You know what they say about the truth: It's always stranger than fiction. So though it's easy to spend all your Netflix hours on comedies, dramas, and great TV, you're missing out if you ignore the most compelling drama of all. Netflix is home to dozens of documentaries that frame the truth of real people and real situations. With this varied selection, you can dig deep into topics that already interest you or discover something completely new. There's so much to learn and experience through documentary filmmaking. Since the service's section is so crowded with choices, you can pare down your watch list with this rundown of the 19 most fascinating documentaries on Netflix.
These films will make you angry. They'll make you wistful and inspired. You'll want to talk about them with your friends and to do your own research on the subjects. They'll remind you that your world is strange and wide and scary and wonderful. They'll also remind you that it's unfair and prompt you to do something about it.
Whether you're in the mood to learn about a complicated jazz legend, a comedy troupe that leverages their disability in their work, or the horrible truth about the food you consume, Netflix has a documentary for you.
In this Netflix original, Selma director Ava DuVernay explores the connection between the history of slavery in the United States and the jarring racial statistics of the makeup of the country's prisons. The film's thesis is that the old power dynamic has simply been replaced by a new and more insidious one.
You'll look back on your grade school field trips to SeaWorld with disgust after watching this explosive documentary. Blackfish questions the ethics of keeping orcas and other sea life in captivity after a show orca named Tilikum kills one of his trainers.
3. Lo And Behold: The Revelries Of The Connected World
Grizzly Man director Werner Herzog points his camera at the intertwined physical and virtual lives of modern humans. Suddenly your daily Tumblr scrolling feels much more meaningful.
4. Audrie & Daisy
An important film but certainly not an easy one to watch, Audrie & Daisy examines three cases of rape perpetrated against teenage girls. Audrie & Daisy focuses mainly on the aftermath and of the incessant shaming, cyberbullying,, and victim-blaming these young women endured.
5. Amanda Knox
You've heard the story of Amanda Knox before, but not like this. This original Netflix doc is centered around a comprehensive interview with Knox herself. Her memories of enduring investigation and incarceration for the murder of her roommate in Perugia, Italy for which she was later acquitted is accompanied by stock footage and interviews with journalists, investigators, and her ex-boyfriend/co-defendant.
6. Cartel Land
As exciting as any thriller, Cartel Land follows vigilante groups who are on a mission to curb Mexico's powerful cartels.
Grey Gardens filmmaker Albert Maysles and his subject Iris Apfel will challenge everything you think you know about fashion, creativity, and aging. The New York City style icon was 87 when the film was made and sees being an octogenarian as no reason to step away from the cutting edge.
8. Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things
Watch this film about the bliss of simplicity and immediately embark on a closet purge. Paring down your life can somehow make it more full. How does that even work?
9. I'll Sleep When I'm Dead
As you might guess from that title, EDM producer Steve Aoki is moving at full speed all the time. Whether dance music is your thing or not, you'll come out of this documentary with nothing but respect for this man's work ethic and commitment to his family. (His dad founded Benihana!)
Travel all over the world with an intrepid crew on a mission to answer just one universal question: what do humans need to be happy?
11. Asperger's Are Us
Four Massachusetts natives bond over their shared love of comedy and their shared diagnosis to form an improv troupe. In a world where a developmental disability is often considered something to hide, these guys are owning who they are.
12. For The Love Of Spock
Directed by his son Adam Nimoy, this documentary transformed while it was still in process from being a film about Leonard Nimoy's iconic Star Trek character to a film about the actor himself. Nimoy passed away during filming in 2015.
13. What Happened, Miss Simone?
Vocalist Nina Simone is as famous for her independent spirit as she is for her voice. This documentary explores her career as well as her work in the civil rights movement.
A French student and an American actress discover that their uncanny resemblance is not a coincidence. Twinsters is the incredible true story of two young women who found their missing half on the internet.
15. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
Have the takeout menu ready for this one. When you finish this sumptuous doc about Jiro Ono, a famed artist in the medium of raw fish, you'll need a spicy tuna roll or five.
16. Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room
There was a time when headlines about the Enron business scandal dominated the news cycle. When you don't know your history, you're doomed to repeat it. So remember how greed and ego took down an entire corporation with this award-winning doc.
17. Team Foxcatcher
You may have seen the fictionalized version with an unrecognizable Steve Carell playing eccentric heir John Du Pont, but Team Foxcatcher provides a more in-depth look at the real man's violent obsessions.
18. Room 237
Room 237 makes a case for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining as being the movie with the most passionate and paranoid fans. For many, the film is the source of conspiracy theories and out-there readings. Some of them might even convince you.
19. Food Inc.
Inspired by the book of the same name, Food Inc. shows you what the purveyors of your favorite snacks never wanted you to see. It's one way to ween yourself off of processed foods.
The amount of information out there can seem overwhelming. But each of these 19 Netflix documentaries makes a great case for staying curious.