Now more than ever before, film buffs are looking for the next greatest documentary. For decades, the saying that ‘reality is stranger than fiction’ has been used to highlight stories that defy the odds—but, historically, not many people went to the theatre to watch documentaries.
The first documentary ever made was a hit. Nanuk of the North (1922), no matter how inaccurate, introduced thousands to a new form of storytelling. Like journalism, it blended creativity with facts to create a new form of educational entertainment.
Many consider the past decade to be the golden age of documentary filmmaking. What began with conspiratorial projects like Zeitgeist (2007) turned into a genuine craving for content that covered real life. Around the same time, true crime became hugely popular in the US, which helped foster interest in heavy topics that were explored through interviews and reenactments.
The diversity of topics highlights just how broad public interest is in documentaries. Aside from true crime projects, there are sports hits like Netflix’s The Last Dance or Drive to Survive, as well as biopics like Amy or Tina, which cover the lives of pop stars Amy Winehouse and Tina Turner.
In fact, they’ve proven so popular that video streaming services like Netflix continue to focus on documentary series and films. Looking to dive into a new topic that’s covered with a fine-tooth comb? Check out the Netflix documentaries listed below.
All In: The Poker Movie (2009)
When All In: The Poker Movie was released in 2009, poker was still one of the most popular forms of entertainment—from major tournament broadcasts to online play. Despite being a bit dated, All In is one of the most popular projects that covers the topic, with riveting insight from the biggest names in the industry.
Though the film had a limited release, its popularity led to a wider promotion the following spring. Not only did it include interviews from the biggest names, from Phil Hellmuth to Daniel Negreanu, but it captured their opinions just as the poker world was changing at lightning speed.
What follows is a nitty-gritty look at an industry that was experiencing unprecedented growth—and a peek into some of the minds that helped spur on a new age of gaming… some of whom took home millions in the process.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)
Though the subsequent retelling of Fred Rogers’ life, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019), starred Tom Hanks and received hit reviews, the original 2018 biopic is celebrated by critics and Mr. Rogers’ fans alike.
The project didn’t just follow Mr. Rogers’ life and successful career, but also delved deep into the philosophies that shaped his famous show and influenced millions. Producers arranged interviews with other hugely influential individuals whose careers coincided with Mr. Rogers’, including Yo-Yo Ma, David Newell, and Joe Negri.
What follows is an honest look at one of the world’s greatest heroes; at every turn, filmmakers uncover new, lesser-known information about Rogers, which highlights just how mindful and caring the social icon was.
Tell Me Who I Am (2019)
As mentioned above, interest in true crime in the late 2000s and 2010s helped foster interest in documentary storytelling. Clearly, viewers are interested not only in legalities—but also a hard-boiled mystery. Netflix delivers on the latter in Tell Me Who I Am, which explores the recovery of one man, Alex, following a serious accident that leaves him with no memory of his past.
The true story follows Alex and his twin, Marcus, who is responsible for leading his brother’s recovery. With a lack of memories, there are lots of details to fill in. However, there are key pieces of information that Marcus purposefully leaves out. The documentary is based on the 2013 book, which was co-penned by the brothers.
What follows is a heart-wrenching look at how Marcus’ decision affects both the brothers for decades after the accident—and presents an incredible question for viewers: Would you do the same?