Netflix has a lot to answer to when it comes to our procrastination habits, but would we have it any other way? Unlikely. If your Jubilee Bank Holiday calendar is in need of some serious R&R thrown into the mix (along with the obligatory bunting hanging and afternoon tea consumption), consider your ‘to-watch’ list covered- albeit with some slightly terrifying recommendations.
From the weird to the wonderful and everything in between, the documentary and docuseries industry has boomed in recent years, with research from Parrot Analytics revealing true crime was not only the biggest documentary subgenre, but was also growing faster than nearly any of the others between the period of January 2018 and March 2021. Interest piqued? Let us introduce 10 of the quite frankly *wildest* documentaries currently available on Netflix that are sure to keep your brain ticking over their smallest details weeks down the line. Spoiler: most are not advisable to watch before bed…
Netflix’s latest disturbing doc Our Father has been trending Internet-wide since its release in May of this year, and viewers are still reeling from the surely-too-f*cked-up-to-be-real tale. The 90-minute episode follows the case of former fertility doctor, Donald Cline, who for years had been repeatedly swapping out donor sperm with his own to inseminate women in secret, as a result fathering dozens of children. The documentary closely follows Jacoba Ballard, revealed as one of Cline’s children, and the unsettling truth that was exposed after she completed a simple DNA test to learn about her paternal lineage. Suspicions were raised after Jacoba’s test revealed she had seven relatives in nearby parts of Indiana, immediately signalling alarm bells and exposing Cline’s deceit, which is still unravelling to this day.
Eye-opening and chilling, the terrifying truth of Dr Cline’s malpractice is one that will keep you gripped even when it becomes difficult to watch.
Don’t F**k with Cats: Hunting an Internet Killer
Two weeks after its debut, Don’t F*ck with Cats became one of Netflix’s Top 5 most-watched documentaries of 2019, and over 3 years on the story remains just as shocking as when it first aired. The three-part docuseries follows an online amateur investigation, sparked after a series of videos surfaced online of an anonymous individual abusing and killing cats, eventually leading to more serious and shocking crimes to be uncovered as a result. From the type of plug sockets in the background of videos, to photos of petrol stations posted in later online statuses, the amateur Facebook detectives dedicated to finding the mystery killer stopped at nothing to reveal the identity of the individual behind the sickening videos.
No spoilers here, but the tale gets wilder the more you watch, and remains one of the most unbelievable true crime stories on Netflix.
Ever been on a bad date? Times that by around 1,000,000 and you might just arrive at Simon Leviev. Another gem from 2022, the two-hour documentary tells the story of Shimon Hayut- the real name of ‘Mr Leviev’- who posed as a wealthy, jet-setting diamond mogul, allegedly using the dating app Tinder to fund his life of luxury by defrauding women across Europe. Hayut would match with women on the app, take them on an impressive and mesmerising first date, charm, finesse and scheme his way into building what would appear to be an authentic and loving relationship, all whilst flying around the world to secretly date and scam other unsuspecting women looking for love.
The documentary chronicles the journey of multiple victims who lost millions of dollars in total after Leviev would pretend to be targeted by ‘his enemies’, telling his partners he was in harm’s way and needed money to escape- unbelievable, but it worked. The documentary clocked 45.8 million hours of views globally between the 31st of January and the 6th of February this year and hit the top 10 on Netflix in 92 countries.
Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened
If Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid and Hailey Bieber tell you something is worth your time, chances are we normally believe it. Unfortunately, in the case of Fyre Festival, celebrity endorsements galore weren’t enough to save what turned into possibly the biggest festival flop of all time. Yikes.
With promised luxury accommodation, “the best in food, art, music and adventure” in the Bahamas, musical guests including Tyga, Desiigner, Blink-182, Major Lazer, Disclosure to name a few, the reality of the festival was in fact an unfinished building site with no access to food or water, no stage, and definitely no music. To blame? Think a severe lack of planning, the total underestimation of throwing a luxurious event on a remote island and CEO turned fraudster, Billy McFarland, and boom, you have the perfect recipe for disaster.
The one part documentary earned nominations for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special and Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program amongst other accolades, and combines the festival’s promotional materials, footage from guests and behind the scenes of the ‘planning’ process which ultimately caused the event to fall apart. The shocking but mesmerising look at how the event went from bad to worse, and worse again, feels somewhat like a dramatic thriller IRL. Phew.
Making a Murderer
Exonerated after spending nearly two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, Making a Murderer follows Steven Avery- a Manitowoc County resident- who after being released from prison, unbelievably finds himself behind bars again, this time accused of the murder of 25 year old photographer Teresa Halbach who disappeared after she photographed a vehicle at Avery’s salvage yard. The series also explores the connected story of Brendan Dassey- Avery’s nephew- who was also accused as an accessory in the murder.
Columbia graduate students Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos read about Avery’s case and decided to pitch his story as a documentary, which after being turned down by PBS and HBO was eventually picked up by Netflix. The 10 part series released in 2015 was filmed over the course of 10 years and was later followed by a second series in 2018 exploring the aftermath of the trials and convictions.
The show gained so much attention on social media that a petition was created asking the White House to pardon Avery and garnered more than 500,000 signatures. The White House’s statement noted “the President cannot pardon a state criminal offence.” For true crime lovers out there, the 20 episodes in total are not to be missed!
Abducted in Plain Sight
Look up the dictionary definition of ‘wild AF’ and you might just find Abducted in Plain Sight. Possibly the most unbelievable story of all, the documentary follows the kidnappings of Jan Broberg Felt, an Idaho teenager who was abducted by her neighbour Robert Berchtold in the 1970s on not one but two occasions. Told you it was unbelievable.
Over the years, Robert Berchtold- whom the Broberg family considered a trusted neighbour and close friend- spent his time creating a bond with the family so strong that it would allow him to spend time with Jan in plain sight, eventually kidnapping her to Mexico before marrying her, at age 12.
With more sordid details of this twisted tale (we haven’t even mentioned the aliens part), it might not be one to watch before bed, but will certainly have you talking about it to anyone who will listen for weeks to come…
First airing in 1987 and with its later rebooted series showing on Netflix in 2020, Unsolved Mysteries uses reenactments, interviews and the little evidence available to authorities to retell the circumstances of murders, disappearances and paranormal activity that to this day has remain unsolved. The 12-part reboot released in 2020 was “refreshed” by Stranger Things executive producer Shawn Levy and his company 21 Laps Entertainment, which is only another reason to click play once gobbling up Season 4 of ST!
From a mother who went missing from her hair salon within a 13 minute time window to a former White House aide found dead in a landfill site with no obvious motive for a killer, the series will by nature leave you asking endless questions, and tirelessly hoping for closure for the victims of each case.
House of Secrets: The Burari Deaths
Suicide, murder… or something else? This 2021 docuseries examines the chilling truths and theories around the deaths of 11 members of one Delhi family on 30th June 2018. The three-part series is said to be “an uncomfortable watch” with “brilliant storytelling”, and explores what led the 11 family members to be found dead in their home, blindfolded, gagged, and with their hands tied behind their backs. The production covered a total of 400 hours of interviews, and the “emotionally draining” research process was said to have taken its toll on the crew, as the truth behind this disturbing and impossibly sad case came to light.
The Great Hack
Data gone wrong, this 2019 documentary film follows the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the way in which personal data belonging to millions of Facebook users was collected without their consent, predominantly to be used for political advertising. Big yikes.
The documentary explores how data from up to 87 million Facebook profiles was accessed, and the ways in which Cambridge Analytica used this information to provide analytical assistance to the 2016 presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Offering an alarming glimpse into the way social media shapes every part of our lives, The Great Hack is a terrifying insight into how deep online surveillance can go. The documentary was nominated for both an Emmy for Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special and for Best Documentary by the British Academy of Film and Television and Arts.
Worst Roommate Ever
Your home should be your safe space, but unfortunately for some, that couldn’t be further from the truth. This five-part documentary series covers four cases, and from murder to stolen belongings, squatting to unrequited love turned violent, it’s a terrifying look at how unsuspecting and innocent renters can get wrapped up in scenarios that end in the worst possible outcome. From a prominent member of the Sacramento community in the 80s whose shelter for those seeking housing was more reminiscent of a slaughterhouse, to a serial squatter who used false identities to turn the lives of his victims upside down (in some cases even kicking owners out of their own homes), it’s probably one to avoid if you’re currently browsing SpareRoom for a new housemate …
Which is at the top of your to-watch list?