12 Netflix Documentaries for Curious Minds

Maybe you need a break from your favorite dramas because you've spent a little too much time binge-watching them; maybe you’re just in the mood for something new. In any case, we all seem to experience one common Netflix failing: we're scrolling through Netflix, unable to decide what to watch. Eventually, we scroll for so long that we give up entirely. Instead of going through this painful process, skip it altogether and watch one of these amazing documentaries. Seriously, documentaries are so underrated, and these ones will blow your mind.


1.  The Hunting Ground

I cannot stress enough how much I think every college woman should watch this documentary — it will leave your jaw on the ground. The Hunting Ground follows the stories of incredibly brave women who choose to come forward about sexual assault on the college campuses. It also, unfortunately, deals with the lack of support these victims get from university staff, police and even fellow students. While it's heartbreaking to see what these women have had to endure, their resilience and solidarity for each other make this a must-watch for everyone.


2.  Icarus

Icarus takes an in-depth look into the Russian Olympic doping scandal. Amateur cyclist and documentarian Bryan Fogel begins his journey by experimenting with performance-enhancing drugs to see if it will make it possible for him to beat the system. He then finds himself working closely and befriending a Russian scientist at the center of the scandal. Their dangerous story about bringing the truth to light will keep you on the edge of your seat.


3.  Making a Murderer

A bone-chilling tale of coverup, deceit and manipulation, Making a Murderer follows the story of Steven Avery. Avery spent over a decade in prison for a rape he didn't commit. Eventually, some pretty shady police practice came forward, and Avery was exonerated on DNA evidence. Shortly after his release, he was arrested again for murder. Yet again, there were some very questionable law enforcement practices; this time around, there are many calls to his innocence. Explore the darker side of our justice system in this goosebumps-inducing story.


4. Heroin(e)

Heroin(e) takes you to the front line of the opioid crisis that's sweeping the nation. It chronicles the stories of three brave, dedicated women who work every day to make a difference. This is an issue we'll all see more of in the coming years, so it's worthwhile to educate yourself on what it looks like. Saddening stories mix with inspiring resilience in this Netflix original.


5. Miss Representation

This amazing documentary explores the representation of women in the media. It’s something near and dear to all of us: every young woman today has had to grow up with the struggles of seeing how the rest of the world values — or doesn’t value — our minds versus our bodies. If you’re looking for something inspiring, motivating and all-too-real, this is the perfect option.


6. Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars transports you to the Middle East, where secret wars rage every night. Writer and producer Jeremy Scahill details the effects of covert special operations taking place right under the noses of the American people. Scahill was raised right here in Wisconsin, but he takes his journey across the globe to uncover the good, the bad and the ugly of the American military.


7. Blackfish

Warning: you will probably never want to go to SeaWorld again after watching Blackfish. The documentary peeks behind the curtain to reveal just how orca whales live in captivity. The sacrifice and pain they endure just to give us a good show is truly saddening. Keeping these massive, beautiful animals in captivity has consequences, and it’s time we all learn about them.


8. 13th

Mass incarceration is known as the "New Jim Crow," ant this eye-opening Netflix original points to just that: it chronicles the long, hard history between the American criminal justice system and African Americans and highlights a much talked about dichotomy. It also gives insight into perspectives many of us have probably never considered. Bottom line is, it's the perfect way to learn about the forces that instigated and perpetuates this disparity. Plus, it will probably help you better understand why people are standing by the Black Lives Matter movement the NFL protests.


9.  The Keepers

Sister Cathy Cesnik was murdered just before she was going to come forward about a priest sexually abusing women at a local high school. Decades later, her former students pick up the trail where the police stopped. They fight for justice for their beloved former teacher, and their dedication to her all these years later is truly amazing. The Keepers is a must-watch for anyone who's fascinated by cold cases and cover-ups.


10. Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox is a story about an American student caught up in an unbelievable trial abroad. In the documentary, all the major players in the case give first-hand accounts about what really happened to Amanda’s roommate. Is Amanda a cold-blooded killer, or an innocent girl being swept up by a foreign justice system? In her own words, Amanda is everyone’s worst fear: “either I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or I’m you.”  Decide for yourself in this heart-pounding documentary.


11. Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

Follow Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus as they travel the country to spread the word about minimalism, a lifestyle trend that's sweeping the nation. Learn how to own less, spend less and stress less with this documentary; it will leave you with some valuable skills to take on the world in the new year.


12. The Confession Tapes

Ever wonder why someone would ever confess to something they didn’t do? Well, here’s your chance to find out. The Confession Tapes takes you through multiple stories of false confessions from start to resolution. You can see first-hand the stress these individuals endure and the ways in which  eager police work sometimes takes advantage of vulnerable individuals. Here's to another look into the not-so-pretty part of our legal system and it devastating implications.


Let’s be real: you can never watch too many documentaries. The varied topics it covers and jaw-dropping access it evokes have constant appeal. So, take some time and watch these amazing pieces.