Truth is more interesting than fiction. The titles in our article prove that. Docuseries, like any other genre in time of the lockdown, have exploded. Of course, their sudden popularity is partially thanks to streaming services that are pouring billions of dollars into original content so they could satisfy their subscribers’ desire for new titles. Although rarely a hit at the box office, documentaries are suitable for on-demand viewing. Because of this, we asked our staff for their choices for the best docuseries. And they did not disappoint.
As you’ll see, Brid.TV staff picks are an intriguing mixture of big cats, shady characters, heartbreaking stories, and educational content. So, no wonder our staff stays up late to binge-watch these series and get the opportunity to learn something new while sitting on the couch.
We hope that our list will expand your intellectual and emotional horizons. In this article, you’ll find streaming services’ hits that all share one common trait: Regardless of what topic they tackle, they’ll help you understand the world, for better or for worse. So, let’s see why 62% of U.S. adults subscribe to a streaming service in order to watch these titles.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Released on the 30th anniversary of his Florida execution, Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes gives us an insight into the twisted mind of Ted Bundy and shakes us to the core in a fresh yet terrifying way. Here’s the reason why it’s one of the best docuseries: we get a chance to listen to exclusive, never-before-heard interviews with the notorious serial killer himself.
Indeed, the gripping docuseries, directed by Joe Berlinger, sheds light on the man whose personality, good looks, and educational background defied the common serial killer stereotype. In hindsight, this allowed Bundy to hide while committing the brutal crimes throughout the 1970s. However, authorities managed to capture him (even though he escaped multiple times). During the trial, American women would wait in front of the courthouse for a chance to see the charming Bundy. When you see this in the series, you can’t help but feel that this makes his crimes doubly haunting.
Furthermore, the four-part series plays the interviews in which Bundy speaks in the third person, analyzing the individual who may have committed the crimes attributed to him. Honestly, the tapes don’t offer too many details, but Berlinger’s documentary does. The director interviews those who knew Bundy and chronicles his life and crimes. While giving ample voice to Bundy’s victims, Conversations with a Killer also explains how he was able to escape from the authorities so many times.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Explained is a spectacular result of a collaboration between Netflix and Vox. Both companies took a risk because a weekly documentary installment on a streaming service was something new at the time. However, their risk paid off and Explained has become popular among subscribers.
The docuseries never sticks to a single subject, broadening the viewers’ knowledge of various topics. Of course, making a new Explained episode is never easy. The series’ creators can’t really predict the knowledge their audience brings to each installment. Still, this show manages to stay engaging and compact throughout the end.
In Explained, the viewers receive historical timelines and abstract concepts that they can digest in any way they want. Touching on various subjects, including monogamy, K-pop, and the coronavirus, the docuseries features reporting and research that are a breath of fresh air in the streaming industry.
For each new topic, there’s a changing roaster of narrators. With the help of Vox staffers and noteworthy guest hosts, every installment puts the given issue at the forefront, not allowing it to get overshadowed by anything. So, if you want to learn a thing or two from the comfort of your home, stream Explained! You’ll see it’s a beautiful blend of on-screen text and graphics.
Where to Watch: HBO
Our next pick for best docuseries is also aimed at aficionados of true crime. This time around the show covers the texting suicide case that attracted national attention. I Love You, Now Die raises difficult questions regarding technology, bullying, mental health, and whether one teenager can be held accountable for the suicide of another.
In 2014, Conrad Roy III committed suicide in a parking lot in Massachusetts. Seemingly a boy who had every reason to live, Conrad had been, in fact, struggling with depression for months. He wrote a note for his parents with the password to his phone before killing himself. When police unlocked the phone, all hell broke loose. There were thousands of texts between Conrad and Michelle Carter, his supposed girlfriend. During their exchanges, Carter would pressure Roy to go and “die already.”
Divided into two parts — the prosecution and the defense — this documentary covers the trial as the grand jury prepared to make a groundbreaking charge of involuntary manslaughter against the-then 17-year-old Carter. Why was it groundbreaking? Well, Michelle was 40 miles away from the scene of the crime. So, can she be responsible for the death of her boyfriend? Can texts kill?
Find out the grand jury’s answer in this engrossing HBO docuseries.
Where to Watch: HBO
Some of the best docuseries are those that are so outrageous that they couldn’t possibly be true… yet they are. McMillion$ is a classic example of this type of true story that is stranger than fiction. It proves that real life is full of bizarre and unlikely events that it’s sometimes difficult to believe they aren’t made-up.
The six-episode docuseries sheds light on the Monopoly game McDonald’s, the popular fast food restaurant chain, ran for more than a decade. However, the game didn’t go according to plan. McMillion$ chronicles a scam that sabotaged the seemingly innocent contest. This story will leave you glued to your seat.
The stylized series shows a group of crime-fighters and criminals, all of whom were vying for a $24 million dollar worth of fraud that eluded police for years. McMillion$ looks at the story from every angle. It shows how a man succeeded at selling the game’s winning tickets to family, friends, acquaintances, and neighbours. But it also shines a light on how greed led to a series of bad decisions.
Where to Watch: Netflix
The team behind BBC’s groundbreaking and popular Planet Earth showed their artistic prowess at Netflix while also bringing the narrator David Attenborough with them. As a result, we’ve got the visually stunning Our Planet.
Although the docuseries presents the wonders of our world, it still reminds us of an unpleasant truth — the adverse and devastating effects of climate change on our planet. It captures some of the most heartbreaking moments, including a huge glacier calving and walruses flinging themselves off cliffs to their deaths. After seeing some mating fossas and a Madagascan mongoose, Our Planet tells us that the forests we just saw have since been destroyed. At the same time, Attenborough’s pleasant voice reminds us it’s not too late to change.
So, all is not gloomy in Our Planet. Aside from giving warnings, the docuseries also mentions success stories in which species have been able to start bouncing back. As we watch five cheetahs doing an impression of a lion, Attenborough informs us that we get to see this because the Serengeti is protected.
So, if you want to marvel at the world while witnessing the effects of human action on it, Our Planet is the best docuseries for that.
Where to Watch: Netflix
Just a bit of a heads-up for our last pick for the best docuseries. The American big cat community is wild and crazy. Extremely wild and crazy. We at Brid.TV felt that it was fair to give you a warning before you embark on the roller-coaster ride that is Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
This true crime documentary zeroes in on the trials and tribulations of Joe Exotic, an Oklahoma zoo owner, and Carol Baskin, his arch-enemy and an animal rights activist. Oh, it also features lions and tigers trapped in cages. However, they all take second place to the most dislikable and fascinating people you’ll ever meet. It’s car crash TV at its best!
What’s more, Tiger King introduces the community of exotic animal keepers who aren’t your everyday folks. Before this docuseries came out, the viewers couldn’t decide which title deserved to be called Netflix’s craziest true-crime show. After Tiger King, we got the winner. Each episode is crazier than the last and you’ll probably say “There’s no way things will get weirder than this.” You’ll be wrong.
Joe Exotic’s story is crazier than fiction. Really, you can’t find this in any books or movies. His life involves lies, a live TV show, guns, toxic relationships, a run for Governor, and a muder-for-hire. You need to stream Tiger King to believe us. Apart from being insane to watch, Tiger King manages to tell this story with empathy and critical eye.