sushi chef in the whole world, and this documents how he runs his restaurant, including chef training, ingredient selection, and sushi crafting! Downright mouth-watering.

Life in a Day
A Nat Geo project that collected videos from all over the world showing what people were doing on July 24th, 2010. This is just really neat and heart-warming and all of those things. A good one for a rainy day.

Beautifully made film about the life and times of Bob Marley. I'm a fan of Marley's music, obviously, but I really didn't know anything about his life and activism until I watched this.

No Place on Earth
The amazing story of several Jewish families who hid in an underground cave during the Holocaust in Ukraine. Upsetting, obviously, but also awe-inspiring.

Bud Clayman's film about his life with OCD. Not only does this film honestly portray mental illness, which I feel is so important because of the stigma in this country, but the filmmaker himself is the sufferer. I applaud Clayman so much for his bravery, and thank him for furthering to help elucidate this hushed subject.