Learn more about the world we live in: The best documentaries on Netflix right now

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Photo by Clara Moss

Clara Moss, Social Media Editor

With the amount of time spent in school and on homework increasing, reading a book or articles can take too much brain power. Documentaries, however, are a more relaxed way to learn about the world around us. From specific instances to a bigger picture, the documentaries on this list are a wonderful way to get informed.
“13th,” directed by Ava DuVernay, is the most important and well-done documentary on Netflix. This movie discusses racial institutions and inequality in the United States, with a focus on prisons and mass incarceration.
Scholars, activists and politicians take an in-depth look at how slavery evolved into the prison system, talking about instances that helped further this change, such as Jim Crow laws and the war on drugs. Not only does this movie lead a vital conversation, it also includes different historic clips and uses amazing camera work to create a captivating documentary.
Michelle Alexander, a writer and author, says this in the documentary: “And so it seems that in America we haven’t so much ended racial caste, but simply redesigned it.”
“American Murder: The Family Next Door” is perfect for fans of true crime. The hour and twenty-three minute long movie tells the story regarding the disappearance of mother Shanann Watts and her two daughters, Bella and Celeste.
Using videos from Facebook and text messages to her friends, viewers get a glimpse into Shanann’s life and possible explanations for her disappearance. The audience will be taken through the different twists and turns of the investigation before learning what happens to the family at the end.
“Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story” informs viewers about Cyntoia Brown, a teenage girl convicted of killing Johnny Michael Allen in 2004. Conducted in chronological order, viewers are taken through Brown’s conviction, transfer to adult prison and how her case is resolved. Brown’s family and lawyers are interviewed, and footage of the court proceeding is shown to create the full story for the audience. This is a really interesting look at the criminal justice system and how it impacts young people.
“Diana: In Her Own Words” covers personal recordings of Princess Diana revealing the truth about her life and relationship with Prince Charles, making statements such as “I felt I was a lamb to the slaughter. And I knew it.”
Even if you aren’t interested in the royal family or history in general, this movie is very intriguing and illuminates the very interesting and emotional life of Princess Diana. News clips and press photos are displayed while the audio of the interview plays in the background, making for a unique and dynamic documentary that viewers won’t be able to look away from. There are mentions of eating disorders and suicide, so if those are triggering for you, don’t choose this movie.
“The Dawn Wall” tells the story of Tommy Caldwell and his climbing partner, Kevin Jorgeson, attempting to scale part of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. The film also delves into Tommy’s personal life, from how he began climbing to the heartbreak he experiences that motivates his El Capitan adventure. Through interviews conducted with friends and family of Tommy, and some of Kevin, viewers learn more about the climbers while they complete their climb.
Taylor Swift tells her story of rising through the pop music industry and how that has impacted her throughout the years in “Miss Americana.” Swift talks about the experience of being a woman in the music industry and how the public’s perception of her changed her.
Mentioning expectations for women, Swift says, “I wanna love glitter and also stand up for the double standards that exist in our society. I wanna wear pink and tell you how I feel about politics. I don’t think those things have to cancel each other out.”
Starting with her childhood and videos of Swift as a young girl playing a guitar, through to her most recent concerts, viewers can see how this musician grew up.
Netflix has so many documentaries and docuseries, most of which are captivating and well made. If you just need a break but want to feel productive, check out the documentaries on this list or explore the other options.