Say what you will, but we love documentaries. They educate us about the world in which we live, shed new light on different aspects of our lives (or the lives of others), and provide fascinating accounts of history or glimpses into the future. And luckily, Netflix is chockfull of the good stuff.
Here are the 10 best documentaries streaming on Netflix right now:
Kurt & Courtney
If you ever had reason to doubt that Courtney Love played a key role in the death of grunge pioneer and Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain, watch this documentary. Originally released in 1998, Nick Broomfield spends a painstaking amount of time and effort exploring all the “what if’s” and other inconsistencies about the investigation of the death of one of history’s most prolific rock and roll icons. One of the people interviewed in the documentary, El Duce, a musician and close friend of Kurt Cobain, said he knew exactly who killed Cobain, but that he’d leave it up to the FBI. Two days after the interview, he was mysteriously killed after being struck by a train. Coincidentally, not a single person witnessed his death. UGH!
How many of you reading this have already broken that New Year’s resolution you made to yourself about hitting the weight bench and getting rid of that gut? Well, Pumping Iron, the 1977 documentary that follows the one and only Arnold Schwarzenegger on his pursuit of his sixth bodybuilding title, is more than enough motivation to get your ass back on track. The film is still considered by many to be one of the best motivational bodybuilding and fitness films in the world, and within the first ten minutes of the film, you’ll understand why.
What Happened, Miss Simone?
This is not a documentary about armed conflict or bodybuilding or car racing or other classically masculine topics. Rather, it’s about one of the world’s most prolific and volatile female artists of the 20th century, the late, great Nina Simone. What Happened, Miss Simone, released just last year, takes a very intimate look back on the work of the late activist and artist, and explores her emotional and psychological traumas, her anger issues, and her explosive (and brilliant) career.
World War II in Colour
We’re pretty big history buffs here at Cool Material, and that’s precisely why World War II in Colour makes this list. A look back on the world’s second global conflict—in color—gives a brand new perspective to the age-old ideology that war is hell. See some of the most horrifying and historically important moments in the war, all in stunning colorized high definition.
Hot Girls Wanted
Every month, more people in the U.S. surf porn sites than Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix—COMBINED. Hot Girls Wanted explores the emerging “pro-am” porn industry, where real girls next door appear on camera for the first time. The documentary features commentary from the industry’s most relevant stars, including Belle Knox and Ava Taylor, and also features lots and lots of boobs. So there’s that.
Chelsea Handler is one of those celebrities you either really enjoy or really, really hate. We’re admittedly not her biggest fans, but we really enjoyed this four-part documentary series. Handler takes an in-depth and very intimate look into four aspects of our society that confuse and frighten her (and a lot of other people): Marriage, technology, racism, and drugs—in that order.
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger
James “Whitey” Bulger is one of the most vicious and unscrupulous organized crime bosses the world has ever seen. But this film isn’t a biography of Bulger’s horrific career in murder, racketeering, gambling, and other graft, but rather an indictment of the FBI and their heavily corrupt relationship to the famed gangster. Directed by Joe Berlinger (the Paradise Lost series, Brother’s Keeper) Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger explores the relationship between federal government agencies and Bulger, and how the hell he reigned terror down on the city of Boston for over two decades without being brought to justice.
30 for 30: Chasing Tyson
This 2015 documentary by ESPN’s 30 for 30 team travels back in time to explore Evander Holyfield’s victory over Mike Tyson in their first boxing match, and just how much effort and time was spent by Holyfield and his camp in trying to make the fight happen.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight For Freedom
Ahhhh, the smell of revolution and political upheaval… We love it. This important piece of documentary film covers, from front to back, the political unrest in Ukraine a year or two ago. From a small and peaceful student protest, to a full-on political and cultural revolution, Winter on Fire tells the story as it unfolded.
By shedding light on an important, albeit overlooked, topic, a great documentary can fuel a rage within you. Few do that better than 13th, a documentary about the abhorrent injustice of parts of the incarceration system. The film, which gets its name from the 13th Amendment, is extremely important considering the current racial climate within the United States. It’s hard but necessary viewing.