Viral

The 25 Best Documentaries You Can Login To Netflix And Stream Right Now

Netflix will unveil its first major documentary in years when The Square becomes available to stream later this week, and by all accounts it’s a masterpiece. The behind-the-headlines story of the Tahrir Square protests during the Egyptian Revolution is piling up rave reviews — it’s currently 100% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes — ahead of its release at 12:01 AM on Friday.

Now is a great time to get into documentaries, with so much great content right at our fingertips thanks to streaming services — but the sheer volume of “must see” titles can be overwhelming. If you need a road map to critically-acclaimed titles currently available to stream on Netflix, look no further than the list below. I combed through every doc the service offers and isolated the films that are at least 97% “fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes (min. 25 critic reviews) — then ranked the results by average rating.

Related: The 50 Best Movies On Netflix, Ranked

25. Blindsight (2008) — Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Himalayas, Blindsight follows the gripping adventure of six Tibetan teenagers who set out to climb the 23,000 foot Lhakpa Ri on the north side of Mount Everest. Also, the teenagers are blind. (7.6 average rating on 49 reviews, 98% fresh.)

24. The Order of Myths (2007) — The oldest Mardi Gras in America has been taking place in Mobile, Alabama for more than 300 years. This is the story of its struggle to stay true to its tradition through issues of race and class. (7.7 average rating on 33 reviews, 100% fresh.)

23. Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness (2011) — A portrait of the rebellious writer whose stories helped shape a new modern Jewish identity and became the basis for the Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof. (7.7 average rating on 39 reviews, 100% fresh.)

22. Burma VJ: Reporting From a Closed Country (2008) — When Buddhist monks lead a revolt against Burma’s oppressive military dictatorship, a new breed of video journalists captured the revolution using hand-held digital video cameras as state media ignored the uprising. (7.7 average rating on 60 reviews, 97% fresh.)

21. The Devil Came on Horseback (2006) — Former U.S. Marine captain Brian Steidle tells the story of his shocking 2006 trip to Darfur, Sudan, where an Arab-run government is attempting to eradicate black Africans from the province. (7.8 average rating on 53 reviews, 98% fresh.)

20. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2012) — The story of the world’s greatest sushi chef, 85-year-old Jiro Ono, and his 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. (7.8 average rating on 87 reviews, 99% fresh.)

T-18. Thunder Soul (2011) — 35 years after graduating, alumni from Houston’s famed Kashmere High School Stage Band come home to play a tribute concert for their beloved color barrier-breaking band leader, the 92-year-old “Prof.” (7.9 average rating on 27 reviews, 100% fresh.)

T-18. Hell and Back Again (2011) — The story of Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris’s time in Afghanistan and his struggle to re-adjust to civilian life after being seriously injured. (7.9 average rating on 27 reviews, 100% fresh.)

17. Microcosmos (1996) — A visually stunning look at the tiny worlds in a French meadow. Microcosmos captures interactions between insects and other small invertebrates using macroscopic photographic techniques. (8.0 average rating on 31 reviews, 97% fresh.)

16. Call Me Kuchu (2013) — Uganda’s first openly gay man, David Kato, battles persecution and a new state bill that threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. His fight is cut short by an unspeakable tragedy that shocks the world. (8.0 average rating on 41 reviews, 98% fresh.)

15. Bill Cunningham New York (2010) — An intimate portrait of 80-year-old New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who has been riding his Schwinn around NYC to chronicle fashion trends and city eccentricities for decades. (8.0 average rating on 67 reviews, 99% fresh.)

14. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (2012) — Journalist and filmmaker Alison Klayman gains unprecedented access to Al Weiwei as the world-renowned Chinese artist-activist prepares for exhibitions and clashes with the Chinese government. (8.0 average rating on 76 reviews, 97% fresh.)

13. Blackfish (2013) — Promoted as “a mesmerizing psychological thriller with a killer whale at its centre,” Blackfish tells the complicated story of Tilikum, a performing orca that killed several people, and the cruel treatment that killer whales can be subjected to while in captivity. (8.0 average rating on 117 reviews, 98% fresh.)

12. We Were Here (2011) — A deep and reflective look back at the arrival of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, and the impact the incoming “Gay Plague” had on the city’s inhabitants. (8.1 average rating on 41 reviews, 100% fresh.)

11. The Square (2013) — An inside, eyewitness look at the emotional drama of young people on the streets of Cairo as they topple two governments and claim their rights during the Egyptian Revolution. (8.1 average rating on 43 reviews, 100% fresh.)

10. Waste Land (2010) — Renowned artist Vik Muniz journeys to the world’s largest garbage dump in his native Brazil and encounters an eclectic band of “catadores” — pickers of recyclable materials. Soon he’s collaborating with the group, creating gorgeous images out of garbage. Yeah, take a closer look at the image above. (8.1 average rating on 68 reviews, 100% fresh.)

9. The Invisible War (2012) — An investigative look at the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military, The Invisible War paints a startling picture through the emotional stories of victims and stunning statistics. Today, a female American soldier in combat is more likely to be raped by a fellow solider than killed by enemy fire. (8.3 average rating on 59 reviews, 100% fresh.)

8. The Interrupters (2011) — The surprising stories of three “Violence Interrupters” trying to protect Chicago communities from the violence they once engaged in. Believing that the spread of violence mimics the spread of disease, they try to stop the infection at its source as the city becomes a national symbol for violence. (8.3 average rating on 84 reviews, 100% fresh.)

7. Last Train Home (2009) — The story of the chaotic mass exodus that takes place every Spring as 130 million migrant workers attempt to journey to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday, told through one family that has embarked on — and been fractured by — the annual trek for almost two decades. (8.4 average rating on 51 reviews, 100% fresh.)

6. Marwencol (2010) — After being beaten into a brain-damaging coma by five men outside a bar, Mark Hogancamp builds a 1/6th scale World War II-era town in his backyard, which he names “Marwencol.” Mark plays in the town with dolls representing his friends and family, and photographing the action helps him recover his hand-eye coordination and deal with the psychic wounds of his attack. When a prestigious New York gallery comes calling for his photographs, Mark must choose between the safety of his fantasy life and the real world he’s been avoiding. (8.4 average rating on 58 reviews, 98% fresh.)

5. Man on Wire (2008) — On August 7th, 1974, a young Frenchman named Philippe Petit achieved “The Artistic Crime of the Century” when he stepped out on a wire illegally rigged between the World Trade Center’s twin towers and did his thing for nearly an hour before finally being arrested. (8.4 average rating on 151 reviews, 100% fresh.)

4. 56 Up (2012) — The eighth and latest installment of the long-running and groundbreaking Up series, which has followed the lives of 14 British children since 1964’s Seven Up, when the kids were all seven years old. The series has continued to check in with its subjects every seven years. (8.5 rating on 63 reviews, 98% fresh.)

3. Hoop Dreams (1994) — Taken from the streets and given the opportunity to attend a suburban prep school and play for a legendary high school coach, William Gates and Arthur Agee fight through setbacks, pressure, tragedy, and failures in an attempt to achieve their dreams of NBA glory. (8.6 average rating on 49 reviews, 98% fresh.)

2. How to Survive a Plague, 2012 — The at once inspiring and heartbreaking story of two coalitions whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. (8.6 average rating on 69 reviews, 99% fresh.)

1. This Is Not A Film (2012) — This clandestinely made documentary (it was shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France inside a cake for last-minute submission to Cannes) depicts the day-to-day life of exiled Iranian director Jafar Panahi as he appeals a six year prison sentence and 20-year ban from filmmaking due to his support of the opposition party during Iran’s 2009 election. (8.8 average rating on 85 reviews, 98% fresh.)

×