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The 10 best documentaries on Netflix and Stan to stimulate your brain in isolation.

There will come a time in self-isolation when you realise you’re keen to do something a little more productive than watching random people dance on TikTok and rewatching TV shows you can recite the words to.

I mean, those are both fun distractions from the fact we’re living in a global pandemic, but they’re not the most… stimulating of activities.

And whether they’re informative or inspiring, there’s nothing quite like a good documentary.

With nothing but time and streaming services at our fingertips, now is a perfect time to be entertained and educated simultaneously.

Here, we have collated the best documentaries you can watch right now – from the newly released to the ones that have remained a favourite for a number of years.

The Final Quarter.

coming to stan february 2020 adam goodes
Image: Getty.

Documenting the relentless racism that has plagued AFL star Adam Goodes’ career, The Final Quarter is an important, confronting look at the real presence of racism in Australia.

In 2013, Goodes spoke out against the socialisation that must have occurred for a 13-year-old footy fan to shout a racist comment at him during a game. The reaction was sobering. In 2014 and 2015, he was booed by stadiums of people in every game he played.

Using archival footage, this is all documented on film and will be available to stream on Stan.

Pandemic.

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Image: Netflix.
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Look. We know. This isn't going to take your mind off things, but that doesn't make it any less interesting.

Netflix's documentary about global outbreaks was eerily timed - released in late January, just before this whole COVID thing really kicked off globally. Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak starts with a theory that we’re due for a new, fast-moving deadly virus. That's obviously... correct.

Pandemic shows us how prepared (or unprepared) we are for a pandemic - but it also showcases some really important, uplifting news: The heroes working on the frontline of the Ebola crisis, nurses battling a lack of funding and equipment to vaccinate immigrants against the flu, and the scientists working to develop a universal flu vaccine.

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.

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Image: Netflix.
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Netflix's newly released true-crime documentary series Tiger King was originally meant to just dive into the wild world of big cat ownership in the United States but the finished product ended up including so much more than that.

Mamamia's daily entertainment podcast The Spill discusses Tiger King. Post continues below audio.

It follows the story of Joe Exotic, who operated a big cat zoo in Oklahoma. Over seven episodes, co-directors Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin show Joe Exotic's truly bizarre life in a story that includes murder-for-hire, polygamy, a cult, drug use and exploitation of animals and humans.

It's a lot, and it's all anyone is going to be talking about (with their immediate family in the confines of their homes) in self-isolation over the next few weeks.

Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie.

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Image: BBC.

Louis Theroux's My Scientology Movie, which was released in 2016, attempts to delve deep into the personalities and allegations that have become synonymous with the Scientology church - a religion known for its high-profile celebrity members, including Tom Cruise.

Theroux, who is known for his masterful documentary films which tackle taboo subjects, attempts to be admitted into the Church of Scientology's headquarters before he is denied entry.

This leads him to create a hilarious and confrontational plan to try and uncover the inner workings of the enigmatic religion.

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Actually, while you're at it... watch every Louis Theroux documentary on Stan. He's the best.

Knock Down the House.

Best Netflix documentaries
Image: Netflix.

Knock Down the House is a Netflix documentary following four female US Democrats, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, during the 2018 midterms.

The documentary sees a young bartender from the Bronx, a coal miner's daughter in West Virginia, a grieving mother in Nevada, and a registered nurse in Missouri build a grassroots movement of insurgent candidates to challenge seasoned politicians with powerful friends in Congress. One of their races becomes the most shocking political upset in recent American history.

Period. End of Sentence.

Best Netflix documentaries
Period. End Of Sentence. is available on Netflix now. Image: Netflix.
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Winning the Best Short Documentary prize at 2019's Academy Awards, this short doco has been dubbed the film everybody needs to see, woman or man. And at just 26 minutes in length, there's no excuse not to.

Director Rayka Zehtabchi takes us to rural India, where the topic of menstruation is still taboo. The village welcomes a machine that stocks low-cost, biodegradable sanitary pads and the effect on the personal, financial and economic lives of the women is overwhelming.

Period. End of Sentence. is topical, feminist and thought-provoking, and it'll be a rewarding way to spend half an hour on Netflix during isolation.

Avicii: True Stories.

Best Netflix documentaries
Image: Netflix.

Avicii: True Stories is a 2017 documentary filmed and released prior to the artist's sudden death in 2018. It chronicled the DJ’s life on the road and shone a spotlight on his health issues, linked to his drinking.

It was pulled from Netflix after his death, but released on the service in 2019.

Including interviews with the DJ himself, it portrays what exactly was behind Avicii's decision to retire in 2016, and his team's reaction to his mental health struggle.

Active Shooter: America Under Fire.

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Image: Stan.
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In Australia, we're constantly frustrated by the American response to its frequent mass shootings, of which one occurs every day on average.

Active Shooter: America Under Fire investigates eight mass shootings in eight episodes, including the Orlando Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016 and the Charleston Church shooting in 2015.

From how exactly it happened to the devastating impact it left on the community, this documentary series takes an in-depth look at the tragic events and includes interviews with survivors, families of the deceased, first responders and more.

Miss Americana.

Image: Netflix.
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Missed the Taylor Swift documentary buzz when Miss Americana was released on Netflix in January? No worries, now is the time to play catch up.

The nearly 90-minute film shows how the singer, who was named both Artist of the Year and Artist of the Decade at the 2019 AMAs, has so-cleverly carved out her own career, with a publicly fearless attitude yet with private insecurities that have followed her the whole way.

From politics to an eating disorder, Taylor Swift talks navigating her twenties with the public’s magnifying glass on her the whole time. There's a reason this is all anyone could talk about for weeks.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez.

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Aaron Hernandez in December 2012. Image: Getty.

In his early twenties, Aaron Hernandez was a huge star in the NFL. The football player, who initially got his start as a fun-loving high school football player, landed a $40 million contract with the New England Patriots at just 22 years old.

But within just years of his professional football career kicking off, it all came crashing down when he was arrested and found guilty of murder.

In April 19, 2017, Hernandez was found dead in his prison cell at 27 years old. His death was ruled a suicide.

Netflix docuseries Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez focuses on the murder of Lloyd as well as the trial and conviction of Hernandez, and looks into a number of other crimes that Hernandez has been linked to.

Feature images: Netflix.

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