Ever since Making A Murderer debuted in 2015, introducing the world to the Avery and Dassey families and defining what would make for water-cooler TV in the streaming era, Netflix has been pushing out compelling documentary series and documentary movies one after the other. While at first the service debuted a new, compelling doc every few months, but now it’s a matter of weeks before the world is once again caught up in a wild tale of corruption, murder, and mystery, most often populated with extremely colorful characters. Or blown away by an Oscar-worthy look at some of the most interesting corners of life around the globe.
But which are the most compelling documentaries and bingeable documentary series on the streaming service?
To help answer that question, we went through every Netflix original documentary and documentary series, collected the most critically acclaimed, and ranked them by Tomatometer. Our criteria was simple: To be included, the series had to be Fresh and have accrued reviews from more than 10 critics. Where there were ties, the title with more reviews ranked higher.
In the list, you’ll discover some famous series that dominated headlines and captured the zeitgeist upon their release, 2020’s big conversation-starter Tiger King among them. You’ll also discover that Netflix documentaries cover subjects far beyond death and trials and fascinating cold cases. Want to see what it takes to make it as a young athlete? Press play on Cheer and Last Chance U. Looking for some foodie inspiration? Ugly Delicious and Salt Fat Acid Heat should satisfy. Looking for a profile of someone fascinating? Try Michelle Obama documentary Becoming, Gaga: Five Foot Two, or Tig. After insights into some of the biggest issues facing the world today? Turn to Ava DuVernay’s 13th and Oscar-winner American Factory.
The latest additions include the critically acclaimed series Immigration Nation and Pretend It’s a City, travel adventure series Down to Earth with Zac Efron, intriguing documentaries about LGBTQ+ icons Disclosure and Mucho Mucho Amor, news-making features including Athlete A and The Social Dilemma, and much more. Where do they rank in our list of the best documentaries and docuseries Netflix has to offer? Find out below.
What’s your favorite Netflix documentary? Let us know in the comments.
Critics Consensus: Brevity may be the soul of wit, but digging a little deeper could only help History of Swear Words - a show that almost lives up to its name and host, but falls a little f-king short.
Critics Consensus: Host David Farrier's empathetic curiosity keeps Dark Tourist from feeling too exploitative -- though shallow observations about its macabre destinations often leave something to be desired.
Critics Consensus:The Innocent Man will satisfy true crime aficionados looking for a slickly packaged mystery, but viewers seeking a more probing deconstruction of the justice system may come away disappointed.
Critics Consensus:Dogs is a kindhearted series that offers viewers a glimpse of several extraordinary canines and the people they orbit, resulting in a hopeful celebration of humanity and its best friend.
Critics Consensus: A cornucopia of visual wonder and environmental advocacy, Our Planet's breathtaking cinematography explores more of this beautiful, blue marble while presenting an urgent call to action to its inhabitants.
Critics Consensus: With an inspirational troupe of teens and willingness to engage in the tougher trials facing the sport today, Cheer perfectly captures the highs and lows of what it takes to be a cheerleader.
Critics Consensus:Salt Fat Acid Heat distinguishes itself from other cooking programs with Samin Nosrat's approachable and educational teaching style, celebrating the essential ingredients of a good meal with an international perspective.
Critics Consensus:Fyre smolders with agonizing tension when a party in paradise goes awry, but this slickly assembled documentary reserves its greatest horror for damning observations about the dangers of wealth.
Synopsis: The history of the Fyre Music Festival, from its creation through its unraveling.... [More]
Critics Consensus: By exposing the corrupt systems which enabled him, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator paints a disturbing -- and necessary -- portrait of the cycles of abuse endured by countless followers of the charlatan at its center.
Synopsis: Filmmaker Eva Orner examines the dramatic rise and fall of hot yoga founder, Bikram Choudhury. Orner covers many of the... [More]
Critics Consensus: A heartwarming look at the way a meaningful bond can transcend just about any barrier, this documentary will leave you asking your friends to come and see My Octopus Teacher with you.
Synopsis: A diver swims with an octopus that lives in a kelp forest off the coast of South Africa.... [More]
Rotten Tomatoes’ premiere dates calendar keeps track of the most anticipated new 2020 TV premieres and your favorite returning shows. Bookmark this page to get updates on network schedules, when the latest Netflix series launch, when Disney+ shows will premiere, what films and specials are coming your way, and more.
Black Mirror’s Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones have some parting shots for this awful year. Their Netflix special, aptly titled Death to 2020, premieres Dec. 27 and is a mockumentary featuring stars like Samuel L. Jackson, Lisa Kudrow, and Leslie Jones portraying fictional characters who discuss real events that happened over this very long and exhausting year.
The remaining episodes of the final season of Vikings will arrive on December 30. But, in a twist, they will premiere on Amazon Prime Video instead of original channel History, which will air them at a later date. The first 10 episodes of the season aired earlier this year on the cable channel and have a 100% Tomatometer score. Interestingly, sequel series Vikings: Valhalla, set 100 years after the events of the original series, is in development for Netflix by Vikings creator Michael Hirst and The Fugitive writer Jeb Stuart.
Can Diana Prince save Christmas? Warner Bros. has decided to release Wonder Woman 1984 on both HBO Max and in theaters on Christmas Day. The previous Wonder Woman movie, which was released in 2017, has a 93% Tomatometer score and is Certified Fresh.
Just added: Death to 2020 (Dec. 27), Total Control (Dec. 17), Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You (Dec. 21), Adult Material (Dec. 11), The Trial of Christine Keeler (Dec. 9), Vikings Season 6 (resuming Dec. 30 on Amazon Prime Video), Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults (Dec. 3).
Thursday, Dec. 3 Anything for Jackson(2020)98% Shudder [movie] Stylish With Jenna Lyons: Season 1(2020) HBO Max Just Another Christmas(2020)[movie] My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood(2020) HBO Max The Commons: Season 1(2019)100% Sundance Now Heaven's Gate: The Cult of Cults: Season 1(2020)88% HBO Max
Bugs Bunny’s 24 Carrot Holiday Special, HBO Max
Chico Bon Bon and the Very Berry Holiday, Netflix Break(2017) Netflix [movie]
BattleBots, 8 p.m., Discovery
The Voice Holiday Celebration, 8 p.m., NBC
iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Greatest Moments, 8 p.m., The CW
Flipping Across America: Season 2, 8 p.m., HGTV
A Time to Kill: Season 1, 9 p.m., ID (returning from hiatus)
Swamp People: Serpent Invasion: Season 2, 9 p.m., History
Mysteries of the Abandoned: Season 7, 9 p.m., Science Channel
Barrett-Jackson Revved Up: Season 1, 9 p.m., FYI (returning from hiatus)
Conspiracies Decoded: Season 1, 10 p.m., Science Channel
Rocket Around the Christmas Tree, 10 p.m., Discovery
Saturday, Dec. 5
Mighty Express: A Mighty Christmas, Netflix Detention: Season 1(2020) Netflix
Let’s Meet Again on Christmas Eve, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing, 8 p.m., Hallmark [movie]
Kid of the Year, 8 p.m., CBS
Secrets in the Snow, 8 p.m., LMN [movie]
Baby Chimp Rescue, 8 p.m., BBC America
Most Terrifying With Jason Hawes: Season 1, 9 p.m., Travel Channel () 9 p.m., HMM [movie]
Sunday, Dec. 6 Lazor Wulf: Season 2(2020) midnight, Adult Swim
The Case Died With Her, 7 p.m., Oxygen Christmas on the Range(2019) 7 p.m., UP [movie]
Challenge Accepted! Disney Channel’s Epic Holiday Showdown, 7 p.m., Disney Channel
90 Day Fiancé: Season 8, 8 p.m., TLC
MTV Movie & TV Awards: Greatest of All Time, 8 p.m., MTV Power Book II: Ghost: Season 1(2020) 8 p.m., Starz (returning from hiatus) The Real Housewives of Atlanta: Season 13(2020) 8 p.m., Bravo
Black Sabbath: Breaking the Band, 8 p.m., Reelz
Christmas Ever After, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Christmas She Wrote, 8 p.m., Hallmark [movie]
A Holly Dolly Christmas, 8:30 p.m., CBS
American Monster: Season 6, 9 p.m., ID
Metallica: The Story of the Songs, 9 p.m., Reelz
Euphoria Special: Trouble Don’t Last Always, 9 p.m., HBO Shameless: Season 11(2020)70% 9 p.m., Showtime
A Godwink Christmas: First Loves, Second Chances, 9 p.m., HMM [movie]
A Little Christmas Charm, 10 p.m., HMM [movie] Your Honor: Season 1() 10 p.m., Showtime
Friday, Dec. 11 I'm Your Woman(2020)80% Amazon Prime Video [movie] Wolfwalkers(2020)99% Apple TV+ [movie] Curious George: Season 13(2020) Peacock (returning from hiatus) Safety(2020)80% Disney+ [movie] Adult Material: Season 1(2020)92% HBO Max Giving Voice(2020)100% Netflix [movie] ()% Amazon Prime Video
Canvas, Netflix [movie] The Wilds: Season 1(2020)92% Amazon Prime Video The Mess You Leave Behind: Season 1(2020) Netflix
Madagascar: A Little Wild: Season 2, Hulu
Where’s Waldo?: Part 2, Peacock
A Trash Truck Christmas, Netflix ()% Disney+ The Prom(2020)54% Netflix [movie]
Inn Love by Christmas, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Disney Channel Holiday House Party, 8 p.m., Disney Channel
The Christmas Caroler Challenge: Season 2, 8 p.m., The CW
My Lottery Dream Home: Holiday Extravaganza, 8 p.m., HGTV
Craft in America, 9 p.m., PBS
House Hunters: Outside the Box, 10 p.m., HGTV
Michael Kosta: Detroit. NY. LA., 11 p.m., Comedy Central
Sunday, Dec. 13 Pennyworth: Season 2(2020)60% Epix
The Netflix Afterparty: The Best Shows of the Worst Year, Netflix
The Walking Dead Holiday Special, AMC+
The Jane Doe Murders, 7 p.m., Oxygen
A Christmas Princess, 7 p.m., UP [movie] Dashing in December(2020) 7 p.m., Paramount Network [movie]
The Bounce Trumpet Awards: Stand Up, 8 p.m., Bounce
Couples Therapy: The COVID Special, 8 p.m., Showtime Christmas Comes Twice(2020) 8 p.m., Hallmark [movie] A Sugar & Spice Holiday(2020) 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie] Welcome Home Warrior(2017) 9 p.m., HMM [movie]
Tom Petty: Won’t Back Down, 8 p.m., Reelz
Autopsy: The Last Hours of Tom Petty, 9 p.m., Reelz
The Real Housewives of Potomac: Season 5 Reunion Special, 9:15 p.m., Bravo
Life, Death & Money, 10 p.m., Reelz
Desus & Mero: Obama Special, 11:35 p.m., Showtime
Monday, Dec. 14 A California Christmas(2020)60% Netflix [movie] Hilda: Season 2(2020) Netflix Tiny Pretty Things: Season 1(2020)53% Netflix
Will From Home: Season 2, Snapchat
Deliciousness: Season 1, 7 p.m., MTV
iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Presented by Capital One, 8 p.m., The CW
Lonestar Christmas, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Christmas with the Tabernacle Choir, 9 p.m., PBS
Haul This House: Season 1, 9 p.m., FYI
Celebrity IOU, 9 p.m., HGTV
The Shot: Race for the Vaccine, 10 p.m., ABC
Tuesday, Dec. 15 Song Exploder: How Music Gets Made: Volume 2(2020) Netflix
Scene in Black and White, Amazon Prime Video
30 for 30: The Infinite Race, 8 p.m., ESPN [movie]
Walking With Elephants, 8 p.m., Animal Planet
Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas with Vanessa Williams, 8 p.m., PBS
Cooking Up Christmas, 9 p.m., OWN [movie]
Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make Change, 8 p.m., CBS
Thursday, Dec. 17 The Stand: Season 1(2020)55% CBS All Access Total Control: Season 1(2019)100% Sundance Now The Available Wife(2020) UMC [movie]
4 Blocks, Seasons 1-3, HBO Max
Homeschool Musical Class of 2020, HBO Max
Sesame Street: Holiday at Hooper’s, HBO Max
12 Dates of Christmas: Unwrapped, HBO Max
Dogs of the Year, 8 p.m., The CW
Beyond the Pole: Living Under Lockdown, 10 p.m., WE tv
Friday, Dec. 18 Ma Rainey's Black Bottom(2020)97% Netflix [movie] Sweet Home: Season 1(2020)83% Netflix El Cid: Season 1(2020) Amazon Prime Video
The Grand Tour Presents: A Massive Hunt, Amazon Prime Video
Arendelle Castle Yule Log, Disney+
Dory’s Reef Cam, Disney+
The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special, Hulu On Pointe: Season 1(2020) Disney+
A Creepshow Holiday Special, Shudder
Raven’s Home: Mad About Yuletide, 8 p.m., Disney Channel
Christmas on the Menu, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Diego Torres Sinfonico, 9:30 p.m., HBO Latino, TNT in Latin America and HBO Max
You’ll Be Home for Christmas, 10 p.m., HGTV
Saturday, Dec. 19
Christmas at Rosemont, 7 p.m., UP [movie]
A Christmas Exchange, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Global Citizen Prize Awards, 8 p.m., NBC A Christmas Carousel(2020) 8 p.m., Hallmark [movie] Letters to Satan Claus(2020) 8 p.m., Syfy [movie] In Plain Sight(2012) 8 p.m., LMN [movie]
Swept Up by Christmas, 9 p.m., HMM [movie]
Sunday, Dec. 20
A Christmas Break, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie] Love, Lights, Hanukkah!(2020) 8 p.m., Hallmark [movie]
Secrets of Royal Travel, 8 p.m., PBS
March of the Polar Bears, 8 p.m., Nat Geo Wild
Garth & Trisha Live!, 8:30 p.m., CBS
Whitney Houston: Story of Her Song, 9 p.m., Reelz
Doomsday: The Missing Children, 9 p.m., ID Project Christmas Wish(2020) 9 p.m., HMM [movie]
22nd Annual A Home for the Holidays, 9:30 p.m., CBS
Unexpected: Season 4, 10 p.m., TLC
Diana Ross: Story of Her Songs, 10 p.m., Reelz
Tuesday, Dec. 22 London Hughes: To Catch a D*ck(2020) Netflix
Rhyme Time Town Singalongs, Netflix City Hall(2020)98% 8 p.m., PBS [movie]
The Christmas High Note, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
First Christmas, 9 p.m., OWN [movie]
Under the Grapefruit Tree: The CC Sabathia Story, 9 p.m., HBO [movie]
Thursday, Dec. 24
A Music Lover’s Guide to Murdoch Mysteries, Acorn TV
Shadow Lines, Sundance Now
Friday, Dec. 25 Wonder Woman 1984(2020)58% HBO Max [movie] Sylvie's Love(2020)93% Amazon Prime Video [movie] Soul(2020)95% Disney+ [movie] Bridgerton: Season 1(2020)87% Netflix
Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian — Making of Season Two, Disney+
My Sweet Holiday, 8 p.m., Lifetime [movie]
Call the Midwife Holiday Special, 9 p.m., PBS
Surprising Santa Claus, 9 p.m., HGTV
Saturday, Dec. 26 DNA(2020)86% Netflix [movie] Letterkenny: Season 9(2020) Hulu
Fast & Furious Spy Racers: Sahara, Netflix
Go! Go! Cory Carson: Season 3, Netflix
The Magic School Bus Rides Again In the Zone, Netflix
Sunday, Dec. 27 Death to 2020(2020)40% Netflix [movie] The Masked Dancer: Season 1(2020) 8 p.m., Fox
Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line, 9 p.m., Food Network
Shameless Hall of Shame, 9 p.m., Showtime
Monday, Dec. 28
Cops and Robbers, Netflix
Atlanta Justice: Season 1, 9 p.m., ID
Kids Baking Championship: Season 9, 9 p.m., Food Network
Tuesday, Dec. 29
Peace Out 2020, 3 p.m., Facebook Watch
Popstar’s Best Of 2020, 8 p.m., The CW
7 Little Johnstons, 8 p.m., TLC
The Year: 2020, 9 p.m., ABC
Master Distiller: Season 2, 9 p.m., Discovery
Laura Ingalls Wilder: American Masters, 9 p.m., PBS
Streets of Dreams with Marcus Lemonis, 10 p.m., CNBC
Lone Star Law: Patrol and Protect: Season 1, 10 p.m., Discovery
Thursday, Dec. 31 Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Part 4(2020)68% Netflix Alaska Is a Drag(2017) Netflix [movie] Cleaning Up: Season 1(2019)92% Sundance Now The Watch: Season 1(2021)53% AMC+
Best of Stand-Up 2020, Netflix
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest 2021, 8 p.m., ABC
United In Song: A Celebration of America’s Resilience, 8 p.m., PBS
Fox’s New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2021: Part 1, 8 p.m., Fox
Fox’s New Year’s Eve Toast & Roast 2021: Part 2, 11 p.m., Fox
She’s back! Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning comedy The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is returning to Amazon for its second season on Wednesday, Dec. 5.
Season 2 will see Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) dealing with the fallout from her takedown of Sophie Lennon, making her climb up the comedy ladder even more challenging — especially since she’s still keeping her new career as a standup comedian a secret from her family.
Recently added (updated 12/3): History Remembers George H.W. Bush (Dec. 5), Mysterious Islands (Dec. 26), Great Performances: The Bernstein Centennial Celebration (Dec. 28)
Sunday, Dec. 16
Springsteen on Broadway, Netflix
The Simpsons 30th Anniversary Marathon, 9 a.m., FXX
2018 Miss Universe, 7 p.m., Fox
Monday, Dec. 17
Blood, Acorn TV
America’s Got Talent: A Holiday of Champions, 10 p.m., NBC
Wednesday, Dec. 19 ()% YouTube Premium Schitt's Creek93%: Holiday Episode, 10 p.m., Pop
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Presents “Christmas on I.C.E.” 10:30 p.m., TBS
Thursday, Dec. 20 Timeless91%: Series Finale, 8 p.m., NBC
Friday, Dec. 21 Marvel's Runaways: Season 2(2018)87% Hulu Vanity Fair: Miniseries(2018)89% Amazon Bird Box(2018)64% Netflix
Perfume: Season 1, Netflix
38Below: Tales of Arcadia, Netflix
Derry Girls, Netflix
Tales By Light, Netflix
Bad Seeds, Netflix
Struggle: The Life and Lost Art of Szukalski, Netflix
Last Hope, Netflix
Sirius the Jaeger, Netflix
Back With the Ex, Netflix
7 Days Out, Netflix
The Casketeers, Netflix
American Dream/American Knightmare, 8:30 p.m., Showtime
Monday, Dec. 24
Agatha Raisin and the Fairies of Fryfam, Acorn TV
Hi Score Girl, Netflix
Wednesday, Dec. 26
41st Annual Kennedy Center Honors, 8 p.m., CBS
Mysterious Islands: Georgia’s Island of the Geechee People, 11 p.m., Travel Channel
Mysterious Islands: Islands of Eternal Life, 11:30 p.m., Travel Channel
Friday, Dec. 28
Into the Dark: New Year, New You, Hulu
Instant Hotel, Netflix
Murder Mountain, Netflix
Selection Day, Netflix
A Twelve-Year Night, Netflix
When the Angels Sleep, Netflix
Yummy Mummies, Netflix
Great Performances: The Bernstein Centennial Celebration, 9 p.m., PBS
Sunday, Dec. 30 The Orville: Season 2(2019)100% 8 p.m., Fox
The Lake Erie Murders: Who Killed Amy Mihaljevic?, 9 p.m., Investigation Discovery
Monday, Dec. 31 Taylor Swift reuputation Stadium Tour, Netflix
Fox’s New Year’s Eve With Steve Harvey: Live from Times Square, 8 p.m., Fox
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest, 8 p.m., ABC
NBC’s New Year’s Eve, 10 p.m., NBC
We ranked new and returning series and films on TV and streaming from January 1 through mid-March by Tomatometer (seasons and films must have had at least 10 reviews to be included).
The final ranking reflects an adjusted score calculated based on the number of reviews a series has; for instance, if one title has 10 reviews and a 100% score, while another has 45 reviews and a 99% score, the second title ranks higher because of the larger pool of critics’ opinions used to form the score.
Critics Consensus: Esther Povistky and Benji Alflalo's awkward charms and convincingly platonic chemistry work, though Alone Together's lack of urgency keeps its nihilistic tenderness from truly jelling.
Critics Consensus:Dynasty's revival retains enough of its predecessor's over-the-top allure to offer a glamorous guilty pleasure in its first season, even if it never quite recaptures the magic of the original.
Critics Consensus: Refreshingly lewd humor and funny, relatable characters are crammed into LA to Vegas alongside pacing problems and a dearth of punchlines, leaving this sitcom's high-flying potential stuck in an amiable holding pattern.
Critics Consensus:Rise's admirable aim to inspire audiences with a grounded depiction of high school theater is undercut by stock characters and an off-putting presumption that it is more moving than it ever manages to be.