Look, the problem with Netflix is that it has too many movies and TV shows. One category Netflix has that most people don’t visit, because they’re too busy binging on sci-fi and action, are its documentaries. Here’s a shortcut to what you should learn about this weekend.
Gizmodo’s weekly Netflix movie night is presented by the new HP Spectre x360. Any way you bend it, the Spectre x360 delivers. With four modes, lightning-fast performance, and impressive battery life, this convertible PC has the best of all worlds and the shortcomings of none.
And, yes, all of these movies are available on Netflix Australia. Enjoy!
Somm is a fascinating look behind the scenes into the world of wine. Specifically the world of sommeliers, the guys who know everything there is to know about a good bottle of plonk. The Master Sommelier exam is one of the hardest in the world, and it has an appropriately incredibly low pass rate.
This 2012 doco follows four hopeful and promising wine-quaffers on their path to take the master somm’s exam — and all the trials and travails that involves, especially considering a mere 200 people have reached Master Sommelier level in the 40 years of the accreditation’s history. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Four sommeliers embark on an all-consuming course of study for the prestigious (and nearly impossible to pass) Master Sommelier exam.
IMDb: Four sommeliers attempt to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam, a test with one of the lowest pass rates in the world.
Frozen Planet is, for my money, one of the most beautiful nature documentaries ever produced. It follows the animals of the Artic and Antarctic and their perilous path of survival from birth to death.
Interestingly, on Netflix, the final episode of the series — On Thin Ice — is missing from Netflix. There’s a reason for that, although that might not be a reason you like; it’s about the effects of climate change and was the target of some controversy in the US. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Go on a journey through the Arctic and Antarctic with this visually stunning program that explores these wildernesses and their inhabitants.
IMDb: Focuses on life and the environment in both the Arctic and Antarctic.
Super Size Me was the documentary that thrust director Morgan Spurlock into the spotlight as a man who put himself through the rigours of eating McDonald’s every day for a month. The results are not pretty.
It’s gross, but Super Size Me is good fun. It’s a social commentary, and even though times have changed since the movie’s 2004 release, it’s still fascinating to look back at the obesity epidemic and associated moral panic that was gripping America at the time. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body, using himself as a guinea pig.
IMDb: While examining the influence of the fast food industry, Morgan Spurlock personally explores the consequences on his health of a diet of solely McDonald’s food for one month.
Virunga is beautiful and simultaneously heartbreaking. Its name refers to the Virunga National Park in Congo, home to the last mountain gorillas in the world and site of some amazing battles — both political and physical — over natural resources.
This doco was produced entirely by Netflix, and I actually think it’s a better use of the streaming giant’s time and money than House of Cards is. Watch it and open your eyes to a world that you didn’t even know existed. (Then donate some money to keep it alive.) Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. Here, an embattled team of park rangers that includes an ex-child soldier and a Belgian prince, risk their lives to protect this UNESCO World Heritage Site from armed rebels, poachers, and even corporations trying to wrest control of Congo’s rich natural resources.
IMDb: A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save the last of the world’s mountain gorillas; in the midst of renewed civil war and a scramble for Congo’s natural resources.
Cocaine Cowboys is Miami Vice brought to life. In the 1980s, cocaine was the industry to be in if you were a Floridian — it was an absolutely massive underground part of the state’s economy, and Miami was its rapidly beating heart.
This is a look back at a part of history that, no matter how wild your life is in 2015, you just won’t be able to live. Cocaine Cowboys talks to the drug runners and the cops who made that fine white powder their entire lives. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: This documentary explores the many dimensions of Miami’s cocaine-trafficking boom of the 1980s, as told by the smugglers and cops who were there.
IMDb: In the 1980s, ruthless Colombian cocaine barons invaded Miami with a brand of violence unseen in this country since Prohibition-era Chicago – and it put the city on the map.
This 10-part series is split into different animal groups — mammals, reptiles, birds and so on — and covers the minute and intricate details of how they live in the natural world we also happen to occupy. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Discover the glorious variety of life on Earth and the spectacular and extraordinary tactics animals and plants have developed to stay alive.
IMDb: David Attenborough’s legendary BBC crew explains and shows wildlife all over planet earth in 10 episodes. The first is an overview the challenges facing life, the others are dedicated to hunting, the deep sea and various major evolutionary groups of creatures: plants, primates and other large sections of other vertebrates and invertebrates.
Food, Inc is a little bit ew. OK, so it’s a lot ew. The food that we eat every day has a massive impact on our planet and on our health, and this documentary explores just some of the deleterious effects we’re having.
Tomatoes are ripened with a noxious gas, and corn-fed beef is literally destroying the planet. You’ll learn a lot — although, if you’re a regular Giz reader, you might already know a few of the more obscure facts. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: Director Robert Kenner’s provocative, Oscar-nominated documentary looks at the food industry’s harmful effects on human health and the environment.
IMDb: An unflattering look inside America’s corporate controlled food industry.
Man On Wire is the dark horse in this nature documentary line-up, because it’s more about art and about crime and about the man-made world. But it’s beautiful nonetheless, and it might just make you appreciate the city around you.
I’ve included Man On Wire in this list because it’s beautifully photographed and is stunning to watch. It’s about nature inasmuch as it’s about the long, long drop from the top of the Twin Towers to the streets below. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: This documentary explores Philippe Petit’s preparations for historically walking across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers.
IMDb: A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City’s World Trade Center’s twin towers in 1974, what some consider, “the artistic crime of the century.”
The Blue Planet is Planet Earth, but for the life-giving liquid that covers more than 70 per cent of this little rock we call home.
Over 10 episodes, it navigates from the frozen seas to the tropics and everywhere in between, and takes a fascinating look at the ocean-going creatures that live within. And, as usual, David Attenborough’s narration is absolutely peerless. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: David Attenborough narrates this definitive exploration of the marine world, from the familiar to the unknown, revealing the sea and its communities.
IMDb: Mammoth series, five years in the making, taking a look at the rich tapestry of life in the world’s oceans.
Planet Earth is the one nature documentary series that you have to watch, and that you have to show your friends. It’s the BBC’s most expensive ever doco, and the first to be filmed entirely in HD.
And, as a result, it is utterly stunning to watch. Each of the 11 episodes uncovers a different biome on planet Earth, and I defy you to watch and not be awestruck by the majesty of creatures and places both large and small. Watch it now on Netflix.
Netflix: This landmark series transports nature lovers from the Himalayan Mountains to the depths of the ocean and everywhere in between.
IMDb: Emmy Award winning, 11-episodes, 5-years in the making, the most expensive nature documentary series ever commissioned by the BBC, and the first to be filmed in high definition.
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