Best Netflix documentaries: 40 great documentaries to stream in July 2024

David Beckham sits at a table while being interviewed in Beckham, one of the best Netflix documentaries
Footballer, celebrity, fashion icon... David Beckham reminisces on a life in the limelight. (Image credit: Netflix)

The best Netflix documentaries are proof that real-life stories are just as interesting as the most compelling TV series on the streamer. Although plenty of people sign up to watch bingeable fictional shows, the entertainment giant's growing library of factual movies and TV series is one of the main reasons why it's one of the best streaming services around right now.

Expect horrifying true crime stories and mysteries, tales of the natural world packed with visuals to fill you with wonder, behind-the-scenes access to the worlds of sports and music, and much more. Read on to find out our top picks of the best Netflix documentaries you can watch right now – there's something here for everyone.

Best crime documentaries on Netflix

American Nightmare

American Nightmare | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube American Nightmare | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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Rotten Tomatoes (RT) score: 96% (critics); 88% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 134 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Many of the true crime stories on this list of the best Netflix documentaries could be filed under "stranger than fiction", but sometimes the explanation is much simpler. When Denise Huskins was abducted and raped in 2015, her boyfriend was taken into police custody as the prime suspect. Then, when she was found two days later, she was falsely accused of faking the whole thing. The actual perpetrator was eventually caught and sentenced to 31 years in prison.

American Nightmare (from the makers of smash hit The Tinder Swindler) shows how pop culture – most notably the case's superficial echoes of Gillian Flynn novel/David Fincher movie Gone Girl – influenced both the media's reporting of the story, and possibly the police investigation itself. It's a brutal, emotional watch as Huskins retells her heartbreaking story, but also a thought-provoking exploration of how the modern world has blurred the lines between fact and fiction.

Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story

Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 86% (critics); 57% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 170 minutes (2 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 18 (UK)

One of the more harrowing recent documentaries on Netflix, Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story chronicles the heyday of the infamous British TV host and, in particular, examines how various UK establishments allowed him to get away with sexually abusing hundreds of children throughout the 1970s and 1980s. 

Rowan Deacon’s film clocks in at just over three hours, but was described as “a welter of devastating detail” by critics on release. We also reckon Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story is absolutely worth the time investment – even though it's not an easy watch. 

The Tinder Swindler

RT score: 97% (critics); 78% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 114 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

If you're in the market for romance, The Tinder Swindler may make you think twice about reaching for the dating apps. Based on a months-long investigation by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang, this feature-length documentary – which comes from the creators of the similarly excellent Don't F**k with Cats – takes a microscope to the extraordinary case of an alleged billionaire playboy who extorted millions from unsuspecting women through Tinder. 

It isn't all doom and gloom, though. After realising that they've all been tricked by the same titular crook, three woman band together to give him a taste of his own medicine. The Tinder Swindler sat atop the list of the streamer's most popular features for three weeks running, so it's certainly worth the time investment. 

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing

DOWNFALL: The Case Against Boeing | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube DOWNFALL: The Case Against Boeing | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 91% (critics); 91% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 90 mins
Age rating: PG-13 US); 12 (UK)

Adapted from a New Yorker article of the same name, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing investigates two Boeing 737 Max crashes that killed 346 people within the space of five months in March 2019. Experts and investigators reveal how the manufacturer alleged priority of profit over safety could have contributed to the incidents, which stayed relatively under the radar at the time. 

Rory Kennedy’s film is an easy recommendation for those who like their corporate crime documentaries, as it’s essentially a high-budget version of Air Crash Investigation. One piece of advice, though: don't watch this one before boarding a flight.

Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street

MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube MADOFF: The Monster of Wall Street | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 90% (critics), 76% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 250 minutes (4 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Love watching the bad guys get in too deep? Then look no further than Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street for your next fix of schadenfreude. A four-part look at the life of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, this Joe Berlinger-directed docuseries – which critics described as "grubby and jaw-dropping" – features the usual combo of talking heads, real-life footage and fictional reconstructions to illustrate how Madoff managed to defraud investors of a whopping $64.8 billion.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

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RT score: 53% (critics); 58% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 526 minutes (12 episodes / 2 seasons)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

It had to be here, didn't it? Big cat owners come in all shapes and sizes – well, stripes – but nobody is quite like Joe Exotic, the Tiger King. This polygamist, gun-wielding animal-lover is properly larger-than-life, and for the majority of 2020 he was the most talked about character on Netflix.

In Tiger King, what starts out for Exotic as a humane enterprise descends into cruelty, madness and vanity as he engages in a protracted spat with an animal rights activist who may not be all she seems. Things get pretty crazy, as Exotic's humble zoo becomes a home for murder planning, electoral runs and suicide. Season one is unpredictable, seemingly impossible and it'll leave you open-mouthed for all seven of its episodes. As you can see from our ratings above, Tiger King hasn't been particularly well-rated on Rotten Tomatoes, but we had to include it considering how popular and dividing it is – even if that's for all the wrong reasons.

While the first season is one to watch, avoid both the Netflix sequel and Peacock's tame dramatization of the story. 

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal 

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 88% (critics); 74% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 100 minutes
Age rating: R (US); 12 (UK)

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal delves into the fraudulent methods used by Rick Singer to get the children of rich and famous families into top US universities. 

The feature-length documentary uses a clever combination of talking heads and acted sequences – headed up by Stranger Things' Matthew Modine as Singer – to great effect, and provides an insightful account of a very public scandal involving Hollywood stars Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. 

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami 

Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings Of Miami | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 100% (critics); 78% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 270 minutes (6 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

There have been a lot of films called Cocaine Cowboys. There’s the 1979 crime drama directed by Ulli Lommel, a 2006 documentary of the same name and a 2008 sequel documentary called (unsurprisingly) Cocaine Cowboys 2. In 2021, Cocaine Cowboys: The Kings of Miami arrived on Netflix to add to the IMDb confusion.

This six-episode series chronicles the rise of Miami drug kingpins Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon, who would become two of the most prolific cocaine dealers in US history. It delivers all the drama we’ve come to expect from the streamer’s exposé documentaries while also adding a layer of tongue-in-cheek humor to paint a boozy picture of two Tony Montana wannabes. Expect jealousy and jet-skis aplenty.

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator

BIKRAM: YOGI, GURU, PREDATOR | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube BIKRAM: YOGI, GURU, PREDATOR | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 96% (critics); 74% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 85 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

The #MeToo movement is not restricted to one industry. This profile of the phenomenally successful yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury is a devastating breakdown of allegations of psychological and sexual abuse from those he worked with. Speaking directly with his accusers, this challenging documentary shows how he managed to leave the US and avoid legal proceedings.

Making a Murderer

Making A Murderer | Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Making A Murderer | Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 84% (critics); 95% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 1241 minutes (10 episodes, 2 seasons)
Age rating: TV-14 (US); 15 (UK)

Our obsession with the true crime genre isn’t new, but Making a Murderer was arguably the first series to make it socially acceptable to have watercooler discussions about questionable interview techniques, potential police cover ups and the identity of the murderer who killed young photographer Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin. 

The show, which invites you to question whether the convicted Steven Avery is innocent or guilty, now has two seasons, the second involving high-flying attorney Kathleen Zellner taking on his case. Combine it with some follow-up reading for further context on the case, and there's no question Making a Murderer ranks among the best Netflix documentaries.

Evil Genius: The True Story of America's Most Diabolical Bank Heist

Evil Genius | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Evil Genius | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 80% (critics); 81% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 191 minutes (4 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

It sounds like the plot of a Saw movie. A pizza delivery man robs a bank with a pipe bomb strapped around his neck, and the subsequent deadly explosion is televised globally as he desperately pleads for surrounding police to remove it. 

Evil Genius is the investigation into why Brian Wells did what he did, and the involvement of a woman called Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and her friend William Rothstein. There's no concrete answers here, but the filmmakers' discussions with the convicted Diehl-Armstrong remain fascinating, though infuriating. 

Amanda Knox

Amanda Knox | Teaser [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Amanda Knox | Teaser [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 82% (critics); 71 (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 92 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

We're not sure the world needs a reminder of just how villainous the tabloid press can be, but here's another one anyway. In her own words, straight down the lens and into your soul, Amanda Knox – the woman convicted and subsequently cleared of the murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2007 – explains exactly how she was painted as a nefarious psychopath. Thanks to interviews with key players in the press and the individuals involved, this remains an absorbing, but frustrating, film. 

The Keepers

The Keepers | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube The Keepers | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 97% (critics); 94% (audience
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 432 minutes (7 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Who killed Sister Cathy? This might be the simple crux of this investigation, but The Keepers is so much more than the re-opening of a cold case. This galling and honest seven-parter follows the previous students of their late teacher, Sister Cathy Cesnik, who – decades later – have come forward with their stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a Baltimore priest who taught at the same high school. It's a painful story to hear, but the friendships between these women and their drive for justice is truly inspirational. 

Wild Wild Country

Wild Wild Country | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Wild Wild Country | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 98% (critics); 88% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 400 minutes (6 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Two things to remember about cults: first, no one ever thinks they are in one; second, the people who aren't in a cult never think they would join. Wild Wild Country, a frankly astonishing dive into the Oregon desert commune of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, does a brilliant job of humanizing those who thought they had found the answer. It also has more violent twists and turns than a Tarantino movie, while creating a masterful profile of the controversial figures at the heart of a supposedly peaceful community. 

Long Shot

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RT score: 88% (critics); 83% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 40 minutes
Age rating: TV-14 (US); 15 (UK)

If the idea of the eight-hour sagas scattered across this guide to the best Netflix documentaries fill your to-watch list with dread, Long Shot is (ironically, given the title) a short hit of a true crime documentary. When Juan Catalan is arrested for a murder he claims he didn't commit, the source of proof of his innocence comes from an entirely unpredictable place. And yes, Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David is involved in one of the most unexpected cameos of all time. Just watch it. At just 40 minutes long, it's probably shorter than the time you'll spend on social media today. 

The Staircase

The Staircase | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube The Staircase | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 94% (critics); 82% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 626 minutes (13 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Let’s get it out of the way first. No, it wasn't an owl that killed Kathleen Peterson in her North Carolina home in 2001. Whether it was her crime novelist husband Michael, though, is another matter entirely. This is exactly what The Staircase aims to help you decide. 

This was originally a 2004 series from Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, but Netflix released new episodes in 2018 following Peterson’s long fight with the law. Whether you believe he is guilty or not, this is a veritable rollercoaster ride through the modern criminal justice system, with a family story at its heart. 

The Devil Next Door

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RT score: 91% (critics); 84% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 229 minutes (5 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

This thought-provoking mini-series tells the story of John Demjanjuk, a quiet, simple grandfather living out his retirement in Cleveland, Ohio, who may also have been Ivan the Terrible, a notorious Nazi death camp guard. Given the subject matter it's no surprise that The Devil Next Door can be a difficult watch, but this Netflix documentary highlights the overriding importance of truth amid a whirlwind of emotion and pain.

The Pharmacist

The Pharmacist | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube The Pharmacist | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 90% (critics); 95% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 213 minutes (4 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

With its extremely unassuming title, The Pharmacist is a quiet presence among the most riveting true crime documentaries on Netflix. This is the story of Dan Schneider, a pharmacist whose son Danny was addicted to crack cocaine and murdered in 1999. Schneider not only took on the investigation when he didn't feel the police were doing enough, but followed up with a damning look at America’s opioid crisis as a whole. To divulge more would spoil it, but The Pharmacist is just what the doctor ordered.

Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes

Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Conversations with a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: N/A (critics); 81% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 180 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 18 (UK)

Netflix sure knows how to drum up interest in its content. Evan Peters-starring drama Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story became a big hit after a spate of pre-release controversy – and just two weeks later, the streamer tapped the same morbid curiosity with Conversations With a Killer: The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes

This three-part documentary series from director Joe Berlinger (the man behind Ted Bundy biopic Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) recounts Dahmer’s heinous crimes through real-life footage and newly-unearthed interviews with his legal team. As with Monster, The Jeffrey Dahmer Tapes is far from a pleasant watch – but we think you knew that already. 

I Just Killed My Dad

I Just Killed My Dad | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube I Just Killed My Dad | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 100% (critics); 64% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 128 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Many of the best Netflix documentaries explore some pretty gruesome subject matter, and, as its title suggests, I Just Killed my Dad ranks among that number.

This three-parter, from director Skye Borgman (who helmed another true crime Netflix documentary, Girl in the Picture), details the true story of Anthony Templet, a Louisiana teenager who shot his father dead in 2019. More a whydunit than a whodunit, I Just Killed My Dad features more twists than a hedge maze, and the mystery surrounding Templet's evidently unconventional upbringing will have you glued to the screen. A word of advice: don't watch this one with the whole family –seriously! 

Best nature documentaries on Netflix

Our Planet 

Our Planet | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Our Planet | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 96% (critics); 90% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 603 minutes (12 episodes, 2 seasons)
Age rating: TV-G (US); PG (UK) 

When it comes to the best reasons to buy a new OLED TV, nothing can come close to the David Attenborough-narrated Our Planet. Taking four years to film across 50 countries, this eight-part wonder of a nature series is led by the brains behind the BBC's Planet Earth

Just take note that, while it might seem like audiovisual Listerine after the blood and grime of the many of the entries on this list, the plight of nature in a world that humans have been systematically destroying is as hard-hitting as any true crime documentary. 

Penguin Town 

Penguin Town | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Penguin Town | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 100% (critics); 91% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 218 minutes (8 episodes)
Age rating: TV-PG (US); PG (UK)

Eight episodes of dopamine-inducing warmth, Penguin Town follows a colony of endangered African penguins as they wander the beaches and city streets of Cape Town, South Africa.

Patton Oswalt narrates the series, which has been praised for its use of humor to tell the stories of its feathered subjects. Expect beach bust-ups, flamboyant displays of courtship and a lesson or two in penguin behavior. It’s free of gore, easy on the brain and a hefty helping of virtual comfort food.

Best history documentaries on Netflix

Myth & Mogul: John DeLorean 

Myth & Mogul: John DeLorean Season 1 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Myth & Mogul: John DeLorean Season 1 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 100% (critics); 67% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 129 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-14 (US); 12 (UK)

Thanks to the Back to the Future franchise, everyone knows the cultural impact of the DMC DeLorean – but what about the man behind the machine? This Netflix docuseries charts the rise and fall of automobile manufacturer John DeLorean, combining interviews and exclusive footage to paint a dark portrait of the former General Motors executive who made it all the way to the top, before it all came crashing down. 

Best sports documentaries on Netflix

Beckham

'BECKHAM' Documentary Series | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube 'BECKHAM' Documentary Series | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 88% (critics); 95% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 283 minutes (4 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

No player personifies the English Premier League's rise to becoming the most glamorous soccer tournament on the planet better than David Beckham. From his early days at Manchester United to his superstar years at Real Madrid and LA Galaxy – taking in his marriage to Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams en route – the four-part series shows how the owner of a prodigious right foot became one of the most recognizable faces on the planet.

While Beckham comes with the almighty caveat that it's an unashamed PR exercise (it's made by the footballer's own production company, after all), it's also a skilfully made documentary. Director Fisher Stevens (Hugo in Succession) takes full advantage of the soccer star's packed contact book to speak to legends of both the sporting and entertainment worlds, detailing the ups and downs of celebrity life. More importantly, however, this extremely watchable doc proves that – beyond the fashion and the haircuts – Beckham was pretty good at football, too.

Formula 1: Drive to Survive

Formula 1: Drive to Survive - Season 6 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Formula 1: Drive to Survive - Season 6 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: N/A (critics); 57% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 2,265 minutes (60 episodes, 6 seasons)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Formula 1: Drive to Survive can probably claim to have done more for the publicity of F1 than anyone else. In fact, it makes the idea of 20 race cars driving around a track for around 60 laps seem as dramatic as a Hollywood movie.

Across six seasons, Drive to Survive has focussed on the plight and politics of all the teams competing on the F1 grid, and will leave you yearning for the next instalment of burning rubber and aggressively-shaken champagne. (Though, if you prefer, you could just watch F1 on TV as the season unfolds.) As you can see from the scores above, the show didn't get particularly well-rated on Rotten Tomatoes, but considering how popular it's been, we couldn't leave it out. 

The Last Dance

The Last Dance | Relive the Phenomenon | Netflix - YouTube The Last Dance | Relive the Phenomenon | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 97% (critics); 95% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 508 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

The Last Dance arrived on Netflix just in time to abate our lockdown-induced blues back in 2020, getting plenty of people into basketball in the process. 

The 10-part limited series chronicles the rise of the Chicago Bulls throughout the 1990s and, in particular, Michael Jordan – widely regarded as the greatest player of all time – as he traverses fortune and fame. Never-before-seen footage makes this one a must-watch for basketball fans, and for everyone else, The Last Dance is a case study in how to present sport as the thrilling, emotional business that it is. The soundtrack is pretty memorable, too. 

The Deepest Breath

The Deepest Breath | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube The Deepest Breath | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 85% (critics); 93% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 110 minutes
Age rating: PG (US); 12 (UK)

Sports are well represented among the best Netflix documentaries, but the films and series tend to celebrate speed, skill or moments of explosive action. Free-diving doc The Deepest Breath, on the other hand, focusses on feats of endurance that require absolute calm – as well as extreme levels of physical and mental resilience. 

At the center of the movie is Alessia Zecchini, a record-breaker in this hazardous sport where participants have to swim to depths equivalent to a 70-storey skyscraper – without an oxygen supply. Those dangers come to the fore in a story laced with tragedy, told in compelling fashion by director Laura McGann, who makes spectacular use of some stunning underwater visuals.

Break Point

Break Point: Season 2 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Break Point: Season 2 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 81% (critics); 73% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 471 minutes (16 episodes, 2 seasons)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Hailing from the same producers as mega-popular sports doc Formula 1: Drive to Survive, Break Point gives viewers a fly-on-the-wall insight into the euphoric highs and crushing lows of the tennis world. The series features commentary from players including Nick Kyrgios, Taylor Fritz and Ons Jabeur, and critics hailed Break Point as “riveting almost from the first point" when it debuted in January 2023. We expect the series to remain a fixture of Netflix's documentary offering over the years to come. 

Tour de France: Unchained

Tour de France: Unchained | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Tour de France: Unchained | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 100% (critics); 87% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 329 minutes (8 episodes, 1 season)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

The creative team behind Break Point and Formula 1: Drive to Survive turn their attentions to pro cycling with a documentary designed to bring a new audience to the 121-year-old Tour de France. Following the 2022 edition of the most famous cycling race in the world, the eight-part series goes behind the scenes of the peloton to tell the previously unseen stories of the elite athletes who push their bodies to the limit over three weeks in the saddle. UAE Team Emirates, home to two-time winner Tadej Pogačar, are conspicuous by their absence, but this is still an essential glimpse at a side of the Tour not usually shown on TV. A second season, following the 2023 Tour, is due later this year.

Icarus

Icarus | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Icarus | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 92% (critics); 93% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 121 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

For our money, Icarus definitely up there with the very best Netflix documentaries. Even if it hadn't taken home the Oscar for Best Documentary feature in 2018, Bryan Fogel’s exposé of a Russian doping scandal would still rank among the most compelling whistleblower films ever made. 

What begins as a fairly run-of-the-mill investigation into the effects of performance-enhancing drugs soon becomes an unexpected and downright thrilling journey into the violence, corruption and betrayal surrounding professional athletics. Icarus expertly combines talking heads, undercover footage and smart animation to ensure it stands out from the documentary crowd. Necessary viewing. 

Cheer

Cheer | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Cheer | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 93% (critics); 88% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docuseries
Runtime: 833 minutes (15 episodes, 2 seasons)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

As much as Cheer can be viewed as the incredible achievements of an elite cheerleading squad, it can also easily be seen through the lens of a horror movie. Here, in this impressive six-part series from the director of the equally compelling Last Chance U (also available on Netflix), young men and women risk life and limb as they are tossed skyward, leaving their trust in those left on the ground. Whether you're watching through your fingers or punching the air in victory, Cheer is emotional viewing, and there are now two seasons on Netflix for those looking to continue the drama. 

Best music documentaries on Netflix

Wham!

WHAM! | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube WHAM! | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 90% (critics); 87% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 92 minutes
Age rating: TV-14 (US); 12 (UK) 

In the early ’80s, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley became two of the most famous people on the planet. This documentary tells the story of how two school friends from South-east England went on to craft some of the most memorable hits of the era, selling millions of records while being idolised by legions of fans around the world. 

Directed by Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened helmer Chris Smith, it’s a mix of archive footage and interviews, new commentary from Ridgeley, and – in perhaps the film's sweetest touch – the scrapbooks Ridgeley’s mom kept at the time. If you’re looking for a gritty exposé of the ’80s pop scene, Wham! is not it – but anyone looking to reminisce on a golden era of British music will feel like (Last) Christmas has come early.

Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now

Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 89% (critics); 99% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 96 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Music documentaries are often designed to accentuate the carefully stage managed public persona of their subjects. That's definitely not the case with Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now, a refreshingly raw and frank portrait of the successful Scottish singer.

Directed by Joe Pearlman (who also made the excellent Bros documentary, After the Screaming Stops, which is available on Prime Video in the US), this fly-on-the-wall doc goes behind the hit songs to create a portrait of the man who created them. Capaldi is vulnerable, open and extremely funny, making him an extremely engaging star. If you're already a fan, this will make you love Capaldi even more, and even if you're not into his music, you'll appreciate his meteoric rise to global stardom.

Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy 

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 82% (critics); 88% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 279 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy is a three-part documentary film focussing on the life of artist, record producer, businessman, fashion designer (and marketing guru?) Kanye West. Directed by filmmaking duo and frequent Kanye collaborators Coodie & Chike, Jeen-yuhs charts the rise of one of popular culture's most divisive figures, using unseen archival footage (in the vein of Asif Kapadia's Diego Maradona) from the past two decades. 

As well as shining a light on the artist's creative process, the film covers West's reaction to the death of his mother, Donda, as well as the events of his unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaign. Jeen-yuhs is necessary viewing for die-hard Kanye fans, then, but those interested in documentaries that pick apart controversial characters will find lots to love here, too. 

Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 93% (critics); 86% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 97 minutes
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

If you followed the Fyre Festival hashtag back in 2017 then it's time to settle down for a reality check. The true story from those on the ground of the car crash influencer fest, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is just as astounding as those shots of sad cheese sandwiches being offered in place of luxurious party food. 

One of two documentaries covering the tropical island holiday from hell, this is an expertly woven tale of entrepreneurial villainy, 21st century indulgence and the very real – not to mention dire – consequences faced by Bahamian workers. 

Trainwreck: Woodstock '99

Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 88% (critics); 80% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 142 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

Having arrived one year after a similarly themed HBO documentary, Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 tells the unbelievable story of how the supposedly peaceful revival of the legendary New York music festival went horribly, horribly wrong. 

In 1999, the event descended into a melting pot of corruption, greed and mob mentality that left three people dead, thousands injured and countless more scarred for life. Across three episodes, Trainwreck: Woodstock '99 reveals how everything went to s**t, featuring previously unseen footage and interviews with attendees, as well as commentary from two of the festival's promoters, Michael Lang and John Scher.

Best movie documentaries on Netflix

Arnold

Arnold | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Arnold | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 70% (critics); 92% (audience)
Type of documentary: Limited series
Runtime: 190 minutes (3 episodes)
Age rating: TV-MA (US); 15 (UK)

From a childhood in rural Austria to governor of California, taking in extremely successful careers in bodybuilding and subsequently Hollywood along the way... Nobody could ever accuse Arnold Schwarzenegger's life story of being dull, and this three-part documentary looks back on The Terminator star's incredible journey to becoming one of the most recognizable faces on the planet.

Although the actor does acknowledge past controversies during his many talking head segments, there's no question that Arnold is the Schwarzenegger-approved version of events – as such, it lacks outside perspective at times. Nonetheless, "Arnie" is always an engaging screen presence, and there's no question he has an entertaining story to tell.

Sly

Sly | Sylvester Stallone Documentary | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube Sly | Sylvester Stallone Documentary | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 81% (critics); 87% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 96 minutes
Age rating: R (US); 15 (UK)

For most of the ’80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone were rivals for the title of biggest action star in Hollywood. It feels appropriate, then, that the man who embodied both Rocky Balboa and John Rambo should follow in Arnie's pumped up footsteps with one of the best Netflix documentaries of his own.

While Sly has been criticised for sticking to the Stallone-approved version of events (Stallone is an executive producer on the film) and doing little to reinvent the documentary wheel, there's no question its superstar subject has a compelling story to tell. From his difficult upbringing in New York's Hell's Kitchen to hanging out with US presidents, Stallone's lived quite the life, and he proves an engaging presence throughout. A-list talking heads such as Quentin Tarantino and, yes, Schwarzenegger himself show up to add to the legend.

Sr.

"Sr." | Robert Downey Jr. | Official Trailer | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 97% (critics); 90% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 89 minutes
Age rating: R (US); 15 (UK)

Most people are familiar with the face, voice and charm of Robert Downey Jr., but less is known about the late filmmaking father who shared his name with the Marvel movies megastar. Fyre: The Greatest Party that Never Happened director Chris Smith creates an intimate portrait of the life and career of underground filmmaker Robert Downey Sr. His famous son also features prominently in this feature-length family story, which is less about Downey Jr. and more concerned with the fragile-but-powerful bonds between a father and his son. Our advice? Have tissues at the ready. 

Shirkers

Shirkers | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube Shirkers | Official Trailer [HD] | Netflix - YouTube
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RT score: 99% (critics); 80% (audience)
Type of documentary: Docufilm
Runtime: 97 minutes
Age rating: TV-14 (US); 12 (UK)

In 1992, when she was 19, filmmaker, critic and novelist Sandi Tan made a road movie with her friends in Singapore. Then all of the footage disappeared, along with the mysterious man who shot the film.

Shirkers is a unique documentary about a movie that never was, in which Tan returns to the story decades later, exploring what it's like to pour your heart, soul, money and friendships into a project that never comes to light. Shot and edited with the wild creativity of movie-obsessed youth, Shirkers is a heartfelt and joyous experience. 


Looking for more recommendations on what to watch on Netflix? Check out our guides on the best Netflix movies and the best Netflix shows, plus all of the new Netflix movies released this month.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across. Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.

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