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From food to true crime and sports, here are the 14 best Netflix documentaries to stream right now

Here are our top picks of documentaries from all genres

Wild Wild Country

Documentaries come in so many different shapes and sizes that any movie fan can find one they’re interested in. Documentaries can be about your next great travel destination, the best ways to find and appreciate great food, or about a murder case that has been unsolved for decades. What unites great documentaries are the stories they tell and the powerful emotions they evoke. The best documentaries on Netflix also come with the same diversity described here.

It can definitely be overwhelming trying to find the best titles from among their expansive library, though, so we’ve decided to do some of that for you. These Netflix documentaries are sure to fascinate and entertain any audience. If you’re caught up on all of these, you can also check out the best movies or TV shows to watch on Netflix.

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing (2023)

American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
The Boston Marathon is supposed to a celebration of athletic perseverance and Northeastern grit. These cultural touchstones took on a whole new meaning when the 2013 edition of the marathon ended in tragedy with a terrorist bombing. This great documentary on Netflix sheds new light on the violence that took place in Massachusetts with interviews and expert analysis one decade after the horrors of that day.

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America (2021)

High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America
tv-14 1 Season
Genre Documentary
Cast Stephen Satterfield
This fantastic show is about both food and the place it’s always had as part of Black culture. 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, and in doing so, shedding light on American history more generally.
High on the Hog: How African American Cuisine Transformed America | Official Trailer | Netflix

Tales by Light (2015)

Tales by Light
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 the second you finish.

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 emergence 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. Even the vegetarians out there will like the narratives at play here, though, which are about so much more than animal protein. This is really a story about how food brings us all together, even as we each approach preparing it differently.

Flint Town (2018)

Flint Town
83 %
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, take a close look at Flint, Michigan. This documentary does just that, exposing the systemic racism that keeps equality from every really taking hold in the city, and uses that as a proxy for America’s problems more generally. There’s nothing simple about Flint Town, but that’s part of the point. This doc tackles it all, from the water crisis to a troubled economy to the nature of law enforcement. It demands to be seen.
Flint Town | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

Wild Wild Country (2018)

Wild Wild Country
79 %
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 conniving leader. This docuseries is highly addictive, and is likely to leave viewers baffled as they try to reckon with the bloody legacy that this particular cult left in its wake.

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami (2021)

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami
1 Season
Genre Documentary
If you didn’t know that south Florida was essentially built by cocaine before, Cocaine Cowboys is the kind of true crime documentary that will have you convinced. It’s an amazing tale of a real drug empire that pretty much got away with everything, sharing its profits with law enforcement to essentially avoid accountability for decades. It focuses on the clever and sexy side of the drug trade, but before you get any ideas, note that this all went down during a very different era, in a town that lived and breathed on white powder.
Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami | Official Trailer | Netflix

Pelé (2021)

61 %
Genre Documentary
Stars Pelé, Zagallo, Gilberto Gil
Directed by David Tryhorn, Ben Nicholas
Pelé allows viewers to take in the extraordinary life of arguably the greatest soccer player of all time. It’s an interesting mix of incredible old highlights from the most famous number 10 in Brazilian history as well as how Pelé’s life on the field interacted with the politics happening around him. Pelé rose to prominence alongside his country, and this documentary follows that parallel rise in compelling fashion.
Pelé | Official Trailer | Netflix

Athlete A (2020)

Athlete A
85 %
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 the details it offers about just how extensive and normalized abuse in this world had become are hugely important. Amidst all the pain and hurt that the documentary rightly emphasizes, it’s also a story about a group of young women who come together to take down a system that no one of them could topple on their own.
Athlete A Trailer #1 (2020) | Rotten Tomatoes TV

My Octopus Teacher (2020)

My Octopus Teacher
82 %
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 more generally as a result. The footage here is remarkable, the story is heartwarming, and it’s all packaged in a remarkably concise running time. There are many interesting ideas at play here, including an important reminder that people and the planet can coexist as long as there is mutual love and respect.
My Octopus Teacher | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Toys That Made Us (2017)

The Toys That Made Us
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 about why certain childhood toys came into existence. We’re talking about things like Legos and Barbie and every other toy that most kids love growing up. 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)

66 %
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, as it mixes biographical and political elements in fascinating ways. At its core, though, Becoming is a feel-good documentary that showcases the empowering and uplifting ways Michelle Obama has lived her life. 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

Quincy (2018)

60 %
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 strokes of production genius, not to mention the reverence he gets from the entire music industry. Even if you think you know the guy and his discography, this doc will make you appreciate him even more than before.
Quincy | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix

American Nightmare (2024)

American Nightmare
tv-ma 1 Season
Genre Documentary
This a a true harrowing story of a young couple, Denise Huskins and Aaron Quinn, who report a terrifying home invasion and kidnapping in Vallejo, California. Denise is abducted, leaving Aaron shaken and confused. The police investigation, however, takes a turn for the worse when inconsistencies in Aaron’s story and Denise’s eventual reappearance lead them to suspect the couple of staging the whole ordeal. American Nightmare delves deep into this complex case, exploring the media frenzy, victim blaming, and ultimately, the pursuit of justice.

Editors' Recommendations

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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