13 Documentaries On Netflix You Didn’t Even Know Were There

13 Documentaries On Netflix You Didn’t Even Know Were There
Carly Jacobs

I was sitting next to Mr Smaggle on the couch as he was flicking through our Apple TV. One of his top suggestions was a documentary on Netflix called Wild Wild Country about a cult who created a city in a small area of Oregan and then poisoned some of the locals by spraying ebola on the local salad bar. It was just about the most perfect show for me. Murder? Check. Cults? Check. People generally being batshit crazy? Check.

‘What the hell is that???’ I shrieked as I grabbed the remote from him. ‘Netflix never told me about this!!!’

I love Netflix, but sometimes the dear old Flix gets it very, very wrong. I’m a big documentary lover but I really need them to be recommended to me. There is nothing more boring than a boring documentary. I have first-hand experience with this because Mr Smaggle is a fan of war history. A good war history documentary is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A bad war history documentary is like setting fire to your brain and your spare time simultaneously.

The point is Netflix doesn’t know you as well as it thinks it does and there are some amazing hidden gems lurking in there that you’ve never even heard of.

A lot of my time is spent crocheting and sometimes when I’m working on a new project that’s very repetitive, I need something stimulating on while I’m doing it. I like to watch documentaries so at least I’m learning something at the same time. Although I admit, I spent most of last weekend watching the latest season of Degrassi. It was amazing.

These are a few of my all-time favourite documentaries. Some of these are new and some of them are older but sometimes people miss the release of docos the first time around and it would be a shame to miss these…

documentaries on netflix

13 Documentaries on Netflix You Need To Watch Right Now

1. Bowling For Columbine 

This movie is about the school shooting massacre at Columbine in 1999. I was in high school when it happened so it always resonated with me quite strongly. If you haven’t seen this, it’s a really important documentary to watch. Michael Moore is a little bit sensationalist but his messages are generally pretty tops. After you’ve watched Bowling For Columbine, read A Mother’s Reckoning written by one of the mother’s of the shooters. It’s important to keep fighting for better gun control laws in the US and to keep raising awareness for mental health in youth and this message is as important today as it was fifteen years ago.

2. Man On Wire 

I’m one of those people who straight up judge documentaries by their titles. Mr Smaggle made me watch this and I had a bad attitude because it was about a tight rope walker and it sounded SUPER boring and lame. I was so very wrong. This documentary is short, snappy and totally mesmerising. There’s footage in this documentary that you will watch and wonder why you’ve never seen it before and how it’s not a viral video. It’s a very lovely, easy watch.

3. Being Elmo 

This documentary is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about the puppeteer who has brought Sesame Street’s Elmo to life for the last few decades. It’s such a gorgeous look into the life of Bill Baretta and how he ended up where he is today. It’s also narrated by Whoopie Goldberg which is always awesome.

4. Indie Game 

We originally watched this because Mr Smaggle and one of his mates played this ridiculously difficult game called Super Meat Boy until they were rolling around on the floor laughing with utter delirium, having played the same 30-second level about 80 times in a row. When we found out they did a documentary about the makers, we had to watch it. It’s a fascinating doco about the lives of indie game makers and it’s extraordinary to see the amount of work, time and sacrifice that goes into the making of these games.

5. Blackfish 

I literally pearl clutched throughout this entire doco. Warning: it’s really sad and will ruin aquariums for you forever. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it’s always important to shine a spotlight on our actions but just be warned, you may be quite a changed person after this doco. I know I was.

6. Hot Girls Wanted 

This is a fascinating look into the internet porn industry and these ‘factories’ where filmmakers advertise for girls, put them up in these houses with other porn stars and start this process of getting all they can get out of them while they’re young and fresh in the industry. I have a lot of conflicting feelings about porn and sex industries and this did nothing to make it clearer but it’s an interesting piece of a complicated puzzle.

7. The Internet’s Own Boy 

I really enjoyed this doco – it’s about Aaron Shwartz a programming prodigy from America who took his own life at 26 after years of defending his ‘hacktivism’. He’s one of the reasons that many online journal collections are now available for free because he believed it was immoral that scientists were government funded to spend years doing important and often life-changing research, only for their work to be locked up behind third party paywalls, accessible only for people who had money. Since his death, many science and medical journal collections with third-party paywalls have been court ordered to be realised to the public free of charge and there’s proof of this change having major societal, medical and scientific impacts on the world.

8. Wild Wild Country 

This is a fabulous six-part doco about the life of the Rajneeshee cult. I won’t say too much about it (otherwise I’ll ruin it!) but it’s a bloody good series. I loved it because I knew quite a bit about the Rajneeshee and their leader the Bhagwan and everything I’d heard about them was pretty awful. This documentary really changed the way I viewed them. Side note: If anyone has watched this can we please talk about Sheela and how we all want to be her a little bit? Yes?

9. Long Shot 

We’re big Larry David (creator of Seinfeld) and Curb Your Enthusiasm fans in the Smaggle house and we heard a weird thing on the news about an episode of Curb being used in a murder trial. There weren’t too many details about it so we forgot about it until this popped up on Netflix recently. It’s a very short doco, incredibly engaging and it’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard. Watch it. It’s ace.

10. The Price of Gold 

This is an oldie but it’s really good, especially you’ve recently seen I, Tonya. When I watched this recently and wrote about it on Facebook, a very rude lady said ‘Who cares???’ which I thought was a rather odd response. The story is so fascinating and it’s a massive part of Olympic history. Even if you’re not super into sport or you don’t really know much about the story, give it a go. It’s a really good watch.

11. Icarus 

On the topic of sport and cheating, Icarus is a must see. It’s about doping in sport, particularly in Russia and the high-level government cover-ups that occur when countries compete against each other for gold. It’s actually an unbelievable documentary, it won the Oscar for best doco this year. It’s an absolute must see.

12. Finders Keepers

This is straight up, the most batshit crazy doco I’ve ever seen. To set the story, this guy loses his foot in an accident and has it embalmed, which is weird enough in itself. His foot then accidentally gets sold inside an old meat smoker at a garage sale and the guy who accidentally bought it refuses to give it back. If you think I’ve told you most of the story, I haven’t. Watch it, it’s a hoot.

13. Amy 

I’ve always liked Amy Winehouse’s music but I was never fanatical about it but Apple Music keeps profiling me and making me listen to it and I’m fast becoming obsessed. I recently went to the Amy Winehouse exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Melbourne and then came home and watched this. It’s a fab doco about a troubled soul who left this world way too soon.

If you’re planning on spending the weekend watching documentaries on Netflix, I’ve totally sorted you out. Just make sure you have enough food and drinks in the fridge and you probably won’t need to move for at least 72 hours. You’re welcome!

Not into docos? Here some other things you might like…

9 TV Shows You Need To Watch Like Now 

7 TV Shows To Watch That Will Blow Your Mind

5 Things You Need To Watch Right Now

What are your favourite documentaries on Netflix? Any classics you want to recommend?

P.S Also you should totally sign up for my newsletter. It’s full of cool stuff.
P.P.S Don’t forget Crochet Coach has a free trial offer period at the moment so make sure you sign up!

26 Comments

  1. J 1 year ago

    I’d recommend watching hot girls wanted: turned on, to see a more varied and broad version of the sex industry. It’s also on netflix.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      Is that different to Hot Girls Wanted? We might be talking about the same thing. 🙂

  2. Kelly 1 year ago

    I quite like watching documentaries but find it hard to pick ones to watch. Thanks for the recommendations, I shall check them out.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      You’re welcome! I love recommendations so I make sure to tell people when I find cool stuff!

  3. Hemera 1 year ago

    I also really enjoyed Turned On. Impostor, The Secret Life of the Dog (not to be confused with the several other crappier similarly named movies and docos) and of course anything David Attenborough

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      Oh David! I love all his work. There’s actually a documentary about how his docos are made and it’s amazing. This poor camera guy spent 18 hours a day sitting in a mound of grass trying to get a shot of bird and it took him 8 weeks to get it!

  4. Jodie Smith 1 year ago

    I loved the Berkeley Marathon – a ridiculously crazy marathon concept made up by an eccentric runner that attracts a range of participants, the OJ Simpson series – not really a doco but mesmerising, and the acting is outstanding! Loved hot to make a murderer!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      Oh I think I’ve seen that – it was the one where the guy was basically ruining his marriage by running ultra-marathons? I have to give the OJ series another go. It didn’t get me in the first time.

      • Isabel Paton 5 months ago

        I loved this doco also! It’s about an awesome old dude in Virginia USA who organises a crazy ultra marathon every year that is super quirky but super tough.
        The Stanford prison experiment is not a doco but a movie based on real events and is SO interesting- if you like docos I’d recommend this also.

  5. julia 1 year ago

    There’s a couple of “Hot Girls Wanted” docos. It was originally a one-off piece and then Netflix did a spin off multi-episode series which includes a few of the same people from the original and each episode looks into a different aspect of the sex industry. Both very good!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      Ah good to know! I want to know more about it. It’s such a big, weird complex issue. Thanks for the rec!

  6. J 1 year ago

    It’s a spin off from the original. As the original was very one-sided and only focused on one kind of sex work.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      Ah! Awesome will look out for it – was wondering why Netflix was pimping it at me again.

  7. KezUnprepared 1 year ago

    I just watched Born Into Brothels about children in India whose mothers earn their money by selling themselves. Often it’s multi generational and it seems a sad inevitability that the little girls will grow up to be made to do the same. A photographer went in and taught the kids how to take photos and they had their amazing work shown around the world. She wanted them to be exposed to life outside the brothels. It sounds really fascinating and I did watch to the end but it was kind of slow moving. I felt sad for the kids.
    I also watch so much true crime. I love all the series on Netflix – even the bad ones with the terrible (so terrible they’re awesome) re-enactments.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      I have a rule about true crime re-enactments – they need to not speak. The second they speak, they ruin the whole thing. This is why I Survived and Forensic Files are so great. 🙂

  8. Alix 1 year ago

    I watched a couple of episodes of Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On and found it both interesting and really depressing. Seems like the porn industry can do terrible things to people. That lead me to watching some lady porn (ie created by women) and that made me realise that I am not a visual person when it comes to that type of thing – I much prefer words on the page. Anyone else got an opinion on lady porn?

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      It is so depressing. A friend of a friend does lady made queer porn and it’s… fine. I’m like you, give me some kind of high brow erotica any day. Maybe I was watching the wrong kind lady porn but it didn’t seem that different to the kid in Hot Girls Wanted.

  9. I think that’s a different one, Carly! The Berkeley Marathon is about what is essentially an almost impossible course that is set up by a slightly crazy chain smoking dude. It’s hilarious.

  10. Liann 1 year ago

    My all time favourite documentary is Searching for Sugarman – “Though he faded into obscurity in the U.S., an early ’70s musician known as Rodriguez became a huge hit in South Africa and was widely rumored to have died. Two obsessed fans set out to learn the man’s true fate.”

    You absolutely don’t need to be into music to appreciate what an amazing and wonderful story this is. It’s available on Netflix in the U.K. so hopefully will be available in Australia as well.

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 1 year ago

      I’ve heard this is excellent! My partner was randomly a fan of Sugarman before the doco so we’ve been meaning to watch it for ages.

  11. Rebekah Jaunty 1 year ago

    BLACKFISH. They had me right where they wanted me. Pearl-clutching is right!

    • Author
      Carly Jacobs 5 months ago

      Me too! Blackfish actually kind of changed me. Sign of an amazing doco.

  12. Alix 4 months ago

    I’m just watching Wild, Wild Country at the moment, enjoying it but I still have a lot of unanswered questions – like, what did they actually believe in? I think that could have been addressed. I was really aware of these guys growing up in Perth as they were pretty big there in the early 80s. In what way has your mind been changed about them – for better, for worse? I just don’t understand cults at all.

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