13 Netflix Documentaries You Need to Watch

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You’re binge-watching the third episode of the fourth season of your seventh Netflix series and upon being asked the dreaded question, “Are you still watching?” you break down and have a mid-Netflix-season crisis. You begin to question every television show and movie decision that you have ever made. Rewatching Scandal and Orange is the New Black for the millionth time is no longer completely fulfilling, and you have already watched every known chick flick.

You decide it’s time to branch out and try something different. Should you actually leave your room? Definitely not. Should you try a new Netflix genre? Yes. The documentaries section contains some prime Netflix viewing. In order to aid in the exploration of this foreign part of Netflix, we have compiled a list of 13 documentaries that are definitely worth watching.

1. Showrunners

As the name suggests, this documentary offers insight into what it’s like being in charge of some of today’s most popular and successful television shows from the perspective of notable show creators. Some of the “showrunners” featured include the heads of The Big Bang Theory, The Good Wife and Revenge, which means that you just might be able to get an inside look into the thought process behind one of your favorite shows. It is perfect for aspiring filmmakers or anyone who is interested in being in the television business.

Rotten Tomatoes: 67% of critics liked it

2. Brain Games

Okay, we might be cheating a bit with this one because it technically is a docuseries, but it’s so much easier to sit through smaller segments than an entire documentary, right? While initially it might seem a little bit too Mythbusters for your taste, the illusions and eye tricks that are shown within the first 10 minutes will have you completely captivated. Also, this is not your average documentary because while it is informative, it is also interactive. While the show ultimately gives you the information and science behind the tricks, you are also encouraged to try them for yourself. There are two seasons of the show and a total of fifteen episodes. You might not understand all the science behind everything or why your eyes are playing tricks on you, but you will definitely not regret checking out this docuseries.

IMDb: 8.6 stars

3. Dark Girls

This documentary explores the way that African-American women as a whole have been perceived throughout history due to the color of their skin, as well as how skin tone within the African-American community affects women’s perception of each other. The concept of colorism, the principle that those with lighter, fairer skin are treated with a higher regard than those with darker skin, is discussed through the eyes of everyone from young girls who are ashamed of their color to actors like Viola Davis of How to Get Away with Murder. Discrimination within one’s own race is not often discussed and this documentary brings it to light in a fascinating way.

IMDb: 7.8 stars

4. 20 Feet from Stardom

When you go to a concert, of course it’s easy to remember Beyoncé belting out notes like nobody’s business or Taylor Swift perfectly hitting every heartbroken note, but what about the people who give them a little extra boost and help them create the fabulous sounds we know and love? Just 20 feet behind the biggest singers of all time are the unsung heroes of the performance: the backup singers. This documentary offers a unique and interesting perspective because usually, not much emphasis is placed on the backup singers even though they work extremely hard in their own right. Not to mention, this film won Best Documentary Feature at the 86th Academy Awards.

Rotten Tomatoes: 99% of critics liked it

5. First Position

Depending on your dance preference, you either think that ballet is the most beautiful dance form there is… or it just puts you to sleep. Regardless, the performance on the stage is all that you ever get to see as an audience member. First Position offers a true glimpse of everything that goes on before a ballet dancer is ready to perform on stage. It showcases the literal blood, sweat and tears that the audience is never allowed to see.

Rotten Tomatoes: 93% of critics liked it

6. Please Subscribe

In the age of the Internet, there are so many people who are famous simply for being well-liked YouTube personalities with millions of subscribers. There are a lot of us who probably feel like we, too, could be famous YouTubers if we just had the right formula for YouTube success. The phenomena of top YouTubers is explained in this documentary, which features the likes of Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart. If you are an aspiring video maker or YouTuber, Please Subscribe will definitely give you some tips on how to get subscribers of your own.

IMDb: 6.3 stars

7. Becoming Chaz

Becoming Chaz follows the emotional journey of Chaz Bono, the only child of Sonny and Cher, as he transitions from female to male. The documentary addresses the struggle to become comfortable in one’s own skin. If you have been following Caitlyn Jenner’s transition, then this documentary might just interest you!

IMDb: 6.7 stars

8. Madonna: Truth or Dare

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be one of the most renowned—and controversial—pop stars in the world? Madonna: Truth or Dare follows the iconic pop star on her Blond Ambition tour in 1990. Since a majority of the documentary (aside from the performances) are in black and white, the documentary has a retro, vintage vibe which just makes Madonna seem all the more fabulous. It shows Madonna at her most candid and vulnerable. This is definitely a Netflix gem that every Madge lover should see.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80% of critics liked it

9. Brave Miss World

This documentary tells the inspiring and compelling story of former Miss World, Linor Abargil, as she strives to turn her personal tragedy into a platform for global awareness. Two weeks prior to being crowned Miss World, she was abducted and raped. Brave Miss World follows her on her quest to fill other rape victims with hope and the strength to come forward. As a global advocate, Miss Abargil is an amazing example of how strong women can empower each other.

IMDb: 7.2 stars

10. Miss Representation

This very clever play on words aims to reveal the prevalent sexism in today’s show business. It’s an interesting commentary on how the media makes young women believe that their value depends on how they look and places greater emphasis on the body as opposed to the brain. The overall tone of Miss Representation totally reminds us of the Emma Stone press conference when she was told she was beautiful by the press only to reply, “Thank you. That’s all that matters.” Definitely a girl power, feminist documentary.

IMDb: 7.7 stars

11. Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s  

Alright ladies, you are going to have to channel your inner Blair Waldorf for this one! Finally, we get an inside look into the paradise of every Upper East Side princess: Bergdorf Goodman. This documentary offers a sneak peek into one of most iconic (and expensive!) department stores in New York, featuring fashion designers (Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, Diane Von Furstenberg, etc.) and celebrity cameos galore. That itself makes this one worth a watch! As college students, we probably will not be setting foot in Bergdorf’s anytime soon, but a little window shopping never hurt anybody, right?

Rotten Tomatoes: 49% of critics liked it

12. The Queen of Versailles

All of you history majors out there might be wary of watching yet another documentary about the French Revolution with historians arguing about whether or not Marie Antoinette actually said, “Let them eat cake.” Don’t worry, we wouldn’t do that to you. This “Queen of Versailles” is actually former Miss Florida contestant, Jackie Siegel, who is married to the wealthy owner of Westgate Resorts, David Siegel. The documentary follows the couple through times of luxury and times of financial challenges. You’ll even see an inside view of their mansion, a sprawling 90,000-square-foot American Versailles. While The Queen of Versailles does not end in a revolution or a beheading, the Siegel’s definitely experience their own unfortunate twist of fate.

Rotten Tomatoes: 94% of critics liked it

13. Chasing Beauty

Chasing Beauty begins with the jarring statistic that “25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize.” Which would you rather win, collegiettes? Chasing Beauty offers a great behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry and the ins and outs of becoming, and staying, a model. The documentary identifies how superficial the fashion world can be while also pointing out the importance of finding models who embrace their differences in order to encourage young girls to celebrate their own individuality. Trust us, this is just as addicting an episode of America’s Next Top Model.

IMDb: 6.1 stars

Which documentaries will you be watching, collegiettes?

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About The Author

She realizes that her last name is Trusty and does that make her trusty? Yes, yes it does. She cares way more about the goings on of Kylie Jenner, One Direction, and the rest of the celebrity population way more than the average person should. So as opposed to becoming a professional paparazzo, she does this while she studies Broadcast Journalism at the University of South Carolina. You can find her on Instagram @briballerina or @verytrustysource.