ByRachael Kaines, writer at
Consuming movies, tv, music, etc. Sometimes writing about these things @rachaelkaines
Rachael Kaines

There are some days where fiction just won't cut it and you've watch to have something with a slice of reality. Below is my list of the five best documentaries currently available on UK Netflix so you don't end up watching Alien Mummies after a long and fruitless browse.

I've chosen films that I think are objectively fascinating and enjoyable. I've also chosen documentaries that are all different from each other so you can escape the ubiquity of certain sub-genres. Pickings are also slightly slim right now, so hopefully this can help you out in your search for something entertaining and informative to watch.

5. Tower (2016)

A peak at Tower's unique visual style. 'Tower' [Credit: Kino Lorber]
A peak at Tower's unique visual style. 'Tower' [Credit: Kino Lorber]

It terms of style, Tower is definitely the most innovative documentary on this list. It combines archival footage of interviews and news with reenactments and dramatizations of events, all portrayed in a beautiful animation that lends the documentary a unique and almost dreamlike feel. The documentary is so well made that by the end of it you feel that it could have been about any subject and would still have been compelling.

4. Amanda Knox (2016)

If you like Making A Murderer and similar true crime documentaries, then you've got plenty of choice on Netflix (West of Memphis and The Thin Blue Line come to mind). However, Netflix's Amanda Knox becomes less of the true-crime documentary and more of an examination of how women are treated in the media, as told through one woman's story. This examination of the media's treatment of women is what makes this documentary stand out.

3. What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)

'What Happened, Miss Simone?' [Credit: Netflix]
'What Happened, Miss Simone?' [Credit: Netflix]

This is a very personal choice because I love Nina Simone. However, that doesn't stop this documentary from being an excellent study of mental illness and celebrity lifestyle through the lens of singer Nina Simone — one of most influential artists of the 20th century. It's really quite a simple biopic of an extraordinary person, making this documentary great viewing regardless of whether you're a fan of Simone's music or not.

2. The Look Of Silence (2014)

Adi and his mother. 'The Look Of Silence' [Credit: Drafthouse Films]
Adi and his mother. 'The Look Of Silence' [Credit: Drafthouse Films]

Very much a partner to Joshua Oppenheimer's first documentary, The Act Of Killing (2012), The Look Of Silence is a more overtly emotional piece that counteracts the craziness of the first movie. It feels much more like what you would be expecting about a documentary on the subject of genocide. A lot of this change in mood is achieved through the subjects watching footage from the first documentary. Both The Act Of Killing and The Look Of Silence make up probably the most unusual, ambitious and poignant documentaries ever made. Both are well worth your time and the emotional investment it takes to watch them.

1. Hoop Dreams (1994)

'Hoop Dreams' [Credit: Fine Line Features]
'Hoop Dreams' [Credit: Fine Line Features]

At 170 minutes long, Hoop Dreams is by far the longest documentary on this list; it is also the oldest. Originally intended as a 30-minute production for PBS, shooting ended up taking place over five years and the makers filmed over 250 hours of footage. The resulting nearly 3-hour long documentary was game changing at the time, and is still as powerful today as it was then. It could be considered mundane, but for me the story of William Gates and Arthur Agee is utterly compelling, and the way the film is made makes it feel like there is nothing between the viewer and the story — no storytelling, no cameras, nothing. If you have the time, watch this. If you don't have the time, make time.

Honorable mentions: Black Fish (2013), The Queen of Versailles (2012), 13th (2016), Food inc. (2008), Bowling For Columbine (2002).

Which of these documentaries did you like best?


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