The 19 Best Documentaries on Netflix and Amazon Prime

We recently found a site called Cinesift.com (unfortunately it was taken off reddit’s r/InternetIsBeautiful because they don’t allow aggregators – link). It’s a site that ‘combines Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, Letterboxd and Metacritic scores, with Netflix and Amazon Prime availability, to quickly help users find what to watch.’ Interestingly, many of the top results outside of the best movies of all time are very moving documentaries. It’s probably worth it to watch some non-fiction and learn something every so often, and these composite scores from so many sites are pretty dependable, so here are the top 19 docs available on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

Virunga 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 89%
2014
A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas; in the midst of renewed civil war and a scramble for Congo’s natural resources.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father 

[IMDB] [Netflix] 88%
2008


[SPOILER: Lots of people say to go into this film not knowing anything about it, it may be better that way. Don’t read the synopsis below if you want the most powerful emotional experience.]
A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend’s ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.
Dear Zachary is a both a touching tribute to a fallen friend and a heart-wrenching account of justice gone astray, skillfully put to film with no emotion spared.

How to Die in Oregon 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 88%
2011
In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. At the time, only Belgium, Switzerland, and the Netherlands had legalized the practice. ‘How to Die in Oregon’ tell the stories of those most intimately involved with the practice today — terminally ill Oregonians, their families, doctors, and friends — as well as the passage of an assisted suicide law in Washington State.

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage 

2010
An in-depth look at the Canadian rock band Rush, chronicling the band’s musical evolution from their progressive rock sound of the ’70s to their current heavy rock style.


Filmage: The Story of Descendents/All 
[IMDB] [Amazon] 87%
2013
Long before punk rock inflicted its puncture wound on the map of mainstream music, the Descendents were in a van brewing a potent mix of pop, angst, love and coffee and influencing a generation to come. FILMAGE: The Story of DESCENDENTS/ALL follows drummer and square-peg Bill Stevenson as he pushes himself and a rotating door of band-mates to “achieve ALL,” his relentless concept of “going for greatness, the utmost possible” despite any and all setbacks. Interviews with the band and contemporaries such as Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Mark Hoppus (Blink-182), Mike Watt (Minutemen), Brett Gurewitz (Bad Religion) and many more reveal the untold tale of one of the most overachieving and influential bands in punk, serving as a reminder to always “go for greatness,” because sometimes you’re gonna get it.

The Whole Gritty CityThe Whole Gritty City 
[IMDB] [Amazon] 87%
2013
Young members of 3 New Orleans school marching bands grow up in America’s most musical city, and one of its most dangerous. Their band directors get them ready to perform in the Mardi Gras parades, and teach them to succeed and to survive.

Twinsters 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 87%
2015
Adopted from South Korea, raised on different continents & connected through social media, Samantha & Anaïs believe that they are twin sisters separated at birth.




Exit Through the Gift Shop 
[IMDB] [Netflix] [Amazon] 87%
2010
The story of how an eccentric French shop keeper and amateur film maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains footage of Banksy, Shephard Fairey, Invader and many of the world’s most infamous graffiti artists at work.




Giuseppe Makes a Movie 
[IMDB] [Amazon] 86%
2014
In Ventura, CA, Giuseppe Andrews makes movies in his trailer park where he grew up. A former child actor in some big movies (Independence Day, Unstrung Heroes, Never Been Kissed), Giuseppe is inspired more by the crazy independent filmmakers of history: Bunuel, Cassavetes and Fassbinder. Obsessed with the edges of society, dirty language spoken as poems and occasional nudity, Giuseppe’s films may resemble the underground worlds of Harmony Korine, John Waters and Tod Browning. With a handwritten script, a video camera, an acting ensemble of neighbors and homeless friends – and almost no money, Giuseppe has now made 30 feature films.

Let the Fire Burn 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 86%
2013
A history of the conflict of the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization, MOVE, that led to the disastrously violent final confrontation in 1985.
Smartly edited and heartbreakingly compelling, Let the Fire Burn uses archival footage to uncover a troubling — and still deeply resonant — chapter in American history.

Life Itself 

[IMDB] [Netflix] 86%
2014
The life and career of the renowned film critic and social commentator, Roger Ebert.
Rich in detail and warmly affectionate, Life Itself offers a joyful yet poignant tribute to a critical cinematic legacy.


Man on Wire 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 86%
2008
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, “the artistic crime of the century.”
James Marsh’s doc about artist Phililppe Petit’s artful caper brings you every ounce of suspense that can be wrung from a man on a (suspended) wire.
The Square 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 86%
2013
A group of Egyptian revolutionaries battle leaders and regimes, risking their lives to build a new society of conscience.



Which Way Home 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 86%
2009
“Which Way Home” is a feature documentary film that follows unaccompanied child migrants, on their journey through Mexico, as they try to reach the United States. We follow children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year old Hondurans, who are desperately trying to reach their parents in the US.


Blackfish 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 85%
2013
A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.
Blackfish is an aggressive, impassioned documentary that will change the way you look at performance killer whales.

Famous NathanFamous Nathan 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 85%
2014
A Coney Island-inspired, densely-layered visually dynamic documentary portrait of the life and times of the original Nathan’s Famous, created in 1916 by filmmaker Lloyd Handwerker’s grandparents, Nathan and Ida Handwerker. 30 years in the making, Famous Nathan interweaves decades-spanning archival footage, family photos and home movies, an eclectic soundtrack and never-before-heard audio from Nathan: his only interview, ever as well as compelling, intimate and hilarious interviews with the dedicated band of workers, not at all shy at offering opinions, memories and the occasional tall tale.

Gideon’s Army 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 85%
2013
Follows three young, committed Public Defenders who are dedicated to working for the people society would rather forget. Long hours, low pay and staggering caseloads are so common that even the most committed often give up.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi 
[IMDB] [Netflix] 85%
2011
A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, his renowned Tokyo restaurant, and his relationship with his son and eventual heir, Yoshikazu.
Beautiful, thoughtful, and engrossing, Jiro Dreams of Sushi should prove satisfying even for filmgoers who don’t care for the cuisine.

Last Train Home
2009

A couple embarks on a journey home for Chinese new year along with 130 million other migrant workers, to reunite with their children and struggle for a future. Their unseen story plays out as China soars towards being a world superpower.
Last Train Home is a haunting, vivid documentary exploring the human toll of China’s economic boom in intimate, unforgettable detail.

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