If you didn’t know what a docuseries was a few years ago, chances are you’ve watched one by now. Documentary television is no longer just for Ken Burns fans and 30 for 30 obsessives. Netflix has used the power of streaming to reinvigorate the format: Not everybody wants to watch an eight-hour documentary, but if you’re already on Netflix, it’s easy to return to something in your “recently watched” section. For the initiated and newcomers alike, here are the best Netflix original docuseries—the investigations and features that will entertain and enthrall you.
The best Netflix original docuseries
1) Making a Murderer
Making a Murderer was, in many ways, the final push needed for pop culture’s recent true-crime boom. Making a Murderer examines the case against Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who spent 18 years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit only to be accused of murder again upon his release. The docuseries brought out amateur sleuths in full force online, even as various critiques of the show pointed to evidence that creators Moira Demos and Laura Ricciardi seemed to have left out. Regardless of what you think about Avery and the possibility of his innocence, the show got people talking, and it’s impossible to deny its impact. Making a Murderer also proved to have a lasting effect on Netflix itself, going on to influence original programming from The Keepers to American Vandal. —Chris Osterndorf
2) The Keepers
The murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik has been unsolved for nearly 50 years. This Netflix docuseries follows a pair of Sister Cathy’s former students who set out to find their teacher’s killer. The more we learn about Sister Cathy, the Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, and the Catholic Church, the more clear it becomes that Sister Cathy’s death was not an isolated incident, but something much larger and sinister. The Keepers is more than a cold-case mystery. Rather, it’s a tale of corruption and conspiracy, but more than anything, it’s a tragedy. —Eddie Strait
3) Daughters of Destiny
Filmed over the course of seven years, Daughters of Destiny is reminiscent of past experiments such as the Up documentary series. Daughters is centered around Shanti Bhavan, an Indian school that takes in impoverished children from the so-called “untouchable” caste and guides them through their formative years. Daughters of Destiny provides a gripping and emotional look inside a school built from the ground up to prove that these students can accomplish anything they put their minds to—destiny be damned. —David Wharton
4) Last Chance U
Netflix’s junior college set docu-series Last Chance U is chock full of drama on and off the field. Think Hardknocks meets Friday Night Lights. The players featured on the show have stumbled off course, either academically or legally, and the show their path to redemption. With so much on the line from the coach to the players to the academic advisor, Last Chance U is a powder keg of human and gridiron drama. —E.S.
5) The Confession Tapes
Innocent until proven guilty. That’s how it’s supposed to work in America. But all too often, that’s not how it does. True-crime documentary series The Confession Tapes examines cases where the prosecution gained a conviction based primarily on taped confessions that the suspects claim were coerced. Naysayers might ask, “Why in the world would anyone confess to something they didn’t do?” The Confession Tapes does a compelling job of answering that question, showing suspects being pressured, manipulated, intimidated, and lied to. It might not surprise you, but it’s one thing to suspect that justice isn’t always blind. It’s another thing to watch it play out. —D.W.
6) Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father
In Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father, the titular British comedian spends five weeks living out the “gap year” he never got to take, kicking around southeast Asia… with his 76-year-old father Michael in tow. Any good travel show needs a mix of exotic locations and colorful personalities, and Travels with My Father easily ticks off both boxes. Packed with gorgeous scenery and easy charm, Jack Whitehall: Travels with My Father is a lovely, easily binge-able addition to the Netflix catalog. It’s not a trip you’ll regret taking. —D.W.
7) Chef’s Table
Netflix’s attempt to get into the extremely popular genre of food shows (there’s have a whole network devoted to them, after all) succeeds in almost every regard. Going inside a different kitchen each episode, the series is an informative look at the process of some of the world’s most renowned chefs. With 6 Emmy nominations, it’s immaculately produced and a visual delight to look at. And most importantly, there’s all the glorious food. Those looking to learn more about the restaurant industry won’t be disappointed, but those who just want some quality food porn can’t go wrong here either. —C.O.
8) Chelsea Does
While Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show may be over now, her docuseries, Chelsea Does, suggests that she may be better suited to a different format anyway. Taking a deep dive into marriage, technology, racism, and drugs, Chelsea Does gives Handler an opportunity to explore issues that she could only scratch the surface of in the late-night world. Though her background may be privileged, thereby handicapping her perspective somewhat, Handler is game to approach each issue with an open mind and the best of intentions. Her sarcastic sensibility is still present, but it’s in service of something else. Considering Handler’s recent desire to get more political, perhaps now is the perfect time for her to return to Chelsea Does. —C.O.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly