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If you want a bit more of the real world in your daily dose of drama, check out one of these riveting docuseries from Netflix. Each offers a touch of reality TV that goes a bit more in-depth than the usual fare on network television.
One of them may be just what you’re looking for for your next Netflix binge.
Netflix subscriptions are through the roof, and it’s their originals line-up that makes them more than just an easy way to binge six years of old sitcoms from your teen years. There are hundreds of fascinating documentaries and docuseries on Netflix. They range from the sublimely educational to the fun romp through distant lands.
For a closer look at these fascinating real-life stories, stock up on tissues and popcorn. Then check out one of these binge-worthy docuseries.
1. Chef’s Table
What’s the difference between a foodie and someone that just likes to eat? Attention to detail and a drive to explore new tastes and textures in their meals. What’s the difference between a chef and the kid that flips burgers down the street?
Add that attention to detail to a massive helping of ego. Mix with the force of a full state of the art kitchen and a highly trained staff. That’s how you reach new culinary heights.
Chef’s Table explores the lives and drives of six of the most famous chefs in the business. Food is more than nutrition — it’s a form of art.
Especially in this docuseries, which portrays how their focus on quality and innovation drives the restaurant industry to new levels.
Each episode focuses on one chef at a time. The first season starts with the Italian chef, Massimo Bottura. Other chefs focus on sourcing and sustainability. Another specializes in open-fire cooking. Another, Magnus Nilsson, focuses on creating fine food in the frozen region of Sweden, where there are few fresh ingredients.
There are currently multiple seasons available featuring chefs across the globe. The fourth season features pastry chefs. And as a bonus, you can finish off your binge with Chef’s Table France (if you speak French or don’t mind subtitles).
Chefs Table will leave you impressed with the kind of passion these individuals have for their calling. It will also make you think more about what you eat and how you eat it.
2. Trump: An American Dream
Whether you like Donald Trump or not, you’re probably wondering exactly how he ended up in the White House. You may even wonder how he managed to gain enough influence to put himself there.
This docuseries follows the real estate developer from his launch into the business in the 1970s through his career into politics, all while surviving through a few bankruptcies, a couple of tanked enterprises, and two failed marriages along the way.
Although Donald Trump is always going to be a hot-button issue, the production was a collaboration with the UK’s Channel 4. This outsider view of this American character could be considered neutral, and the creators promise an unbiased view.
Either way, political junkies can binge this four-episode docuseries to remind themselves why they hate — or even love — Donald Trump.
Hip hop fans will find themselves instantly in love with this eight-episode series that explores groundbreaking artists in the field. Each episode features a different artist and goes deep into what motivates them. You’ll see their family and friends, their lives on the road, and discover the pure joy they find in getting their audience excited.
This selection of internationally famous artists first explores T.I. and his passion for social activism through the Black Lives Matter movement. It follows G-Eazy on tour to South America and how he battles self-doubt. You’ll also meet 2 Chainz, who refused to back down after an accident and took to the stage in a wheelchair despite his injuries — a pink one, no less.
Female hip hop star Rapsody talks about how important that she represents in a male-dominated industry, giving young girls a positive role model.
Blending poetry, dance, and cutting-edge urban style, hip hop has been a beloved American musical genre on the rise since the 1970s. It’s more than just music; it’s an entire aesthetic movement. This docuseries shows why so many people have simply fallen in love with it.
4. The Keepers
Part murder mystery and part documentary, The Keepers will have you riveted to your TV screen. This true crime drama tells the story of a murdered nun and the secrets behind her untimely death.
Sister Catherine Cesnik, the English teacher at an all-girls Catholic school in Baltimore, disappeared one night in November 1969. Her body was discovered the following January. Her murder has yet to be solved, and her former students are on the trail of the murderer.
Even after all this time.
In this Primetime Emmy nominee for outstanding documentary, their investigation uncovers years of sexual abuse of the students and heinous behavior by one of the priests. Was Sister Cathy murdered because she dared to speak up? Dig into this docuseries to find out what dark and ugly secrets these women uncovered.
Arresting, heartbreaking, and often dreadfully uncomfortable to watch, this series is sure to have you glued to your seat through all seven episodes.
5. Bobby Kennedy for President
Most Americans under the age of 60 don’t really remember Bobby Kennedy, and this documentary will show them how much they have missed. Fresh, young, inspirational, and full of progressive ideas, this documentary will leave you wondering what if?
Watch as young Bobby Kennedy steps into his big brother’s shoes after his assassination in order to forward the family legacy of public service. During a decade of social breakthroughs and fraught with tumultuous change, watch his determination to stand up for what’s right over what is politically convenient.
Bobby Kennedy for President is a sure cure for cynicism in a day and age when self-interest and greed are lauded as “presidential.” If you liked Jack Kennedy, you’ll love his little brother, Bobby. Give this four-episode docuseries a shot, if only just to give the term “public service” a whole new meaning for a tired generation.
Follow America’s war on drugs in this two-season docuseries that takes a gritty look at dealers, users, and the cops who try to bring order and justice amongst the chaos of America’s conflicting laws and lack of addiction treatment.
With four in each season, every episode focuses on different drugs and different problems in various areas of the U.S. Opening with Oakland, California, the series also covers the heroin epidemic in Baltimore, Maryland, meth addiction in Indiana, and Molly dealers in Detroit, Michigan.
It also explores the efforts made by law enforcement to stop drugs from entering the U.S. and then distribution. The docuseries looks at border patrols in the Caribbean, marijuana trafficking from Mexico, and police trying to cope with a three-day weekend in Chicago and peak demand.
7. Wild Wild Country
Have you ever heard the phrase “truth is stranger than fiction?” Well, that’s what you’ll be saying to yourself after watching this mind-bending docuseries.
In 1984, leaders at Rajneeshee, a religious community headed by Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, poisoned an entire community in Wasco County in Washington State. The poisonings were meant to change the results of the local elections. Two of the group’s follower sought circuit court seats.
Afraid they wouldn’t get enough votes to win, cult leaders decided to poison a dense population center of the county. They put Salmonella in salad dressing and in salad bars. (A very popular food trend at the time) This led to 751 sick people, with 45 of them hospitalized. Luckily, none of them died.
Adding insult to injury, several high ranking cult members decided to assassinate a state senator the following year. This six-episode series is sure to leave you enthralled.
8. Coach Snoop
America loves Snoop Dog, even if they’re not sure exactly why. The laid-back rapper has made the most of his earnings and influence, and Coach Snoops gives viewers a sneak peek into his awesome SYFL. What’s that, you ask? None other than the Snoop Youth Football League.
This inspirational docuseries shows how SYFL teaches underprivileged kids how far they can go with teamwork, discipline, and self-respect. Channeling a tough childhood and using it to help kids overcome tumultuous lives, Snoop lets us into his life to see what really inspires him now that he’s hit the top of his career.
The docuseries follows the league as they fight to overcome obstacles in pursuit of a championship win.
9. Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist
True crime doc fans rejoice: this one is juicy. Evil Genius focuses on the death of Brian Wells during what has to be the most bizarre bank robbery in history. You may remember it vaguely as the “pizza bomb heist.”
In 2003, pizza delivery man Wells walked into a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania with a bomb strapped around his neck. He then handed a note to the cashier demanding a quarter of a million dollars. The bomb exploded, killing him.
Evil Genius producer Trey Borzillieri became enamored of the theory that Wells was an unwilling participant in the botched bank heist.
Before launching the robbery, Wells was called to deliver a pizza to a TV transmission tower at the end of a dirt road. The big question is, was Wells meeting his accomplices at the tower? Or was he lured there as a hostage to the real robbers’ plans.
The plot thickens when one of Well’s so-called conspirators dies under mysterious circumstance.
Grab the remote and dive into this real-life crime drama filled with more twists and turns than a corkscrew.
10. Somebody Feed Phil
Anybody? Phil Rosenthal is hungry and wanders the world in search of good eats. Like other great food and travel docuseries, Somebody Feed Phil is a combination of travel, culture, and food. It seamlessly blends world travel, the exploration of distant cultures, and new and interesting foods. And to top it off, the show is hosted by the creator of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
And Phil adds a comedic tough throughout the whole series.
Phil visits all corners of the globe, from Bangkok to New Orleans to Tel Aviv. In each location, he’s faced with exotic regional specialties. Phil isn’t just some passively hungry bystander. He digs in and tries his hand at harvesting and cooking. In Saigon, he wakes at dawn to harvest lotus. In Mexico, he makes tortillas.
This highly rated documentary is just pure fun, baked with love, and seasoned with humor.
11. Slay the Dragon
This political docuseries about gerrymandering, is an important film. It aims to be as neutral as possible about this controversial issue, which politicians have used to their advantage. The filmmakers were careful not to single out any political party as both seem to use this practice when they are in power.
12. Agents of Chaos
This is a four-part documentary, which is split into two parts—explores potential Russian interference in the 2016 election and the possibility of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians. The documentary begins in Ukraine during the 2013 protests and ends with the Russian “troll farm.”
13. Night Stalker
“Night Stalker” begins with a montage of 1980s Los Angeles, but its real focus is on detective Gil Carrillo, who leads the investigation. Despite being an inexperienced cop, Carrillo worked alongside the legendary Frank Salerno. The series makes the two detectives and their work feel human as it follows their trials and triumphs.
Ultimately, the series’ most interesting moments come when it focuses on the harrowing experiences of Ramirez’s family, and a few other individuals who helped solve the murder.
In Night Stalker, the crime-solving team uncovers the motives and motivations behind the killer, who killed six women and one man. The victims ranged in age from six to eighty-two. They were of all races, and included children and affluent individuals.
There were also women and children among the victims, and the gangster’s crimes went unsolved.
Night Stalker is an acclaimed Netflix docuseries that follows serial killer Richard Ramirez. The four-part limited series follows the story of a convicted serial killer who committed dozens of killings. If you’re a fan of Night Stalker, you can also check out the new documentary on Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe’s case, and many more.
This film is packed with gorgeous archival footage of Los Angeles during the Reagan era, complete with neon pink titles. It provides a surprisingly atmospheric understanding of Ramirez, and makes you wonder why such a serial killer isn’t better known today.
Icarus is like two separate stories. One focuses on Bryan Fogel, an egotistical American cyclist who wants to prove that doping is rampant in professional cycling. The other follows a Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov, who is a scientific cynic.
Interestingly, they communicate through Skype and through their dogs, so the two stories become intertwined in a unique way.
Icarus follows the story of two Miami drug kingpins, Sal Magluta and Willy Falcon. They were involved in an infamous scandal that shook the nation and the world. The docuseries is filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and jet-skiing. It’s a fascinating look at the world of power and emotion in sport.
In fact, it’s the first docuseries that was awarded a Best Documentary Oscar.
A documentary that captures the true story of a murder victim should be seen. While the subject matter is often controversial, the film is often understated and over-simplistic. It starts off with a small agenda and grows into a huge issue.
The film features plot twists, danger, and jaw-dropping revelations, making it a must-see for anyone interested in the truth. So, this documentary deserves a place in your Netflix queue.
15. Operation Varsity Blues
One of the most controversial episodes of a docuseries is “Operation Varsity Blues,” about a college admissions scandal involving Loughlin and her daughter Olivia Jade. Although the film is aimed at a general audience, it may not do justice to the events, and some viewers will be disappointed.
This snarky satire does little to help the situation.
As a documentary, Operation Varsity Blues is more akin to a typical news show, with real news clips and narrative recreations of conversations drawn from FBI wiretaps. Smith’s team also speaks to Singer’s family, as well as to former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, who believes that Singer was unfairly indicted.
But the documentary is still worth watching.
While it tackles a broad range of issues, Operation Varsity Blues is especially effective in highlighting the problem of institutional biases and income disparities in college admissions. These issues are often ignored by colleges, which tend to reinforce the notion that a certain group of students are better prepared than others.
The film’s focus on college athletics is a particularly powerful way to make this point.
“Operation Varsity Blues” takes an unconventional approach to non-fiction storytelling. While it combines elements of both a Lifetime movie and a documentary, the film also uses dramatic recreations of wiretapped conversations between key players. These reenactments, as well as other snippets of conversations between Singer and his aides and parents, make for a riveting watch.
16. Tiger King
If you’re looking for a Netflix docuseries, Tiger King is an excellent choice. Not only does it feature some of the most bizarre big cat behavior, but it also features ligers, polygamy, and a jet ski scene.
Despite its cheesy title, Tiger King is a highly entertaining and often shocking documentary series. It blends a compelling storyline with wit and charisma, and also serves as a platform to discuss the ethics of big cat ownership. Netflix remains the king of the jungle when it comes to documentaries. This series is definitely worth watching, and will leave you with a positive impression of the company and its content.
Tiger King is a true crime documentary that follows Joe Exotic, real name Joseph Maldonado-Passage, as he attempts to become the nation’s most prolific tiger breeder. As his tiger breeding business spirals out of control, Tiger King is the perfect car crash television. For true-crime nerds, the second season of Tiger King will be a treat.
This season’s ending will shock you.
The show blurs the lines between right and wrong by introducing a variety of ethically questionable subjects. The tiger trade, for example, is rife with scandal, and the series doesn’t spare anyone from controversy. But it also has its flaws.
It has a shady reputation in the industry, and the cult-like practices of some breeders are controversial enough to warrant their own series.
17. Central Park 5
Centered around one of the most famous criminal cases in New York history, Central Park 5 begins in 1989 when a woman is brutally assaulted while jogging in Central Park. Five Harlem teenagers are quickly convicted amid a massive public outrage and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
Over the next three decades, doubts begin to arise about the convictions, and new investigations uncover a shocking truth.
Directed by Ava DuVernay and starring an ensemble cast including Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, and Felicity Huffman, Central Park 5 shines a new light on an open wound in New York’s history.
Nurse Ratched from the classic film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is one of the most terrifying villains in all of the film, but how did she go from healer to sadistic jailer? Produced by American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy and acclaimed actor Michael Douglas, Ratched stars Emmy winner Sarah Paulson is a story beginning in 1947.
Over the decades, audiences will see a young nurse evolve into a monster. Murphy’s pedigree as a producer means this series – the first under his new Netflix deal – will likely be one of the most disturbing shows of the year.
Netflix is known for its enthralling original documentaries. Whether the subject is light and fun like food and travel or serious crime drama, you’re sure to have a binge fest that will satisfy. More importantly, some may leave you hungry to learn more.