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Movies where one can shut their brain off and enjoy are great, but sometimes the mind needs to be engaged. Documentaries are perfect for that, and Netflix is a great place to go for diving down the proverbial rabbit hole and coming out a well-informed viewer of whatever subject they just watched. For those looking to do that sometime in the near future, check out some of the best documentaries to stream right now below. Let's start with the Netflix-exclusive ones, i.e. you won't find them anywhere else.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
There are plenty of documentaries on various topics worth checking out, but we'd be remiss not to give a nod to one of the better movie documentaries out there at the moment. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond is a documentary in which Jim Carrey gives interviews of his making of Man On The Moon 20 years later. It's paired with never-before-seen footage of Carrey on the set, completely in character as Andy Kaufman.
The documentary is a fantastic examination of two different comedians and a fascinating show of the pain and sacrifice that can go into a theatrical performance. Perhaps the most amazing thing is how a documentary about two funny men gets so deep and introspective. I guess that's kind of the point of the documentary genre, so mission accomplished.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
We're not the first people to tell you to watch Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, and we certainly won't be the last. The documentary goes from one crazy story to the next, with several high profile figures appearing in and out of various scenes all throughout. It all culminates to the disaster that made several headlines throughout 2018, and how people were affected by its failure.
The best part about the whole thing is that knowing what happened only enhances the tale. Everything else is just icing on the cake, and stories like the promoter prepared to perform fellatio to get water into the country is just one example of how decorative this cake can get. Those who think the stories can't get any crazier than that just need to strap in for this one and check back after the viewing.
ReMastered: Tricky Dick And The Man In Black
Netflix's ReMastered documentaries highlight the music world and interesting stories surrounding musicians throughout the years. One of the best the collection has to offer is Tricky Dick And The Man In Black, which chronicles Johnny Cash's invitation to the White House by Richard Nixon. The President is hoping the grassroots singer will strengthen the support of his base and gain him additional support, but what's in it for Cash?
That's what the documentary covers, as Johnny Cash undergoes some personal reflection as the days tick down. As a true blue American, will he respect the honor of playing at the White House or will he use his platform to talk about the issues he thinks are relevant? Folks can probably guess which route he goes, but that doesn't make the story any less riveting.
Ana DuVernay partnered with Netflix to shed some light on America's incarceration problem. As the beginning of the film states, America is home to 5% of the world's population, but 25% of the world's prison population. As the title implies, DuVernay argues the current prison problem is, in part, tied to the 13th Amendment, and has created a widespread issue in American society. It's heavy stuff for sure, and definitely a topic that doesn't end when the credits roll.
13th received strong critical acclaim, Emmys and an Oscar nomination for its presentation of a subject others might have balked at. The fact that it won a few Emmys and had a shot at an Oscar should be proof it's one worth checking out, and one of Netflix's best original documentaries to date.
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Hot off her latest batch of award show glory, now is the perfect time to watch Lady Gaga's Netflix documentary. Gaga: Five Foot Two follows the singer along the making of her album Joanne and ends with her iconic halftime show performance during Super Bowl LI. It's also a look behind the struggles of touring, life on the road, and how much one sacrifices for the amount of fame she's celebrated.
Those who watch will even notice the doc features Gaga discussing talks she had with Bradley Cooper, and a movie they're planning that later became A Star Is Born. This is perfect for those who appreciated her work in the movie and want to see more of her as the artist removed from the various Hollywood performances and shock art over the years. The whole thing skews positive, but it's not like Gaga's image was suffering prior to its release.
Now that we've gone over the Netflix-exclusive documentaries, let's look at the ones that didn't start out on the streaming platform, but can easily be accessed there.
Abducted In Plain Sight
Abducted In Plain Sight has gotten a lot of buzz lately, as parents continue to fear for their children's safety in an ever-expanding world. This story is quite unlike anything folks may expect, however, as the man responsible for one family's misery is someone they loved deeply and all considered a close friend. If you can't trust those closest to you, who can you trust?
That's what Abducted In Plain Sight covers, as it travels back through various encounters that the family should've seen as red flags at the time. It's chilling and from an era that shows that while the internet presents a fresh set of problems for today's kids, danger can still exist very close to home.
Michael Jackson's This Is It
The mystery of Michael Jackson continues to be unraveled to this day, and while some details regarding his personal life are up in the air, his passion as a performer cannot be denied. This Is It chronicles Jackson's big concert tour that never was, as the singer died a little over two weeks prior to its beginning.
Michael Jackson fans are treated to his final performance just before his death. It's a great swan song to a legendary professional career, and the perfect movie for any Jackson fan. Even those only casually familiar will appreciate the amount of hard work that goes into putting together a massive tour, and the hours performers and crew put in to make it happen.
The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From A Mythical Man
Bill Murray is an interesting dude who's only gotten more interesting in his older age. He's made a habit of getting into some weird situations, but really they're only weird because he's injected himself into them. The Bill Murray Stories chronicles some of these events from the people who were there, and tells the story from their perspective.
Which is way more fascinating than it sounds, at least from an audience perspective. It's like hearing a friend recall a story of some crazy encounter, but if that encounter involved Bill Murray doing the types of things Bill Murray could only do without anyone getting upset. Seriously, who else could wave a tambourine in a cop's face and get away with it?
It's not often that old nightclubs get movies and documentaries made about them, but when they do, it's Studio 54. This documentary looks at it from the perspective of co-owner Ian Schrager, and offers a different perspective on one of the most famous nightclubs of all time.
After watching the documentary, it isn't hard to see why this place is still talked about to this day. It's one of those unique places that came around at the right place and right time, and nothing like it will ever happen again. If it does, let's hope we get an invite!
Harold Shipman: Driven To Kill
It wouldn't be a documentary list without highlighting at least one serial killer, and who better than one of Britain's most prolific murderers to date. Harold Shipman is believed to have killed around 250 people all whilst serving the public as a doctor for years. Harold Shipman: Driven To Kill highlights his childhood and the early adult years of the physician who would hurt far more than he would ever heal.
It's one of those documentaries that can make a person question everything. If someone can get away with killing that many people before being caught, are there other people in our own lives who have done the same?
Documentary lovers with suggestions or opinions to add on the above picks feel free to share their thoughts in the comments below. For more on documentaries, read up on the latest buzzworthy docuementary Leaving Neverland, and why Macaulay Culkin was not asked to participate in it.