Documentarians have a goal to provide a well-researched and truthful look at a certain subject so that the audience can gain a new perspective. Which is why they make excellent binging material for health nuts (although some could argue binging isn’t very healthy … ).
We wanted to take a look at how health can be depicted through the lens and what topics might be covered, so we’ve done a lot of watching, and whittled down a list of seven really thought-provoking and educational documentaries streaming on Netflix right now, all on different facets of the greater topic of health, from physical fitness to spirituality to mental health to addiction and recovery.
If you want to learn more about your body, terrify yourself of what might happen to it in the future or be inspired to make a major change in the way you eat, watch any of our picks for the best documentaries on Netflix about health.
1. Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru
Tony Robbins is an interesting public figure, someone who’s helped hundreds of thousands of people while inciting controversy from skeptics. Regardless of which side of the camp you’re on, I Am Not Your Guru is a fascinating look at the process behind these huge conferences Robbins holds. While we don’t get a super close look at Robbins’ personal life, it’s interesting enough to see how he’s able to provide the help that some people desperately need.
2. The Mask You Live In
Masculinity is such a fragile thing. The Mask You Live In presupposes that the reason for this fragility is the pressure put upon young men to “be a man.” Men are hard on each other, constantly tearing each other down for not reaching a standard of manliness set by some ancient scribe, or whatever. This is heartbreaking, and until we realize that we’re tearing down our future generations, nothing will change. Basically, societal pressure is the absolute worst.
3. A New High
Recovery from addiction is a long hard road, that doesn’t always lead to success. A New High seeks to provide a new kind of recovery program with a one-year rigorous training regimen that will enable a diverse group of people to climb Mt. Rainier in Washington. This film is heart-wrenching and uplifting; for each devastating story of loss and drug addiction it presents, a person struggling, physically and mentally, to find new hope in their life in unveiled.
4. (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies
You know how there are some people who say they don’t like Hall & Oates? Yeah, they’re lying. Everyone likes Hall & Oates. The fact is, people lie sometimes, and (Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies attempts to get to the core of why people lie. Professor and best-selling author Dan Ariely leads an investigation featuring testimonies and examples of real people lying for some sort of gain. It’s fascinating and gets to the source of why people lie.
The sobering reality of death is something we must all face one day, and with the help of Jessica Zitter, M.D., some patients are given the dignity to go quietly into that night on their own terms. Here, we’re faced with a couple of families contemplating the impossible decision between medically sustained life or whatever comes next. Extremis offers no answers on what comes after death, but it does provide a beautiful, stark look at the love of family.
6. Super Size Me
Ahh, this is a classic. With Super Size Me Morgan Spurlock goes on a horrific 30-day diet of only McDonald’s menu items, an undertaking of biblical proportions. Throughout this film, we get a well-earned heavy dose of political and commercial commentary talking about the state of the fast food industry and American obesity. And this was filmed in 2003, a little over 14 years ago. Yet, it’s still frighteningly relevant today—maybe even more so.
7. Pumping Iron
is a literal force to be reckoned with, and he’s never looked better than he does in Pumping Iron. A documentary following 1975’s Mr. Olympia, this film follows the competitors as they prep for the title. Arnie is obviously the focus here, but we also get a good little chest puffing from a Lou Ferrigno and a surprising amount of headgames instigated by Arnold himself, in an attempt to stymie his competitors.
Pete Mercer writes for Paste’s travel, health, science and movies sections. Find him on Twitter.