I am well known within my group of friends as being a fairly avid documentary watcher. Its always been something I have enjoyed since high school and thankfully Netflix has carried many excellent ones over the years.
I think it is important to a) be reminded of what other’s around the world deal with b) learn about things outside the periphery of our own lives and c) be inspired to make changes and be a voice for others.
I decided to make a list of documentaries that I think are important to watch. I will warn you most are sad/dark. I get some flack from my loved ones about my “dark documentaries” but they both help me put my small life into perspective and also light a flame under my ass to want to change certain things in the world.
That being said, don’t watch the sad ones unless you are in a good place. I’ll place trigger warnings where I can!
Without further adieu, Genevieve’s favorite documentaries…
This documentary just recently came out and I hope it can get as much press and viewers as possible. It is the very first documentary about CRPS. The CRPS community is thrilled to have it out and available as a way to teach people about CRPS and get the word out about it. Its very well done and I cannot thank Charles (the director) enough for what he is doing for our community.
I LOVE this documentary. I am a pretty big space nerd and this documentary is part of what spiked my interest. Its is incredible both graphic wise and the amazing ideas that are covered in the film. Stephen Hawking is an amazing person. I actually have a funny story surrounding the film..
A pain dr I was seeing a few years ago put me on THC pills (marinol) to try and treat my pain without opiates. I asked repeatedly if it would me me high and he said no. HA! So I got home from the movies with Sean, remembered I needed to start my new meds, popped my new dose of Marinol and settled in to watch Into The Universe. Well about 30 minutes later it became the MOST amazing movie I had ever seen, I mean it was blowing my mind. I also realized I was REALLY hungry. At that point I realized that I was VERY high. I then proceeded to eat everything I could get my hands on and tell Sean my center of gravity was off and my face felt like it was melting. I then made him watch the rest of the documentary with him. It was a good time 😉
This is a dark but honest documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge which is the most popular suicide destination in the world. The crew spent all of 2004 recording the bridge and documented over 10 people jumping to their death while preventing a few others. (Trigger warning: death, suicide, mental health)
This film is so sweet and beautiful and heart wrenching. Morgan Freeman does a fantastic job of narrating and it is truly captivating! Nature can be so cruel in all the hardships it creates for any creature and your heart will cheer as these penguins travel many miles in unthinkable weather to help their offspring survive.
This film was SO eye opening, I had very little knowledge about cystic fibrosis before watching it beyond the basics. I had NO idea that those who have CF absolutely cannot be around each other because they are able to pass each other dangerous strains of bacteria. It’s a strange idea that you cannot be around anyone who suffers from the same illness as you but one that people with CF deal with. This film is all about three young women with CF who connect online and the lives they lead in spite of CF. It’s beautiful and sad and very well done. (Trigger warning: death, illness)
This is legit one of the craziest stories I have EVER heard. It seems like something written in Hollywood…but its real. In 1997 Frédéric Bourdin, a very charming and most likely a sociopath, decides he wants to leave France and go to America. So he decides to pretend he is kidnapped and through a series of events decides to pretend to be a boy born in Texas who disappeared in 1994. He goes home to Texas to live with “his family” and then stuff gets even more weird. This movie is sad and bizarre and will keep you on your toes! (Trigger warning-sexual abuse, murder)
I first found out about this movie because my friend Josh referenced in a post discussing Lyme Disease and protesting. He used it as an example of a group of patients advocating for themselves and fighting to be heard. I have always been interested in AIDS, my mom spent many years working with an AIDS charity growing up so its something I have known a lot about since a kid. This movie is AMAZING and sad and really eye opening at what people in the early 80’s dealt with. It is incredible and shocking at what people did to become heard and to fight for their right to get proper treatment. (Trigger warning: death, illness)
This movie is so absurd and such great social commentary. It revolves around the Siegel Family who own Westgate Resorts and their plan to build the largest and most expensive home in the US. You get to see how they live in excess and also how disjointed their family is given the enormous wealth they have. All of their plans get turned upside down during the economic crash of 2008 and you watch the family to try to adjust to their new economic reality.
Im going to be honest this movie is dark and sad. It is also important and has helped open many people’s eyes to the atrocious behavior of Sea World. I know it helped me decide to never again visit a place like that or go to any zoos. As much as we want animals to be like us, they aren’t and the way animals in captivity are treated is heartbreaking. (Trigger warning-animal abuse)
This is another pretty heavy film about hemophilia and how the medical community failed hemophiliacs when MANY people were infected with AIDs through a new “miracle treatment” for hemophilia. I didn’t know much about hemophilia before watching this movie and it was incredibly eye opening to learn about how it used to be treated. It is a hard watch but I think an important one as something like this could happen again. (Trigger warning: death, illness)
This documentary is a classic. As some of you know I am a HUGE fan of drag queens. Paris is Burning is ALL about the ball culture in NYC in the mid 80’s. It was wonderful to better understand the roots of drag and also just to see people bravely being who they are in a time that was WAY less accepting than the world we live in now. If you love Rupaul’s Drag Race you NEED to watch this film ASAP.
This is one of my most favorite documentaries even though it is depressing and hard as it does center around euthanasia. It follows a group of people with terminal illnesses going through the euthanasia process in Oregon while also covering Washington state’s own attempt to legalize physician assisted suicide. Whatever your feelings are around this issue, watch this film. Its beautifully done and does a great job of exploring this issue from a number of angles. (Trigger warning: death, illness)
This documentary is one I wish all people would watch. It is a documentary about Chronic Lyme Disease and the incredibly complex controversy that surrounds Lyme within the medical community. I watched it right before I was officially diagnosed by my first LLMD. I was unsure if that was wrong with me (my gut said it was). I was in tears by the end of the film because so many people interviewed for the film had stories similar to me. Ive had several friends watch it and they all have come away saying “I cannot believe this is happening”.
This is another bizarre documentary following the curious life of a woman who claimed to have survived 9/11. However she is not who she seems and her ability to immerse herself in post-9/11 survivor groups/culture is facisnating. It is an example of someone whose lies become too large and a great discussion on why some people need to create stories to feel “important”.
This documentary is a fantastic look at eating disorders and treatment facilities. It came out when I was 22-23 and I used it for one of my last college papers. It is raw and honest about both anorexia and bulimia as well as the treatment process. If you have an ED watch with caution in case it triggers you as there are VERY thin patients and ED behaviors filmed. (Trigger warning-self harm, ED behaviors, suicide)
I have watched this documentary a few time because of how well done it is. Its a film made for a young boy Zachary by friend’s of his father after the father is murdered by Zachary’s mom. It is a twisted tale of murder and deceit along with love and loss. Its all true sadly and the filmmakers did a BEAUTIFUL job telling the story from all angles. (Trigger warning-murder and suicide)
I just saw this documentary for the first time a few weeks ago. It is AMAZING. It is made by a man Patrick O’Brien who became sick with ALS in his mid-20’s. He loves making films and despite his body’s rapid changes as he becomes more and more incapacitated by the disease, he films all aspects of his illness and life. It was eye opening, sad, and incredibly awe inspiring. This man’s spirit cannot be broken. It’s also a hard watch as you see what people with ALS go through one their care is taken over by the state. PLEASE watch this!
This move is amazing, I learned SO much about Scientology from it. It is so well researched and well done. I walked away with so many more questions about this “religion”. Anyone who is interested in cults, organized religion, or just is simply curious about why celebrities love Scientology…set aside some time to watch this!!
I am very interested in our prison system and the multi-layered complexities of why people commit crimes. This is a great documentary about young people who commit heinous crimes before they are 18 and end up with life sentences. Its a heavy watch but one that is worth the intense emotions you may have watching. It definitely opened my heart to looking at crimes that may seem “black” and “white” but are often so much more complex. Its beautifully done. (Trigger warning-murder, sexual abuse, violence)
This is maybe one of the most heavy depressing documentaries on this list. It is not for the faint at heart. It is a hard hitting documentary on child trafficking and abuse in the US. It could be VERY triggering for some people so please use your best judgment. That being said, I think people need to watch this and realize that however bad other countries may seem for child sex trafficking…America isn’t doing so well either. (Trigger warning-sex abuse of children and women, violent images)