Skip to main content

The 15 Best Netflix Documentaries to Stream Right Now

The Very Best Documentaries to Watch on Netflix in 2022

If we’re living in the golden era of television, we’re by default inhabiting a pretty good time for the documentary. This film and show genre is often enlightening, educating us by way of entertaining stories. And, now that we find ourselves in another pandemic winter, the urge to stay in and watch something of quality is all the greater.

You’re probably already entertaining yourself, taking in the best movies or throwing a vinyl record on your turntable. Shoot, maybe you’re even upholding a New Year’s resolution and getting outside more than sitting in front of a screen. Whatever you’re up to, don’t overlook the documentary as it tends to involve priceless narratives that can shape or reshape the world.

There’s a lot of material out there and you shouldn’t have to spend as much time sifting through your options as watching the actual doc itself. Here are 15 of the best documentaries to cue up on Netflix right now.

Food and Travel

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America (2021)
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
7.7/10
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Stephen Satterfield
This fantastic show is technically about food but it’s more of a deep dive into Black culture and culinary history. It’s led by the ever-entertaining and insightful Stephen Satterfield, a journalist and podcaster with an insatiable appetite for humanity’s relationship with food. It’s an important watch, shedding light on so much marginalized American food history.
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America | Official Trailer | Netflix
Tales by Light (2015)
Tales by Light
8.3/10
tv-14 3 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Created by Abraham Joffe
Documentaries don’t get more visually pleasing than this, which is what you might expect from a series that focuses on a new photographer every episode. Viewers are treated to amazing coverage of all kinds of critters from all corners of the globe, shot with distinctive perspectives. It’s inspiring stuff and you’ll no doubt want to power up your SLR camera and get to capturing nature’s beauty again.
Korean Pork Belly Rhapsody (2020)
Korean Pork Belly Rhapsody
tv-g 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Baek Jong-won
If you love pork belly, and you should, you’ll admire this show. It’s set in pork-loving South Korea and outlines the history and establishment of this satisfying and ever-popular dish. You’ll want to cook a whole animal and incorporate the fatty and flavorful meat into every meal of your day. But even the vegetarians out there will like the narratives at play here, about so much more than animal protein and more about how food brings us all together and the many approaches we can take in preparing food.

Politics and Wrongdoing

RBG (2018)
RBG
71 %
7.6/10
pg 98m
Genre Documentary
Stars Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane C. Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg
Directed by Julie Cohen, Betsy West
America lost a true icon and heroine in late 2020 when Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away. The former Supreme Court Justice achieved the kind of status normally reserved for rockstars, having climbed all the way to the highest rungs of the legal latter despite pervasive sexism and an unwelcoming, male-dominated system. This film explores her razor sharp mind and the many, many firsts she knocked out during her remarkable career in the justice realm.
RBG - Official Trailer
Flint Town (2018)
Flint Town
83 %
7.8/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime, Action & Adventure
Cast Timothy Johnson, Bridgette Balasko, Devon Bernritter
If you want to understand America’s many problems, it pays to take a close look at Flint, Michigan. This documentary does just that, exposing the systemic racism that keeps equality from every really taking hold. And it’s about so much more than just a corrupt police system versus the people. This one tackles it all, from the water crisis to a troubled economy to the nature of law enforcement.
Flint Town | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

True Crime

Wild Wild Country (2018)
Wild Wild Country
79 %
8.1/10
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary, Crime
Cast Ma Anand Sheela, Jane Stork, Jon Bowerman

An award-winning documentary, Wild Wild Country follows a little-known cult that blew up in eastern Oregon back in the 1980s. Like most off-the-grid communities, this one, with its followers dubbed the rajneeshees and clad in signature burgundy clothes, is led by a brilliant but scheming leader. Things get a little out of hand but you can’t help wondering what it might have been like to join, especially now as we crave social engagement more than ever. It’s a highly addictive affair that will get your brain into gear.

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami (2021)
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami
7.1/10
1 Season
Genre Documentary
If you didn’t know that south Florida was essentially built by cocaine, you’ll know as much after watching this true crime documentary. It’s an amazing tale of a real drug empire that pretty much got away with everything, sharing the profits with law enforcement so as to keep the whole thing afloat. It focuses on the clever and sexy side of the drug trade so before you get any ideas note that this all went down during a very different era, in a town that practically relied on white powder.
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami | Official Trailer | Netflix

Sports

The Alpinist (2021)
The Alpinist
67 %
7.9/10
pg-13 92m
Genre Documentary
Stars Marc-André Leclerc, Brette Harrington, Alex Honnold
Directed by Peter Mortimer, Nick Rosen
By now, most of us are aware of the incredible feats of climbers like Alex Honnold, who free solo climbed El Capitan to stardom. This documentary follows the incredible rope-free climbing of Marc-André Leclerc. The fearless Canadian alpinist routinely climbed some of the scariest peaks in the world. You’ll witness a kind of elegance and bravery so few on the planet have, outside of a few other death-defying pro climbers and the best big wave surfers out there.
The Alpinist | Official Trailer | In Theaters Nationwide September 10
Pelé (2021)
Pelé
61 %
7/10
108m
Genre Documentary
Stars Pelé, Zagallo, Gilberto Gil
Directed by David Tryhorn, Ben Nicholas
Here, we take in the extraordinary life of arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. It’s an interesting mix of incredible old highlights and the most famous number 10 in Brazilian history. Better, it focuses on the intersection of politics and sport, during a time when South America’s most soccer-crazy nation was still defining itself on the international stage.
Pelé | Official Trailer | Netflix
Athlete A (2020)
Athlete A
85 %
7.6/10
pg-13 104m
Genre Documentary
Stars Maggie Nichols, Jamie Dantzscher, Mark Alesia
Directed by Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen
This damning film looks at the culture of sexual abuse that’s dominated women’s gymnastics for an entire generation. It’s not always easy viewing, but it’s all kinds of important, detailing just how extensive and normalized the abuse had become. You’ll appreciate the power of good journalis and the strength in numbers that can bring down a genuine predator and create necessary change in a very broken part of the sporting world.
Athlete A Trailer #1 (2020) | Rotten Tomatoes TV

Feel Good

My Octopus Teacher (2020)
My Octopus Teacher
82 %
8.1/10
84m
Genre Documentary
Stars Craig Foster, Tom Foster
Directed by James Reed, Philippa Ehrlich
This film will reinvigorate your love for both man and nature. It tracks a diver who befriends an octopus and swims by its side daily, learning its ways and becoming one with nature. The footage is remarkable, the story is heartwarming, and you’ll feel very good en route, plus a few more moving emotions. There are many quality themes at play here, not the least of which that people and the planet can coexist with the right kind of mutual love and respect.
My Octopus Teacher | Official Trailer | Netflix
The Toys That Made Us (2017)
The Toys That Made Us
8.0/10
tv-14 3 Seasons
Genre Documentary
Cast Donald Ian Black
Created by Brian Volk-Weiss

This docuseries offers all the context even the geekiest fan would need surrounding why certain childhood toys came into existence. We’re talking about things like Legos and Barbie, many of which came into existence in less-than-expected ways. You’ll love returning to your childhood while taking on some factoids and background info that’ll serve as great icebreakers and conversation starters during your next communal meal or cocktail party.

Becoming (2020)
Becoming
66 %
6.8/10
pg 89m
Genre Documentary
Stars Michelle Obama, Barack Obama, Phoebe Robinson
Directed by Nadia Hallgren
This one could fit in a number of documentary categories, from biographical to political. At its core, though, Becoming is a feel good number that showcases the empowering and uplifting ways of Michelle Obama. You feel like you’re by her side throughout and can’t help but absorb her positive spirit and optimistic outlook.
Becoming | Official Trailer | Netflix

Biographical

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (2011)
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
71 %
7.6/10
pg 80m
Genre Documentary
Stars Kevin Clash, Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Barretta
Directed by Constance Marks
Being Elmo follows the life of Kevin Clash, the creator and puppet master behind Elmo. It’s a delightful story, unmasking the man behind the beloved character of Sesame Street fame. It’s wondrous and informative, waking the kid in you but also feeding your adult side with all the necessary info and entertainment. You quickly learn that Clash and Elmo are one in the same, incredibly happy creatures that love to brighten the days of kids and grown-ups alike.
Being Elmo (2011) Movie Trailer - HD
Quincy (2018)
Quincy
60 %
7.6/10
124m
Genre Documentary, Music
Stars Quincy Jones, Rashida Jones, Tom Hanks
Directed by Rashida Jones, Alan Hicks
One of the most dynamic musical minds ever, Quincy Jones is a living legend with a career spanning seven decades. This documentary tells Mr. Jones’ story, with its countless hits and production strokes of genius, not to mention the reverence he gets from the entire music industry. Even if you think you know the guy and his discography, you’ll learn to appreciate him even more than before.
Quincy | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Editors' Recommendations

Movie images and data from: