Far better true stories to stream than the ten hour tale of Steven Avery…
I’m just like you; paralyzed by choice in the modern age. My solution? I’ll happily watch just about any documentary on Netflix — even those on subjects I have zero interest in — rather than experience a slightly unsatisfying fictional movie. It helps me feel smart and intellectual while still being weak-willed and lazy! In particular, I’m a huge fan of Paradise Lost and other docs about the wrongly convicted, so of course I binged the shit out Making A Murderer. However, I strongly recommend that you do not.
Like many of you, I emerged from my sweaty, pizza-soaked Making A Murder viewing cocoon thinking the exact same thing; “Steven Avery is innocent and was totes framed!” Then I read a bunch of the things the docuseries left out. I suppose I should say SPOILERS, but the jurors and other citizens of Wisconsin circa 2005 (like my girlfriend who remembered the case much differently) were supplied with plenty of evidence Making A Murderer viewers were questionably denied. Did the cops plant and tamper with evidence under an extreme conflict of interest? Absolutely. To a fucking ludicrous degree! Did Steven Avery commit the crime? According to my own opinion and those of a jury of his peers: yeah, probably. The filmmakers claimed to have left out a lot of crucial information to tell the streaming story they wanted to tell, which would be fine if Making a Murderer were just a tale of rampant police corruption. But it’s not. Making a Murderer frames itself as an “innocent man” story, but it’s told very selectively, and it unfolds in the time it takes watch FOUR OR MORE of the docs listed below. I’m happy to elaborate more on MAM in the comments below, but I’M ACTUALLY TRYING TO SAVE YOU TIME HERE. Ten hours worth, in fact, plus however much time it takes to sign an online petition to free a guilty monster. Here, have some far better “true stories” to stream on Netflix:
Lost Souls: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Doctor Moreau
There is nothing remarkable about 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau except for the story of the creation itself. From the inside, we have Val Kilmer, Marlon Brando, and fired director Richard Stanley sabotaging the production. Producing more physical harm; a hurricane and a cadre of debaucherous hippies. All of these insane elements are just the tip of the iceberg of this troubled big-budget production. I love a good making of-documentary, but I’ve recently become slightly more spellbound with the emerging genre of “unmaking-of” docs, such as The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened?, Jorodrowsky’s Dune, and the enduring classic, Hearts of Darkness. With the possible exception of the latter, this is a much better documentary, featuring a helluva lot more candid testimonials from the disgruntled principals involved as well as plenty behind-the-scenes footage. Plus, the story in general is leagues more bizarre.
Lost Souls splits itself beautifully between the unique film that was supposed to happen, and the torturous process behind making the movie that did happen and probably shouldn’t have. Discover how big a dick Val Kilmer was in the 90s! Learn why Marlon Brando’s ridiculous demands are the only thing anyone remembers about the film! Marvel at how the director was fired, ran away from the airport, lived in the woods for weeks, and snuck into the finished film in dog boy makeup! PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME REVEAL ANY MORE!
Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films
The only thing bad about this film is that it can’t possibly hope to cover all of its subject matter’s wonderfully fertile ground. Cannon Films was a notorious power house of schlock schlocky 70s and 80s “cinema.” You can make fun of Golan and Globus all you want (and we have), but they’re self-made moguls, proud Hollywood outsiders, and they’ve proudly produced some of the best bad movies ever made.
The story behind the studio that made Delta Force, the hilarious He-Man movie, Superman IV, the American Ninja series, and too many Charles Bronson sequels to mention is beyond fascinating. Yet there’s a ton of things you don’t know, and this doc’s only fault is that there are way more Cannon trainwrecks and oddities than can be properly discussed in its runtime. If Netflix would’ve planned ahead and scooped up the rights to some of the movies showcased in Electric Boogaloo, I’d be a happy boy. That’s hardly the doc’s fault, but I wanna see more, and everything’s either crazy expensive, stranded in standard def, or looooooong out-of-print.
W/Bob and David – Episode 5
This is kinda cheating, and no, I’m not talking about my inclusion of it on the list. For it is Netflix who are futzing with the rules! They’re the ones who included a behind-the-scenes documentary as the “fifth episode” of W/ Bob and David instead of properly promoting it as its own feature. Let’s get this out of the way: Mr. Show is the greatest sketch comedy show of all-time. No matter how much the new series would like to distinguish itself, W/ Bob and David acts as a wonderful extension of it and is basically the fifth season of Mr. Show we had always wished for.
While I’m sure it was the uncensored language that attracted me to Mr. Show back in the mid 90s, it was the straight-faced commitment to absurdity that kept me rewatching for the last two decades. Unlike a lot of sketch shows and Mr. Show before it, W/Bob and David avoids most pop culture references, direct parody, and topicality. So in a time where Comedy Central has trained all of us to expect every comedy sketch to begin with contextual introduction from its stars, this behind-the-scenes doc posing as a fifth episode is as close as you’ll get to demystifying the thought process behind some of the best comedy sketches of 2015. With a DVD commentary track unlikely, your Mr. Show plate is not clean until you’ve watched “Episode 5.”
Call Me Lucky
I’ve stated repeatedly that Bobcat Goldthwait could possibly be my favorite director. From films like Shakes the Clown to World’s Greatest Dad, he might have one of the greatest track records of all-time. His movies are uniquely his, mostly in that nobody else would make a movie where a baby gets obliterated with a shotgun, a lady blows a dog, or a teenager strangles himself to death while jerking off. You know? For laughs!
At the very least, almost every Goldthwait film contains a doozy of a shock, and his first documentary is no exception, so by all means go in cold. Call Me Lucky centers on unsung comedian/activist Barry Crimmins, and even though they seemed perfectly fine spoiling the film’s turn while out doing promotion for it last year, I won’t do it here. The surprise in question is by no means a happy one, but it’s one everybody should probably see for themselves. Let me just say Crimmins went from telling dick jokes in Boston to dedicating his time to redefining many of the laws that protect you and yours today. Call Me Lucky is more than just one of the prettiest and most polished documentaries made last year… it’s one of the best movies of 2015 period.
What you’re about to witness is the most I have ever written about sports on Laser Time. I’m not a fan of spectating balls of any kind outside of pornography, but damned if I can’t get wrapped up in a well told tale of sports drama. Immediately after WWE Network’s Monday Night Wars docu-series concluded, ESPN’s 30 for 30 swooped in to save my interest in sporting documentaries, and almost all these stories are unbelievably watchable. Chasing Tyson is the best of that bunch, since it’s easy for a non-sports fan to follow. It definitely helps that most boxing superstars’ entire careers only amount to a handful of hours in the ring per decade (compare that to the dozens to hundreds of hours players spend on fields and in arenas for team sports).
That’s not to take away from what Evander Holyfield did with his stellar career while the boxing world disrespected the legend. Heck, the documentary about him doesn’t even bear his name! It would be tragic if “The Real Deal” seemed to care at all, but Holyfield remains humble and smiles through it all. Chasing Tyson follows Evander Holyfield through his plight of being the most decorated (yet least revered) heavyweight champion of our time. No matter how many belts he won or opponents he bested, the public always claimed there was one man he needed to beat; “Iron” Mike Tyson. Through a bizarre set series of events, Tyson and his camp denied Holyfield a fight for almost a decade. Worse, even in defeat, Tyson still denied him a satisfying victory. It would be downright Shakespearean if Holyfield wasn’t still a millionaire and seemed to give an absolute shit.
24 thoughts on “10 Netflix Documentaries to Watch Instead of Making a Murderer”
Legit as always brotha; if you are looking for more Electric Boogaloo type fun, definitely check out “Rewind This” on amazon prime.
Small Potatoes is and amazing story. In fact, all the 30 for 30 docs are great fun.
Agreed! Even non sports fans can find some that are just culturally interesting. The Bo Jackson one even brings up tecmo bowl
Is the steroid one still on there? That one was really good. It didn’t say one way or another that steroids were bad- it just fed info and left it up to the viewer to decide.
Steven Avery is probably guilty. Brendan Dassey got railroaded and at the very least deserves a new trial, and that’s all I have to say about that.
Anyway, I’ll echo the 30 for 30 love and recommend June 17, 1994. Definitely not your typical sports documentary, it has zero narration and shows a series of clips of sporting events that day and how all of them were gradually overshadowed by the OJ chase. I’m not doing a great job of describing it but it’s fascinating to watch everything unfold whether you remember that day or not.
Another great documentary is “Searching for General Tso”. It goes into the history of Chinese immigrants in the U.S. through the serving of chinese food to Americans.
I meant to include that one! I was trying to focus on “new” shit, but obviously that fell by the wayside. Fuck me I s’pose!
I’ve watched all of these except electric bugaloo. Making a Murderer is objectively better than all of them.
To be fair, I had an absolute blast watching Making a Murderer. A roller coaster of heavy emotions! But of course, I did a little more research on the case and felt incredibly deceived and like my time was wasted (TEN FUCKING HOURS!) I suppose I recommend not watching it altogether OR not looking into the case beyond watching the series. As long as that includes NOT signing petitions to free Steven Avery.
Strange, even after reading the additional evidence, I did not feel like my time was wasted. Maybe this is because most of this other evidence came straight from the prosecutor’s mouth with the prosecutor’s spin on it. Maybe because, even with the strongest version of this evidence, there was still reasonable doubt. Maybe I was still upset at the idea that police probably routinely frame people that they think are guilty. And maybe it was because, regardless of Avery, Brendan Dassey was probably railroaded.
Another good one related to The Wrecking Crew is Muscle Shoals, which covers the backing band behind some of the most recognizable rock songs.
I also thoroughly recommend Jodorowsky’s Dune, which is also on Netflix. It’s about a director’s ambitious but futile quest to make a film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. His plans included music by Pink Floyd, art by Moebius and HR Giger, and having the movie star David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Wells and Salvador Dali!
I remember having to watch that in a class in college. That’s a movie I would have liked to have seen finished.
I feel like, with all of this sports talk, we need to watch Space Jam for MNM. Also there are a TON of really good documentaries on the WWE Network worth checking out. It’s one of the things WWE does especially well. The Paul Heyman Story and Thy Kingdom Come, about Triple H, are recent ones that are particularly good.
I’ve only watch 30 minutes of Making a Murderer because it felt too much like Serial and the stuff I’ve heard afterwards just makes me think that I’m better off not watching it.
In the hindsight of MaM, Serial looks like an ethical superhero. It clearly dove into the case because they thought they were dealing with an innocent man, but it doesn’t deny the audience vital information in order to lead them to a specific conclusion. I really liked Serial for a lot of reasons, but it explored every (or at least numerous) aspect(s) of its case, and it consistently presented us with evidence that flew in the face of its own intention. Serial’s S1 thesis seemed to be that any rational definition of crime solving points to Adnan. The only evidence to the contrary being (to his severe, baffling detriment) is his repeated insistence of his own innocence. If you draw the conclusion that Adnan’s not guitly, which is totally understandable, the series is still about how the justice system, when working at 10000% percent capacity, can still fail somebody completely. Which is why Serial is beautiful, and I recommend it wholeheartedly. What Serial never did was deny the audience crucial information to reach a foregone conclusion. I won’t even get up on a high horse about the moral implications, but I do feel you’ll waste ten hours on a show that, at best, is about rampant police corruption and a very guilty monster.
sorry Chris, the material left out doesn’t convince me otherwise. he burned a cat, ok maybe he’s a dumb redneck. he greeted Theresa in a towel and it creeped her out, ya he’s a dumb redneck. he threatened a relative at gunpoint, that was in the doc, and ya he’s a dumb redneck.
anyways, I have a open mind, and I don’t like being coerced into an opinion, but I haven’t seen anything that makes me think the guy is guilty of this.
great recommendations btw
No, not the character attack stuff. That’s hardly the most damning. Besides, that was IN the doc. Remember the calls Teresa’s friend claims she got on the phone from the weird number on the day she was murdered? The one you think the doc will explore as a an alternate suspect? That was Avery. He *67ed (that’s to block Call ID, millennials) and the phone records were brought up in court, not to viewers. As was Avery’s repeated harassment of this specific woman. As was the fact that that he called AutoTrader, sometimes (allegedly) anonymously, after she expressed discomfort with dealing with him. As was the allegation that he exposed himself to her and repeatedly harassed her and made her uncomfortable during worksite visits. Not saying that alone makes him guilty, but I’m not even going into the other DNA evidence and weapon purchases that viewers were never told about. Just (as someone who watched the series) take into account that the doc portrays the victim and the murder suspect as strangers in the night, and that’s absolute bullshit. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it emphasizes how deceptive the show was with the information it gives you.
Without going into much more, yes, Brendan is the only thing close to a victim on camera in this series. It doesn’t make him innocent necessarily, but a tragic figure far more worthy of your sympathy than Avery. If you’d like to learn more about what a shitheel Avery is, please, look into the parts of the of Brendan’s phone calls with his mother the docuseries carefully edits around. Like within seconds of the careful snippets we saw on Netflix. It will disgust you.
Am I 100% sure Avery’s guilty? Almost. But click just that link at the top of the article and you’ll be a helluva lot closer to that conclusion too. I could go on…
Great article! I’ve already seen Wrecking Crew and Call Me Lucky per your recommendation, they were both fantastic. Also want to recommend Stripped (which I also heard about from one of your podcasts). A must see for anyone who was ever into comic strips.
Glad you included some 30 for 30’s, possibly one of the best things to come out of ESPN. They even have some shorts on their site that are interesting but don’t have enough material for a full length doc like Holy Grail, about the infamous Honus Wagner baseball card. Slaying the Badger is really interesting, it’s a look inside pro cycling team politics in the 1970s-1980s.
Not on Netflix, but in the same vein as Making A Murderer: The Staircase, MaM before it was MaM. A husband was accused of murdering his wife and it follows the entire trial from his point of view. Also The Jinx, it’s about Robert Durst and his connections to various murders. Came out on HBO in a six part series
These aren’t new, and I don’t know if they’re all on Netflix, but if you liked those docs, out should also check out:
Deep Water – the story about a guy who was obsessed with sailing and tried to compete in a solo, round-the-world sailboat race, even though he had no experience. Things go badly.
In the Shadow of the Moon – Riveting tale of the Apollo moon missions as told by the guys who did it.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil – About a once popular Canadian metal band that hasn’t been relevant in decades as they try for one last shot at making a good album while on a disastrous European tour.
The King of Kong – Surly most of you have seen this, but just in case you haven’t – it’s the incredible story about two rivals as they compete for the world record high score in Donkey Kong.
Marjoe – 70s era doc about a guy named Marjoe, who was once a famous child preacher, as he goes on his last church revival tour before quitting the business to try and make it in Hollywood. The hook is that he is great at his preaching craft – but he doesn’t believe any of it. Not as slick as modern docs, but enjoyable still.
Full Tilt Boogie – Full blown doc about the making of From Dusk Til Dawn that features many of the behind the scenes crew as the real stars of the show.
Sicko – Michael Moore may be a divisive figure, but you can’t deny his skill. Sicko is by far his best work. While most of his docs try to bring some humor a levity to serious subjects, Sicko is a straight up scalding take down of the American health insurance system that is so brimming with seething rage and contempt that you might surprise yourself by how angry you get after watching it.
Im looking forward to several of these, although Life Itself made me depressed and sort of bored at the same time. So i quit on that one.
It’s not recent but Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a really great look at this one old guy who has been making sushi his entire life. Worth a watch especially if you are at all interested in sushi or Japan.
I feel like an obvious netflix exclusion is The Thin Blue Line. It’s a similar story to MaM, just even more injustice, tightly told and with a stunning, conclusive ending.
The Staircase and The Jinx are also a better use of your time if your time in the genre. The former is on youtube and latter an HBO series that is probably some of the best Television I’ve seen.