Netflix features plenty of shocking real-life looks into corrupt politics, unethical business practices, and barbaric social injustices. So, where are all the inspirational documentaries on Netflix?
Sometimes, watching a documentary on Netflix is just as depressing as watching the 11 o’clock news. Who needs that?
Because, let’s face it: Sometimes, we need to restore our faith in the world, our fellow human beings, and the resilience of our natural world. Sometimes we want to connect in joy, not share in sorrow.
Have you been looking for inspirational documentaries on Netflix to provide you with a glimmer of hope? You may have had some trouble finding them. I know that I did.
When searching for documentaries, most of them focused on crime or oppression. Others promise another expose of something evil happening right under our noses. But even if we do need to be aware of these things, you can’t live on a diet of doom and gloom.
Inspirational Documentaries on Netflix: Your Best Options
Some of our favorites are documentary series, and some are films.
Regardless of form or format, here are some of the most inspirational documentaries on Netflix. Make sure you tune in when you need a little uplifting.
‘One Strange Rock’
This inspirational documentary series on Netflix boasts a unique perspective. It focuses on the astonishing fragility and power of life on Earth.
Best of all, each episode features insights from those rare humans who have seen it from afar: astronauts.
National Geographic produced this series. And it’s hosted by Will Smith and his infectious enthusiasm.
“One Strange Rock” is perfect for family viewing and discussion. It’s also just the thing if you need a spark of hope on this seemingly dreary rock.
This series will brighten every corner of your day.
Our lives are becoming increasingly mechanized and managed through Wi-Fi. So, it’s very easy to start to feel pretty disconnected from the natural world.
If you’re feeling alienated from Mama Nature, this is one of those inspirational documentaries on Netflix for you. It’s sure to plug you right back into the wild world.
“Life Story” was produced by the amazing team at the BBC. It follows the lives of wild creatures as they navigate their way through the various stages of life.
Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, you’ll find yourself relating to each and every animal featured.
In the first episode, “First Steps,” we watch as baby ducks and seals overcome the dangers in their most vulnerable stage of life.
Following episodes about growing up and independence feature Arctic foxes and cheetahs.
You’ll also see African hunting dogs look for a new home. You’ll watch Meerkats giving hunting lessons, chimps forging alliances, and bowerbirds courting.
What strikes you first watching this series are the ingenious ways that our fellow creatures find to overcome the obstacles of survival.
And then, you’ll be struck by how similar we are. You’ll see how we, too, have the same struggles to live, grow, and establish ourselves in the world.
Watch this one with the kids.
‘The Roosevelts: An Intimate History’
Ken Burns hit the big time back in 1990 with his block-busting documentary “The Civil War.” You’d be safe to say that Ken Burns changed the way that Americans looked at documentaries.
They used to be tedious and boring. They were “educational films.” We found them devoid of entertainment and force-fed to an unwilling audience.
But Ken Burn’s style of storytelling – close, personal, and emotional – make history come alive.
In his close look at one of America’s most prominent families, he spins his magic once more.
The story of the Roosevelts is both fascinating and inspiring. The documentary takes a close look at the private lives of Theodore, Eleanor, and Franklin.
And while it doesn’t judge, it certainly doesn’t keep any secrets.
Three different individuals, raised in wealth and privilege, still battled against misfortune, illness, and even betrayal.
All the money on Manhattan couldn’t protect them from those slings and arrows. Yet each, in their own way, were able to rise above the lowest points one can imagine.
And not by gaining personal power, but by giving service.
They stood up for human rights and protected those without the wealth and connections to protect themselves.
‘The Battered Bastards of Baseball ‘
There’s really nothing as All-American as baseball.
And when it comes to community, there’s nothing like a town minor league baseball team to inspire and bring people together.
This true story is one of those inspirational documentaries on Netflix that will make you all nostalgic for our National Pastime.
In 1973, actor Bing Russell launched the Portland Mavericks — the only independent baseball team at the time.
Tryouts were open to everyone, and the documentary follows the stories of all the hopefuls who showed up, dreaming for their big chance.
Although professional big-leaguers laughed, the Mavericks were a big hit. Tickets sold out, and the team inspired a generation with their independent spirit and ballpark antics.
If you love movies where the underdog wins the day — or if you love old-time baseball — this documentary will win your day, too.
It’s even narrated by actor Kurt Russell, who once played for the team.
‘Five Came Back’
Once upon a time, Americans sacrificed a life of comfort and prosperity and crossed the seas to fight injustice and fascism. And everyone was in on it.
Teenagers lied about their age to enlist. Grandmothers planted “victory gardens.”
Even the famous and rich chipped in. Clark Gable and Paul Newman both enlisted in the army. Even iconic iconoclasts like Lenny Bruce and Hugh Hefner served their country.
In “Five Came Back,” you’ll learn the stories of five of Hollywood’s greatest movie directors who signed up to do their bit.
Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, William Wyler, and George Stevens all served. They were asked to document the bravery, depravity, and drama that was World War II.
In contrast, modern directors analyze the influence of the war on their work. Filmmakers Paul Greengrass, Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, and Lawrence Kasdan lend insight to a singular period of American history.
These world-class directors were changed forever by the war. And in turn, they changed the way we look at war and fascism.
Stevens documented the horrors at Dachau. D-Day sent Ford into a drinking bender. Wyler lost his hearing during the war while filming. Huston documented the PTSD suffered by our soldiers.
WWII veteran Dick Winters is quoted as saying, “War brings out the worst and the best in people. Wars do not make men great, but they do bring out the greatness in good men.”
And while we should always resist the call to war, some of the most inspirational documentaries on Netflix show that we can find greatness within under its adversity.
‘Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things’
If you’re starting to feel like your stuff owns you instead of the other way around, this may be one of the most inspirational documentaries on Netflix for you.
In “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson muses over an interesting case of irony. He claims that, in the West, people enjoy a historically unprecedented level of security. But for some reason, we’re still looking for more.
He calls it a “biologically based delusional craving.”
Others blame advertising, and a few others blame themselves. But, there’s no denying that the drive for more stuff has resulted in environmental havoc. And do we even need to mention the unprecedented greed?
Even worse, it often leads to dissatisfaction with things we truly value.
If you’ve been searching for a way to let go, you may have already tuned into Marie Kondo’s series about the joys of tidying.
But, if you’re looking for a comprehensive philosophy to battle a lifetime of mindless collection, check out “Minimalism.”
This documentary follows the lives of the “Minimalists” Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
It shows how they incorporate the ideals of “less is more” into their travels while promoting their book.
The documentary also explores how some people have discovered less stress, less waste, and more available wealth and time. Instead, they can spend it on what really matters to them.
But you have to be willing to let go of the heaviest burden of all — the belief that you can buy happiness.
Why Watch Inspirational Documentaries on Netflix?
You don’t have to watch them on Netflix, but you should watch them. And if you don’t like inspirational documentaries, then find an equally uplifting movie or book to enjoy.
Just like the rest of our bodies, we need to feed our brains good food. We are what we eat, and we are what we think.
So, take some time to think good things every day.
There’s nothing wrong with a little positive psychology when you’re relaxing at the end of a tough day.
Why feed your serotonin-starved brain with D-list celebrities screaming at each other over their plastic surgery?
Instead, feed your brain with these inspirational documentaries on Netflix.