The Most Popular Documentary on Netflix, Ranked

Choose the documentary you think is the most popular!

Author: Gregor Krambs
Updated on May 21, 2024 06:36
Choosing the right documentary to watch on Netflix can often feel overwhelming due to the sheer number of options available. Having a list that ranks these documentaries based on popularity helps streamline the decision-making process, guiding viewers to high-quality content that has resonated with a broad audience. This ranking is not static; it reflects the dynamic tastes and preferences of viewers like you. By voting for your favorite documentaries, you contribute to a more accurate and representative listing. This active participation ensures that the ranking remains helpful and current, providing a valuable resource for all documentary enthusiasts.

What Is the Most Popular Documentary on Netflix?

  1. 1

    Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness

    Eric Goode, Rebecca Chaiklin
    This true crime documentary series follows the bizarre and twisted story of Joe Exotic, a former zoo operator and big cat enthusiast, and his feud with animal rights activist Carole Baskin. The show became a cultural phenomenon and one of the most watched documentaries on Netflix.
    Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is a true crime documentary series on Netflix that explores the bizarre world of private exotic animal ownership. The series follows the life of Joe Exotic, a flamboyant zookeeper in Oklahoma, known for his feud with Carole Baskin, an animal rights activist. The series delves into the dark secrets and controversies surrounding the big cat breeding industry, including murder-for-hire allegations, cult-like behavior, and a cast of eccentric characters.
    • Genre: True crime documentary
    • Episodes: 7
    • Release Date: March 20, 2020
    • Average Episode Duration: 45-50 minutes
    • Main Subject: Exotic animal ownership and breeding industry
  2. 2
    A critically acclaimed true crime documentary series that explores the case of Steven Avery, who was wrongfully convicted of sexual assault and later charged with murder. The series raises questions about the criminal justice system and the possibility of wrongful convictions.
    Making a Murderer is a critically acclaimed true crime documentary series that explores the story of Steven Avery, a man from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. The series delves into Avery's wrongful conviction for sexual assault and attempted murder in 1985, his subsequent exoneration after serving 18 years in prison, and his arrest and conviction for the murder of Teresa Halbach in 2005. The documentary explores the flaws in the criminal justice system and raises questions about corruption, bias, and the power dynamics at play in Avery's case.
    • Genre: True Crime Documentary
    • Release Year: 2015
    • Number of Seasons: 2
    • Number of Episodes: 20
    • Runtime per Episode: 45-75 minutes
    Making a Murderer in other rankings
  3. 3

    The Social Dilemma

    Jeff Orlowski
    This 2020 documentary examines the negative impact of social media on society, including addiction, polarization, and the spread of misinformation. The film features interviews with tech insiders and experts and provides a thought-provoking look at the future of technology.
    The Social Dilemma is a thought-provoking documentary that explores the dark side of social media and its impact on society. It delves into the harmful effects of technology and the manipulative algorithms that drive user engagement. The film combines expert interviews, dramatized scenarios, and insider perspectives from former employees of major tech companies to shed light on the addictive nature of social media platforms and the erosion of privacy, mental health, and societal well-being.
    • Release date: 2020
    • Genre: Documentary
    • Duration: 1 hour 34 minutes
    • Language: English
    • Country of origin: United States
  4. 4

    Wild Wild Country

    Chapman Way and Maclain Way
    This six-part documentary series chronicles the controversial and eccentric life of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers, who established a commune in rural Oregon in the 1980s. The series explores themes of religious freedom, immigration, and political power.
    Wild Wild Country is a six-part documentary series on Netflix that tells the captivating true story of a controversial Indian guru and his followers who establish a utopian city in the Oregon desert in the 1980s. The series explores their clash with the local community and the subsequent legal battles and investigations that ensue.
    • Genre: Documentary
    • Number of parts: 6
    • Release year: 2018
    • Running time per part: 60-70 minutes
    • Main location: Oregon, United States
  5. 5
    This powerful documentary explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the 13th Amendment and its impact on the criminal justice system. The film examines the disproportionate incarceration of black Americans and the ways in which slavery has been perpetuated through the prison industrial complex.
    The documentary film '13th' explores the history of racial inequality in the United States and the criminal justice system. Named after the 13th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery but allowed for involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime, the film delves into the racial prejudice and mass incarceration that persists in America today. It examines the legacy of slavery and segregation, the rise of the prison-industrial complex, and the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on African Americans.
    • Release Year: 2016
    • Genre: Documentary
    • Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes
    • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10
    • Directed by: Ava DuVernay
  6. 6
    This docuseries follows the Navarro College cheerleading team as they prepare for the national championships. The show provides a behind-the-scenes look at the grueling physical and mental demands of cheerleading and the lives of the young athletes who dedicate themselves to the sport.
    Cheer is a highly popular documentary series on Netflix that follows the competitive cheerleading team from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas. It showcases the intense world of competitive cheerleading, highlighting the athletes' determination, athleticism, and the sacrifices they make to pursue their dreams. The series primarily focuses on the team's journey to the National Cheerleading Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida.
    • Genre: Documentary, Sports
    • Episodes: 6
    • Running Time: 60 minutes per episode
    • Release Year: 2020
    • Platform: Netflix
  7. 7

    The Keepers

    Ryan White
    This true crime documentary series explores the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a Baltimore nun who taught at a Catholic high school in the 1960s. The series raises questions about the Catholic Church's role in the case and the possibility of a cover-up.
    The Keepers is a gripping true crime documentary series that delves into the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved Catholic nun and high school teacher in Baltimore. Created by Ryan White, this seven-part series explores the dark underbelly of a Catholic institution and the secrets that have remained buried for decades.
    • Genre: True Crime
    • Episodes: 7
    • Runtime per Episode: Approximately 60 minutes
    • Release Year: 2017
    • Streaming Platform: Netflix
    The Keepers in other rankings
  8. 8
    This documentary follows amateur cyclist Bryan Fogel as he attempts to uncover the truth about doping in sports. The film takes a shocking turn when Fogel's investigation leads him to a Russian scientist who reveals a state-sponsored doping program that implicates top Russian athletes.
    Icarus is a groundbreaking documentary film that delves into the dark underbelly of sports doping. Directed by Bryan Fogel, the film follows his own personal journey as he embarks on a mission to investigate the effect of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling. What starts as an experiment to see if he can beat the system quickly turns into a shocking exposé, uncovering a state-sponsored Russian doping scandal of massive proportions.
    • Release Year: 2017
    • Genre: Documentary
    • Running Time: 121 minutes
    • Language: English
    • Country: United States
  9. 9

    The Confession Killer

    Robert Kenner
    This true crime documentary series examines the case of Henry Lee Lucas, a convicted serial killer who confessed to hundreds of murders in the 1980s. The series raises questions about the reliability of confessions and the possibility of wrongful convictions.
    The Confession Killer is a gripping true crime documentary series on Netflix that delves into the disturbing case of Henry Lee Lucas, a man who claimed responsibility for hundreds of murders in the 1980s. Created by Robert Kenner, the series investigates the shocking confession spree and the doubts surrounding Lucas' guilt, ultimately questioning whether justice was truly served. With its chilling narrative, the series highlights the flaws in the criminal justice system and the impact of false confessions.
    • Genre: True Crime
    • Original Release: 2019
    • Number of Episodes: 5
    • Runtime: Approximately 45-60 minutes per episode
    • Language: English
    The Confession Killer in other rankings
  10. 10
    This documentary explores the minimalist lifestyle and the benefits of living with less. The film features interviews with minimalist experts and provides a thought-provoking look at consumerism and materialism in modern society.
    Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things is a thought-provoking film that explores the concept of minimalism and its impact on modern society. Directed by Matt D'Avella, the documentary follows Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists, as they share their personal journeys and insights to inspire others to live more meaningful lives with less.
    • IMDb Rating: 6.7/10
    • Release Year: 2016
    • Genre: Documentary
    • Duration: 79 minutes
    • Streaming Platform: Netflix

Missing your favorite documentary?


Ranking factors for popular documentary

  1. Viewer Ratings and Reviews
    Analyze the average viewer rating and the number of reviews/ratings submitted. High average ratings indicate that a documentary is popular and well-liked.
  2. Streaming statistics
    Metrics such as the number of views, watch time, and audience retention rates can indicate a documentary's popularity.
  3. Social media engagement
    Analyze the number of likes, shares, comments, and followers on a documentary's social media page, as well as any relevant hashtags and trends. High engagement indicates popularity.
  4. Awards and nominations
    A documentary that has received awards or nominations, especially from prestigious institutions, can be considered popular and well-received.
  5. Press coverage
    Positive press coverage and mentions in notable publications can indicate that a documentary is popular and recognized by critics and audiences alike.
  6. Top lists and recommendations
    Evaluate whether the documentary features on any "best of" or recommended lists published by reputable sources like magazines, online platforms, or influencers. This includes being featured in Netflix's own category rankings or recommended sections.
  7. Cultural impact and relevance
    Assess whether the documentary's subject matter or treatment of its topic has influenced public discourse, sparked conversations, or had a significant cultural impact.
  8. Director and production team
    Consider the popularity and recognition of the director and production team. Well-known and esteemed creators may help a documentary be more successful.
  9. Spin-offs and adaptations
    If the documentary has inspired spin-offs or follow-ups, this is an indication of its popularity and success.
  10. Word of mouth
    Lastly, consider the overall buzz and word-of-mouth recommendations surrounding the documentary. These factors combined can provide a reliable measure of a documentary's popularity on Netflix.

About this ranking

This is a community-based ranking of the most popular documentary on Netflix. We do our best to provide fair voting, but it is not intended to be exhaustive. So if you notice something or documentary is missing, feel free to help improve the ranking!


  • 178 votes
  • 10 ranked items

Voting Rules

A participant may cast an up or down vote for each documentary once every 24 hours. The rank of each documentary is then calculated from the weighted sum of all up and down votes.


More information on most popular documentary on netflix

Netflix has become synonymous with binge-watching in recent years, and documentaries are no exception. With a vast array of options available, it can be tough to know where to start. However, some documentaries have stood out from the rest and become fan favourites. From true crime to wildlife, the most popular documentaries on Netflix cover a range of topics and offer something for everyone. Whether you're a seasoned documentary enthusiast or a newcomer to the genre, there's sure to be something on this list that piques your interest. So, let's dive in and explore the most popular documentary on Netflix.

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