A stellar documentary will help you view the world differently by expanding your knowledge and simply making you think, regardless of subject matter, and there are a lot of really good ones just waiting to be streamed on Netflix. Bear in mind, some documentaries can be hard to watch, like The Keepers and Making A Murderer, but sometimes the veil needs to be lifted so that things can change for the better. A great documentary will resonate deeply with the viewers by persuading them to open their mind and think a little differently about a subject/event, and sometimes that's what the world needs to do better. In other words, documentaries matter.
Blackfish is a pretty powerful documentary, and I can honestly say it has kept me (and many others) from visiting SeaWorld. Released in 2013, Blackfish examines the captivity of Tilikum, an orca involved in the deaths of three individuals. The film includes interviews by former SeaWorld trainers, representatives of the Nonhuman Rights Project, footage of attacks on trainers and witness accounts. The documentary argues that the stress and trauma of captivity contributed to Tilikum's aggression, and they make a pretty compelling case.
9. Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox chronicles the murder of Amanda's roommate, Meredith Kercher, the subsequent convictions, the acquittal, and the legal/media circus that followed. For years Amanda appeared on tabloids across the world, and after spending four years in an Italian prison, she has quite the story to tell. Even if you're already very familiar with the case, the documentary makes an eye-opening (and unexpected) statement concerning the depiction of women in the media, so it's well worth your time.
I was never a huge Amy Winehouse fan, but this documentary is a riveting, in-depth glance into the life (and death) of an extraordinarily talented and troubled singer. The film shines a deeply personal light on Amy's struggles with mental health and substance abuse, both before and after fame, which eventually led to her demise at only 27-years-old. This documentary does much more than chronicle the rise and fall of a famous singer, however; it's also a beautiful tribute to one of the most talented singer/songwriters of our generation.
7. Oklahoma City
Before 9/11, the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City by the "Oklahoma City Unabomber" was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, killing 168 people and injuring 680 others. The horrifying actions of Timothy McVeigh will always be remembered, but this documentary delves into his dark motives, twisted allegiances, and the rise of domestic terrorism. Although the victims' families will never get their loved ones back, this film acts as a tribute to all that they lost on April 19, 1995.
6. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
Documentaries can often be dark, but Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a heartwarming and inspiring look into the life of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master and restaurant owner, and his two sons who have both followed in their father's footsteps. Good sushi can be notoriously hard to make, but Jiro's perfectionism and passion have placed him at the very top of his field, both in and out of Japan. The mouthwatering shots in this film will have you drooling all over your keyboard, so I don't recommend watching this one on an empty stomach. You've been warned.
5. Casting JonBenet
Casting JonBenet is an interesting way of looking into the murder of 6-year-old beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey, and studying the effects it has had on society at large. This famously unsolved crime has generated countless shows/documentaries in the past, but the premise of this film is wildly different than anything that has been done before. Instead of detailing the crime, this documentary follows the casting process for a fictional film, with would-be actors in the Colorado area auditioning for different roles and sharing their thoughts and feelings about JonBenet's murder.
4. Audrie And Daisy
I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into when I found this on Netflix, but although it was often difficult to watch, this message of this film is absolutely necessary in 2019, particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement. The film explores the lives of two high school girls, Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, who were both sexually assaulted and subsequently subjected to criticism, distrust, and cyberbullying. After 15-year-old Audrie commits suicide, the film chronicles the disturbing events, perceptions and institutional failures that perpetuated her decision to take her own life. This is a must-watch for teenagers, both male and female.
3. The Keepers
The Keepers is an attempt to explore the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a well-loved nun and teacher who was quite obviously murdered to cover-up the sexual abuse going on at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore. A surprisingly thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death is led by two of her former students, now retired, who both seek to uncover the truth even if it means challenging both the Catholic Church and local law enforcement.
This documentary, made twenty months after the horrific mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, can be described as nothing short of heartbreaking. Yes, it's hard to watch, but this film wasn't made to be enjoyed, it was made to start a much-needed discussion. Newtown is an unbelievably personal look into the lives of the families who lost their precious children that day, and although you'll need a box of tissues the entire time you're watching it, it forces viewers to consider the consequences of gun violence in this country.
1. Cartel Land
If you couldn't already tell by the name, Cartel Land is a documentary about the Mexican Drug War and the vigilante groups that are currently fighting the Mexican drug cartels. This film focuses on the Arizona Border Recon in the United States and the rebel uprising group in Michoacán, led by Dr. José Mireles, and reminds viewers that absolute power corrupts absolutely, no matter what side you're on. It's one thing to watch a fictional show about drug lords, like Narcos, but knowing that this is real makes it all the more compelling (and disturbing).