We love documentaries. Too often seen as the intellectual nerd of the film world, documentaries have been getting wedgies from the spy and superhero flicks for too long. Not on our watch! Documentaries have a mesmerizing power to open minds to new ideas and fresh ways of viewing the familiar. While their subject matter falls under non-fiction, the range of emotions and ideas they explore are as wide—or perhaps even wider—than film fiction. To get you started, here are five documentaries worth watching on Netflix right now. Tell the superdudes to take the night off.
Bill Cunningham New York follows Bill Cunningham, the acclaimed yet inconspicuous New York City fashion-photographer, as he rides his bicycle through the streets of the city with his camera. Bill is known as a trend spotter and decades has taken pictures of the styles that catch his eye on the city streets. The documentary is humorous and moving—it’s impossible not to love Bill after you see this film.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau doesn’t require viewing of 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau or any knowledge about the difficulty of its production. This documentary is about much more than a failed attempt at a Marlon Brando-backed Hollywood blockbuster. It’s about creativity, failure and what corporate machines do to both support and destroy artistic vision. The twisting narrative of this film ends up feeling much like H.G. Well’s protagonist, Edward Prendick, in the original Moreau—it begins adrift and ends with monsters at every turn. Everything about this film is absolutely fascinating, from the frequent stories detailing Val Kilmer’s monumental ego to the personal deconstruction of the enigmatic Richard Stanley by his former cast and crew.
I Know That Voice is like a key to a fabulous clubhouse where all your favorite cartoon characters live and party. This may be the most outrageously creative and hilarious group of people ever collected — from legends like June Foray (Rocky & Bullwinkle—and still working at 97!) to beloved childhood voices Rob Paulsen (Pinky and the Brain), Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants), Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons), Kevin Conroy (animated Batman), John DiMaggio (Futurama), this documentary puts faces to voices and takes us inside the delightfully twisted minds of this tight-knit community.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi follows Jiro Ono, the master of all sushi masters who has been proclaimed a national treasure in Japan, and his tiny restaurant at a subway stop in Tokyo. His artistry, drive for perfection and dilemma about his choice of successor drive this documentary as his two sons try to emerge from a giant shadow and yet honor Jiro’s legacy.
No Place on Earth is an incredible untold story of survival and human perseverance. It reveals how 38 Jewish refugees hid from the Nazis in a Ukrainian cave for 18 months. To see some of the survivors return to the cave decades later to thank it for its protection and recall the good times playing as children, despite everything, is inspiring.