Everyone enjoys a good documentary. We love immersing ourselves in crazy stories, hearing from unique perspectives, and rattling our minds. There’s something about going on these mini investigations with the director; it’s great to feel like a detective diving headfirst into a story while you plow through a bag of chips on your couch. Netflix capitalized on our inner Sherlock Holmes tendencies and love for rare stories, bringing us some of the best documentaries across all streaming platforms. Think “Tiger King,” “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich,” “Wild Wild Country,” and many more. These docu-series are huge on Netflix and rarely cease to amaze, yet they often overshadow some equally great documentary films. This piece is about those films, the ones that might’ve slipped past your radar but will equally entertain and shock your mind. With that said, here are five mind-blowing documentaries on Netflix that are worth the watch:
#1. Tell Me Who I Am
Buckle up for this one. Without a doubt, this documentary is one of the most insane true stories you’ll ever come across in life. The film tells the story of identical twin brothers from England, Alex, and Marcus. Despite being identical twins, they’ve lived vastly different lives. Alex had a devastating accident when they were young adults. The accident leaves Alex with no memory whatsoever, including not knowing his name, except he instantly remembers only one thing: his twin brother Marcus. Shockingly, this is just the tip of the iceberg in the thrilling story that follows. The film addresses a curious dilemma, if your loved one forgot their entire memory, a memory filled with intense trauma and darkness, would you remind them of it or tell them a different story? Better yet, what if you shared that same, dark past and were still suffering the consequences?
The film follows this dilemma and the story of twin brothers so close, yet so far away. The roller coaster ride this film takes you on will cause you to wonder about the mystery that is human memory, the moral responsibility towards those you love, the mysterious connection of twins, and how to cope with unbelievable trauma. You’ve never heard a story quite like this one before. Not only is this film one of the most mind-blowing documentaries on Netflix, but it’s also one of the most idiosyncratic documentaries across all streaming platforms right now.
In this Oscar-winning film, American filmmaker and cyclist, Bryan Fogel, starts off seeking to prove that the anti-doping measures in place for cycling tournaments are a sham. Fogel got the idea to go on a complete performance-enhancing regime after a competition where he felt cheated out of a fair chance. In which he would avoid detection and prove how easy it is in the sport. That leads him to connect with Grigory Rodchenkov, the head scientist at Russia’s World Anti Doping Agency lab in Moscow. Fogel’s angle for the film changes as he learns Rodchenkov was behind arguably the most elaborate doping ploys and scandals in sports history.
This gripping film follows the most notorious cheating scheme in Olympics history from the viewpoint of Rodchenkov. You’ll hear the first-hand account of the man behind the scandal and the unbelievable cover-ups and involvement from Russian authorities. In a story almost too shocking to believe, Fogel unveils a ploy that reaches Russia’s highest levels. Questioning the entire credibility of their athletic endeavors. This intense film is filled with endless twists and turns. “Icarus” will have you glued to the screen the full two hours.
#3. Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers
Before you skip this one, know that the name alludes to a degree of irrationality that does not fairly represent what’s discussed in the film. This film tells the story of Bob Lazar, an Area 51 whistleblower from the 1980s. Approaching this film with a degree of skepticism is warranted and even encouraged, however, the validity of what’s said and analyzed is more believable than you might think.
We’re often unsure what to believe from the UFO community, as they’re usually so far-out and generally inconclusive. The common result is we believe nothing. Whatever you might feel about UFOs, extraterrestrial life, and similar topics, this film remains a worthwhile watch. Lazar’s story has several elements that bear legitimacy and make you wonder if what he’s saying is, in fact, true. You might finish this film, not believing his story. Still, your mind will undoubtedly be pushed to consider the “what ifs?” and the realms of possibility regarding extraterrestrial activity. In the worst case, this film serves as a helpful mind exercise to explore boundaries in your thinking and your perceptions of reality.
Either way, “Bob Lazar: Area 51 and Flying Saucers,” is without a doubt, one of the most mind-blowing documentaries on Netflix.
#4. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator
The film follows the dramatic story of the victims and past students of Bikram Choudhury. Bikram took over Hollywood with the introduction of hot yoga. He became the go-to yogi for many young individuals looking to become yoga instructors. Bikram is often regarded for fueling the explosion of yoga in this country. Starting in the ’70s, he rose with yoga to the powerhouse that it has become in present-day America. Local fame turned into a global enterprise for Bikram, in which he had roughly 1,600 studios in some 40 countries under the name of Bikram Yoga, at its peak in the early 21st century. Hidden behind the success and fame, is the story told in the film—a story filled with deception, manipulation, aggression, and greed, among others.
The most troubling and mind-wrenching aspect of this film is the lack of accountability and justice. The troubled man remains free and powerful, though his enterprise has been weakened. An alarming number of his locations can still be found throughout the New York City area. This film is hard-to-believe for many reasons, not because of inaccuracy or lack of due diligence, but because of the dreadful things this man has gotten away with. It’s a must-watch film that’ll hopefully keep the story of these victims alive.
#5. Team Foxcatcher
Discover the unbelievable story of John E. du Pont, Dave Schultz, and the team behind USA Olympic Wrestling. The film takes you into the wild ride that was Team Foxcatcher. John du Pont, the heir to a billionaire fortune, established the team. “Team Foxcatcher” included the best American wrestlers in the world and was located on the mega-property of the du Pont family.
What began as a dream situation for world-class wrestlers like Dave Schultz, eventually spiraled downward in ways unimaginable and unforeseen. The film also utilized a unique story-telling perspective, in which it incorporates home video footage from various periods.
This film will likely leave you with many questions. You’ll struggle to grasp how this once pure and dream-like arrangement for athletes, sank into a story of paranoia, resentment, and ultimately death. On a deeper level, the film displays how powerful money can be. It alludes to some serious questions, whether purposefully or not, on the role money plays in American society. “Team Foxcatcher,” courtesy of the frequent use of home video, takes you deeper into the story and it’s characters, making it all the more shocking.
Next time you’re not sure what to watch on Netflix, take a pass on one of those trending docu-series. Try out one of these mind-blowing documentaries on Netflix, it’s worth it. While you’re at it, mix in the perfect wine and food combo to make the viewing complete. And if you’re really just looking for a new show, try out some of these underrated FX shows on Hulu.
Main photo: Bryan Fogel in Icarus (Netflix, 2017)
About the Author/s
Garrett is a writer at The Digest. He currently lives in Astoria, NY, and loves writing about topics that make readers think. His passions include film, sports, traveling, and culture.
Adding Icarus to my watchlist. Recently watched The Last Shaman – not as mind-blowing but certainly thought-provoking.
Haven’t seen The Last Shaman yet, but I will check it out. Icarus is a must-watch.