The 12 Very Best Docuseries on Netflix Right Now

The 12 Very Best Docuseries on Netflix Right Now

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Docuseries have no doubt become one of the most bingeable genres. With the best one, the compelling combination of jaw-dropping facts and human narrative grips you and doesn’t let go. But there’s more to Netflix’s docu-section than Tiger King and the true crime it’s notorious for. From explorations of modern society to archival explorations of the past, we present the top 5 docuseries streaming on Netflix right now.

12. Immigration Nation

8.0

Moods

Docu-series

For three years, the makers of this docuseries gained in-depth access to ICE and other government agencies to document the current state of the U.S. immigration system.

Immigration Nation looks at how ICE functions from within, but it also focuses on the human toll of its methods. When a migrant freezes to death, an officer calls his distraught father to notify him. It quickly becomes apparent that the officer is using the same call to try to establish if the father is in the U.S. legally or if he should be deported.

The show also makes an important point of noting that the harshness of the U.S. immigration system didn’t start with the current administration. “Prevention through deterrence” Clinton-era policies, for example, forced migrants towards desert routes, killing around 10,000 people from dehydration.

11. College Behind Bars

8.0

Moods

Docu-series, Thought-provoking, Uplifting

This documentary from Ken Burns is a selection of stories from prisoners enrolled in a competitive college program. Many of the prisoners are in maximum-security facilities, some for serious crimes.

Seeing their difficult imprisonment conditions, the struggles they come from, and yet their incredible determination to excel in their education – it’s all such a humbling and emotional affair.

10. The Keepers

8.1

Country

United States of America

Actors

Abbie Schaub, Gemma Hoskins, Jean Hargadon Wehner, Tom Nugent

Moods

Challenging, Docu-series, Thought-provoking

With true crime hitting an all-time high, and Making a Murderer making millions, here comes Netflix’s The Keepers. However, while the two shows share a common genre and general tone of voice, The Keepers is a much more interesting show. For one, it focuses on the victims and their stories, instead of the grisly perpetrators. Second, it trades cliffhangers for substance without compromising on breathtaking twists and revelations. Across seven taut episodes, it meticulously examines the unsolved murder of Catherine Cesnik, a Baltimore nun in 1969, who is suspected of being murdered to cover up sexual abuse at the Catholic high school she taught at. Adroitly edited, beautifully shot, and featuring great music by Blake Neely, The Keepers unfolds a horrific tale and emphatically captures the pain still lingering on five decades later.

9. Formula 1: Drive to Survive

8.2

Country

UK, United States of America

Actors

Charles Leclerc

Moods

Docu-series, Gripping, Mini-series

There are only 20 seats in Formula 1 each year, meaning that drivers are not only racing to win but to be kept on the roster. With the big stars, Ferrari and Mercedes, habitually shrouded in secrecy, Formula 1: Drive to Survive focuses more on the back of the grid. Lewis Hamilton, the five-time world champion, is rarely seen, for example, giving more room for other stories to unfold, including that of Günther Steiner, the Italian team principal of the Haas Formula One Team. That is not to say there are no big reveals. Even if you think Formula 1 is a decadent, testosterone-driven sports for rich Europeans, Drive to Survive might be welcome crash course into what makes this sport so appealing for many and might also have the potential to change your mind. If not, it is still a very well-made, slick, and engaging docuseries that will have enthusiasts and newcomers thoroughly entertained.

8. Flint Town

8.2

Country

United States of America

Actors

James Tolbert, Karen Weaver, Wayne Suttles

Moods

Docu-series, Mini-series, Thrilling

Since the 1960s, Flint, Michigan, has experienced a series of shocks. When General Motors downsized their workforce by several 10.000, the town’s population nearly halved. Unsurprisingly, it later became known for being one of the most dangerous cities in the US and for off-the-charts crime statistics. Since 2014, Flint again rose to tragic fame for a public health emergency due to contamination of its local water supply. Flint Town homes in on this perpetual state of crisis through the eyes of the local police department, who had to grapple with this dire scenario, while losing more funding year over year due to the city’s deteriorating financial situation. The few officers that are left for policing are at breaking point. The result is a gripping and rich docuseries with a host of strong characters. But it is also a brutal and sobering account of the extent to which an American city is being allowed to fail.

7. Losers

8.4

Country

United States of America

Actors

Mauro Prosperi, Michael Bentt, Surya Bonaly

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive, Thought-provoking

While this perspective on competitive sports is obviously unconventional, it makes perfect sense. Winners are boring. If you win, you win. The losers, however, have defeat to deal with. As the proverb goes, you learn little from victory, but a great deal from defeat. Director and creator of the show’s amazing animation, Mickey Duzyj, was inspired by a personal experience during a tennis tournament as a teenager. Each episode of this 2019 Netflix show tells a different story from a different sport. For starters, episode one looks at Michael Bentt, a world champion boxer who was forced into the sport by his abusive father. So, things do get dark, as could be expected, the storytelling is complex, but the message of Losers is as simple as it is wholesome. Like the characters and life stories it portrays, this show will pick you up when you are down!

6. Explained

8.4

Country

d, United States of America

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive

Produced by Ezra Klein’s Vox Media, an explanatory news site with liberal leanings, this may well be Netflix’s first successful attempt at a traditional weekly television show. And a news show at that. But as the title suggests, Explained doesn’t aim at updating you on current events, but takes short but in-depth looks at topics that tend to get overlooked in news cycles such as the racial wealth gap, monogamy, and the rise of cryptocurrencies. The idea is not unique. The only thing YouTube might have more of than make-up advice videos are explanatory monologues by self-declared Illuminati. However, those familiar with Vox Media’s previous outings on YouTube know to expect high production value, serious research, and digestible visual journalism at its best. Don’t watch it with your special uncle, though because he will start yelling at the television.

5. Our Planet

8.5

Country

UK, United States of America

Actors

David Attenborough

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive

I can’t think of a good reason why this review shouldn’t just be two words: David Attenborough. With a voice that makes you wish every other voice in your life was the same, the star of Planet Earth teamed up with Netflix to make this new nature show. It took four years to film, and it bounces countless times between continents in every episode. It’s rich, vivid, and oh so beautiful. So they just made another Planet Earth? Not exactly. Our Planet has a much stronger environmental message. It’s not a line here and there about the negative impact we’ve had on the planet – it’s the theme behind the whole show. It’s frank, sad, but always, always, stunning.

4. Evil Genius

8.5

Country

d

Moods

Binge-Worthy, Challenging, Docu-series

There is footage and coverage to prove that the pizza bomber story actually happened but watching Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist everything is so intriguing it is almost impossible to believe. A pizza-delivery guy shows up to rob a bank with what he says is a bomb secured around his neck, something that he claims is part of a treasure hunt. By robbing the bank, he will unlock the next set of clues that will allow him to defuse the bomb. Bank tellers comply but on the way out he is suddenly arrested by the police, who doubt his claims, handcuff him and keep him at a distance. The device he has around his neck then starts beeping. What follows is one of the most unusual investigations ever led by security forces, brilliantly framed by executive producers Duplass brothers. A perfect follow-up to their other amazing True-crime Netflix collaboration, Wild Wild Country, it’s a tight 4-episodes that is equally terrifying and intriguing.

3. The Pharmacist

8.6

Country

United States of America

Moods

Docu-series, Instructive, Mini-series

We call it a Netflix true crime documentary, but, in fact, this compelling four-parter is much more than that. It homes in on the fate of an immensely empathetic, soft-spoken, and likable family man, who loses his teenage son to drug-related violence in New Orleans’ notorious Lower 9th Ward in 1999. With corruption rampant in the city’s police department, he takes matters into his own hands and investigates his son’s murder by himself.

In doing so, main protagonist Dan Schneider notices a rise in opioid prescriptions from one doctor in particular. Fueled by a relentless determination to protect other children from addiction, he quits his job and begins gathering evidence against this doctor and, by extension, the company responsible for the sale of the notorious opioid-based painkiller Oxycodone: Purdue Pharma. In the course of his investigation, Schneider records all his findings, evidence, and intimate thoughts on audio and video. This sense of immediacy and the pretty breathtaking twists of his story make this Netflix production rise above other true crime formats. It uses the power and charisma of one individual to come to grips with a crisis of global proportions.

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