Recent mini-series such as Netflix’s hits “Tiger King” and “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich” are good examples of the old adage that truth can be stranger than fiction. By revealing to audiences unknown and likely shocking aspects of the world we live in, these shows have become some of the most popular television content of the past year, inspiring binge-watching aplenty during this age of coronavirus lockdowns.
These shows are far from the first documentaries to provide exceptional entertainment. And while presenting facts is an essential aspect of documentaries, the greatest of the genre also have compelling narratives and, in certain cases, dabble in sensationalism.
24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of 24 mind-blowing documentaries — some films, some series — that are available on streaming platforms right now based on user and critic ratings on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Rotten Tomatoes, as well as knowledge of individual works. Streaming availability has been determined using data from JustWatch.
Many of the most gripping documentaries deal with crime. Others explore aspects of the natural world the average person is unfamiliar with. Some take on issues of a more political nature, digging deeply to educate audiences. The movies on this list could fit each category. All of them offer something special — be it a shocking twist or an unbelievable subject.
For readers more interested in purely fictional works, these are the 100 best movies of all time.
To determine the best mind-blowing documentaries available to stream, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on each film or series’ Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film or series needed to be categorized as “documentary” by IMDb, have at least 5,000 user ratings on IMDb, and at least 10 Rotten Tomatoes critic reviews.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating. Editorial discretion was used to remove titles that were deemed insufficiently surprising and to add certain titles that were considered essential viewing.
Each film and series was available for streaming on at least one platform as of June 29, 2020, based on data from website JustWatch.