Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it is often more entertaining. Thanks to the Netflix acquisition team, the streaming service has hundreds of documentaries that record everything from compelling stories of true crime to stories of sports scandals and extreme method actors. To help you sort through the impressive selection, we’ve selected 16 films currently streamed that will either drop your jaw, bring a tear to your eye, or both.
In 2004, Granby, Colorado-based Marvin Heemeyer decided to fight back against a local bureaucracy he believed was directed against his dealership by modifying a bulldozer to make it a bulletproof destruction machine. Heemeyer̵
What do you do when you find that a large supply of cocaine worth millions of dollars has been buried somewhere on a Caribbean island? If you’re one of the amateur drug smugglers in this gritty comic book documentary, try digging them up. Rodney Hyden, a small business owner in Florida and a burgeoning one-man cartel, takes part in his own re-enactments. Tony Montana is not him.
Sun. Models. Drink. Budding mogul Billy McFarland made a lot of promises and delivered little more than cold cheese sandwiches at his 2017 music festival debacle that made a small fortune in entrance fees and side profits and then hundreds of guests stuck on an island to fend for themselves. Combining Netflix’s investigation into the debacle and its aftermath with Hulus Guys cheating provides a fine dual function (even if you may have more questions than answers).
The steroid scandal that has long plagued Major League Baseball is portrayed in this winning, comical documentary directed by Billy Corben (Cocaine cowboys). Traders and dubious doctors orbiting players like Alex Rodriguez tell their rise and fall as they are portrayed in reenactments by teenagers.
Juan Catalan is the most compelling true crime stereotype: an innocent man being berated for a murder he did not commit. After law enforcement officers dismiss his alibi, his lawyers make one final attempt to prove that Catalan was at a Los Angeles Dodgers game at the time of the attack. How they do it – and which famous comic book actor is involved – is best found out for yourself.
When Jim Carrey took on the role of late comedian Andy Kaufman in the 1999 biopic directed by Milos Forman man in the MoonHe didn’t imitate Kaufman so much as to become him. This process has been documented in behind-the-scenes footage that was buried in studio vaults for years and unveiled here for the first time. Executives feared people would consider Carrey – who takes turns charming and antagonizing people on the set by never acting like “Jim” – as exceedingly difficult to consider. Perhaps, but Carrey’s modern reflections on colonizing the eccentric Kaufman, even when the movie cameras weren’t rolling, are a fascinating study of both cast member engagement and the nature of identity.
Acclaimed journalist Gay Talese comes across the story of his life: A Colorado motel owner named Gerald Foos, who remodeled his guest rooms so that he could spy on its residents. Not all of Foos’ memories of his voyeur’s playground stand the test, and the film sometimes wonders who is really in control of the narrative – the directors, Talese, or the enigmatic Foos.
8th. The Power of Grayskull: The Definitive Story of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2017)
Toy and nostalgia fans will be delighted with this return until the early 1980s, when Mattel’s He-Man dominated retail stores and syndicated television. The feature explores the origins of the toy line – which included duels with toy designers and a failed attempt to secure a Conan license – and its later incarnation as a low-budget 1987 film. (Yes, Dolph Lundgren appears.)
The cat-and-mouse game between drug testing agencies and fraudulent athletes is examined in the Oscar-winning documentary by director Bryan Fogel, which shows how far the competitors will go to push their physical limits. As Fogel delves deeper into the world of professional cycling and its high-level political influences, you may find that drugs are so prevalent that athletes don’t necessarily want to cheat – they just look at the field.
John du Pont, heir to the du Pont fortune, spent much of his time and some of his wealth in his passion for amateur wrestling. But when he feels betrayed by the great Olympian Dave Schultz, DuPont’s obsession with the sport and its athletes becomes fatal.
College student Amanda Knox made headlines in 2007 and beyond for being the prime suspect in the murder of fellow student and roommate Meredith Kercher while both were studying in Perugia, Italy. The competence and motives of the Italian police force are explored in this documentary in which Knox first spoke in detail about their trials (yes, there were more than one) and struggles in a foreign judicial system. Much ink has been spilled in American media about her perceived guilt: Knox’s steadfast gaze at the camera as she tells her side of the story is likely to make you think differently.
12. 13 .. (2016)
Director Ava DuVernay delivers a powerful (and Oscar-nominated) indictment against the US judicial system and examines how incarceration and conviction lead to widespread inequality. When viewers look through DuVernay’s lens, they might feel that the scales of justice have tipped in favor of privatized and profitable prisons.
In the 1970s, Kurt Russell’s father, Bing Russell, founded a villainous minor league baseball team, the Portland Mavericks. The Ragtag team played without affiliation to the Major League and stormed their way through several seasons, with an electric group of MLB offshoots forming the roster. It’s a fun look at a group that can take on the Bad News Bears for dropping the ball.
The trials and difficulties of the background singers are ultimately the focus of this winning portrait, which was awarded the Oscar for best documentary film in 2014.
If Tiger King fell a little short in the animal activism department for your liking, you should check it out Black fish. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite casts a critical eye on the subject of trapped killer whales, with an emphasis on Tilikum, a SeaWorld attraction that, even under the care of professionals, has found its killer instincts hard to resist.
The volatile world of professional wrestling is explored in this film by director Barry Blaustein. The one-time WWE attraction Jake “the Snake” Roberts records his drug problems. Mick Foley tries to earn fan support at all physical costs. and Terry Funk is at the end of the street.
This story has been updated for 2020.