9 Documentaries On Netflix That Have No Chill

I’m not sure why but I think I have slightly masochistic tendencies when it comes to watching movies, especially documentaries. Some of these I would never rewatch unless I was in the mood to be sad/mad or in need of a good cry, but no part of me regrets watching them.

PSA: these documentaries are all available on Netflix Canada.. I’m not 100% sure about their availability outside of Canada.

Buck

Buck Brannaman is an acclaimed horse whisperer. I was not expecting to enjoy or even care about this documentary, but it was captivating. Buck overcame an abusive childhood and is now a well-known horse trainer and expert; he was one of the main inspirations for the 1998 film The Horse Whisperer (he consulted on the film and even doubled for Robert Redford). I would rewatch this one.

The Champions

This documentary is the epitome of a “you’ll laugh, you’ll cry” situation. I pretty much cried the entire time, but there are some happier moments. The Champions follows the journey of the dogs that were rescued from NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s illegal dogfighting ring in 2007. As an animal lover, it was hard to watch at times, but I would rewatch it because.. dogs are the best.

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry documents the beginning of the modern women’s rights movement in the 1960s/1970s and the women who were involved. It is powerful and informative and inspirational. I was blown away by the archival footage. There’s a great interview with the producer, Mary Dore, here. I would rewatch this one, too.

Team Foxcatcher

Team Foxcatcher is the real life story behind the 2014 film, Foxcatcher. I don’t even know how to describe this one because the story is so bizarre. I knew a little bit of back story because Foxcatcher had already been out and getting a lot of attention around awards season. Basically, John du Pont is super rich and starts a wrestling facility on his property and eventually murders one of the wrestlers. I’ve read that the 2014 depiction strays quite a bit from the truth, so I sort of lost my interest in seeing it, but the documentary was wild. I would probably not rewatch this one, just due to general creepiness.

Citizenfour

This is the story of Edward Snowden and the NSA scandal. I still think about how crazy this is and it’s been years since I watched it. If you don’t know much about Snowden or the scandal you should definitely watch it. It isn’t sad or scary, unless you’re freaked out by global surveillance. I almost found it more interesting to see how it all started and what happened to him after he came out with all the inside information. Not a tear jerker per se, but great to watch when you need your mind blown.

 

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine

This was one of the harder ones. Matthew Shepard was the victim of a hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. The crime itself garnered a lot of attention, but Michele Josue, the filmmaker and a friend of Matthew’s, wanted the world to know who Matthew was, not just what happened to him. The film is a lovely compilation of interviews with Matthew’s family and friends, but the story is devastating.

West of Memphis

I was first introduced to the West Memphis 3 when I watched Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills in one of my university classes. I promptly went home and watched the two sequels. Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin spent 18 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. If you’re a fan of things like Making a Murderer, this will be right up your alley. There are many depictions of this story, but as one of the newer ones, West of Memphis is a good place to start because it’s more comprehensive and up to date.

The Hunting Ground

Plainly and simply, this one will fill you with rage. And it should. It documents the incidence of sexual assault on college campuses and how college administrations handle it. It is very, very upsetting but ultimately very important. I would rewatch it.

Blackfish

I think we all know about Blackfish, but if for some reason you don’t or you just haven’t watched it yet, please do it. Once again, not easy to watch but so important, and this documentary has had a huge impact since it’s release in 2013. In 2016, SeaWorld announced that it was ending the orca breeding program and phasing out all live shows. I have loved Free Willy since I was a child so this one was very emotional for me.

honourable mentions

  • Bully: follows a handful of students in the U.S. who are victims of bullying. I saw it in theatres and cried the entire time. Let me stress this: documentaries that are hard to watch are sometimes the most important ones to see. I thought I had seen it on Netflix, but it isn’t there now. If you have the chance to see it, I would definitely recommend it.
  • Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father: one of the most shocking and sad things I’ve ever seen. I actually don’t even want to spoil the story because it’s so intense and emotional. I would only rewatch this if I was forcing a friend to watch it for the first time. I watched it because it was on Netflix but again, for some reason it’s gone (it’s available in full on YouTube but you didn’t hear that from me).
  • Amy: the story of Amy Winehouse’s rise to fame and her death in 2011. This one IS on Netflix.

Some Netflix documentaries that are on my to-watch list are Elstree 1976, Minimalism, 13th, Batkid Begins, The Wolfpack, Welcome to Leith, Room 237 and Burt’s Buzz. If you’ve seen any of those or have other recommendations, let me know in the comments!

Maudie

If there’s a movie out there that will convince you that you need to live in an isolated one-bedroom house on the Eastern edge of Canada, it’s Maudie. Whether you’re Canadian or not, or an art lover or not, Maudie is a beautiful and emotional journey worth taking.

I knew quite a bit about Maud Lewis before seeing the movie. Two years ago, I travelled to Halifax to visit my cousin who, at the time, was attending Dalhousie University. One of our stops during my stay was the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, where there is an ongoing exhibit dedicated to Maud.

Maud was born to the Dowley family of rural Nova Scotia in 1903 and suffered from juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. At a young age, Maud’s mother taught her how to paint and together they would paint Christmas cards for family and neighbours. Following the deaths of her parents in 1935 and 1937, Maud went to live with her aunt in Digby, Nova Scotia. Maud was a determined and stubborn person, wanting to prove she could be independent despite her physical limitations. Maud met a local fish peddler called Everett Lewis after he posted an ad for a housekeeper; she moved in to the now famously decorated tiny house and the couple married in 1938. Maud’s condition worsened but she kept painting – selling cards and paintings for as little as $2.50. Maud’s work would receive heightened attention in 1965, when she and Everett were the subjects of a nationally broadcasted CBC segment, and the subjects of an article in the Toronto Star. Maud passed away in 1970. While alive, none of Maud’s paintings sold for more than $10.00. Today she is one of Canada’s most well-known folk artists.

You can watch the CBC segment here.

Maudie paid tribute beautifully to Maud’s life and her art. It was simple but stunning, and slow but powerful, not unlike Maud. It’s fairly commonly accepted that Everett Lewis was not the best guy. Sure, he may have loved Maud and she may have loved him too, but he was miserable and stingy and controlling.  Everett was killed in 1979 when a burglar attempted to rob the house – he was known to keep Maud’s money hidden on their property. They touched briefly on some of his flaws in the movie, but I couldn’t help feel like they skirted around some of the facts. Ethan Hawke’s performance was very compelling, but Sally Hawkins blew me away with her portrayal of Maud. I wouldn’t be surprised if Hawkins gets Oscar attention for her performance – she and the movie did Maud justice.

I can’t stress enough, first of all, to see this movie if you have the chance, but secondly to visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia if you ever find yourself in Halifax. It has the largest collection of Maud’s original paintings and even Maud and Everett’s house which has been restored and is an actual part of the exhibit (that’s how small it is). I had never heard of Maud Lewis before going there, but it was mesmerizing and captivating. Maudie made me feel the same way.

I’m Not A Regular Marathon, I’m A Cool Marathon

If you’re anything like me, your list of movies to watch is about a mile long. It seems like for every few movies I watch, I’m adding twice as many to the list. Not that this is a bad thing, obviously… but what does it say about me that I feel a special kind of satisfaction when I get to take a movie off my list? Don’t answer that. Seriously though, there’s nothing I love more than realizing I have an afternoon or evening free from the real world, and pumping out two or three movies I’ve been meaning to see or wanting to re-watch. I like to think it’s the easiest way to feel productive without actually doing much. So, if you feel like your movie list is getting out of control, or you’re sick of being judged because you still haven’t seen Rogue One or The Force Awakens (really, I’m judging you), I’m here to help you out. Here are 5 things you need to nail down in order to plan a movie marathon.

The Guest List

If watching movies is serious business for you, maybe you prefer to fly solo, which is going to make every other step in this process super easy – you’re calling all the shots. Movie marathons can be more fun in small groups. If you’re opting for the group route, the smaller the better – fewer people are easier to wrangle than a big group.

The Timeslot

Don’t be afraid of your schedule. Work with what you’ve got. Is there a Saturday coming up that you and your best friend both have off? Perfect. What about a Friday night that you don’t have any plans? Boom. Solo mini marathon. Take advantage of full weekends or back to back days off with more adventurous undertakings, like IMDb’s top ten or the extended versions of Lord of the Rings… the one marathon to rule them all… get it? Sorry.

The Setting

Now that you know who and when, we need a venue. There are a few things to consider here. For one, space. Depending on how many people are watching, you’ll need to find somewhere that gives you the space you need without sacrificing comfort. Another thing to think about: devices. Do you need a DVD or Blu-ray player? Whose TV streams Netflix? You don’t want to be stuck hovering around a laptop with 5 other people.

The Playlist

Now that everything is almost in place, the fun begins. If you’re flying solo, like I said, you’re calling the shots. This is a great opportunity to check some movies off your list. Focusing on genres or actors can be a good place to start, but sometimes you have to wing it and feel out your mood. When choosing for longer marathons or marathons with groups of people, themes are your friend. Some examples..

  • Apocalypse movies.
  • Movies set in New Jersey.
  • Movies where most of the characters die by the end.

Whatever you want! I also like to combine themes with people’s favourites. Everybody choose their favourite baseball movie and watch all of them. If you want to keep it simple, figure out what series everyone likes and go for it. If you have the entire weekend, why wouldn’t you watch all the Harry Potter movies?

The Menu

Now for the pièce de résistance. Snacks. The bottom line is you’re going to want a plan. Whether it’s that with exactly ten minutes left in your first movie you’ll order pizza, or you tell everyone to bring something, potluck style – make a plan. Food can also be a part of the theme if you’re feeling creative. What could be better than a chocolate chip cookie with an Oreo baked into it while watching Inception? Seriously, that’s a thing. Nothing will kill your momentum more than pausing between movies to figure out what everyone feels like having for dinner. Make. A. Plan. You’ll be glad you did.


Go forth and tackle your movie lists, and then start making new ones and share them with me! What movies are you tackling next? What’s an obscure marathon theme you’ve always wanted to take on?

Leave me a comment!