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The 10 most incredible documentaries on Netflix


While there''s a often joy in watching heavily tanned movie stars crashing cars into robots or aliens or meteors or whatever, the compelling truths offered by a fantastic documentary are hard to beat.

Netflix has a boatload of unmissable docs and we've gone through the entire UK catalogue to find the 10 most thought-provoking examples.

(Images: All Star, Rex Features)

Jesus Camp

The indoctrination of American children gets an often disturbing examination in this reactive film which sparked controversy upon release. It's a look at the "Kids On Fire School of Ministry", a Christian camp where children are taught about religion with a more fundamentalist edge, referring to other religions as "the enemy". It's scary stuff, especially given the age of the children involved and reaction was so negative after the film hit that the real camp was closed down.

Watch it here


The Queen of Versailles

This fascinating portrait of American excess focuses on a character that could have easily been belittled and exploited by a less skilled filmmaker and instead, digs deep to find the humanity. Jackie Siegel is a vivacious woman married to a rich older man who finds her life of shopping, beauty treatments and over-indulgence rocked when the recession hits. It's incredibly funny yet never cruel and while the riches to rags trajectory is hardly going to have you weeping for their loss, it's still a refreshingly compassionate film.

Watch it here


The Bridge

A filmmaker decided to record the happenings on the Golden Gate Bridge for one year. On average, one person every 15 days turned up to commit suicide. This bleak film shares some of the harrowing footage, as well as fleshed out portraits of the jumpers, with their relatives and friends heping to provide more context and character to the tragic deaths. It's a disturbing film that offended some with its morbidity but it possesses an undeniable power.

Watch it here


Stories We Tell

Actress Sarah Polley, best known for Dawn of the Dead and Go, has also impressed as a director with the vastly different yet equally compelling films Away From Her and Take This Waltz but arguably her most acclaimed picture to date was this foray into non-fiction. A moving and insightful documentary about Polley's family, its charm and power are amplified by the deeply personal nature. What Polley unearths doesn't just affect us but it affects her and what how she perceives her family.

Watch it here


The Square

The first Netflix original documentary to score an Oscar nomination, for best doc, never fails to be utterly compelling from start to finish. It centres on the Egyptian revolution and, clue's in the title, on Tahrir Square in particular. If you come in slightly uninformed on the situation then you'll leave feeling totally enlightened on exactly what's happening but you'll also be rather humbled. The bleakness of the conflict is countered by the inspirational bravery of some of the people involved and you won't fail to be moved.

Watch it here


Chasing Ice

An incredibly important film here, especially for anyone still blissfully ignorant about the effect of climate change. National Geographic photographer James Balog has created a shocking multi-year record of how global warming has affected glaciers and the effect that it could have on the world in general. It's a hauntingly shot film which veers between beauty and terror and will easily convince any sceptics.

Watch it here


Hoop Dreams

Arguably the greatest sports documentary ever made and quite possibly one of the greatest documentaries period, Hoop Dreams is absolutely essential viewing. Filmed over eight years, it follows the hopes and dreams of two aspiring basketball players in inner city Chicago. Touching upon notions of race, class, education and the power of sport to transcend these issues, it's both a touching and unflinching expose of Nineties America.

Watch it here


The House I Live In

Eugene Jarecki, best known for the powerful doc Why We Fight, excelled himself with his most recent offering, an often enraging and always enthralling look at America's "War on Drugs". Jarecki looks at the addicts who've been treated like violent criminals, the families they've left behind and the schoolyards which are still plagued with problems. It's a shocking film that shines a light on a system riddled with major faults and works beautifully as a passionate yet controlled slice of warranted anger.

Watch it here


More Than Honey

While this Swiss documentary doesn't aim to answer the question of what's happened to all the bees, it does offer an illuminating look at their fascinating social structure and rigid work schedule. It also highlights the importance of the relationship between bees and mankind and focuses on a small family of beekeepers who become the supporting cast of the film, after the scene-stealing bees of course. Beautifully filmed and refreshingly laidback, it was deservedly nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Watch it here


Waiting For Superman

This hugely powerful look at the American school system comes from director Davis Guggenheim, who's no stranger to creating important thought-provoking docs after also being behind An Inconvenient Truth, the Oscar-winning look at global warming. Although the film might be tailor-made for a US audience, the importance of children having access to a proper education is a universal theme and this is important viewing for many, regardless of their nationality or involvement in education.

Watch it here



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