14 Best Netflix Documentaries to Binge Watch Productively

One of my favorite ways to relax is to watch a ton of Netflix curled up in my bed. However, sometimes I like to learn something while I’m watching TV so that I can at least pretend that I’m being productive. That being said, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite Netflix documentaries and ones that I’ve had recommended to me as well!

Chef’s Table

This is my absolute favorite documentary series on Netflix. Each episode focuses on a famous chef around the world and how they think about food, reinvent cooking, pay homage to their country’s traditions, and run a successful restaurant. Plus, the cinematography does a beautiful job of capturing these chef’s masterpieces. Warning: this show will make you extremely hungry.

The Keepers

This is a thrilling crime documentary series about a priest in Baltimore, MD who was accused of sexually assaulting students in the 90’s. This show examines how the archdiocese’s power in Baltimore and how they might have covered up the priest’s crimes. I have a particular passion for this series because it takes place in my hometown. In fact, I have a family member who attended the school where the priest in question worked. It’s a thrilling series and I’d recommend it highly.

Heroin(e)

A small town in West Virginia is the heroin overdose capital of America and this documentary follows first responders throughout the town who are fighting the epidemic. It’s very interesting to see some of what happens in our country on a daily basis to fight this crisis. Plus, all of the responders featured are females so it’s an empowering documentary.

13th 

This documentary is already incredibly well-known and has an Academy Award nomination so it had to make it to my list. It’s an eye-opening look at the American prison system and the racial inequality that makes the system incredibly slanted. It also focuses on the US prison boom and the drug epidemic that worked hand in hand with the crisis. This is definitely a must-see.

The Crown

Ok, this is NOT a documentary, but I wanted to give it an honorable mention. If you haven’t started this series yet and have any interest in the British royal family, you should give it a try. While the show is historical fiction, the main events that are portrayed did actually happen. This is for the readers who aren’t quite ready for documentaries but want to learn a little something too.

Hot Girls Wanted

This documentary follows young adult porn stars and how they got into the business. It shows how they make their films and comments on how easy it is for girls to make porn in the internet-centered generation and what it does to their lives. It is fascinating to hear why the stars do what they do and what the process is like behind the porn.

Pumping Iron

This is a recommendation from a friend so I haven’t watched it yet but I’ve heard many good reviews. This documentary follows Arnold Schwarzenegger as a bodybuilder as he competes for his 6th title, and the film was how Schwarzenegger propelled his career and came to fame in the 70’s. Apparently it is also a fascinating look into bodybuilding culture.

Cooked

If you like Chef’s Table and want another show about food, Cooked is for you. This documentary follows one man who travels to four different countries to explore how we make food and how the food industry has evolved. The four episodes are “Fire,” “Water,” “Air,” and “Earth.” I loved this show because it’s such a unique way to look at cooking and I especially loved the "Air" episode about bread. Trust me: prepare to want to make homemade bread after watching this.

What really happened in this small Italian town still remains a mystery and this show examines the story of one girl accused of murder. It’s a fascinating documentary and I was still unsure of my stance on the story when I finished. I also really identified with the story since Amanda was a young college student when the case occurred which made it even more chilling.

Planet Earth

If you want a show with gorgeous cinematography and incredible shots of nature, here’s a show for you. I like to put on Planet Earth when I need to remember that our Earth is still beautiful even though we’ve polluted most of it. An incredible documentary with a fantastic soundtrack and a great homage to our planet.

The Kindness Diaries

If you’re looking for more heartwarming documentaries after watching Planet Earth, this is another great option. It’s the story of how one man rides a yellow motorcycle around the world only depending on the kindness of strangers. It seems impossible, and sometimes he does spend nights alone on the side of the road, but he also meets some incredible people. This show had me both laughing and crying and I’d highly recommend it.

Abstract

This series was recommended to me by my dad but I’m definitely adding it to my list. Each episode follows a different designer across the world and how they innovate and create their product. It seems like it’s similar to Chef’s Table but focused on designing products instead of food. A perfect documentary to learn more about how our world is made.

The First Monday in May

If you are fascinated by the clothes, decorations and work that goes into making the Met Gala possible, I suggest you watch this documentary. It follows Anna Wintour and her staff as they organize the gala, decide who will be there and what the theme will be. It’s so interesting to see how the art is curated and the behind-the-scenes work that goes into that one night.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

This documentary is another one I still need to watch but just from watching the trailer, I’m hooked. It examines the story of Joan Didion, one of America’s most celebrated writers, and how she documented the sixties and seventies through life’s adversities. It also looks at how she dealt with grief in her life. It seems like it would be an inspiring documentary for all of the readers who are also writers.​

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