The Best Documentaries on Netflix (UK)

From killer whales and dinosaurs to Banksy and Cobain, UK Netflix has a lot of treasure in its documentary vaults.
1. Blackfish (2013)

A damning exposé of SeaWorld and those who sail within her, Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s documentary focuses on killer whale, Tilikum. Dragging trainer Dawn Brancheau into a pool and killing her (after two previous, similar incidents), the ‘nature or nurture’ question is given some serious heft - was the floppy-finned, 12,000 pound Tilikum born a killer, or is his cramped captivity to blame? It’s not hard to see why thousands felt the need to boycott SeaWorld upon the film’s release.
Read Empire’s review here.

2. Cobain: Montage Of Heck (2015)
Illustrations, voice recordings and personal photos are just part of the fabric that forms Brett Morgen’s documentary. From troubled youth to tortured teen to rock idol, Morgen keeps things intimate, focusing much more on the man than the icon. Executive produced by Kurt’s daughter Frances Bean, we are given access to unheard songs and even anecdotes from girlfriends pre-Courtney. Dave Grohl may be missing, but Cobain’s parents, sister and Krist Novoselic are all very much front and centre, making this an absolute must-watch for anyone with even the slightest interest in the Nirvana frontman.
Read Empire’s review here.

3. Exit Through The Gift Shop (2010)
The Keyser Söze of street art, Banksy remains a pretty mercurial presence in a documentary that’s ostensibly about another creative type, wannabe documentary maker Thierry Guetta, and his efforts to track down – you guessed it – Banksy. Considering Banksy is behind the film itself, this shouldn’t be too hard, but therein lies the rub. Imagine Labyrinth directed by the Goblin King himself. Is it a mockumentary? A serious statement on modern art? An elaborate April fool? Whatever it is, it’s an edgy doc worth revisiting.
Read Empire’s review here.

4. Catfish (2010)
If you come to this hoping for whiskery river fish, you’ll be disappointed. There aren’t any. But if you’re looking for a bumpy ride through the minefield that is modern online interaction, Catfish will hit the spot. New York photographer Nev Schulman meets and bonds with an eight-year-old artist, Abby Pierce, via Facebook. From there, he falls for Abby's older half-sister, Megan, over the same medium, only to find her suspiciously reluctant to meet. It turns out she’s not quite who she claims to be. But is he being played or are we?
Read Empire’s review here.

5. The Look Of Silence (2014)
If you’ve not seen 2012’s The Act Of Killing, return to this when you have. Seen it now? Good. Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to his critically-lauded and genuinely harrowing documentary is just as acclaimed and just as painful. This time Oppenheimer’s focus turns to a specific family who were affected by the 1965 Indonesian communist genocide and now live their life in silence. Not for the easily upset.
Read Empire’s review here.

6. West Of Memphis (2012)
Aided and abetted by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh under their WingNut Films marque, this stunning documentary sets about righting some pretty grevious wrongs. The title refers to teenagers Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., who were convicted of murdering three children in 1993. Wrongly, as Amy J. Berg's doc establishes, as it shows up one miscarriage of justice after another. One of very few docs to garner five Empire stars and richly deserving of them all.
Read Empire’s review here.

7. Nas: Time Is Illmatic (2014)
"Life’s a bitch and then you die,” rapped Nas on his 1994 recordIllmatic. The hip-hop icon might not have been so gloomy if they'd had Netflix back in 1994 – not with docs like this fan-pleasing homage to a classic LP to enjoy. It’s also an engaging origin story for Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, a nuggety young rapper who emerged with remarkable self-assurance from the projects of Queens to conquer the Billboard chart.
Read Empire's review here.

8. The Queen Of Versailles (2012)
One of those stories that feels too far-fetched to be anything other than true, this modern-day fable is Citizen Kane by way of The Big Short. Greed, hubris and epic delusions of grandeur collide with the economic downturn as Jackie Seigel tries to create a vast Xanadu in the Florida swamplands and ends up with the world's biggest ruin instead. As the Seigels survey their broken down behemoth and try to derive some meaning from a life that's deprived them of the three indoor swimming pools and two bowling alleys they'd planned, it's hard to know whether to laugh, cry or send money.
Read Empire’s review here.

9. The Square (2013)
Netflix's first ever Oscar nominee, The Square peels back the news headlines and TV reportage to document the human side of 2011's Arab Spring in Cairo's Tahrir Square. It's as hard-hitting and visceral as you'd expect from footage recorded by the young revolutionaries protesting against Hosni Mubarak. It's an enthralling front row seat in these young people's battle to topple a corrupt and decaying regime.
Read Empire’s review here.

10. The Central Park Five (2012)
Ken Burns – rightly acclaimed as a master documentarian for his work on landmark PBS films like The Civil War and Prohibition – here turns his focus to more recent history. In 1989, a female jogger in New York City’s Central Park was assaulted and raped. The mass public outrage that followed, fuelled by the press, led to five black teenangers being wrongly convicted. Burns explores mob mentality and an inflammatory media at a turbulent time in New York’s history; his film led to the city settling with the defendants for $41m.


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