So you’ve watched Tiger King on Netflix, and want more weirdly compelling documentaries?
With the whole country coming down from their experience watching Tiger King, and with nowhere to go and nothing to do, I figured I should put together a list of similarly weirdly compelling documentaries and docu-series you can stream right now. Most of these are also on Netflix. But there’s also something for those with Amazon and HBO, as well as the 7 of you subscribed to Hulu.
- Wild Wild Country (Netflix) – A 6-part documentary about a loving commune called Rajneeshpuram about a controversial cult leader that built a utopian city near a small town in Oregon in the 1980s. And the locals DID.NOT.LIKE! All the cult-y weirdos in their pink outfits doing their weird sex stuff and playing loud hippie music. But mostly they didn’t like when the cult poisoned the locals’ food supply and tried to kill them, which become a national news story. You will hate Ma Anand Sheela.
- Who Killed Malcom X? (Netflix) – A 6-part series, that is an interesting historical overview of a civil rights activist that hasn’t been covered much in prominent media. The interesting part is that the answer to the question posed, wasn’t actually much of a secret and the people who murdered him, just went on to live their lives in freedom surrounded by people who knew they killed Malcolm X.
- Evil Genius (Netflix) – A 4-part documentary, a guy walks into a bank and hands the teller a letter demanding money. He says he has a bomb around his neck and his captors will murder him if he doesn’t get the money. He is a pizza guy who delivered a pizza, got captured, had a bomb put on his neck, robbed the bank, and then the bomb killed him (spoiler, I know, but it’s a bit graphic in the doc, so be forewarned). But was he involved in the plot or was it just a bad coincidence? It goes into the crime, the key parties likely involved, and tries to solve it. They do a good job. If this premise sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because Danny McBride, Jesse Eisenberg, and Aziz Ansari MADE A COMEDY ABOUT IT called “30 Minutes or Less.”
- The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (Netflix) – A 3-part series that’s a really well done, in depth overview of ex NFLer Aaron Hernandez who murdered multiple people around the same time he was signing a $40 million contract with the Patriots. The documentary does a great job making you feel intense sympathy, sadness, disgust, and hatred for the same person in the same series.
- Lorena (Amazon Prime) – A 4-part series produced by Jordan Peele. 90s kids may not be aware of the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt penisectomy scandal from 1993. But it’s a doozy. The documentary has interviews with all parties and if you weren’t around when this all went down; you’ve got to hear about this madness. If you were around, this is a nice bit of in depth nostalgia.
- McMillion$ (HBO) – A 6-part lighthearted series. The McDonald’s Monopoly game was a huge deal in the 90s … except none of the winners were legit because an inside man was stealing winning game pieces and selling them in cahoots with the mob. A cheeseball FBI man and some unrepentant criminals are the most fun parts.
- I Love You, Now Die (HBO) – A two-part series, you may have heard the story from a couple years ago about a Massachusetts high school girl who encouraged her (mostly online) boyfriend to kill himself because she thought it would make her popular. Except that narrative doesn’t accurately describe the situation. It actually turned into a really interesting documentary on the legal system about what is actually a crime. It’s a rare incendiary documentary that doesn’t try to take an activist position, they do a good job presenting the story. In fact, they only really interview one side, so it’s impressive they can make it so unbiased. There is a bit of sadness porn and exploitation of the victim’s family in court videos that take a bit away from the seriousness and veers into Nancy Grace territory, but it’s still pretty good.
- The Staircase (Netflix) – This one is a 12-part series. This is from a few years ago, so you may have seen it. But it’s got polygamy and theories of animals killing people so it may appeal to the Tiger King crowd. A successful author’s wife dies mysteriously. FOR THE SECOND TIME (second wife, the same wife didn’t die twice). He’s a suspect, gets arrested, and this documentary goes through the trial and beyond. It’s from his perspective, so kind of biased, but still pretty good even considering. Some good twists and turns with lots of weird stuff, and has some of those sexual escapades that everyone loves so much from the Tiger doc too.
- Don’t F** With Cats (Netflix) – A 3-part series about a web-forum dedicated to finding a person who posted a video of themselves killing a cat. As the documentary progresses, you see that person who killed the cat was insane and fame seeking and starts escalating their torture. It’s definitely weird and interesting, but at the end you realize that the web forum had nothing to do with solving the crimes.
- Holy Hell (Netflix) – This is about a cult from the 80s with this weird guy as the head. I’d never heard of it, but it went on for like 20+ years and people were just drawn to him. It starts off surprisingly great like “holy crap, this is unlike any cult I’ve heard of – it’s not even really a cult – everything is amazing and even if people CAN leave, I totally understand why they wouldn’t.” And then it gets weird and stays weirder.
- Amanda Knox (Netflix) – I have always been fascinated by this story, and this one did a really good job interviewing all of the parties involved to get their stories. If you aren’t familiar, Amanda Knox was studying abroad in Italy when her roommate was brutally murdered. Partially because Amanda Knox acted kind of weird, and because the prospector was a lazy fool, she got charged with murdered that made national news. The ghoulish prosecutor comes up a little more reasonable. The reporter who covered the story comes off as the worst human on earth.
- Abducted in Plain Sight (Netflix) – This was the viral documentary of early 2019, so you may have seen it. But in case you haven’t, it’s an INSANE true crime documentary. It has both the worst human in generations and possibly the most gullible / worst / dumbest parents in history who somehow allowed their pre-teen daughter to get kidnapped TWICE by “a family friend” (the previously mentioned worst human in generations). It is about pedophilia, so trigger warning. But it’s not incredibly graphic. It’s mostly how the man groomed her entire family in ways you can’t possibly imagine worked.
- Three Identical Strangers (Hulu) – One of my favorite documentaries ever. Almost impossible to conceive that this actually happened. Kid goes to college and everyone is weirded out that he looks just like one of their friends. Turns out, he has an identical twin brother that was also adopted and neither they, nor their adoptive parents had any idea. It gets national attention in the 80s. A third kid sees the article and says “wow, I think I’m actually their triplet”. That’s like the first 15 minutes of the documentary and THEN it gets weird trying to figure out how it happened and why it happened that these three triplets were separated and no one told them or their parents. Crazy.
- Whitney (Hulu) – I have never really been a tabloid follower, so the “Haha, Whitney’s a crackhead” meme was one that I may have glanced at during the time. I had no idea just how bad her drug use really was. She was a druggie for at least the last decade of her life, if not two decades (and she roped Bobby Brown into it if anything, not the other way around), but she was a full-on non-functioning addict for 5-10 years straight toward the end of her life. To the point that she’d not leave a room for 10+ days. She was also the world’s worst mother (though she may have had some reasons). This one will stick with you.
- Tickled (HBO) – A documentarian happens upon videos online about a “competitive tickling events” and obviously thought “oh, this would be a fun, silly documentary, let me find out more.” Until he tried to research it and starts getting threatening lawsuits and getting followed by someone who didn’t want the attention. It’s really weird and fun.
- Behind the Curve (Netflix) – This is about people who think the world is flat. Seriously. It follows one of their patron saints to their annual conference. It’s not a cynical, mocking doc going “Hey, look at these idiots! Let’s make fun of them!” even though it would be easy to do, because … you know … it’s not flat. But it looks at what they believe, how they arrive at that, what experiments they do (and how they do mental gymnastics when their experiments show the opposite of what they’d hoped). Just a fun, quirky watch.