If you're a fan of documentaries but crave more than their standard 90-minute movie format, you'll enjoy watching documentary series or docuseries for short. Some stories are so compelling that they require several episodes to tell the whole story of the subject. Find here the most addictive Netflix docuseries to keep viewers binging into the night.
1. Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey
This limited series features the secretive Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), their teachings, and polygamist rituals. It starts with the reign of Rulon Jeffs, the self-proclaimed prophet of the group, and details the awful practice of arranging marriages between underage girls and much older men from the perspective of former wives who escaped the cult. The episodes also chronicle the rise and fall of Rulon's son, Warren Jeffs, currently serving a life sentence for child sexual assault.
2. The Pharmacist
When a pharmacist's only son is killed during a drug deal gone wrong, he begins an uphill climb to find and identify his son's killer. Complicating matters, the New Orleans Police Department refuses to take his son's case seriously, initially dismissing it. After bringing his son's killer to justice, he became an activist working to stem the opioid crisis devastating his community.
3. Meltdown: Three Mile Island
In 1979, a nuclear power plant in a small Pennsylvania town experienced a significant malfunction and leak. The authorities in charge of the response downplayed the incident, falsely reassuring residents living near the facility that they contained the leak. The botched recommendation to partially evacuate residents instead of issuing a blanket evacuation order created panic within the community.
4. American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing
On April 15, 2013, close to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two homemade pressure cooker explosive devices detonated, killing three spectators and injuring hundreds more. Law enforcement officials involved in the search, victims who survived the attack, and witnesses to the events from that fateful day describe the extensive search for the perpetrators from their viewpoints
5. MH 370: The Plane That Disappeared
On March 6, 2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport with an intended destination to China's Beijing Capital International Airport. Less than ninety minutes after takeoff, the plane disappeared off flight radar. To this day, there's no trace of the missing plane. Almost a decade later, the search for answers continues.
6. Challenger: The Final Flight
Told from the points of view of various people involved with the doomed Challenger space shuttle mission, including family members of the crew, this docuseries reveals the events leading up to the January 28, 1986, disaster and its aftermath. The series doesn't flinch from how NASA's rushing of the first teacher in space mission led to an avoidable tragedy.
7. Life On Our Planet
Morgan Freeman tells the history of life on Earth over the last four billion years, accompanied by stunningly gorgeous visuals. The evolution of the various life forms on this planet unfolds in a linear progression, describing the dominant and lesser species of each era and the significant events that determined which species occupied the top of the food chain.
8. The Keepers
The unsolved murder of a young Catholic nun in Baltimore leads to the revelation of a terrible secret kept at the school she taught at – the widespread abuse of students at the former Archbishop Keough High School, an all-girls school. Survivors, investigators, and others affected by the tragedies recall the haunting events surrounding the murder and abuse scandal. The Keepers, which arrived fairly early in the days of streaming original series, helped cement the streamer's reputation for breathtaking Netflix docuseries.
9. Our Universe
The great Morgan Freeman once again narrates the companion series to Life On Our Planet. This time, the series centers on telling the incredible story of the universe over millennia and its undeniable connection to life on Earth. Seeing the relationship between the cosmos and wildlife in the Serengeti, Alaska, and the seas makes for an incredible visual journey.
10. Trial by Media: The Truth Behind the Crimes
Justice is supposedly impartial to anyone facing trial. However, intense media coverage of some cases may have directly influenced the verdicts, bringing that concept of fairness into question. Several high-profile cases, such as The Jenny Jones Show murder, the police killing of Amadou Diallo, and the criminal trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, are examined to determine if and how media coverage potentially swayed their outcomes.
11. Sins of Our Mother
The unexplained disappearance of a teenage girl and her younger brother and the desperate search to find them safely lead investigators to uncover other tragedies shrouded in mystery. The radical doomsday beliefs of Chad and Lori Vallow Daybell and the suspicious deaths of people within their circle are on display in this series.
People don't typically think about the source and production of the food they buy, eat, and serve to their families. Rotten examines the rampant corruption of corporations in the international food supply chain and how governments with the ability to intervene often do very little, if anything, in terms of enforcement and regulation.
13. Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal
For generations, the Murdaughs were one of the most prominent and influential families in Colleton County, South Carolina. Their fall from grace began in February 2019 when a young woman died in an alcohol-related boating accident caused by one of the Murdaugh sons. Two other mysterious deaths and a brutal double homicide, all connected to the family, are the catalysts for the destruction of a Southern dynasty.
14. Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives
The four-part Netflix docuseries depicts the bizarre saga surrounding Sarma Melngailis, a successful vegan raw food restaurant owner and businesswoman. Melngailis met and eventually married a man she met online, Anthony Strangis. He convinced her to embezzle $2 million from her business to give to him before both went on the run from the law. It's a fascinating and disturbing look into how easily Melngailis fell prey to a master manipulator.
15. Waco: American Apocalypse
Thirty years after the 51-day-long standoff between federal law enforcement agencies and the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh, former cult members, law enforcement, and journalists who were there discuss the events leading up to the deadly confrontation. The docuseries highlights the multiple mistakes that were made during the siege, resulting in the deaths of four federal agents and more than 80 Branch Davidians, including children.
When OxyContin entered the pharmaceutical market, it was a medical miracle that would ease the suffering of people with chronic pain. Instead, the drug kicked off the opioid crisis that the U.S. grapples with even today. The series exposes the predatory drug marketing by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family's relentless push for profits.
17. Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street
The meteoric rise and epic fall of supposed genius financier Bernie Madoff center this true crime series. It starts with Madoff's arrest, then details his early life growing up in an impoverished family, which directly correlated with his resolve to improve his station in life. It's a compelling look into his transformation from a successful stock trader to the person responsible for the largest Ponzi scheme in history.
18. Escaping Twin Flames
Shaleia and Jeff Divine founded the Twin Flames Universe (TFU) in 2014 and promoted it through a series of New Age-style YouTube videos and an online course. Within a few years, they founded a church and started a business to treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD Some of its former members paint TFU as a cult that exercises control over its members with brainwashing, threats, and abuse. This Nextflix docuseries has a twist that will leave even the most unflappable viewer gasping.
This riveting documentary series explores the connection between climate change and the yearly increased number of natural disasters. Tornados, volcanoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes each have dedicated episodes. The threats from these natural phenomena are told from the points of view of survivors who lived through them, rescue personnel, and storm chasers in different parts of the world.
20. Don't Pick Up the Phone
An unknown person called fast food restaurants around the U.S. masquerading as a member of law enforcement. The callee leveraged that authority to convince the managers to perform illegal and invasive searches of their younger female employees falsely accused of stealing. The managers who obeyed these false directives faced legal consequences for their actions, but a years-long search was on for the caller instigating the assaults.
21. Aftershock: Everest and the Nepal Earthquake
As the highest mountain peak in the world, climbers dream of climbing Mount Everest, the ultimate challenge for mountain climbers worldwide. Everest already poses its share of challenges, such as extreme cold, oxygen deficiency, and avalanches. The avalanche risk became a horrifying reality in April 2015 when a deadly earthquake in Nepal triggered one, killing multiple climbers.
If you want to believe that life exists elsewhere besides Earth, you'll like Encounters. This compilation of witnesses claiming to have seen UFOs over the last five decades and interviews from subject matter experts makes viewers, even diehard skeptics, wonder if extraterrestrials exist and if they'll ever have a close encounter of their own.
23. Flavorful Origins
The American version of Chinese food is delicious on its own. However, it's a far cry from the culinary delights found in mainland China. Each episode centers on either an authentic Chinese dish or the use of a specific ingredient in a recipe. Every episode of this program comes across as a visual treat. Viewers can practically smell and taste the food through the screen.
24. Get Gotti
The story of the ascent of the infamous New York mob boss John Gotti, also known as the Teflon Don and the Dapper Don, progresses from the points of view of the Mafia and law enforcement. Gotti's exploits, from the suspicion of him ordering the assassination of his predecessor to his trial acquittals and eventual conviction, are revealed over three episodes.
25. The Family
Washington, D.C., has many power brokers, including politicians, lobbyists, and the politically connected. One of the most politically influential groups, a secretive group known as the Family or the Fellowship, wields great power up to the highest levels of government. To understand their dominance in D.C., the Christian conservative organization hosts the annual National Prayer Breakfast, an event that past and current presidents attend.