×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Best Docu-Series to Stream This Summer

School may be out for summer, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to end. Documentary series have the rare ability to make hard facts fascinating by constructing enticing visual narratives around real-world phenomena.
From Oscar-winning crime documentaries like “O.J. Simpson: Made in America” to the environmental enigmas of BBC’s reboot of “Blue Planet,” documentaries on various streaming services are patiently waiting to entertain and educate viewers about the some of the world’s most mystifying circumstances. Take a look below at the list of docu-series to stream this summer.
The Staircase
CREDIT: Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix’s “The Staircase” explores the mystery behind American novelist Michael Peterson, who was charged with murdering his wife, Kathleen Peterson, in 2003 after police found her dead body at the foot of a staircase in their house. Michael Peterson was granted a new trial in 2017, and the show, which began streaming June 8, explores his and the prosecutor’s sides of the chilling story, including three all-new episodes.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Courtesy of CNN
CREDIT: Courtesy of CNN

Bourdain may no longer be around, but his legacy lives with the beloved CNN docu-series “Parts Unknown.” Whether re-watching favorite episodes for healing and nostalgia purposes or discovering Bourdain’s charismatic spirit for the first time, following the chef’s adventures as he seeks new cultures and cuisine around the world ensures captivating joy.

Wild Wild Country
Wild Wild Country
CREDIT: Courtesy of Netflix
Netflix series “Wild Wild Country” seeks to uncover the truth behind Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who sparked scandal with his cult-like following in the Rajneeshpuram community in Wasco County, Oregon during the early 1980s. The docu-series delves into the weird and mysterious happenings that caused some to devote themselves to Rajneeshpuram and others to denounce him.
Steven Avery
CREDIT: Netflix
Every good crime documentary needs a head-scratching case, and Netflix’s making a murderer fits that bill two-fold, following the curious life of Steven Avery, who was released from prison after 18 years when newfound evidence found him innocent of allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in his community. But the docu-series’ real investigation kicks in when Avery is arrested again years later for a murder he also claims he didn’t commit.
The Keepers
The Keepers
CREDIT: Netflix
Murder and religious corruption fuel the documentary plot of Netflix’s “The Keepers,” which begins as an investigation into the puzzling disappearance of a beloved Catholic nun. But as the show goes on, the story begins to take a turn, suggesting that the whodunnit behind Sister Cathy’s death is just the beginning.
Evil Genius
Evil Genius
CREDIT: Netflix
A departure from Netflix’s deep bench of murder docu-series, “Evil Genius,” picks apart a different kind of crime: bank robbery. The show offers viewers a glimpse into the FBI investigation of the curious case of a man who walked into a bank one day wearing an explosive around his neck, featuring a strange set of suspects that begin to pique as much individual interest as the robbery itself.
OJ: Made in America
OJ
CREDIT: Courtesy of ESPN

The 2017 Academy Award-winner for documentary feature, “O.J.: Made in America” can now be seen on Hulu, and takes a close look into perhaps the most highly publicized homicide case of all time. But “Made in America” is more than just a crime documentary about the disgraced football player’s alleged murder of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend. What sets the documentary apart is its deft extrapolation of Simpson’s narrative to a greater picture of racial tensions in L.A. and the United States.

The Toys That Made Us
The Toys That Made Us
CREDIT: Courtesy of Netflix
It’s no secret that America is a consumer society, but “The Toys that Made Us” takes that truth and unpacks it, exploring the inner workings of various iconic toy franchises, like Barbie, LEGO, and Hello Kitty, that helped define the nation’s penchant for excessive consumerism and how their respective marketing strategies contributed to their successes or downfalls. Available to stream on Netflix, the business series is a welcome departure from the crime-dominated docu-world.
Blue Planet II
CREDIT: Courtesy of BBC

Available on Amazon, BBC’s critically-acclaimed reboot of one of its most successful documentary series uncovers mysteries that have nothing to do with scandal, murder, or betrayal. “Blue Planet II” explores the many facets of the ocean, including the mystifying lives of the world’s most curious sea creatures, letting viewers scuba dive into the deep without needing an air tank, with the help of mind-stimulating narration from David Attenborough.

A&E Investigates: Cults and Extreme Beliefs
Sarah Edmondson
CREDIT: A+E
Hosted by American journalist Elizabeth Vargas, “Cults and Extreme Beliefs” delves into the shocking and dangerous cultures and dogmas of various American cults. Rather than simply taking a look at dangerous and toxic groups from the outside, the docu-series takes its investigation a step further by interviewing real members and ex-members of the cults themselves about their often-disturbing experiences.
The Last Defense
THE LAST DEFENSE - The seven-episode docu-series explores and exposes flaws in the American justice system through emotional, in-depth examinations of multiple death row cases. After surviving the brutal stabbing that leaves her two sons dead in 1996, Dallas housewife Darlie Routier urges police to find the intruder she claims is the killer. To her horror, she becomes the No. 1 suspect. (Lincoln Square Productions)TERRY LABER
CREDIT: Lincoln Square Productions
From executive producer Viola Davis, ABC’s “The Last Defense” doesn’t just spread one criminal case over the course of multiple episodes. It focuses on a different mystery with each installment, each exposing various holes and flaws in the American criminal justice system, expanding the show’s significance beyond the cases themselves and into larger politics of the law.

More TV

  • The Good Doctor

    Series Mania: Freddie Highmore Talks ‘The Good Doctor,’ Arsenal, Norman Bates

    LILLE, France —  God, Freddie Highmore’s good at crying. There’s a scene in “Neverland,” screened at his Series Mania masterclass, where he’s acting opposite Johnny Depp. His mother has just died. Highmore sits on a park bench, clutching a notebook, which she helped as tears well in his eyes, and he tries to keep in [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Showrunners, Screenwriters Back WGA in Agency Battle, Sides to Meet Again Tuesday

    More than 750 showrunners and screenwriters have backed the WGA’s battle against talent agencies taking packaging fees and other changes to the rules governing the business relationship between agents and writers. The letter of support issued Saturday is significant because of the immense clout showrunners and prominent screenwriters possess in Hollywood. Several showrunners had recently [...]

  • Norman Reedus and Ryan Hurst'The Walking

    Norman Reedus on 'The Walking Dead' Without Andrew Lincoln: 'He's With Me Every Day'

    After saying goodbye to most of the original cast on “The Walking Dead,” Norman Reedus still feels his former co-stars with him during each episode. “I’ve seen so many people come and go,” he said during a “Walking Dead” panel on Friday at PaleyFest. “Right now on the show, the ghosts of all those guys [...]

  • Series Mania: De Mensen, Reel One

    Series Mania: First Details on Co-Pro Pitching Project 'Capturing Big Mouth' (EXCLUSIVE)

    LILLE, France — Belgian production company De Mensen, which has just been acquired by France’s Newen, has teamed with Reel One Entertainment on a new cross-continental thriller series, “Capturing Big Mouth. The series will be pitched Monday at this year’s Series Mania Forum Co-pro Pitching section. It chronicles the unlikely rise and eventual fall of [...]

  • Daily Show Viacom

    Viacom, DirecTV Make Progress in Contract Talks, No Blackout After Deadline Passes

    UPDATED: Viacom and DirecTV executives went down to the wire Friday on a combative contract renewal negotiation with high stakes for both sides. The companies stayed in talks past the midnight Eastern contract expiration and the channels stayed up on AT&T’s platforms. Sources indicated early Saturday that the threat of a blackout had been averted. [...]

  • ABBY'S -- "Pilot" Episode 101 --

    TV Review: 'Abby's' Starring Natalie Morales

    “Abby’s,” NBC’s new comedy about a cranky bartender (Natalie Morales) and her inner circle of regulars, is aware of the inevitable “Cheers” comparisons. Created by “New Girl” writer Josh Malmuth and executive produced by uber-producer (and unabashed “Cheers” superfan) Mike Schur, “Abby’s” therefore makes a few key choices in order to differentiate itself as its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content