With hundreds of great documentary films available for streaming on Netflix, the main issue is where to begin. With that in mind, we've pulled together a shortlist of binge-worthy docs from our ever-growing queue. While our picks are admittedly long on politics and history, and typically rich with news and archival footage, they are each in their own way fascinating, compelling and compulsively watchable films.
This Oscar-nominated documentary unpacks the "intersection of race, justice and mass incarceration in the United States." It's titled after the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which freed the slaves and prohibited slavery (unless as punishment for a crime). Directed by Ava DuVernay. Released in 2016.
Amanda Knox documents the explosive media maelstrom and prosecutorial overreach surrounding the trial, conviction and eventual acquittal of Amanda Knox for the murder of Meredith Kercher, her roommate in Italy. Directed by Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn. Released in 2016.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Renowned filmmaker Stanley Nelson's timely examination the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and its impact on civil rights and American culture. Directed by Stanley Nelson. Released in 2015.
The Blackout (American Experience)
The Blackout returns viewers to the pivotal night in July 13, 1977, when, following lightning strikes at several critical power lines, New York City was left in total darkness. Teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, the city was ill-prepared to respond, and by the time power was restored, more than 1,600 businesses had been looted, more than 3,000 people had been arrested, and firefighters had battled more than 1,000 fires. Directed by Callie T. Wiser. Released in 2015.
Dirty Wars follows Jeremy Scahill, the national security correspondent for the Nation magazine, as he works tirelessly to expose questionable US military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn locales, many of which were carried out by the shadowy Joint Special Operations Command. Directed by RIck Rowley. Released in 2013.
E-Team follows a group of four activists from Human Rights Watch known as the E-Team as they work on the ground in Syria and Libya to gather detailed evidence of human rights abuses and possible war crimes and bring these stories to the world's attention in real time. Directed by Kate Chevigny and Ross Kaufman. Released in 2014.
Emmanuel Macron: Behind the Rise
Emmanuel Macron: Behind the Rise tracks the rapid political ascent of Emmanuel Macron, who survived a bruising campaign to become the youngest president in French history. Directed by Yann L'Henoret. Released in 2017.
Five Who Came Back
Five Who Came Back explores the experiences of five U.S. film directors – John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens – and their frontline work during the Second World War, drawing on over 100 hours of archival footage. Narrated by Meryl Streep, the film includes extensive interviews with directors Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, and Lawrence Kasdan. Directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Released in 2017.
Get Me Roger Stone
Get Me Roger Stone reveals the life and career of "larger than life" Republican political strategist Roger Stone. Directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme. Released in 2017.
Hank: Five Years from the Brink
A humanizing character study of Hank Paulson from renowned documentarian Joe Berlinger. Paulson, who reluctantly accepted the post of Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush, was charged with preventing the collapse of the global economy in 2008. Directed by Joe Berlinger. Released in 2013.
How to Win the US Presidency
This whimsical look at rough-and-tumble American politics examines the influence of money, religion and even ancient Rome on presidential campaigns. Directed by Cal Seville. Released in 2016.
Oklahoma City (American Experience)
Oklahoma City traces the events — including the deadly encounters between American citizens and law enforcement at Ruby Ridge and Waco — that led Timothy McVeigh to commit the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. Directed by Barak Goodman. Released in 2017.
Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States
A provocative, ten-part series from Oliver Stone on American history since World War II, intended, as Stone says in his introduction, to “bring you back to the meaning of this country and what so radically changed after World War II.” Directed by Oliver Stone. Released in 2013.
A riveting, emotionally powerful film using archival footage and animated reenactments to reveal the untold stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of the University of Texas Tower shooting, America's first mass school shooting. Directed by Keith Maitland. Released in 2016.
Truth and Power
An "investigative docuseries", narrated by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Each episode reveals the stories of "ordinary people going to extraordinary lengths to reveal corporate exploitation and infringement on civil liberties resulting from government overreach." Executive Producer: Brian Knappenberger. Released in 2016.
The White Helmets
Winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, the 40-minute film follows three Syrian rescue workers with a group called the White Helmets -- also known as the Syrian Civil Defense. The film is based on footage shot by Khaleed Khateeb, a volunteer for the Syrian Civil Defense forces, who filmed his fellow volunteers’ during search and rescue missions in war-torn Aleppo. Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. Released in 2016.
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom
A riveting portrait of unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich. As the New York Times' A.O. Scott wrote in his review of the film, "Mr. Afineevsky succeeds brilliantly, turning an after-the-fact reminder of events that have faded from the headlines into a grippingly suspenseful real-life action film." Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky. Released in 2015.