Yes, I am a gigantic nerd who likes to watch documentaries for fun. Yes, I am aware that they are basically a waste of time unless you really like studying an ocean full of Portuguese man-of-war. But while documentaries are a giant waste of time, at the same time, they're not really a waste of time (if that made any sense.) Most people believe they're boring and uneventful compared to their exciting TV thrillers. However, I think those people haven't watched the right ones. So I've picked five documentaries that are captivating from beginning to end.
1. Planet Earth II
Absolutely magnificent. No one can match the cinematic beauty that BBC invests into their nature documentaries. From the grand music composed by Hans Zimmer to the breathtaking clarity and resolution of the Earth's natural wonders, this documentary depicts Earth in all its glory and splendor. The combination of all of these elements along with the refinement of it all hits a spot close to home that makes you realize how lucky we are to be living on an amazing planet like this.
BBC's documentaries have always made me marvel at the world and Planet Earth II does an exceptionally good job at it. It's a great one to watch with friends or family to appreciate the amazing power and fragility of the Earth together. And also, it has David Attenborough narrating it. Any documentary narrated by this god is bound to be gold.
2. Blue Planet II
I admit I haven't seen this one yet, but I already absolutely cannot wait for it to come to Netflix. If the previews and clips are anything to judge it by, I think it's going to be amazing. While I wasn't originally planning on watching it because oceans seemed boring and repetitive, my biology teacher showed the class a clip, and I was immediately captivated.
While Planet Earth II evokes a feeling of appreciation for our Earth, Blue Planet II creates a sensation of wonder at the mystery and omnipotence of our oceans. Again, I cannot praise enough the camera quality that went into shooting these scenes. The murky depths at the bottom of the ocean suddenly become crystal clear to the point where they look animated.
What seems to set this documentary apart from the others is the extraordinary elegance of it all. It shows the viewer the endless power of the ocean and is utterly jaw-dropping. It took me a while to close my mouth after watching just a small clip of it. Take a deep breath before diving into this one.
Also, I would like to mention Ocean Bloom, a song for Blue Planet II which was a collaboration between Radiohead and Hans Zimmer. No one has captured the essence of the ocean quite like them. The provocative lyrics and orchestral backing most clearly remind me of the timeless ebb and flow of the ocean from its largest waves to its tiniest lulls.
Wow. This is one interesting documentary. I wasn't planning on watching this one either because I thought it would be another boring, overdramatized PSA about what goes into our food which I really couldn't care less about. It's so much more than that. It talks not only about the dangers of food but also about the bigger picture of foreign trade, how it impacts domestic farmers and the dangers of certain experimental food trends and corruption from the biggest food companies.
I know I'm not making this sound very interesting, but it's something that will amaze the first time you try to watch it, especially the episodes on the garlic and milk industry.
What I like about this one is that it makes the viewer think. It's simply structured, presenting different viewpoints around the food industry and letting the audience decide what they take away from that. It's eye-opening, provocative, fascinating and open-ended, bringing into light issues I never even knew existed. In the face of conflicting interests from the environment to farmers to public safety, how will we find a balance between them all in the increasingly complex and corrupt world of food?
Another amazing documentary about killer whales and the issues that come with keeping them in captivity. I know my description of it makes it sound like another one of those pretentious "documentaries" that basically advocates for freeing Shamu, but Blackfish is everything a documentary should be. It presents a pretty well-rounded view of all sides letting the viewer decide what to think about what should be a controversial and polarizing topic.
This one pulls at the heartstrings when seeing the bond between animal and trainer, ignites anger at the corruption of large companies and generates shock at the brutality and violence with which these trainers were killed. This dramatic and suspenseful documentary is sure to keep you on your toes and make you wonder at the sheer power of these animals. Do we have the right to keep them, especially after the coverups and ignorance over how dangerous these animals have the potential to be when abused?
5. Flint Town
This one documents the city of Flint with its crime-ridden streets and its water crisis caused by corrupt politicians. It's one to make you marvel at the resilience and grit it takes to live there. Flint Town follows the police and showcases just what it takes to stop crime. While I didn't find it particularly amazing, it really has the potential to change your opinion.
While at first, I was shocked by the brutality the police treated these criminals with, I slowly realized throughout the documentary what the police had to do for their jobs. They too were human in a world that used social media to "expose" them for their every move. And in return for their hard work, they got more criticism and degradation. Yet everyone from the police to the citizens managed to persevere despite the adversity between them.
While I still don't agree with some of the tactics used by the police, I begrudgingly admit that I know nothing about the real world. I know I'm privileged enough to live in a little bubble where I've never seen crime first hand, and seeing it being addressed through force is a tough pill to swallow. However, I know now that the police are also trying to do their jobs in a world against them. If you're able to overcome your prejudice against them, it's a great documentary to watch that can really change your viewpoint from what the media depicts. That's why it's on this list.