15 Best Docuseries To Stream On Netflix
Remember when people used to think TV would rot your brain? Content (and our mindsets!) has come a long way since the time of mindless entertainment. Streaming platforms are treasure troves of content for the mindful citizen these days, and chances are, you’ve even seen a few of these docuseries pop up on your recommended Netflix homepage. These documentary-style shows deliver content focused on social and environmental issues in bite-size episodes, so you can stream away while lounging in your sweatpants this weekend (call it “learn and chill” 🙃).
Looking for something that won’t autoplay the next episode? Check out our roundup of conscious documentaries on Netflix (and beyond!).
1. Tales by Light
Length | Three seasons (20-25 minute episodes)
“Tales by Light” is an inspiring docuseries about the interconnected world of different cultures. Season one focuses on the ecosystem—from marine photography in Tonga to snow-capped mountains in Colorado. By season two and three, the show takes viewers behind a UNICEF humanitarian photographer’s lens in places like the Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh, aiming to tell fuller stories about those most in need.
2. Immigration Nation
Length | Six 1-hr episodes
After the 2018 news of family separation occurring at the U.S. and Mexico border, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the agency that holds a more powerful role than ever. In this Netflix limited series, “Immigration Nation” provides powerful yet heart-wrenching portraits of individuals and families navigating the U.S. immigration system today.
Length | Four 1-hour episodes
Finally, we have a series exposing consumer marketing schemes like greenwashing and the recycling sham. In the first episode, “Broken” zooms in on the booming underground industry for counterfeit makeup, laced with toxic ingredients like lead. Then, in one of its most compelling episodes, the series addresses the recycling industry and how corporations are marketing single-use plastics as recyclables, turning places in Southeast Asia into garbage dumps. For those pursuing sustainable living, this docuseries is informative and a necessary watch.
4. Inside Bill’s Brain
Length | Four 70-minute episodes
The man needs no introduction. Bill Gates is one of the richest and smartest people living on Earth, and since founding Microsoft, he’s turned his attention to tackling global health through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In this three-episode miniseries, Gates explains three things he’s been thinking about and working on: creating a modern toilet for developing countries, eliminating polio, and harnessing the power of nuclear energy. To answer your question, yes, it does seem like he’s committed to solving only complex problems with a thoughtful balance of both knowledge and wealth. Hear him out, though, and you’re bound to walk away with a new perspective (or at least a few critical reading tips from the man who reads 10+ books a week).
5. Unnatural Selection
Where To Stream | Netflix
Length | Three 50-minute episodes
We’re all familiar with genetically-modified foods and The Non-GMO Project butterfly logo on our produce. But what about gene editing in humans? Scientists are the stars in the series “Unnatural Selection,” where humans are hacking biology. At best, gene-editing technologies can seemingly eliminate diseases—but they can also customize unborn babies and eradicate entire species. If you’re looking for a controversial, cerebral show full of bioethical questions, spend your Saturday afternoon watching this miniseries.
Length | Two seasons (60-minute episodes)
You might not want to be eating dinner while watching this one. If the show poster of an avocado disguised as a grenade says anything, it’s that “Rotten” doesn’t shy away from hard truths. Instead, this docuseries “travels deep into the heart of the food supply chain to reveal unsavory truths and expose hidden forces that shape what we eat.” Avocados, Mary Jane edibles, French wine, and cod—nothing is what meets the eye as societal forces, corporate interests, and geographical regulations sway some of our favorite foods. Let the exposés begin.
7. Our Planet
Length | Eight 50-minute episodes
Climate change is about so much more than just hotter-than-hot summers and melting ice caps, as seen in this Emmy-nominated Netflix original series. From the makers of “Planet Earth,” this miniseries shows green goddess Gaia in all her glory—well, with the darker shadow of how climate change would impact all living creatures. Featuring stunning nature cinematography, watch “Our Planet” for everything from wildebeests in the Serengeti and orangutans in the jungle to footage of forests and the deep, dark ocean.
8. Salt Fat Acid Heat
Length | Four ~40-minute episodes
Looking for, ahem, a palate cleanser? Follow chef and writer Samin Nosrat as she travels the world and dives deep into flavors, traditions, and histories of local cuisine. Named for her proposed four elements of successful cooking, “Salt Fat Acid Heat” is part how-to guide for home cooks, and part inspirational travel diary. Based on her James Beard Award-winning book of the same title, this docuseries is great for when you want to take a little break from some of the heavier-duty shows to learn about how cooking connects us through cultures, flavors, and care.
Length | Two parts (six ~50-minute episodes each)
If you’ve ever wondered about the incredible development that happens during the first year of human life, “Babies” might be just the deep dive for you. From age old questions like nature vs. nurture to getting into the nitty gritty of measurements and how fast a growth spurt actually is (saying it happens “overnight,” it turns out, is not an exaggeration…🤯), learn all about the groundbreaking science digging into that wild, busy first year of life.
10. The Mind, Explained
Length | Five 20-minute episodes
Whether you’re a psychology major or simply interested in learning more about the mind, this series hosted by Emma Stone dives into what dreams, psychedelics, mindfulness, and even anxiety. Modern science has opened up the black box of the brain, and this miniseries is illuminating everything we know.
11. Our Universe
Length | Six 40-minute episodes
Zoom way out and learn about the over billion year story of our universe, and its link to life on Earth in this ambitious docuseries. With the soothing narration of Morgan Freeman, “Our Universe” helps make sense of space and its relationship to our planet: from the stars, to the sun, and to gravity itself, enjoy a sweeping look at how these enormous forces tie back into the daily lives of our fellow inhabitants.
Length | Two seasons (20-minute episodes)
An enlightening series from Vox, “Explained” covers everything from the world’s water crisis to cryptocurrency, athleisure, and weed. It’s everything you wanted to know about things like K-pop (how did it become a global phenomenon?) or the female orgasm (an intellectual take), wrapped up into 20-minute episodes. If you love Vox’s breakdown of the news, you’ll love this approachable take on cultural moments, explained.
13. Living Undocumented
Length | Six 45-minute episodes
American immigration policies are in limbo as back-to-back opposing administrations uproot everything from asylum protections to DACA and border security. Yet, behind all the news headlines, it’s easy to forget that there are real people impacted by changing laws. One subset of immigrants—undocumented immigrants, account for over 10.5 million people in the U.S. (since the last count). “Living Undocumented” is a series spearheaded by Selena Gomez in conjunction with Emmy Award-winning producers and follows eight undocumented families as they navigate daily life.
14. The Principles of Pleasure
Length | Three ~50 minute episodes
After centuries of misinformation, oppression, and limited to zero research, it’s no surprise that the mysteries of women’s pleasure remain, well, a mystery. “The Principles of Pleasure” brings a scientific and joyful lens to the subject, celebrating and demystifying the complex landscape of the female orgasm, tackling taboos and myths along the way. Each episode focuses on the body, the mind, and relationships respectively, and invites viewers to forget everything they think they know about pleasure and sex.
15. FIFA Uncovered
Length | Four hour long episodes
Not just for sports lovers, “FIFA Uncovered” explores the erratic and complicated history of the International Federation of Association Football. With global politics and corruption charges amongst its leadership, this docuseries doesn’t have a “Crime TV” tag for nothing. If you’re at all aware of the controversies around the Qatar World Cup but don’t totally understand the details, watch this series to shed some light on the wild, gritty organization governing the world’s most popular sport.