TV & Movies

Scope Out 14 Of The Best Documentaries To Watch On Netflix NZ

By Jessica Best
30th Jun 2020

An American gymnast is captured mid-flip in the air. Behind her is a red and white flag.

Ready for a Netflix binge session? We’ve done the hard yards for you and rounded up the best Netflix documentaries you need to watch right now. From the intriguing to the shocking, it’s all here.

Here are all the best Netflix documentaries to watch right now.

Athlete A 

Athlete A follows a team of reporters from The Indianapolis Star as they investigate claims of abuse at USA Gymnastics, one of America’s most prominent Olympic organisations. Two years later, Olympic doctor Larry Nassar is behind bars, the US Congress is demanding answers and hundreds of survivors are speaking out. Equal parts devastating and inspiring, the doco reveals the culture of cruelty that was allowed to thrive within elite-level gymnastics, the attorney fighting the institutions, and most importantly, the brave athletes who refuse to be silenced, fought the system and triumphed. Keep the tissues close for this one. 

Disclosure 

This doco delivers an unprecedented and eye-opening look at transgender depictions in film and television, revealing how Hollywood simultaneously reflects and manufactures our deepest anxieties about gender. Leading trans thinkers and creatives, including Laverne Cox, Lilly Wachowski, Yance Ford, MJ Rodriguez, Jamie Clayton, and Chaz Bono, share their reactions and resistance to some of Hollywood’s most beloved moments. Reframing familiar scenes and iconic characters in a new light, director Sam Feder invites viewers to confront unexamined assumptions, and shows how what once captured the public’s imagination now elicit new feelings. This one is an absolute must watch. 

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

This could be one of the scariest documentaries of the year and if you’re in the mood for some really messed up stuff, this is the one for you. We all know the horrendous circumstances surrounding the mysterious tycoon Jeffery Epstein, his name made headlines last year after he was accused of abusing women and underage girls for decades, assembling a network of faithful enablers (all in great positions of power) to help carry out and cover up his crimes. He managed to lie and manipulate his way to the top of the financial world, eventually gaining tremendous wealth while running an international sex trafficking ring. 

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem And Madness

It’s the seriously whack docuseries that has taken 2020 by storm. If you haven’t already watched this one and you’re wondering what all the big fuss is about, let us enlighten you. Among the eccentrics and cult personalities in the stranger-than-fiction world of big cat owners in the US, few stand out more than Joe Exotic, a mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country-western singer who presides over an Oklahoma roadside zoo. Charismatic but misguided, Joe and an unbelievable cast of characters including drug kingpins, conmen, and cult leaders all share a passion for big cats, and the status and attention their dangerous menageries garner. But things take a dark turn when Carole Baskin, an animal activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary, threatens to put them out of business, stoking a rivalry that eventually leads to Joe’s arrest for a murder-for-hire plot, and reveals a twisted tale where the only thing more dangerous than a big cat is its owner. 

The Innocence Files

Through the lens of "The Evidence", "The Witness" and "The Prosecution", The Innocence Files shines a powerful light on the untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that the nonprofit organization the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have uncovered and worked tirelessly to overturn. These stories expose difficult truths about the state of America’s deeply flawed criminal justice system, while showing when the innocent are convicted, it's not just one life that is irreparably damaged forever: families, victims of crime and trust in the system are also broken in the process (this one is set to drop April 15).

Trials Of Gabriel Fernandez

In 2013, eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez died as a result of horrific and prolonged abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. In the wake of the tragedy, a demand for justice and accountability exploded in Los Angeles County. This six-part documentary series from award-winning documentarian Brian Knappenberger (Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press) offers an inside look at the trial as well as an eye-opening investigation into the government systems that failed to protect Gabriel, despite multiple reports and warning signs.

Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father’s Eyes

When Ronda Rousey became the first female UFC champion, she achieved more than athletic glory—she realized her late father’s belief that she would make her greatest dreams come true. The Ronda Rousey Story: Through My Father’s Eyes follows Ronda’s inspiring journey to superstardom, weaving revealing interviews with dynamic fight footage to create a portrait of a remarkable and fearless woman who overcame all odds to become a symbol of strength, hope, and female empowerment.

Miss Americana

There’s no denying it, Taylor Swift has had a rough old time with the media and her fellow celebs—we’re looking at you Kayne. In an effort for the public to see what life is like behind the microphone, Swift has teamed up with Netflix to produce Miss Americana. This raw and emotionally revealing look at Swift dives deep into a transformational period in her life. The film tells the story of Swift navigating the difference between who the world wants her to be, and who she wants to be. Regardless of whether you're team Swift or not, this doco will make you realise there's a person behind all the tabloids. 

Cheer

Some are calling it the best series to ever hit streaming services... and we'd back that. Netflix’s documentary series Cheer follows the competitive cheerleaders of Navarro College in Corsicana, TX. How many full-outs will they achieve? Who will make mat? And which team is destined for greatness at Daytona? Led by Monica Aldama, the small junior college has won 14 National Championships since 2000. The stakes on the mat are high, but for these athletes, the only thing more brutal than their workouts and more exceptional than their performances are the stories of adversity and triumph behind the team members themselves (team Jerry all the way). The Navarro College cheerleaders face injuries, sacrifice, personal setbacks and triumphs, all leading up to one nail-biting and adrenaline-pumping final competition at the National Championship.

Kevin Hart: Don’t F**k This Up

This six-part docu-series goes behind the comedians funny facade and delves deep into his personal life. Hart offers a no holds barred look into his childhood, his turbulent relationship with his family to his rise to fame and his life today. We have to give him major props for opening up about the scandals he’s been a part of too, namely when he was caught cheating on his wife and the fallout from the Oscar controversy. Love him or hate him, you’ll have a newfound respect for Hart’s honesty after watching this. 
 

Fire In Paradise

On the morning of November 8, 2018, a seemingly small fire broke out in Butte County, California near the town of Paradise. Over the course of a few short hours, the "Camp Fire" grew into the country’s deadliest wildfire in over a century, killing 85 people and destroying Paradise. Through first-hand footage of the disaster and personal interviews with survivors and emergency responders, Fire In Paradise vividly retells the terrifying survival stories from that day.

The Game Changers

If you’re keen to get around one of the most hyped documentaries right now, hit up The Game Changers. Directed by the Oscar award-winning Louie Psihoyos (who you know from The Cove), and produced by Jackie Chan, Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, this revolutionary new film delves into everything you need to know about meat, protein and strength. We won't say you'll be an avid plant-based eater by the end of this one, but by god, you'll never look at meat the same again.

The Great Hack

Data has surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable asset. It’s being weaponized to wage cultural and political warfare. People everywhere are in a battle for control of our most intimate personal details so enter, The Great Hack. The only doco you need to get around this week. From award-winning filmmakers Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim, this one uncovers the dark world of data exploitation with astounding access to the personal journeys of key players on different sides of the explosive Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data scandal.

Surviving R.Kelly

Surviving R. Kelly is a doco that gives a sling of young women the spotlight to reveal new allegations about the R&B artist’s physical, mental and sexual abuse. There’s no denying R.Kelly’s career has been plagued with stories of predatory behaviour so expect more than 50 interviews with those including civil rights activist Tarana Burke, musicians John Legend and Sparkle, talk show host Wendy Williams, and some of R. Kelly's family members.

 
Still got time to spare? Here are all the best movies to watch on Netflix right now.
Image credit: Netflix

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