Although documentaries often used to be perceived as being merely educational — or worse yet, boring — that's shifted with streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and HBO taking streaming platforms by storm, producing action-packed, entertaining non-fiction films. Here is our pick of 10 new documentaries you won't want to miss.
1. ‘Bill Russell: Legend’
The two-episode documentary with a total run-time of 3 hours and 20 minutes tells the story of NBA legend and civil rights activist Bill Russell. Russell is known as the greatest champion in the history of American sports with two back-to-back NCAA titles, a Gold Medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, and 11 championship titles in his 13-year career as a Boston Celtic, having won two of those championships as the first Black head coach in NBA history. The documentary features interviews with NBA stars Larry Bird, Satch Sanders and Bill Walton to shed light on the legacy of Russell both on and off the court. Netflix’s ‘Bill Russell: Legend’ was released on January 25, 2023.
2. ‘Full Swing’
Netflix’s 8-episode docu series ‘Full Swing’ focuses on the PGA Tour golf players during their wins and losses with behind the scene footage. It follows professional golf players both on and off the course through the season’s biggest competitions including the Masters/Augusta National, PGA Championship, US Open and Open Championship and has received positive feedback from the audience for its inclusion of emotional ups-and-downs of players as well as suspense during the biggest competitions.
3. ‘African Queens: Njinga’
Narrated and executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith, ‘African Queens: Njinga’ tells the story of warrior Queen Njinga of Angola with expert interviews and reenactments in four episodes. ‘African Queens: Njinga’ hit Netflix on February 15, 2023 and the docudrama focuses on 17th-century African female rulers of present-day Angola. It has received mixed reviews, having been regarded as “highly educated and well-informed" by audiences but as “a mediocre Channel 5 show” by a Guardian critic. But watch it to judge it for yourself!
Directed by Canadian documentary director Daniel Roher, ‘Navalny’ focuses on the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and events in the aftermath of his poisoning. In 2020, Navalny was poisoned with a lethal nerve agent and survived the attack. The documentary was produced by HBO Max and CNN films yet can also be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. It was nominated for Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and has already won BAFTA Award for Best Documentary and Best Political Documentary award at the 7th Critics’ Choice Awards. A serious Oscar Contender, it is a must-watch for political documentary lovers.
5. ‘Pamela, A Love Story’
Netflix’s ‘Pamela, A Love Story’ hit the screens on January 3, 2023 and traces the life story of Canadian-American model, actress and popular culture icon Pamela Anderson with never-before-seen footage, tracing her rise to fame through intimate footage and diaries. Directed by Ryan White, the documentary runs for 112 minutes to give Anderson and her sons a chance to offer a different perspective of her life and fame. A must watch for popular culture fans.