The way we watch our favourite TV shows and movies has progressed vastly with the arrival of streaming TV. It has set a whole new standard for tuning into shows and movies, making it more accessible to a wider audience as opposed to being limited and confined to niche outlets — an example of which are documentaries.
Of course, this is all thanks to the arrival of Netflix in Australia. With it came an endless stream of options when it comes to what we can choose to watch whenever and wherever. These options include a wide range of captivating and thought-provoking docos that are categorised into different genres, and sourced from all around the world.
The Best Social & Cultural Documentaries on Netflix
With today’s current situation across the globe, social and cultural documentaries have become more relevant than ever. These docos provide substantial insight into the different ways of life all over the world, giving viewers a much wider perspective about the world that’s much bigger than what they’ve known.
From looking into living more with less to witnessing what goes on behind every captivating image by photographers, our top 8 picks for the best Netflix social and cultural docos that are sure to move and even entertain you. Check out our lineup below and start streaming on Netflix.
Following the death of a trainer, Blackfish mostly revolves around Tilikum, an orca held in captivity by SeaWorld. It follows Tilikum’s journey from his capture in the waters of Iceland back in 1983 to the purported harassment by fellow captive orcas, which the doco says contributed to his aggression in relation to the deaths of three individuals. Not only does it feature interviews from both sides of the pond, but it also shows footage of attacks on trainers by Tilikum and other captive whales.
2. Planet Earth II
A sequel to Planet Earth, Planet Earth II has been hailed as one of the greatest nature TV documentaries to date. It features six episodes narrated by Sir David Attenborough with the main theme composed by Hans Zimmer. Throughout the six episodes, this doco showcases different landforms that include islands, mountains, jungles, deserts, grasslands, and cities. Compared to its predecessor, Planet Earth II makes use of new technologies, allowing more intimate shots in ultra high definition.
3. The Blue Planet
Also narrated by Sir David Attenborough, The Blue Planet is described as “the first ever comprehensive series on the natural history of the world’s oceans.” It features eight 50-minute episodes, which focuses and examines a different aspect of marine life — from corals to tides, to the very deep, and beyond. This documentary tries to unearth more of ocean life, which mostly remains a true mystery to humankind.
Focusing on various forms life on earth, Life examines how these living things have evolved through time, continuously adapting and developing to survive on this planet. Narrated by David Attenborough, Life consists of ten 50-minute episodes that feature major animal groups including reptiles and amphibians, mammals, fish, birds, insects, and many more. It’s one of the pioneering nature and wildlife documentaries that enabled producers to explore more ambitious filming styles, resulting to sequences that have never been shown before.
Showcasing a more human portrait of man’s best friend, Dogs is a heartwarming documentary featuring six intimate stories exploring the inimitable bond between dogs and their “humans” regardless of their circumstances. From being a steadfast companion to a man’s everyday work to being rescued from a war-torn country, Dogs highlight exactly how people’s live can be heavily influenced and changed once a pup enters their lives.
6. Human Planet
Focusing on human life, Human Planet is an eight-part documentary series that examines the relationship of human species with the natural world and how we’re able to adapt and survive living in every environment on earth. Each episode features a vastly different human-inhabited environment, which includes deserts, jungles, mountains, rivers, and even the Arctic.
7. Planet Earth
Planet Earth is among the most watched and highly regarded documentaries on nature and wildlife. Five years in the making, this doco series features eleven 50-minute episodes focusing on a specific biome or habitat on earth. These include caves, deserts, the Arctic, mountains, and many others. Interestingly, each episode also shows a short featurette that gives viewers an insiders’ look into the behind-the-scenes of filming in these remote and exotic places on the planet.
Virunga is a moving documentary film directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, which focuses on the conservation work done in Congo’s Virunga National Park. It also features the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012, as well as the investigation of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site — and how it ultimately affects the work done by park rangers to protect mountain gorillas from war, poaching, and threat of oil exploration.
Stream the Best Docos Now on Netflix!
Netflix is home to an extensive library of content, which includes some of the most moving and captivating documentaries ever made. Best part is how you can find them all in one convenient place, and with new docos and other TV shows being added every month! Make sure to check back in as we change up the list from time to time as new docos come in from Netflix.