Netflix added a lot of great documentaries this year. We’ve got a list of the top 5 Netflix Original Documentaries that were released in 2017.
Netflix does a lot of things well, but at the top of that list is making documentary films and series. They are deliberate, compelling, and sometimes quite shocking. In a couple of cases, we have been left wanting even more information.
The top five positions were chosen by our readers in our What’s On Netflix 2017 Awards. All of the titles are very worthy of a spot on the list. For more of our top selections, see our list of the Top 50 Documentaries currently on Netflix.
Here’s a look at the those chosen as the top original documentaries of 2017:
5. Five Came Back
This three-part documentary series is based on the 2014 book Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War by Mark Harris, who also wrote the series. It explores the experiences of five U.S. film directors – John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens – and their frontline work during WWll. Each of the five filmmakers’ journey is narrated by a contemporary director: Paul Greengrass, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and Lawrence Kasdan. It is positively engrossing. Meryl Streep, who serves as narrator, won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Narrator for her performance. My only complaint is I actually wish the series was longer. It’s so fascinating I could have watched many more episodes.
This story is a little unbelievable: a filmmaker accidentally captures one of the biggest scandals in sporting history. Bryan Fogel, an amateur cyclist, sets out to prove just how easy it is to evade cycling’s testing system by taking performance-enhancing drugs and competing in the same amateur race that he had struggled in the year before. In the process of putting it all together, he contacts experts in the field. What happens when he begins collaborating with one of them ends up exposing a huge scandal involving Russia and the Olympics. It’s still having repercussions today. I don’t know if I should call it dumb luck, but it’s certainly a fascinating journey to watch.
3. The Confession Tapes
This true crime series exposes instances of possible false confessions, over the course of six cases in seven episodes, that led to murder convictions. It weaves together taped confessions with archival media coverage and interviews with the suspects, their families and friends, police, lawyers, and various experts. In each case, the documentary presents alternate views of how the crime could have taken place and features experts on false confessions, criminal law, and miscarriages of justice and psychology. It is a frightening and eye-opening look at the justice system.
2. Last Chance U (Season 3)
This series follows a group of young men who are extremely talented but have troubles holding them back. Many of the players have been removed from rosters due to academic or disciplinary issues, and playing at the JUCO level is their “last chance” to prove themselves and return to Division I. This season leaves East Mississippi Community College, where it’s been for two years, and heads to Kansas. It’s a raw, emotional series with a Hoop Dreams feel.
1. The Keepers
This true crime docuseries is going to make your jaw drop. It tells the story of the unsolved murder of Cathy Cesnik, a beloved nun and Catholic high school teacher in Baltimore who disappeared on Nov. 7, 1969. Her body was found nearly two months later, but to this day her killer remains unnamed. The series broke open a 40-year-old cold case, chiefly due to two former Keogh students who were determined to discover the truth about Sister Cathy’s death. The Keepers is absolutely riveting and is going to leave you wanting more.
This series is going to have you Googling and reading a lot. It is engrossing. Since it aired, there have been further intriguing updates which add even more depth to this gripping case:
- Maryland’s Statute of Limitations Has Been Extended
- The Exhumation of A Body
- There Is A Facebook Group Moderated by Gemma Hoskins
- More Survivors Have Come Forward