Netflix has a phenomenal archive of documentaries available to watch whenever you want. Even better, they have some the best, uplifting, and life-changing documentaries that will keep you on the edge of your seat, move you, and maybe teach you a thing or two.
Here are 16 uplifting and life-changing documentaries on Netflix:
#1 How to Change the World (2015)
How to Change the World is a documentary film, from writer-director Jerry Rothwell, which chronicles the adventures of an eclectic group of young pioneers who set out to stop Richard Nixon’s nuclear bomb tests in Amchitka, Alaska, and end up creating the worldwide green movement with the birth of Greenpeace.
A first trailer was released on July 30, 2015. How to Change the World documentary first premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, winning the World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing and the Candescent Award.
#2 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014)
This documentary manages to pay homage to Carl Sagan’s 1980s original, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage while creating an engaging show for a 21st-century audience.
The series loosely follows the same 13-episode format and storytelling approach that the original Cosmos used, including elements such as the “Cosmic Calendar” and the “Ship of the Imagination,” but features important information updated since the 1980 series along with extensive computer-generated graphics and animation footage augmenting the narration.
#3 Maidentrip (2013)
In this documentary, 14-year-old Laura Dekker sets out the camera in hand on a 2-year voyage in pursuit of her dream.
She is the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.
#4 The Epic of Everest (1924)
The Epic of Everest is an unassailable landmark of documentary filmmaking, both a testament to and an unfortunate product of the colonialist spirit.
After a digital restoration in 2013, The Epic of Everest was re-released in UK cinemas.
#5 Touching The Void (2003)
This is a 2003 documentary film based on a book by Joe Simpson about Joe’s and Simon Yates’s near-fatal attempt to summit mount Siula Grande.
The story is fantastic and nearly unbelievable, but for the fact that it actually happened.
The Guardian described it as:
“the most successful documentary in British cinema history.”
#6 Deep Water (2006)
Jerry Rothwell and Louise Osmond’s 2006 documentary feels like an homage: to sailing, to the sea, to vindaloo paste, to adventure, but mostly to the unknown.
#7 Man on Wire (2008)
Man on Wire is a 2008 documentary film directed by James Marsh. The documentary chronicles Philippe Petit’s 1974 high-wire walk between the Twin Towers of New York’s World Trade Center.
Man on Wire is based on Petit’s book, To Reach the Clouds, released in paperback with the title Man on Wire.
#8 Life Itself (2014)
Life Itself is a 2014 American documentary film about film critic Roger Ebert, directed by Steve James and produced by Steve James, Zak Piper, and Garrett Basch.
This documentary film may tell the story of a remarkable life, but it’s at its most enlightening when dealing with death.
#9 Undefeated (2011)
Undefeated is directed with non-intrusive, observational clarity by first-time documentarians T.J. Martin and Daniel Lindsay. It follows the Manassas Tigers, a high school football team in Memphis, TN, coached by a great man named Bill Courtney.
Even if you have no interest in American football, you will love it and more than likely find yourself reaching for the Kleenex at least a few times before the credits roll.
#10 Blackfish (2013)
Blackfish documentary is a devastating and enlightening portrait of what it means to keep an orca whale in captivity. Blackfish looks at SeaWorld in particular, an organization that has argued for keeping these sensitive and highly intelligent creatures in captivity, despite the obvious consequences.
In telling the story of Tilikum, the psychologically damaged orca who spent his life in captivity and was involved in the deaths of 3 individuals, the documentary is an elegy for the freedom that marine creatures were once able to enjoy.
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#11 Inequality For All (2013)
A documentary that follows former the United States Labor Secretary and current UC Berkeley professor Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country’s widening economic gap.
The documentary premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival in the Documentary Competition section and won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Achievement in Filmmaking. Carole Cadwalladr wrote in The Guardian: “A really astonishingly good movie that takes some big economic ideas and how these relate to the quality of the daily life as lived by most ordinary individuals.”
Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor called the film a “compelling class lecture”.
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#12 Particle Fever (2013)
This documentary follows the experimental physicists at CERN who run the experiments, as well as the theoretical physicists who attempt to provide a conceptual framework for the LHC’s results.
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#13 Food, Inc (2008)
Food, Inc is an equally terrifying and interesting must-watch documentary about the state of food in the U.S.
In addition, it is a sobering tour of where the stuff you eat comes from.
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#14 Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014)
Cowspiracy (produced by Leonardo DiCaprio) explores the claim that animal agriculture is the number one threat to the environment.
Director Kip Anderson probes the meat industry’s ties to the government, attempting to find out why leading environmental organizations like Greenpeace to keep quiet and still about the impacts of Big Farms.
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#15 My Beautiful Broken Brain (2014)
This is a documentary film about the life of then-34-year-old Lotje Sodderland after she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in November 2011. She documents her setbacks, struggles, and eventual breakthrough as she relearns to read, speak, and write.
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#16 30 for 30 “You Don’t Know Bo”
This film examines the truths and tall tales that surround Jackson, and how his seemingly impossible feats captured our collective imagination for an all-too-brief moment in time.
Featured image credit – PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock
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