25 of the best documentaries to watch on Netflix in 2017
Netflix is known for their epic original series like The OA, Luke Cage, Daredevil, Stranger Things and Travelers to name a few, but for many, the streaming service is the go-to hub for another genre: documentaries. Whether you're looking to learn about the Apollo missions or the story behind Amanda Knox, the life of a sommelier or the truth about dishonesty, Netflix's 2017 lineup of documentaries has something for everyone.
Here's our top 25 picks for the best Netflix documentaries you should be watching right now.
For some, wine is simply something you have with dinner, but for sommeliers it is pure passion, life and the reason for existing. Somm follows four sommeliers working their way towards the most prestigious title in wine: Master Sommelier. It's no easy task and there have only ever been 147 sommeliers to pass the grueling exam. It's a path laden with hardships and failures, studying and of course loads of drinking, and Somm follows every sumptuous moment of it.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
Arriving decades after the legendary 1980s Cosmos with Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey explores the vast depths of our known universe. The series is nothing short of spectacular and sucks you into a black hole of information as Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the great mysteries of space and time.
(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies
What's the harm in telling a lie if your goal is to protect someone? How often do we lie? Why do we lie? These questions and more are answered in (Dis)Honesty, a documentary anchored in behavioral experiments aimed at dissecting the implications of dishonesty. You'll love this film, I promise.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom follows the unrest in Ukraine in 2013 and 2014, chronicling the events that led from a small protest to a violent revolution against President Viktor Yanukovich.
Tales by Light
One of the most visually stunning docu-series on Netflix, Tales by Light tells powerful stories behind powerful pictures. Each episode follows a photographer as they search out their next subject, set up their gear and wait for the perfect shot, which can be a surprisingly painstaking process. From the ocean floor to the top of the Himalayas, Tales by Light takes you around the world in one of the most breathtaking documentaries around.
The White Helmets
When the bombs drop in Syria, the White Helmets rush into the fray to save as many victims as they can. This documentary focuses on the bravery of a group of unsung heroes who face death on a daily basis, and they do it voluntarily. The White Helmets follows Khalid Farah and his team as they search for survivors among the rubble, and showcases a side of war that is often overlooked.
Have you ever heard a song that shattered you to your bones, that pierced your soul and moved you into emotional despair or elation? Music is powerful, and social worker Dan Cohen knows it. Alive Inside follows Cohen as he combats memory loss with melody, restoring those who suffer from it. The documentary also delves into the science behind the work, borrowing from renowned neurologist and best-selling author of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks.
Making a Murderer
The story of Steven Avery gripped the nation when Making a Murderer first debuted on Netflix. Avery was wrongly convicted and spent years in prison, only to be exonerated by new DNA evidence. His time as a free man was shortlived, however, and he was sent back behind bars again, this time for murder. Filmed over a 10-year period, Making a Murderer investigates the suspects, the victims and even the police in an effort to bring the truth to light.
The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms
Algorithms. The mere mention of the word is enough to send chills down the spine of anyone unfamiliar with higher maths. But The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms breaks down the principles of algorithms into simple terms, showcasing how they're used in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Even for those not intrigued by the concept, The Secret Rules of Modern Living: Algorithms should prove to be an interesting watch.
The Last Man on the Moon
Neil Armstrong will forever be remembered as the first person on the moon, but what about the story of The Last Man on the Moon? Eugene Cernan was the last human being to leave a footprint on the lunar surface. When he returned to Earth he instantly became a worldwide celebrity. Fame and fortune followed him wherever he went, but the title of being the last person on the moon took its toll. This documentary chronicles Cernan's life leading up to his final space mission, and then the consequences that came after. It's a riveting story of ambition, bravery, success and then in a very real sense, personal ruin.
The Fear of 13
Nick Yarris spent 23 years on Death Row after being wrongly convicted of murder, and it was potentially the best thing that ever happened to him. The Fear of 13 allows Yarris to recount his unbelievable story of being incarcerated, falling into despair, and then transforming from an uneducated drug addict to a sober and scholarly human being, all while living life in a cell. It's one of those instances where fact seems stranger than fiction, and Yarris' autobiography is as powerful as it is intriguing.
Eddie — Strongman
What lengths would you go to in order to achieve your dreams? For Eddie Hall, the answer is simple: the ends of the earth. Eddie — Strongman follows Hall as he relentlessly pursues the title of World's Strongest Man. It's a story of sacrifice and uncertainty, obsession and endless workouts. A truck mechanic, husband and father of two, Hall is determined to make it to the top — or die trying.
The Lion in your Living Room
The modern-day domestic house cat is a far meow from its more feral ancestors. Where did the first cats come from and when did they first begin socializing with humans? Do our feline friends love us back, or are they just using us for free food? The Lion in your Living Room examines the cat as we know it for a comprehensive view of these ancient hunters.
Apex: The Story of the Hypercar
When a car can rocket from zero to 200 miles per hour in a matter of seconds, it's more than just a car: It's a hypercar. These extreme vehicles seem to deny the laws of physics, gripping the road like Velcro and launching into triple-digit speeds in the blink of an eye. Apex: The Story of the Hypercar looks at the incredible technology that makes these exotic vehicles possible, pulling back the curtain on the top-secret facilities of Porsche, Ferrari, McLaren and Pagani to provide a fresh look under the hoods of the top hypercars. If you feel the need, the need for speed, Apex: The Story of the Hypercar is the documentary for you.
Particle Fever shines some light on the Large Hadron Collider and the work scientists are doing at the high-tech facility. Physicists are on the cusp of making a breakthrough that will redefine science as we know it. It could be the biggest success in centuries, or the biggest failure.
Shuttle Discovery's Last Mission
Shuttle Discovery has clocked more space time than any other shuttle in history. With more than 27 years in service and more than 148 million miles of space travel, this iconic vehicle is a legend in its own right. Shuttle Discovery's Last Mission revisits the spaceship's remarkable past, working its way forward in time until its final flight to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. This documentary provides an in-depth look at the resilient yet fragile vehicle and serves as an incredible reminder to the feats humanity has accomplished.
The Beginning and End of the Universe
How did it all begin, and how will it all end? Those are the questions The Beginning and End of the Universe addresses. Professor Jim Al-Khalil walks us through our universe's origins, starting at the Big Bang and stepping through time in giant, billion-year leaps until he reaches its end, which, according to scientific observation could very well be a bleak affair. This documentary is perfect for anyone who loves science, physics, astronomy or just has a general interest in where we came from, and where we're headed.
The story of John du Pont is a terrifying and gripping one. A wealthy philanthropist and lover of wrestling, du Pont funded the U.S.A Olympic Wrestling Team, and his sprawling estate became home to myriad wrestlers looking to win gold. Team Foxcatcher chronicles the events that led to du Pont's obsession with and ultimate murder of esteemed wrestler Dave Schultz. Even if you're not a fan of the Olympics or even wrestling, Team Foxcatcher is well worth a watch.
The U.S. was shaped by innovation, which was fueled by vicious rivalry. From Edison versus Tesla and the race to create stable electric power, the Wright brothers versus Glen Curtiss and domination of the skies, Samuel Colt versus Daniel Wesson for the rights to the revolver and more, American Genius tracks the important moments in history and the key figures involved. This is one of the most educational documentaries on Netflix.
"Either I'm a psychopath in sheep's clothing, or I am you," claims Amanda Knox, who was convicted and ultimately acquitted for the 2007 murder of a student in Italy. Amanda Knox is a bone-chilling documentary about a cold-blooded murder. The suspect? Amanda Knox. It seemed like an open and shut case, but when Knox captivated the world, being dubbed Foxy Knoxy by the media, endless complications arose. This documentary lays out the evidence and acts as a real-life game of Clue, with multiple suspects on trial for the same murder. Knox was acquitted, but was she innocent or guilty?
If you've seen Restrepo, you have to see Korengal. This documentary picks up right where Retrepo left off. It follows the same men in the same valley, and is even helmed by the same director, Sebastian Junger. It's a heart-wrenching tale of the soldiers who fought for freedom, the brotherhood that formed among them and the aftermath of war. There are a lot of similarities between Korengal and Restrepo, but they offer completely different looks at the same experiences.
Titanic's Final Mystery
The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable, but her maiden voyage proved otherwise. The story of her sinking has been told numerous times, but Titanic's Final Mystery goes into detail on exactly how the massive ship went down that fateful night like no other documentary before it. Tim Matlin has dedicated much of his life to understanding the mysterious events of April 15, 1912, traveling the world for answers to a seemingly impossible question: How did the Titanic not see a giant iceberg on such a clear and bright night? The results of Matlin's studies are astounding, and reveal the truth behind a puzzle that hasn't been solved for more than a century.
Who hasn't wanted to give it all up and become a professional poker player? It's the dream of many, but few have the gumption to follow through with it. Daniel Negreanu is not one of those people. The poker legend sacrificed everything for the ultimate gamble. He moved to Las Vegas and began his career in cards; the rest is history. Kid Poker follows Negreanu's journey to the top, including all the ups and downs, and a few bad beats that would break the heart of any poker fan.
The internet as we know it is under attack. Killswitch looks at the consequences of internet censorship and its impact on free speech, innovation and even democracy itself. The documentary highlights aspects of the web few take the time to think about, and serves as a thought-provoking film on the future of information.
Man on Wire
Philippe Petit might just be the biggest daredevil in history. The French wire walker made headlines around the world in 1974 after he spent 45 minutes promenading across a tightrope strung between the rooftops of the Twin Towers. Man on Wire examines the impassioned journey of Petit, stretching all the way back to his childhood until the moment of he did the impossible. Whatever you do, just don't look down while watching this documentary.