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10 Documentaries to Expand Your Horizons

Datum:15 januari 2021
here's me very up close... telling you to close your laptop and go watch a documentary.
here's me very up close... telling you to close your laptop and go watch a documentary.

Documentaries are a wonderful way to learn more. As students, we’re used to learning in a classroom (or now online) environment, where we sit, read, listen, and copy down information. However, we forget that sometimes that one of the best ways to learn is through storytelling — visual storytelling at that. There are literally thousands of documentaries available on streaming platforms nowadays, about any topic, and for every taste. Looking for something to watch while taking a break from studying this weekend? Or simply something to reduce boredom during these lockdown days? Watch an episode of a docuseries, or go full-out and watch a whole documentary! It’s a great way to distract your mind, entertain yourself, and still gain some knowledge out of it. Here are some of the best documentaries/docuseries to expand your horizons:


The Social Dilemma

As a media student, the dangers of the media industries are something we discuss frequently. Neftlix’s The Social Dilemma particularly sheds light on the powerful impact that social networks can have on our lives. Granted, it’s at times more read as a drama, with the topics being developed through the fictional storylines of three teenagers and their social media usage. However, the bigger picture, and the message that this documentary sends is completely real - social media do pose heavy ethical concerns, and their effects are more present in our lives than we think. 

The Great Hack

The Great Hack is another fantastic documentary that can be found on Netflix. This one explores the renowned case of the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal. By exposing the ways in which social media and data companies can harvest giant amounts of data from its users and influence the political sphere, this documentary is definitely one of the ones that will leave you with an “oh my god” feeling once you’ve finished watching. The Great Hack also relates to how users are seen as products for sale, so it’s also a great compliment to The Social Dilemma. 

American Factory

This Academy Award-winning film showcases the culture clash that occurs when a Chinese multi-millionaire reopens an old manufacturing company in Ohio. Initially praised for the economic benefits that this company will bring, such as creating more jobs, the story takes an ironic twist when the workers begin encountering differences with the style of work expected by the Chinese management. This is not necessarily a U.S. vs. China film, but rather a capitalism vs. the workforce film. Fun fact: it’s the first film produced by the Obamas’ company - Higher Ground. 


David Attenborough: A Life on our Planet

When I think about nature documentaries, the first thing that comes into my mind is Sir David Attenborough’s narrating voice. Rather than just being another documentary about the wonderful ecosystems that this planet houses, A Life on our Planet is a testament to Attenborough’s life as a broadcaster and nature historian. It is also a firm warning about the state of our planet, and the danger that human life poses to our natural habitats if we don’t take action against climate change. It’s captivating, it’s tear-jerking, it’s informative – seriously, if you haven’t watched this go watch it now!

Our Planet

Like any good nature documentary, Our Planet is narrated by Sir David Attenborough. It’s an award-winning docu-series which features a different habitat in each of its episodes. Having presented the natural wonders of the world, it also primarily explores just exactly how our modern life as humans is threatening all other living creatures. The production value in this series is simply outstanding, and if you’re completely brain-dead after a long day of studying, the gorgeous shots and amazing views of every corner of the world will soothe you. It’s also a good way to travel vicariously through the cameraman’s lens, you know… since we’ve been stuck inside our houses for a year. 

Hostile Planet

Hostile Planet is for anyone who thinks nature documentaries are boring, and are missing some action. This National Geographic series is narrated by the other crowning figure of the natural world - Bear Grylls. Instead of showing all that’s pretty in the world, Hostile Planet introduces the viewer to the harshest environments in the Earth, and the animals that fight to survive in them. Frankly I found this documentary to be super sad, but that’s just me being the person who cries in every movie where the dog dies. Aside from that, the documentary is an eye-opening window into the ‘dark’ side of nature. Super interesting, and highly recommended.



If you’re into American history and politics, this one’s for you. By shedding light into how American prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans, 13th explores the topic of racial inequality in the U.S. and how it reflects on the judicial system. 13th’s director is Ava DuVernay, also famous for her film Selma. The film received tons of critical acclaim, and has become of cultural significance, especially during last year’s rise of the BLM movement. 


Icarus takes a dive into the dark side of the sports world. Initially starting with the idea of experimenting with doping to win a race, Fogel’s story takes a wrong turn when he suddenly finds himself with the mastermind behind team Russia’s doping scandal in the Sochi Olympics. This Academy Award-winning documentary is captivating, even if you’re not into sports. It’s a picture into the convoluted world of corruption in the international athletic community, and an interesting watch for anyone who’s into anything political. 


Streetfood: Latin America

The only thing that’s ever bad about watching a food documentary is that it will most likely make you hungry. That’s simply something that is guaranteed if you’re watching Streetfood: Latin America. This docuseries focuses on some of the prime cuisines of Latin America and the Caribbean, and it’s just as colorful and eye-catching as it is mouth-watering. Aside from this, it’s a wonderful way to get to know Latin American culture, its traditions, and its people. 

Ugly Delicious

Ugly Delicious is incredibly fun! Chef David Chang is joined by celebrities in a series that explores food, culture, and history all over the world. Its second season is even more fun, as it showcases world-renowned chefs and how they manage to make kid-friendly food for their young who would never try curry, and glorify the chicken nugget. If you like food, and you like talk shows, and you’ve been looking for a combination of both on Netflix, this one is for you.

These are some of my favourite documentaries. What are yours? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S: these are just some of my recommendations. There are only so many films and series I can put here before this turns into a megablog. My tip? Go on Netflix (or your favorite streaming service), take a good deep dive in the documentaries section, and you’ll find some amazing stuff. There’s fun documentaries, historical documentaries, explanatory, and so much more!

Over de auteur

Hey! I’m Ariana and I’m a Costa Rican student with a passion for photography, dancing, and cute dogs. Aside from writing blogs, I’m doing my Bachelor’s in Media Studies. If you see me around smiling at my phone, I’m probably looking at memes (or cute dogs).


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