5 of the Best and most mind-popping documentaries on Netflix (Sept 2019+)14.09.2019, 20:52
Constant medical dramas, horror series, familiar movie formats and old comedy series can get tiring. Serial killer, gruesome event reports and 'shocking' or overblown documentaries can too. That's why we've put the spotlight on a handful of must-see, mind-popping, or engrossing Netflix documentaries that actually have some bearing on our world today. Obviously, there are loads more on Netflix, but you can do a lot worse than these ones, here in September or autumn 2019.
Moving Art : Season 3
Why is this on the list? Well, what’s great is you don’t even have to concentrate on this series, as it simply features music mixed with beautiful nature photography. It’s not really a documentary, but it needs a special mention for being so useful to put on in the living room to distract playful kids on their way to bed, or just calm them down. It could calm down anyone really. Each episode takes you to somewhere new and shows you whole worlds beyond your living room.
One Strange Rock
Awesome special effects and lightning-bolt editing underpin its suitably big, vital 10 episodes to capture and inspire interest in young scientists at the same time as describing our powerful planet’s unique features.
This production’s sound and visuals punctuate excellent, layman’s narration from Will Smith - clearly at home in the role - along with eight astronaut/scientists all of whom have spent time in space, looking down onto our planet. Their interviews form a cool break-away from fast-moving explanations or investigations, and they do a terrific job of relating their shared perspectives and experiences.
So, even experts out there will find moments to wonder and marvel at thanks to the insightful editing and illustrative choice of various Earthy aspects in each episode - 'Gasp', 'Storm', 'Home' etc - all chosen to punch home a direct understanding of presently known - and still mysterious - scientific areas.
Warning: it might be a little too dramatic and noisy for some viewers, who should probably be at least 8 or 9 years old+. Also, those looking for more careful, informative investigations into a specific area should either choose a relevant episode or steer clear.
The next best thing perhaps, but following the more conventional Richard Attenborough-led BBC nature documentary style (complete with incessant and unnecessary music).
Ten episodes of wonderful photography but with an emphasis on conservation, thanks to collaboration with the charity WWF, marks the first wildlife series produced by Netflix. Indeed, this time the narration lays on the environmental message more strongly than it’s been able to before, more via the words than by the images.
It provides another important and more uncomfortable update to incite action. Netflix money well spent, and about time too. However, it might be about time for Attenborough to hand over the mic now.
For more similar, but BBC-led productions, see Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and The Blue Planet.
The Great Hack
Causing a stir right now is this documentary which actually provides a fairly balanced view of the Cambridge Analytica-misuse-of-Facebook-data scandal. We get to follow and hear directly from many of the people caught up in the frankly, huge and underrated events. And overall, most of the people who were involved come across as victims - in their own ways - of the sudden advance and power of Big Data. Even Cambridge Analytica, a company involved with campaign marketing and who were clearly enjoying their success and fruits of marketing ‘experimentation’. After all, as free-thinking users of Facebook we interact of our own volition, thinking we’re completely immune to the effects of algorithms and ads. But undoubtedly, this film portrays a different story.
It shows how lines were being crossed and our own data has now likely contributed to recent, major, unexpected global changes. The Great Hack highlights the real potential that access to Facebook data marketing for profiling and targeting is equivalent to ‘psych-ops’ weaponry to manipulate and influence users to vote a certain way. More than anything it raises awareness and opens our eyes to the real story behind the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook story.
At the time, the lines were thinly drawn but the truth is that it usually takes a scandal like this to blow the whistle and get lines repainted again more boldly, especially when dealing with such foggy technological areas. But in the case of elections, can we ever now fully trust the results while Facebook exists?
So we follow some individuals caught up in it all or who did much to expose the whole story - a little too closely at times - and who continue the cause today.
The film achieves its mission: to leave all viewers far more aware of the darker side to their relationship with centralised social media. We give away our data much too easily and who knows when or what the next breach or major misuse will be.
Luckily, a new technological paradigm is already emerging in the realm of blockchain, cryptocurrency and decentralisation. Thanks to Bitcoin, we’re already on the road to replacing Facebook - and even Google - with exciting alternative ‘dapps’. It’s a bit of an oversight that the word Bitcoin is mentioned only once in The Great Hack, but never offered as the potential mother to the many solutions that are emerging.
Notes on Blindness
UK professor John Hull started losing his sight in the 1980s and made a series of cassette tape recordings that documented various insights of what he was going through. (There’s a brilliantly-made Virtual Reality experience for Oculus you may already remember.) Well this documentary is of course very different, more expansive but no less sensitive and compelling. It’s undoubtedly one of the most memorable and moving documentaries you’ll ever see, with so many insights into what it means to have sight, and is also a story of devotion. How did they bring the recordings to life? The superb actors reconstruct scenes via lip-synching to the actual recordings, and this adds a huge layer of authenticity.
Banking on Bitcoin [removed from Netflix but currently available here in full:]
Despite stories about Bitcoin and hacking, the irony is that there could be a lot less hacking in the long-term thanks to Bitcoin. Still one of the most insightful and essential films about Bitcoin, this series shows some of the key players and intrigue surrounding the early days of the first global cryptocurrency, including exchanges crashes and the fight for recognition. The underlying technology has kickstarted a revolutionary - and controversial - potential upgrade to the financial system that continues to grow. That’s why this is still so relevant and important: the issues it describes are still playing out right now. This is because this new technology is going head to head with national, legal and economic institutions, who remain (perhaps rightly) slow and sceptical in the face of such change. But as ‘the people’s money’, you’re sure to be gunning for the rise of unstoppable Bitcoin by the end.
So... that's all folks. Stay tuned at Prizes Drop as we bring you more compilations in the future. Don't forget you can collect our points here and gain free Netflix codes and free vouchers just by completing our surveys and simple tasks. Sign up and get access to your own special dashboard and start collecting those points. You can watch Netflix at the same time!
Also recommended: the Black Hole documentary on... black holes. However, it didn't quite make the list as it has more complicated mind-blowing information and will not be to everyone's taste.