There’s nothing like a good documentary. Informative, shocking, and very real – a good documentary is bound to leave you with something you can share during your next dinner conversation. From biographical docus, to the light and humorous, to the downright absurd and dark – the topics are aplenty and open for you to choose from. Here, we run through our favorites that are available on Netflix for your next night in.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Cults are fantastic content for documentaries. But the most shocking is the most successful cult leader. It probably already crossed our minds that Scientology could be a bit cult-ish – but we didn’t know the extent of their propaganda. Going Clear reveals everything you need to know about this religion, including why Tom Cruise was such a keen endorser.
Paris is Burning
If you’re watching already binge-watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race, brush up on your history first. This 1990 documentary is set in '80s New York, chronicling the ball culture of the gay and transgender communities at that time, a movement done mostly underground. The ball competitions are the origins of Ru Paul’s runway, but the film also reveals what the subculture meant for those who had found family and refuge in drag.
Another cult movie by a former cult member: Holy Hell documents the Buddhafield cult in West Hollywood, led by a charismatic leader often referred to as Michel. What was originally a small gathering of free-spirited individuals getting high on meditation in the '80s suddenly grows into a powerful organization, and then implodes when darker abuses within the cult are revealed.
Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang
While biographical documentaries on artists are always interesting, nothing is quite as visually moving as that of Cai Guo-Qiang’s. One of China’s contemporary artists uses pyrotechnic magic in his art, and the result (though capable of making the environmentalist tremble) is quite the sight to behold. The film follows Guo-Qiang through one of his biggest projects: a giant sky ladder, which took him about 20 years to make, an artwork that he is dedicating to his grandma. The result is moving… I actually cried.
Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On
This docu-series follows different personalities who are involved in the porn industry. Hot Girls Wanted profiles people who are empowered, defined, or even victimized by the explosion of the Internet and pornography. Eye-opening and interesting.
The filmmaker is cyclist Bryan Fogel, who in the film aims to uncover some truths about doping in sports. By using the drug himself, he hopes to verify its effects on performance. But a chance meeting with a Russian scientist suddenly turns his simple experiential story into a geopolitical scandal, revealing the biggest scandal in sports history.
Identical twins. Separated at birth. Find each other via Facebook. Enough said.
We all remember Anthony Weiner: the American congressman who accidentally tweeted his dick pic to the public in 2011. It was taken down 5 minutes after, but the stigma forever besmirched the politician’s name… (for valid reasons). The documentary follows the aftermath of the scandal, as he tries to rebuild is his public reputation when he returns to the electoral race and runs for mayor of New York City.
Though I'm not particularly a fan of Chelsea Handler – the web series Chelsea Does is fascinating in a sense that any modern day woman would find they can relatee to the comedian. The show follows Chelsea as she explores various subjects, including marriage and racism today. We see her talking about it with friends, sometimes experts, and other times she offers her own points of view. But my favorite is the episode in which she tackles drugs. Not only do we discover the comedian’s open dependency to drugs and alcohol, but she even goes to Peru to try ayahuasca.
Banking on Bitcoin
One bitcoin today in the Philippines costs roughly P200,000. What is called the most dangerous invention since the internet – this documentary is a primer on the digital currency, and a must-watch as the value of bitcoin continues to rise. What is bitcoin? Who invented it? Where is it headed?
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Perhaps the most relevant documentary to date: Nobody Speak re-examines the role of the press today. They start of by covering Gawker.com’s closure vs Hulk Hogan when the independent website leaked his sex tape and was sued for an exorbitant amount. But beyond the Hogan incident, the film poses the theory that wealthy figures continue to silence the press. – Rappler.com