As you search for a movie to watch this weekend, consider abandoning the fictional for some real-life drama. Here are 12 completely fantastic documentaries on Netflix right now, destined to blow your mind (or at least make you think a little).
"The Woman Who Wasn't There"
"The Woman Who Wasn't There" tracks the retrospectively terrifying Tania Head, as she poses as a 9/11 survivor, incorporating herself into a support group and weaving an intense web of lies for over six years. Her deception and its effect on those surrounding her present a compelling look at pathology and the lengths we are willing to go to garner acceptance.
Essentially this one is a real-life version of "The Orphan," except with a French man impersonating a Texas boy who has gone missing. It is perhaps the closest the documentary format can get to being truly scary.
A good way to test if someone has a soul is to make sure they weep violently when watching "Dear Zachary." Seriously, you will be racked with sobs by the end. But, beyond the emotional personal story upon which it is based, the film places a critical spotlight on an intensely-flawed child care system.
"Talhotblond" explores the complex consequences of virtual relationships through one specific Internet love triangle, which ends in murder and incarceration. There are moments of somewhat corny chat recreation, but the complete picture of the person behind the titular screen name is chilling enough to forgive those phoned-in reenactments.
Somehow, despite the pervasive religious zealotry and penchant for brain-washing, the most shocking part of this film is when the head of the Jesus camp in question tells her campers that Harry Potter is evil (because he is "a warlock"). Either that or a mother actively convincing her child that global warming does not exist. But beneath this film's absurd specifics, lies an unsettling look at a deeply misled faction of the conservative right.
With "Tabloid," Errol Morris revisits the story of British tabloid sensation Joyce McKinney, a former beauty queen accused of kidnapping a Mormon and making him her slave. "Thirty years before the antics of Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan," she makes the modern day scandal look like child's play.
"Schooled: The Price Of College Sports"
Being interested in sports (or having any conception of what "touchdown" means) is not necessary for watching this documentary. Through the lens of a few slighted young men, "Schooled" tells the story of the big business of college sports and the little it has to offer its players.
"The Central Park Five"
"The Central Park Five" takes on the troublingly powerful impact that media can have on public perception. The narrative tracks the five boys who were wrongfully convicted in the notorious 1989 rape of a jogger in Central Park, exposing flaws in the criminal justice system and effect of trial by mob.
"Man On Wire"
In a sublime narrative that may as well be a fairy tale, "Man On Wire" tracks the preparations of Philippe Petit, the miraculous French man who walked a high wire strung between the Twin Towers in 1974. The tale of "the artistic crime of the century," as it came to be called, is suspenseful yet intriguing and easily the most beautifully unique real life story on this list.
If you were alive in the '90s, you've heard the story of the woman who drove with coffee in her lap and sued McDonald's. It's practically an urban myth. But did you know that she sustained burns so intense she had to undergo hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of surgery and receive skin grafts? Did you know she wasn't even driving? This story is a portrait of the agenda behind tort reform and the perception of "frivolous" lawsuits.
Tracking the rape epidemic in the military, "The Invisible War" exposes not only the pervasiveness of sexual assault, but the flaws of the system that perpetuate it and blame victims instead of granting them justice.
You've probably already heard everything there is to be heard about this "hauntingly beautiful nonfiction film." Anyway, it's on Netflix. Watch it.
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