Six Documentaries On Netflix You Should Watch This Month

Summer is a time when studios churn out a new big budget blockbuster or two every single week, and though we’re only two weeks into June you can already feel the exhaustion that comes from a constant barrage of two-hour destruction porn spectaculars. It’s a common feeling every movie buff experiences this time of year, but lucky for us the cure is very simple and affordable. In fact, it’s so easy you don’t even have to leave your home. Just pull the shades, crank the AC, and turn on Netflix.

If you have not been paying attention to the world of documentary filmmaking over the last couple of years you have missed a new evolution in the art form that has produced some of the most engaging features of the last decade. Stories big and small from all over the world are being told in ways that were not even thought possible as recently as the turn of the millennium, and it seems like the quantity of quality documentaries is only going to continue to rise in the coming months as festival favorites like Listen To Me Marlon roll out to the public. The genre is thriving like it rarely has, and right now there are a number of incredible recent releases available to stream on Netflix.

We could probably tell you a few dozen documentaries on Netflix worth your time, but for this feature we’ve focused in one six titles from the last year that feature stories of all sizes capturing the human experience in unique and often profound ways. These are films we love and have shared with friends in conversations online and off, and we hope they encourage you to further explore the incredible world of documentaries. If you’re reading this and you’re already a genre die-hard, please feel free to comment with additional films you think readers should check out.

1. Hot Girls Wanted

The adult film industry is not what is used to be. Just like the music industry, porn has undergone an incredible evolution over the last decade as streaming services and digital downloads have essentially eradicated the once thriving home video market. There is still money in adult film, but revenues are down, and the competition for roles today is fiercer than ever before. Most girls only last a handful of months before they’re considered too exposed to be marketable, and those who somehow find their way to viral popularity only extend their time in the business by a year or two at most. Hot Girls Wanted follows a group of young women, most under the age of 20, who decide to make porn their new profession. Unlike other documentaries focusing on the adult film industry in years past, this one does not paint the women as victims, but rather everyday humans making a choice they may or may not later regret. Viewers follow each girl as they begin their foray into the industry, as well as on their trips to explain their new career to friends and family, and through it all your heart goes out to essentially everyone on screen. The one thing that becomes abundantly clear is that no two experiences are the same, but each makes a seemingly irreversible impact on the individuals involved, as well as everyone who cares about them.

2. Whitey: U.S.A. v. James J. Bulger

With the new film Black Mass shaping up to be one of the bigger fall releases, it’s only right that you make time to learn the true story behind America’s most notorious gangster. Johnny Depp may make James ‘Whitey’ Bulger look like a retro Henry Hill with thinner hair and more violent tendencies, but in reality he’s a monster who reigned over one of America’s largest cities through fear and intimidation for years while those in power turned the other cheek. His story is no doubt incredible and worthy of being told, if not for the sole purpose of exposing the colossal mistakes made by the US Government in dealing with this thug, but to fully appreciate the scope of his criminality this film by Joe Berlinger should be considered an absolute must watch.

3. Rich Hill

Rich Hill may be the most moving film I saw last year. Over the course of 90 minutes, the film follows several young people currently growing up in one of the poorest parts of America. Their families are doing their best to get by, but for a number of reasons, ranging from unemployment to incarceration, they are struggling on a week to week basis, if not day to day. Still, in the face of what seems like a hopeless situation, these young people see the world with bright eyes and full hearts. They want to become doctors, teachers, and similar professionals in positions where they can help others as they have always wanted someone to do for them. They try their best to be better than their surroundings, but still things don’t always go as one might hope or expect.

4. The Overnighters

What is the cost of compassion? How much would you sacrifice to help your fellow man? These are questions I never thought I would ask myself until I saw The Overnighters. Set in rural North Dakota, where the rise of fracking has led to an employment boom, the film follows a pastor who opens his church to the individuals who move to the area and have no place to live. Some cannot find work, while others are just trying to get on their feet while money comes in. He sees the best in everyone even if their history says otherwise, but the rest of the community does not see things his way. They want those without a place to live to leave their town, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to ensure their perceived lack of safety is corrected. What ensues is both heartbreaking and thought-provoking, with twists and turns you won’t see coming.

5. Fed Up

You might think you’ve heard every awful thing there is to learn about the food we consume, but you would be wrong. Fed Up leaves the meat and dairy industry behind, for the most part, and focuses instead on the larger epidemic of sugar and the way it’s killing people young and old in ways we didn’t know were possible half a century ago. Like King Corn and other ingredient-focused documentaries in the past, the film reveals just how prevalent sugar is in our food today. Everything, and I mean basically everything, has sugar in it, and you’re most likely consuming way more than you should be on a daily basis. This film will shock you, and it will most likely make you rethink your diet as well. I know that may sound scary, but it’s worth your time.

6. Life Itself

Roger Ebert was the last great critic. In fact, he may be the last critic to ever reach the level of recognition and adoration he was able to achieve during his life. He came up in a time before the internet, and thanks to his fervent passion for sharing his love of film with the world he opened countless minds to the possibilities of cinematic storytelling. Life Itself mixes a story of Ebert’s life with scenes from his final days on Earth. He loved life and film until the very end, and I believe it’s impossible for anyone to witness this documentary and walk away not appreciating their own existence just a bit more than they did before the feature began. Whether you’re a critic yourself, or simply someone who loves the arts, Life Itself is an experience you will never forget.

Feature by James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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