Sure, Netflix is great for binge-watching comedies on a hangover, but if you’re looking for something a little more discerning to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the streaming giant has plenty to offer.
From gorgeous, thought-provoking documentaries on the state of our planet, to behind-the-scenes access to tours from some of the world’s biggest singers, via some of the best true crime shows around, Netflix is packed with the best docs on earth…
The buzziest new genre around. These shows satisfy the morbid curiosity that lives in all of us, by diving into the stories of some of history’s most notorious crimes.
What’s it about? The notorious 2007 murder of British exchange student Meredith Kercher while on holiday in Italy, and the trial that eventually saw the titular Knox acquitted.
Who’s in it? Knox herself is interviewed heavily in the documentary, as well as her ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and many more.
Why it’s worth a watch: Featuring interviews with everyone at the heart of the case, it’s a genuine, fascinating insight into a murder that fascinated the British public for years.
Making A Murderer
What’s it about? The story of Wisconsin native Steven Avery who, after wrongfully serving 18 years in prison for a sexual assault and attempted murder case, gets convicted of another murder. He and his family continue to dispute the decision, and it turns into an international phenomenon.
Who’s in it? Pretty much everyone involved in the case, from the prosecutors to the defence, plus Avery’s family and the accused himself.
Why it’s worth a watch: A second series of the show was commissioned after the first captured the public’s imagination so strongly, with the public seeming to believe Avery was innocent, showing just how important shows like this can be.
What’s it about? The truly stunning story of how a baseball game and the filming of a world-renowned comedy ended up solving a murder case.
Who’s in it? The key players in the case, alongside a brilliant cameo from Larry David.
Why it’s worth a watch: Without wanting to give away any spoilers (really, you’re going to want to watch this one) Long Shot is a well-produced short documentary, but its brilliance lies in how perfect its story is.
Confessions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes
What’s it about? Released on the 30th anniversary of the execution of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, the show excavates hundreds of hours of footage with Bundy himself, as well as those closest to him, to give a greater insight into the notorious figure.
Who’s in it? Ted Bundy, his family, friends, surviving victims and plenty more.
Why it’s worth a watch: Another show that has captured the imagination of millions, the show gives greater access than ever before into the world of one of the world’s most notorious serial killers.
From world-class concert films that provide unparalleled access into the lead-up to shows with some of the biggest artists in the world, to insights into notorious events that, well, didn’t go so well, music fans are very well catered for on Netflix. Here are a few of the best music documentaries the streaming service has to offer.
FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
What’s it about? The now-legendary Fyre Festival, a disaster of an event that (kind of) took place in the Bahamas in 2017.
Who’s in it? Organisers, fans, music business professionals – basically everyone able to tell this bizarre story perfectly.
Why it’s worth a watch: The story of Fyre Festival has become legend in the music community and beyond, and the full scale of the disaster is shown better here than anywhere else. It’s a mouths-wide-open watch from front to back.
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé
What’s it about? The run-up to Beyoncé’s stunning live comeback at Coachella 2018 after she cancelled her show the previous year because she was pregnant.
Who’s in it? Beyoncé herself – she executive produced the film – and everyone around her that made Coachella such a special comeback.
Why it’s worth a watch: As well as a brilliant concert film in its own right, Homecoming also shows an insight into the biggest star on the planet and what makes her tick.
What’s it about? The life and death of one of Britain’s best and most sorely-missed singers.
Who’s in it? There is plenty of archive footage with Amy herself, alongside her family, friends and musicians including Pete Doherty.
Why it’s worth a watch: The story of a true original, told by herself and those closest to her, it’s the best tribute you could hope for.
Taylor Swift: Reputation Stadium Tour
What’s it about? With a title that says it all, the film documents the huge stadium tour for Taylor Swift’s 2017 LP ‘Reputation’.
Who’s in it? Taylor Swift and a lot of fans.
Why it’s worth a watch: Whether the album was for you or not, the ‘Reputation’ tour was a stunning spectacle, and one that still holds up on repeat watches.
There are a whole host of sports documentaries on Netflix, and the best of these show the impact these activities can have on a wider world, from football clubs bringing communities and cities together to doping scandals that stand as a metaphor for larger society, they bridge the gap between the games themselves and far bigger meanings. Here are our favourites.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die
What’s it about? The show follows the fortunes of Sunderland FC in the 2017/18 season as they try and recover from relegation from the Premier League.
Who’s in it? Sunderland fans, players, their manager Jack Ross and basically anyone who’s important to the club and its history.
Why it’s worth a watch: Providing the kind of access never seen before, it’s a one-of-a-kind chance to delve into the community of a football club and its impact on a whole city.
What’s it about? The doping scandal that shook the world of cycling.
Who’s in it? The film follows the work of documentary maker Bryan Fogel, who stumbles upon an international crisis by accident.
Why it’s worth a watch: It’s both a remarkable story of chance and a journey into corruption and wrongdoing at the heart of global sport.
Next Goal Wins
What’s it about? Next Goal Wins follows the fortunes of American Samoa, famously dubbed the ‘worst football team in the world’ after losing 31-0 to Australia.
Who’s in it? The entire squad, their manager and those closest to the game on the tiny Pacific island.
Why it’s worth a watch: A truly heartwarming underdog story, the film shines a light on an under-represented community, while also doing plenty to expose the story of the world’s first non-binary footballer, Jaiyah Saelua.
Going back to those Sunday hangovers, where Netflix seems an even more enticing proposition than usual, one of the best things to do is lose yourself in stunning cinematography that focuses on our lovely planet. And when it’s narrated by the ever-soothing David Attenborough, it’s even better.
What’s it about? The title kind of gives this one away – it’s a comprehensive scowering of the Earth and what makes it so fascinating, especially focusing on the planet’s remaining wilderness.
Who’s in it? David Attenborough and a whole bunch of animals – perfect, right?
Why it’s worth a watch: An Attenborough-narrated nature documentary is always a triumph, and the fact that Our Planet ventures even further into unknown territories makes it even more of a must-watch.
What’s it about? We don’t have to spell this one out for you.
Who’s in it? Some of Africa’s most elegant species.
Why it’s worth a watch: Put together by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, it’s the culmination of four years of work, which should tell you something about the brilliant attention to detail.
What’s it about? Flipping the narrative of the usual nature show, Hidden Kingdoms shows how animals view the world from their perspective.
Who’s in it? It’s wonderfully narrated by Stephen Fry, who steps into the (metaphorical) shoes of chipmunks, dung beetles, elephant shrews and more.
Why it’s worth a watch: With a truly unique angle and one of the best narrators around, it pushes forwards the world of nature documentaries wonderfully.