We all know the feeling: There are a million things to watch on Netflix and a thousand people recommending new shows and movies to us every day, and we start to feel like we will literally never catch up. It makes you just want a simple list of the best Netflix movies to ease the burden.
And documentaries are no exception. How many times have you heard someone describe an awesome doc on Netflix in the last six months, only to make a mental note to "definitely watch it"... and then completely forget about it three minutes later? Or how often have you said that you want to make a concerted effort to watch better quality, more enriching entertainment, only to find yourself in the middle of yet another MasterChef Junior marathon (and no disrespect to MasterChef Junior — I absolutely love that show).
My point is simply that most of us genuinely want to be watching more documentaries that will help to expand our minds and perspectives — it can just feel overwhelming with so many great ones to choose from and so many random recs continually flying around.
If this sounds familiar, and if you want a simple, straightforward list of some quality Netflix documentaries to get you started, here are 13 great Netflix docs you're going to love in no particular order.
From the director of Grey Gardens and Gimme Shelter is this incredibly entertaining documentary about Iris Apfel, a New York style icon who continues to design and create well into her 90s. Iris has the largest collection of couture costume jewelry in the United States, and her personal mantra is, "I don't have any rules, because I'd only break them."
Twinsters is the incredible real-life story of two identical twin sisters separated at birth who find each other via social media at age 25. It's a testament to the possibilities of modern technology as much as the magical unexpectedness of life.
3. Tiny: A Story About Living Small
Tiny takes us inside the world of "tiny housers" — a group of people dedicated to reducing their carbon footprint and need for material luxuries by downsizing their lives to fit into extremely small, self-made homes. You might not be convinced you could make it work for yourself, but you'll definitely be amazed.
4. Fed Up
This is a must-see for anyone interested in understanding how the United States — a country seemingly obsessed with diet and exercise — has one of the highest obesity rates on the planet. The film takes us from typical American school cafeterias (where ketchup is legally considered a vegetable) to Congressional hearings in which important nutritional information is purposefully kept under wraps under pressure from lobbyists.
From Oscar-winning director Errol Morris, Tabloid proves once and for all that truth is stranger than fiction. The film chronicles the adventures of Joyce McKinney, a beauty queen with a genius IQ and penchant for crime. You'll be intrigued, to say the least.
6. Hot Girls Wanted
While some may consider the film pretty one-sided and simplistic in its overall condemnation of the adult film industry, its portrayal of the world of barely-legal women in amateur porn will stick with you long after you're done watching — even if it doesn't exactly offer any solutions.
7. An Honest Liar
An Honest Liar tells the story of The Amazing Randi, world-class escape artist and magician who spent his entire life trying to debunk the lies of supposed psychics and practitioners of "real" magic. The catch? There's actually a pretty big lie at the center of Randi's own life.
8. The Central Park Five
If you loved Serial or are currently entrenched in the Netflix original series Making A Murderer, then The Central Park Five should be next on your list. Warning: This film entails gross miscarriages of justice within our legal system and is definitely not for those days when you're looking for a feel-good experience.
9. Jesus Camp
Jesus Camp takes us inside the hyper-religious Christian subculture within the US — from home-schooled children who read from special "Jesus approved" history books to intensive bible camps. Your jaw will definitely drop several times if you're unfamiliar with this particular niche of our culture.
10. Paris Is Burning
Although made 1990, this film feels anything but dated. The doc follows the Harlem drag scene of the 1980s, focussing on balls, voguing, and a community of misfits finding their place. The hilarious quotable moments alone are enough to make it worth your time.
11. Four Falls Of Buffalo
This 2015 30 For 30 doc chronicles the period when the Buffalo Bills lost four consecutive Super Bowls. Perhaps the magic of this one is that it makes even non-football fans like myself feel the weight and heartbreak of the losses for the players and fans alike.
12. Man On Wire
If you liked the recent Joseph Gordon Levitt film The Walk about Philippe Petit, the high wire artist who walked between the World Trade Center towers in 1974, then this documentary about the real man is a must-see. You'll truly appreciate Petit's revolutionary spirit and just how high the stakes really were on that incredible day.
13. Cartel Land
From Executive Producer Kathryn Bigelow comes the nearly unbelievable true story of two real-life vigilante groups attempting to protect themselves and their communities from drug cartel violence. The film's pure genius is that you might find yourself questioning some of your own definitions of right and wrong when you're done watching.
It can already be hard to carve out time to sit down and watch a good doc, but the overwhelming prospect of choosing one shouldn't be part of what's stopping you. Click on one or all of the above films the next time you hunker down for some educational entertainment, and start watching!