Documentaries are one of my favorite genres of films to watch. Over the past year or so I have discovered several amazing documentaries that have not only opened my eyes to important issues, but have expanded my way of thinking as well. I have watched many documentaries on Netflix from true crime to biographical sub genres. Here are my favorites.
1. Audrey and Daisy
Audrey and Daisy will leave you flooded with emotions of sadness, empathy, anger, and ultimately wondering “why?” This film features two high school students, Audrey and Daisy, both victims of sex assault while unconscious and intoxicated. Being the same age as these young women, it is extremely unsettling to even begin to imagine the hurt and pain that they have endured. Although each girl’s story takes place on opposite ends of the country, the stories are all too familiar. The perpetrators, so called “friends” of the victims, violated the young women which in turn led to a public debate of “whose side are you on?” After a never ending cycle of harassment, both Audrey and Daisy attempt suicide. Tragically, one of them dies. This documentary will not only outrage you as it plays out, but leave you baffled as to why so many people still believe that women should tailor their actions to avoid rape, when in reality we need to teach men not to rape to begin with.
2. The Imposter
This documentary is so wild that it is actually hard to believe it’s a true story. In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared in Texas after walking home from a basketball game. After years of what had seemed to be a forever cold case, the Barclay’s received a call from their son Nicholas who had claimed to have run away from a sex trafficking ring in Europe. The twist? The person on the other end of the phone was 23-year-old con artist Frédéric Bourdin. Watch in disbelief as one manipulative man tricked this Texas family into believing that he was their son. Sounds ridiculous, right? That’s because it is. You may think you know how this documentary ends, but by the closing credits you will be in awe.
3. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father
This documentary is definitely my favorite on this list. Everyone that I have recommended this documentary to absolutely falls in love with the story. This film explores the life of Andrew Bagby, a 28-year-old doctor, murdered by his unstable ex-girlfriend. Filmmaker and best friend of Bagby, Kurt Kuenne, sets out on a mission to interview everyone whom Andrew Bagby made an impact on during his lifetime. The reason? Shortly after his death, it is revealed that his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Turner, is pregnant with Bagby’s child. After Shirley Turner walks a free woman after the trial, Andrew Bagby’s parents set out to win custody of their grandchild Zachary and see to it that Turner ends up behind bars. Kuenne is dedicating his work to his late best friend’s son, Zachary, in order for him to discover who his father was. This heart wrenching film has many ups and downs and will keep you intrigued throughout every minute. The best part? You will never guess the ending.
4. The Hunting Ground
College is supposed to be the best four years of your life. It is a time to really discover who you are while gaining an education, meeting new people, getting involved in the community, and having fun. However, there is a silent epidemic taking over college campuses across the country; rape. This documentary explores the stories of young women who were raped and sexually assaulted and how their cases were handled by their alma mater. The disturbing part? Most colleges try to keep these women silenced in order to keep their rape statistics down- absolutely disgusting. Watching these strong young women fight for justice is extremely empowering. This film will leave you saying “I need to do something.” The Hunting Ground will show you the part of college that nobody wants to talk about.
5. Who Took Johnny
Who Took Johnny is worse than any nightmare you have ever experienced. From kidnapping, to public scandals, to child sex trafficking rings, this documentary will wake you up to the sick and twisted world of forced child prostitution. Watch as Johnny Gosch, a victim of this cruel reality, met his unforeseen future as a forever missing child. This case was made national back in 1982, and because of its status, Johnny Gosch was the first missing child featured on a milk carton. Follow Johnny’s mother, Noreen Gosch, and her relentless search for her son. What you will see in this documentary will leave you shocked and upset.
6. Hot Girls Wanted
You would probably expect that most 18 and 19-year-old girls would be getting ready to leave for their first year of college. However, the young women in Hot Girls Wanted chose a much different path; pornography. Watch as these amateur porn actresses try to break into the tough adult film industry by sacrificing some of the most important things in their lives. This documentary specifically follows Tressa Silguero, Rachel Bernard, and many others as they go about their days as employees of Hussie Models in North Miami Beach, Florida. Their way of life, working conditions, and personal battles are both shocking and troublesome. Being a college aged woman myself, it is crazy to think that women my age have chosen this career.
7. Welcome to Leith
It is hard to believe that something so sinister such as a white supremacist takeover could happen as recently as 2012. Welcome to Leith follows neo-Nazi, Craig Cobb, as he and his ignorant followers pursue the takeover of Leith, North Dakota. White supremacists are the worst type of people, partly because their worldview is based off of illegitimate grounds and partly because of their hatred for a majority of humanity. Watch as the people of Leith fight for their small midwestern town from a terrorizing group of hate-loving individuals. If you think that this description is crazy, wait until you see the film. Plot twist, a DNA test showed that Cobb is actually 14% Sub-Saharan African.
8. Into the Abyss
Death row and state ordered execution will look a whole lot different to you after watching Into the Abyss. The main focus, Michael Perry, documents his journey through death row in Texas. The reason? Him and his friend were convicted of a triple homicide. This film is neither pro death row or against it; simply accounts of people involved in the process such as inmates, guards, interviewers, and executioners. Into the Abyss allows you to form your own opinions on death row, and your conclusion may surprise you based on your current stance.
9. Kids for Cash
You may remember hearing about the notorious “kids for cash” scandal back in 2008 in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. You also may have seen the story adaption on Law and Order SVU. Two corrupt judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, were exposed for accepting an illegitimate deal regarding minors and for profit detention facilities. The judges would sentence minors of petty crimes to hard time in the facilities in exchange for a payout from facility builder Robert Mericle. Bottom line, both judges were only sorry they got caught. I can guarantee you by the end of this film you will want to punch all of them in the face.
10. Holy Hell
You could never be brainwashed, right? Well that’s what the young people of the Buddhafield cult thought before meeting their leader Michel. The scary part was that they didn’t even know it was happening. Back in the mid 1980s this Hollywood cult was formed on the basis of love, liveliness, and the encouragement of being a free spirit. They even referred to themselves as an “anti-cult.” Seems innocent enough, the 80s version of hippies possibly? Wrong. Leader Michel was a narcissistic man who wanted to be worshiped as a god-like entity. He would abuse his followers both psychologically and sexually. Watch as the people of Buddhafield get sucked into this false spiritual-hood by one manipulative man. Their stories and his past will surprise you. Holy Hell will make you say “holy hell.”