Popular Documentaries on Netflix Right Now

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Documentaries are a great way to find out about stories, events, and lifestyles that you wouldn’t normally encounter. In recent years, Netflix has made it easier and easier to access this information, and knowledge is now just a click away. Though many people argue that having such easy access to so much content has made millennials dull and entertainment obsessed, the documentaries section of Netflix provides viewers with educational films about a variety of topics, and the landscape of learning is changing. In his article “Why Documentaries Matter Now More Than Ever,” Simon Kilmurry writes, “Documentary film is a form that allows us to walk in another’s shoes, to build a sense of shared humanity, that gives voice to the marginalized and the scorned, that strives to hold those in power to account. In these challenging times… it is all the more important to support the ever-risky endeavor that documentary filmmaking is becoming.” Here’s a few timely, thought-provoking Netflix documentaries that have been well received:


This film offers an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. The documentary begins with the idea that 25% of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S, Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world’s population. 13th charts the explosive growth in America’s prison population, touches on slavery and the civil rights movement, Ronald Reagan’s declaration of the war on drugs, and much more. The film traces the ways in which African Americans have continued to suffer since the passing of the 13th Amendment. 13th was directed by Ava DuVernay and was nominated for an Academy Award.

The Keepers

The Keepers is a seven-episode documentary series that was released on Netflix in May. The series was directed by Ryan White and it explores the unsolved murder of the nun Sister Cathy Cesnik who taught English and drama at Baltimore’s Archbishop Keough High School. The episodes explore her former students’ belief that there was a cover-up by authorities after Cesnik suspected that a priest at the school, A. Joseph Maskell, was guilty of sexual abuse. The interviews are harrowing and the facts are undeniable, and though the series doesn’t claim to tie up any loose ends or offer any justice, the work it does in the minds of viewers is important. The series documents the long term effects that sexual abuse has on women, it gives victims of abuse strong and powerful voices, and it encourages viewers to question authority and the status quo.

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things

In a culture where we constantly receive the message that we don’t have enough, or that we should have more, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things offers an alternative. The film asks viewers the honest and demanding question, “How might your life be better with less?” The documentary examines the lives of many different minimalists, and offers a peek into what life could be like living with less stuff, less space, but more meaning and more happiness.

Valley Uprising

San Diego has a booming rock climbing scene, and if you’ve ever met a climber and talked with them about the sport, then you’ve probably heard them mention Valley Uprising. The film traces the history of the sport, beginning in the unsuspecting 1950’s. While the rest of America was happy to live in cookie cutter homes with their fancy kitchen appliances, a few adventurous souls made their way to the shady campgrounds of Yosemite Valley and made their mark on the sea of rock. “Dirtbag” climbers carved out a counterculture lifestyle of dumpster-diving and wild parties that clashed with the conservative values of the rest of America. Up on the walls, generation after generation has pushed the limits of climbing, vying amongst each other for supremacy on Yosemite’s cliffs. Valley Uprising is the riveting, unforgettable tale of the bold rock climbing tradition in Yosemite National Park: half a century of struggle against the laws of gravity and the laws of the land.

Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at [email protected].

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