There Are So, So Many New Documentaries Coming To Netflix

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Staying in lately? Suddenly, we all have a lot of time free, and there are plenty of ways to keep busy — cleaning out closets (yep), pretending to listen on video conference calls (yep, did that, too), sleeping 14 hours a day (hello), and maybe taking a deep dive into those cookbooks you buy but never use. But what if we just… watched new documentaries on Netflix? Don’t get me wrong — being productive is great and all, but what if you could be productive while laying down and watching TV? These best-in-class films are not only entertaining, but they’re educational, too.
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And we got plenty of options for tastes and interest of all kinds — the new documentaries on Netflix range from stories of race drivers and drug scandals to tales of an amazing love story based in baseball and a trip into psychedelics. This is pretty far-reaching stuff, and, well, if you’re stuck in the house for a long time (which, uh, it might be a long time), taking in all these documentaries is a great way to pass it. And think of all the knowledge you’ll have to impress your friends when you finally go out again! Here’s what’s coming this spring.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness 

On Netflix Now
No, this one isn’t about Siegfried and Roy. This limited series is about Joe Exotic, a “gun-toting gun-toting polygamist and country western singer who presides over an Oklahoma roadside zoo,” per Netflix. Joe Exotic loved his big cats, but when Carole Baskin, an exotic animal rights activist, came into Joe’s life, things took a super dark turn — think murder-for-hire and more. Roar.

A Life of Speed: The Juan Manuel Fangio Story 

On Netflix Now
Did you know that, according to a University of Sheffield study, Juan Manuel Fangio is the best F1 driver in history? Well, now you do. This film, available now, tries to get inside the driver’s head to see how he risked his life to get to the top of the F1 podium.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution 

On Netflix March 25
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are two of the executive producers on this movie, which starts streaming March 25. It follows the lives of the teens at a summer camp made for teenagers with disabilities. Bring the tissues for this one, folks, because it’s definitely going to be an inspirational one.
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How To Fix A Drug Scandal

On Netflix April 1
If true crime is your thing, you’ll be into this limited series, which launches April 1. It follows the story of then-35-year-old crime drug lab chemist Sonja Farak. She was arrested in 2013 by the Massachusetts State Police for tampering with evidence — turns out that Farak was using the drugs she was asked to test… oh, and there’s a whole cover-up, too.

The Innocence Files 

On Netflix April 15
Starting April 15, this limited series follows The Innocence Network and eight of the cases it's worked so hard to have overturned. The nine-episode series exposes the dark side of the American justice system — and the way one man’s conviction can affect dozens of lives.

Circus of Books 

On Netflix April 22
What would you say if you found out your religious, pretty mainstream parents actually ran an LGBT+ bookstore in Los Angeles? For 35 years, Karen and Barry Mason cultivated a place for queer people to tell their own stories — and barely said a peep about it. They were activists who didn’t call themselves that, but their presence helped shape the LGBT+ scene in LA at the time.

A Secret Love

On Netflix April 29
This film “tells an incredible love story between Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, whose relationship spans nearly seven decades,” according to Netflix. The doc follows their amazing relationship from the day they met to living in Chicago to coming out to their families — and continues through illness and the hardships of aging. 
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Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story 

On Netflix April 29
Cyntoia Denise Brown’s case made headlines — in 2004, she was arrested for murdering a 43-year-old man that had picked her up for sex. When she was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison, there was an outcry. After 10 years of challenging her verdict, she was eventually granted clemency. This is film her story — how she grew up, how she ended up in jail, and how she never stopped fighting.

Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics 

On Netflix May 11
This documentary has star-studded (Nick Offerman, Sarah Silverman, Rosie Perez, and more) reenactments of celebrities’ worst drug tripping stories — think Drunk History, but it's about hallucinogens. There’s also some serious science in here, too, including questions like if psychedelic drugs can help depression, notes on their composition, and more.

Trial by Media

On Netflix May 11
We may have a hard time remembering, but there was a moment where a big trial wasn’t a televised event. This series reflects on the idea of courtrooms as entertainment and how we got to this point. It also makes note of some of the most important trials in recent history and how the press affected the outcomes of those verdicts. 

Spelling The Dream

On Netflix May 23
Break your textbooks out for this one, kids. The champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee for the past 12 years has been an Indian-American participant. Why? Well, that’s what this documentary explores, following new competitors and famous and notable South Asian faces to talk about what winning a spelling bee means to the Indian community.
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Lenox Hill

On Netflix June 10
How about Grey’s Anatomy but IRL? Almost. This new series follows four doctors in New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital as they navigate the “highs and lows” of working at the renowned health center. They struggle to find work life balance and deal with the personal journeys of every patient, so you know that this one is also going to be a tear-jerker.

Father Soldier Son

On Netflix June 19
This film from The New York Times follows one military family for ten years, exploring the ideas of sacrifice, purpose, and how war can send ripples through entire generations. 

Athlete A 

On Netflix June 24
In 2016, all of Larry Nassar’s abuse to the USA Gymnastics team young female athletes came to light, thanks to the hardworking reporters of The Indianapolis Star. This film follows those intrepid reporters as they uncover more evidence and work to push through cover-ups and even more secrets. 

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado 

On Netflix July 8
Walter Mercado was an  “iconic, gender non-conforming astrologer” seen by over 100 million Latino television viewers every day. He was extravagant, he was positive and hopeful, and then… he just disappeared. This film explores just what happened to him.

Street Food: Latin America

On Netflix In July
We couldn’t get out without at least one food story in here: Street Food: Latin America is a new series that travels to six countries to explore vibrant food scenes in places like Oaxaca, Mexico; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and La Paz, Bolivia. It also tells the tale of the most important vendors in the country. You’ll leave this one hungry.
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David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

On Netflix In 2020
There’s something so soothing about David Attenborough, isn’t there? This 2020 film is much-needed in a currently crazy world — it tells the story of 93-year-old Attenborough, made famous by his exploration of wild places and documenting basically every living creature he can find.

Dick Johnson Is Dead

On Netflix In 2020
This 2020 film follows a retired 86-year-old psychiatrist whose daughter decides to celebrate his life by making light of all the ways that he could die. She stages fantasies of death and more, with plenty of dark humor and love to boot. This one won a U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Innovation in Nonfiction Storytelling at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, too.

Unsolved Mysteries

On Netflix In 2020
Remember Unsolved Mysteries the TV Show? Well, it’s back as a limited series starting sometime in 2020. Netflix has planned 12 new episodes charting unexplained disappearances, traumatic experiences, tragic deaths, and more — you know, everything you loved about the original. And hey — maybe you’ll be the viewer that solves one of the mysteries. 

Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich

Premiere Date TBD
There’s no premiere date set for this limited series, but you’re going to want to catch it when it does start streaming — it’s a four-party documentary exposing Epstein’s sex trafficking and the powerful enablers who helped him cover up his crimes. Chilling and important.
There you have it — plenty of viewing material. It’s always good to have options.
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