The 20 best documentaries on Netflix Australia in 2019

Netflix has hit it out of the park with original productions like Jim & Andy, The White Helmets and a trove of quality documentaries ready to stream now.

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If you're after some guilt-free edutainment to wash away the shame from your ritual Married At First Sight viewing, you can't really go past Netflix these days. There are sobering docos like the streaming provider's own The White Helmets or the heartbreaking biography Amy. If they sound a little heavy, you could just watch giant pandas roll around in a lush forest with BBC's Earth: One Amazing Day.

Below we've listed our top picks from Netflix's vast selection of documentaries.

Survivor's Guide to Prison (2018)

Runtime: 1hr 42min

Rating: TV-MA

If you live in or plan to visit the US, you ought to memorise these tips given by prison staff, investigative journalists, cops and inmates who had to shiv to live.

Survivor's Guide to Prison

For the Love of Spock (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 51min

Rating: PG-13

Directed by Adam Nimoy, this is a moving documentary about his father's fifty-year journey as both a father and an actor, plus there's insight into the sort of illogical fan reactions one can expect when they're a sci-fi superstar.

For the love of Spock

The White Helmets (2016)

Runtime: 40min

Rating: TV-14

A truly gripping documentary centred on a crack team of selfless Syrian first-responders who run the gauntlet of daily air strikes in order to rescue victims from the rubble.

The White Helmets

Amy (2015)

Runtime: 2hr 08min

Rating: R

A heartbreaking look at the tragic life of Amy Winehouse, from developing a precious singing talent in her teen years, to largely unwanted fame, followed by a downward spin into substance abuse.


Restrepo (2010)

Runtime: 1hr 33min

Rating: R

Go on a gripping, warts-and-all ride with a US platoon inserted into the most dangerous posting in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.


Paris is Burning (1990)

Runtime: 1hr 11min

Rating: R

Rediscover the burgeoning drag scene of 1980s New York, an era awash with warmth, vitality and voguing posing in the most outrageous frocks imaginable.

Paris is Burning

Tower (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 22min

Rating: TV-14

A fascinating recreation that uses archival footage and rotoscope animation to effectively play-by-play in great detail the 1966 UT massacre, which was the US's first mass school shooting.


Earth: One Amazing Day (2017)

Runtime: 1hr 35min

Rating: G

The incredible cameramen and women of the BBC will blow your mind once more with this astonishingly well-shot chronicling of 24 hours on this lucky, life-rich planet of ours.

Earth: One Amazing Day

Chasing Ice (2012)

Runtime: 1hr 15min

Rating: PG-13

A documentary about one National Geographic photographer chasing the holy grail that is to "capture the effects of climate change in a single shot".

Chasing Ice

Shirkers (2018)

Runtime: 1hr 37min

Rating: PG-13

When a 16mm film about her surfaces, Sandi Tan, a successful LA novelist, goes on the hunt for her eccentric American mentor who vanished 20 years ago.


Sound City (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 47min

Dave Grohl leads an all-star cast of musicians in this retrospective look at the hallowed studio/shrine that captured the past four decades of rock and roll.

Sound City

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

Runtime: 1hr 34min

Rating: TV-MA

A bizarre behind-the-scenes look at the incredible lengths actor Jim Carrey went to in order to portray his eccentric idol, the late-great Andy Kaufmann.

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond

End Game (2018)

Runtime: 40min

Rating: PG-13

An incredibly moving documentary exploring the power of palliative care, those end-of-the-road support systems that help bridge the final gap between life and death.

End Gamed

Team Foxcatcher (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 31min

Rating: PG-13

A home video delve into the downward spiral of John E. du Pont, the multi-millionaire who had a fatal obsession with Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz.

Team Foxcatcher

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (2011)

Runtime: 1hr 16min

Rating: PG

The origin story of Kevin Clash, the man behind the most famous muppet in the world who achieved his dream of working alongside master puppeteer Jim Henson.

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 37min

Rating: TV-MA

The twisty tale of one John McAfee, the millionaire software visionary who reinvented himself from virus buster to Kurtz-esque jungle hermit, yogi, crypto enthusiast and presidential candidate.

Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee

Virunga (2014)

Runtime: 1hr 40min

Rating: TV-MA

UNESCO presents the desperate plight of the African region of Virunga, a bastion sanctuary for the critically endangered mountain gorillas and surrounded on all sides by bloody civil war.


Strong Island (2017)

Runtime: 1hr 47min

Rating: TV-MA

An emotional roller-coaster ride that examines the senseless police slaying of William Ford and the continuing devastation and injustices inflicted on his family and investigative filmmaker (and brother) Yance Ford.

Strong Island

Night School (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 25min

A shocking look into the unfair deck stacking that occurs when three low-income adult Americans from Indianapolis strive to better their situation through education.

Night School

The Bad Kids (2016)

Runtime: 1hr 41min

Rating: TV-MA

A group of Mojave-Desert-based teachers who go above and beyond for a campus of "last chance" troubled youths who are otherwise destined for the corrections system.

The Bad Kids

Watched them all already?

If you're looking for even more documentaries to broaden your mind, check out our complete list of documentaries currently available on Netflix Australia.

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