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Outsmart your bingeing habits by using them to get a tiny bit more intelligent.

Classes are over, finals are done and you’ve probably returned home for the summer with an open schedule. After the first few weeks of summer, you might find yourself finished with your regular shows and looking for something to watch to fill up the time in your newly freed-up schedule.

Lucky for you, Netflix has hundreds of movies and shows to offer, many of which are documentaries. The documentary section of Netflix is often overlooked, but that doesn’t mean it is lacking.

It has a huge variety, with themes such as crime, natural disasters, history and more. This article will delve into the five documentaries you are missing out on if you haven’t seen them, and what makes them worth the watch.

1. Making a Murderer

This first documentary is a Netflix original series that consists of ten, hour-long episodes that revolve around Steven Avery and his family. Avery was freed from jail after serving eighteen years for a wrongful conviction, only to be put behind bars again soon after. This time, his nephew Brendan is involved, and the crime they are accused of is murder. The series will keep you on the edge of your seat, as it’s about a real case. The doc goes deep into the crime, the wrongs of both sides and the interesting history of the Avery family.

Even for those who are usually uninterested in crime shows, the program is worth your time. It was filmed over a period of ten years, so it is very informative and well made. Throughout the show, you will constantly waver from believing the two Averys are guilty of the crime to championing their innocence, as they are being charged by the very team that wrongfully convicted Steven. The end of every episode leaves you wanting to know more, and you may end up watching all ten episodes in one day, which is totally fine because it’s summer! And it’s a documentary so you’re learning, right?

2. Food, Inc.

When “Food Inc.” premiered in 2008, it shocked many who saw it. The documentary examines the production of our food, and uncovers some unflattering things about processed food and mass production. In the film, farmers are interviewed and tell viewers facts about big food companies and genetically modified food. This documentary is very well made and worth the watch.

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For those interested in the production of food, the film will leave you with plenty of information, and for some, it will have them rethinking the way they shop for food and eat. Even if you do not agree with everything they say, it is still important to watch to get information from both sides.

The film has received mixed feedback, as some saw it as very informative, while others have viewed it as overcritical and biased. Many large food companies declined to be interviewed or have their facilities on film for this movie. Regardless, the movie is a must see, as it uncovers important information on what you are eating and where it comes from. Plus, for those looking to move away from processed foods, the film also provides alternative ways to grow and consume food. Even if you make no changes to your lifestyle after watching the movie, you’ll come out with a higher level of awareness about the food that you see in the supermarket.

 3. Miss Representation

Directed by Jennifer Siebel and first released in 2011 at the Sundance Film Festival, “Miss Representation” exposes the hidden truths about gender representation in the media. Linked to the Representation Project, a non-profit organization working with the media to rid the world of damaging stereotypes, the documentary uncovered the harmful way girls are represented.

Society often links women’s value with their beauty, and leaves them underrepresented in positions of power and influence. In under ninety minutes, this powerful documentary moves and inspires those who watch it, regardless of gender. With all that has recently happened in the women’s rights movement, the movie is an important must-watch.

The narrative follows several women and their fight against the limiting stereotypes. “Miss Representation” has inspired many who watched to take a pledge against gender misrepresentations. It also provides girls of all ages with a positive film about women, contrasting many of the negative media representations that girls see all too often. The Representation Project leaves no one out, and, in 2015, released its second film, “The Mask You Live In,” about young men’s struggle with the narrow definitions of masculinity in America. If you are wanting to learn more about gender representation, looking to get involved in the movement or simply looking for a good watch on Netflix, “Miss Representation” is for you.

4. Blackfish

This next film may cause you to rethink your childhood trips to SeaWorld. “Blackfish” is the story of a famous performing whale at SeaWorld, Tilikum, who killed several people. This strong and occasionally hard to watch film uncovers the controversial relationship between humans and these powerful creatures, and dives into topics such as the cruel treatment of whales in captivity, the high intelligence of these whales and relationships of trainers with the animals.

The movie was highly critical of the SeaWorld franchise, and disputed some of the information that the company gives. SeaWorld refused to take part in the making of this film, and claimed after the fact that much of the information presented by the film was false.

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The movie is intense and captivating. It poses the powerful question of how humane it is to keep animals in captivity, especially those who were captured from the wild and have such a high level of intelligence. It also contrasts the violence of the whales in captivity versus the less violent whales in the wild, to show the harmful of effects of performance and captivity life. Regardless of your stance on animal rights, it’s an important documentary to watch, as SeaWorld is a such a well-known part of American culture. For many, it is hard to watch because they visited SeaWorld as a child, and up until this point, had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.

5. Oklahoma City

The last film on this list covers the story of the Oklahoma City bombing that took place in 1995. Released in January of this year, “Oklahoma City” looks back at the series of events that led up to one of our nation’s worst acts of domestic terrorism. While I may be slightly biased, being from Oklahoma, this is an important film for anyone to see, as it shows how a series of events can lead someone to commit such a horrendous act. The movie covers the events before the attack, as well as the event itself and the reaction after the fact. The doc is important because it allows people to learn more about such a tragic event.

With all that Netflix has to offer, many are quick to overlook the documentaries. However, these five are must-see because they are entertaining and informative. They cover a wide range of topics, so there is something to interest all types of viewers. For both people who love watching documentaries and those who usually prefer something else, this list will not disappoint.

Writer Profile

Kelly Keglovits

University of Texas
Plan II

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