Top 29 Best Documentary Films on Netflix Of All Time

By Marc Miller
Published: January 30, 2023 (Last updated: January 3, 2024)

Please bookmark this page as we celebrate and list what is deemed the Top 29 Highest Rated and Best Netflix Documentary Films of All Time.

Documentary films are by far the most underappreciated film genre on the planet. They have the ability to not just educate but move you in ways you never expected, even expose you to a world you may have never known existed or experienced. So, it’s only right that the world’s biggest original streaming content provider on the planet gets its very original and very best documentary film list. One that accounts for every original Netflix documentary ever to stream, and we rank based on objective recognition.

At Ready Steady Cut, we are constantly challenged to find the best original Netflix documentary films. If you are still deciding what to watch next, bookmark this page as we list what is deemed the Best, Highest Rated Netflix documentary films of All Time. We’ve used Rotten Tomatoes as the benchmark, but we will also share the IMDB rating to give you a sense of difference in objectivity. On top of this, if we have reviewed it on our site, we will also share the review with you. 

We will update this page every two months so audiences can keep up to date on the latest best, and most popular Netflix shows as part of their subscription.

Last Update: May 8th, 2023.

The Top 29 Highest-Rated Netflix Documentary Films of All Time

29. The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker (2023)

I remember the news stories of The Hatchet Wielding Hitchhiker, but this documentary exposes the man behind the clickbait trappings. A “wild and sad story” that has to be seen to be believed.

Official Premise:  

“This shocking documentary chronicles a happy-go-lucky nomad’s ascent to viral stardom and the steep downward spiral that resulted in his imprisonment.”

Director: Colette Camden

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92% (12 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 6.2/10

28. American Factory (2019)

“Barack and Michelle Obama’s first-ever produced film, American Factory, is wonderfully insightful, showing two opposing worlds in the same industry.”

Official Premise: 

“In post-industrial Ohio, a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America.”

Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95% (94 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

27. Girl in the Picture (2022)

Girl in the Picture will satisfy true crimes fans’ fix for real-life mysteries, but this time the victim’s tragedy and despair are more haunting than most.”

Official Premise: 

“A young mother’s mysterious death and her son’s subsequent kidnapping open a decades-long mystery.”

Director: Sky Borgman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96% (23 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

26. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet (2020)

The New York Times’s film critic Natalia Winkelman proclaims, “The film’s grand achievement is that it positions its subject as a mediator between humans and the natural world.”

Official Premise:  

“In his 93 years, Attenborough has visited every continent on the globe, exploring the wild places of the planet and documenting the living world in all its variety and wonder. But during his lifetime, Attenborough has also seen first-hand the monumental scale of humanity’s impact on nature.”

Director: Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes, Keith Scholey

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96% (23 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 8.9/10

25. 13th (2018)

Here at Ready Steady Cut, we said, “This documentary explores the inherent racism that’s been woven into America’s history to present day. America is 5% of the world’s population but has 25% of the world’s prisoners. Known as the land of the free, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. This documentary explores the implications of social exclusion on a person due to their ancestry. They go through each decade step by step.”

Official Premise: 

“Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans/”

Director: Ava DuVernay

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (108 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 8.2/10

24. The Tinder Swindler (2021)

“At two hours long, this documentary film is a great watch.”

Official Premise: 

“A group of women who were the victims of a dating app-based swindler join together in an attempt to hunt him down and recover the millions of dollars that were stolen from them.”

Director: Felicity Morris

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (31 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

23. The Edge of Democracy (2019)

“Netflix documentary The Edge of Democracy is a dense, deep-rooted documentary offering insight into Brazil’s recent political history.”

Official Premise: 

“The beleaguered leaders of Brazil are followed as they deal with their ideologically divided country.”

Director: Petra Costa

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (36 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

22. Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

“Netflix’s Tell Me Who I Am is a well-made, dark, tragic, and often painful-to-watch documentary. A must-watch of 2019, and one that is handled with care.

Official Premise: 

“When Alex loses his memory after a serious motorcycle accident, he trusts his twin Marcus to tell him about his past, but he later discovers that Marcus is hiding a dark family secret.”

Director: Ed Perkkns

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (37 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.6/10

20. “Sr.” (2022)

“A film about the connections between family, art, and everything in between, “Sr.” is not just a celebration of a nonconformist filmmaker’s punk rock rebellion and “go f*ck yourself” attitude, but how the man and his maverick offspring saved their own lives by moving forward, never back.”

Official Premise: 

“Robert Downey Jr. pays tribute to his late father in this documentary chronicling the life and eclectic career of pioneering filmmaker Robert Downey Sr.”

Director: Robert Downey, Jr.

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 97% (58 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

19. Lewis Capaldi: How I’m Feeling Now (2023)

The London Evening Standard says, “Capaldi has never been one to shy away from his emotions in his songs, but his openness in this raw and unflinching documentary is a step beyond that, both brave and inspiring..”

Official Premise:  

“This intimate, all-access documentary chronicles Lewis Capaldi’s journey from a scrappy teen with a viral performance to a Grammy-nominated pop star.”

Director: Joe Pearlman

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (9 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

18. Pamela, a Love Story (2023)

Pamela, a Love Story may be the first film that will have feminists and male chauvinist pigs unite in defense of the most celebrated blonde bomb shells since Marylyn Monroe. Here at Ready Steady Cut, we called director Ryan White’s film “unflinching and painfully human.”

Official Premise:  

“Follows the life of pop culture icon Pamela Anderson, including never-before-seen archival footage and personal journals.”

Director: Ryan White

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (45 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

17. Procession (2021)

Guy Lodge of Variety says, “Robert Greene’s signature mode of performance-based documentary finds potent purpose in this shattering study of six abuse survivors processing their pain through art.”

Official Premise: 

“Six men who suffered sexual abuse by Catholic priests band together to become a makeshift family, and find empowerment by creating fictional scenes depicting rituals of power in the church.”

Director: Robert Greene

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (46 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.2/10

16. A Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce (2019)

Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé is a comprehensive and impactful portrait of a cultural icon making history.”

Official Premise: 

“This intimate, in-depth look at Beyoncé’s celebrated 2018 Coachella performance reveals the emotional road from creative concept to cultural movement.”

Director:Beyonce, Ed Burke

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (57 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.5 /10

15. Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen

Empire Magazine’s Ben Travis proclaims Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, “A captivating and comprehensive overview of trans representations in the media that everyone should add to their Netflix watchlist.”

Official Premise: 

“Examining Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people and the impact it’s left on both the transgender community and American culture.”

Director: Sam Feder

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (59 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10

14. Circus of Books (2019)

“At the heart of Circus of Books is a fascinating lens through which to view America’s changing relationship with the LGBTQ+ community, with the central family acting as a surrogate for ‘straight’ America. With a bit more polishing one feels as though that story could be told more strongly, nevertheless this is a charming doc with a valuable and important story to tell.”

Official Premise: 

“A couple takes over a Los Angeles adult book store in 1976, and it becomes the biggest distributor of gay porn in the United States.”

Director: Rachel Mason

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98% (59 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

13. Shirkers (2018)

“This is a strange, moving, often hopeful, and sometimes crushing documentary that tells a story as surreal as any presented on-screen this year. The tragedy of it is that in its bizarre excellence, it represents a talent that presumably the original, stolen version would have contained a raw and unrefined version of; the kind of film that any cinephile would love to see and champion and preserve.

Official Premise: 

“In 1992 teenager Sandi Tan shoots Singapore’s first road movie with her enigmatic American mentor, Georges, who then absconded with all of the footage. The 16 mm film is recovered 20 years later, sending Tan, who is now a novelist living in Los Angeles, on a personal odyssey in search of Georges’ footprints.”

Director: Sandi Tan

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99% (72 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

12. Dick Johnson is Dead (2020)

Kirsten Johnson’s documentary film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance while also winning the prestigious U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award, Dick Johnson is Dead was nominated for over 50 film Society’s list for best documentary film.

Official Premise: 

“As her father nears the end of his life, filmmaker Kirsten Johnson stages his death in inventive and comical ways to help them both face the inevitable.”

Director: Kirsten Johnson

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99% (99 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.4/10

11. Knock Down the House (2019)

Knock Down the House showcases the mountains grassroots politicians were up against in the 2018 U.S Congressional Election.”

Official Premise: 

“A young bartender in the Bronx, a coal miner’s daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada, and a registered nurse in Missouri build a movement of insurgent candidates to challenge powerful incumbents in Congress. One of their races will become the most shocking political upsets in recent American history.”

Director: Rachel Lears

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 99% (108 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

10. Recovery Boys (2018)

Film critic M.N. Miller says, “Elaine McMillion Sheldon’s film is authentic, unyielding in its focus, honest to a fault, and offers outcomes never on solid ground. It may not be an entertaining 90 minutes, but it’s a work of uncompromising art because of how real it is. It’s close to a masterpiece.”

Official Premise: 

“Four men support each other as they try to rebuild their lives and mend their broken relationships after years of addiction and drug abuse.”

Director: Elaine McMillion Sheldon

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (11 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 6.7/10

9. Stutz (2022)

“A calming and poignant documentary that in itself is a humorous, vulnerable, and ultimately therapeutic experience.”

Official Premise: 

“In candid conversations with actor Jonah Hill, leading psychiatrist Phil Stutz explores his early life experiences and unique, visual model of therapy.”

Director: Jonah Hill

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (22 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

8. The Bleeding Edge (2018)

“The line that struck me most from Kirby Dick’s damning documentary about big medical is when it comes down to medicine or marketing. The latter wins every time. We are the guinea pigs, and the FDA doesn’t have our backs. You’ve been warned

Official Premise: 

“Filmmaker Kirby Dick examines the $400 billion medical device industry and the profit-driven mindset that rushes implanted devices into the marketplace with proper clinical trials.”

Director: Kirby Dick

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (21 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 6.5/10

7. Chasing Coral (2017)

This Netflix Nature documentary was nominated for 18 awards, including a Critics Choice Award for Best Documentary, winner of the News & Documentary Emmy Award for Best Documentary, and the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Documentary.

Official Premise: 

“Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. Divers, photographers, and scientists set out on an ocean adventure to discover why the reefs are disappearing and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.”

Director: Jeff Orlowski

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (32 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 8.1/10

6. Is That Black Enough for You? (2022)

Is That Black Enough for You?!? is something that should be viewed by anyone that loves film. You show up to understand the history of Black cinema. But stay for the stories told by the men and women who lived it—a brilliant can’t-miss documentary.”

Official Premise: 

“Film critic Elvis Mitchell examines the craft and power of African American films released from the landmark era of the 1970s.”

Director: Elvis Mitchell

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (40 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.3/10

5. Strong Island (2017)

“In all its glory, Strong Island is as intimate as documentaries get. I was initially taken aback. Many documentaries have an emotional outlet from someone, but this speech delivers something more raw than usual. I could feel the pain.

Official Premise: 

“When filmmaker Yance Ford investigates the 1992 murder of a young black man, it becomes an achingly personal journey since the victim, 24-year-old William Ford Jr., was the filmmaker’s brother.”

Director: Yance Ford

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (48 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 6.4/10

4. A Secret Love (2020)

Sneakily powerful revelations are in how despite this, Donahue and Henschel have lived full lives, often independently and in secret, but nonetheless in a rich and fulfilling way. – Jonathan Wilson, Ready Steady Cut

Official Premise: 

“Amid shifting times, a former baseball player keeps her lesbian relationship a secret from her family for seven decades.”

Director: Chris Bolan

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (69 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.8/10

3. Athlete A (2020)

Athlete A is insightful and upsetting at the same time and it’s difficult not to wonder how many other organizations out there have the same, silent, systematic problem.”

Official Premise:

“Reporters from The Indianapolis Star expose the toxic culture inside USA Gymnastics as the truth about Dr. Larry Nassar sexually abusing young gymnasts comes out.”

Director: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (60 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10

2. Descendant (2022)

“Margaret Brown’s film is equally fascinating as it is riveting, Descendant is an extraordinary documentary about oral histories, gatekeeping, and community. Margaret Brown’s film is like no other.”

Official Premise: 

“Descendants of the survivors from the Clotilda celebrate their heritage and take command of their legacy, as the discovery of the remains of the last-known slave ship to arrive in the United States offers them a tangible link to their ancestors.”

Director: Margaret Brown

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (69 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.1/10

1. Crip Camp (2020)

“Netflix documentary film Crip Camp is infectious and inspiring, showing a grandstanding moment in history for the disability community in the USA.”

Official Premise: 

“A groundbreaking summer camp for teens with disabilities proves so inspiring that a group of its alumni join the radical disability rights movement to advocate for historic legislation changes.”

Director: James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100% (100 reviews)

IMDB Rating: 7.7/10

And that completes our Top 29 Highest Rated and Best Netflix Documentary Films of All Time list. What’s your favorite Documentary Film on Netflix? Comment below.

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