10 Captivating Docuseries to Binge-Watch Now
Everyone's talking about NXIVM, the nefarious self-improvement group/multi-level marketing company that, turns out, is more than just a dodgy pyramid scheme—it's a cult. It's the subject of The Vow, a new HBO true crime documentary series that focuses on the group's members and defectors, as well as its leader, Keith Raniere, who was convicted of sex trafficking and racketeering conspiracies in 2019.
But The Vow isn't the only must-watch docuseries to add to your binge list—there are hours of captivating documentary viewing to be had. From McMillions, the incredible story about how a former cop managed to rig the McDonald's Monopoly game for over a decade and get away with millions of dollars, to The Rise Of The Murdoch Dynasty, the UK series about how Australia-born media baron Rupert Murdoch wields influence over global events. All that and more, including college football players, financial corruption, drag queens on tour and one journalist's mission to solve a decades-old crime before it's too late.
Here are the ten most captivating docuseries to binge-watch now.
NXIVM is like Scientology for the wellness-obsessed: part professional development facility, part spiritual wellbeing group. It's a sign of the times and a case study in what happens when bad people exploit those looking for meaning and purpose. Watching The Vow will make you wonder how much of what you're seeing is reenactment; there is so much footage from the inside of this pyramid scheme-turned sex cult. But the volume of footage and original material the filmmakers were able to capture comes down to the fact that they never set out to make this type of documentary at all. Jehane Noujaim, one of the filmmakers, first encountered NXIVM in 2010 when she took an introductory class, so she set out to make a documentary about the group. She soon began hearing whispers about a "secret sisterhood" within the group, in which women were branded and sex trafficked.
Even if you've already gone down the rabbit hole on Wikipedia, seeing everything unfold on camera is riveting stuff, and will make you think twice about anyone who promises you spiritual salvation. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is—as former members of NXIVM would tell you.
Remember that McDonalds Monopoly promotion? How good was it knowing that not only did a large fries mean that not only did you get to eat fries, but you also upped your chances of winning a million dollars in prizes? Turns out you never had a chance. McMillions tells the story of a former police officer who then worked as the director of security for Simon Marketing during the 1990s.
Here's the premise: Known (creepily) as "Uncle Jerry", Jerome P. Jacobson was tasked with looking after the game pieces at promotional events, so that no employees pocketed any of the prizes. He soon figured out a way to ensure the most lucrative prizes found their way to people he know, who would then share their winnings with him. Over $24 million real American dollars, to be precise. There are twists and turns, and a film adaptation is already in the works with Ben Affleck directing and Matt Damon slated to star.
This six-part docuseries tells the story of Michelle McNamara, the true crime writer obsessed with the anonymous man she termed the Golden State Killer. The devastating crimes ravaged sleepy suburbs of northern California in the 1970s and '80s, and the identity of the serial rapist and killer remained unknown until 2018—two years after McNamara died of an accidental overdose. Knowing she never lived to see justice makes I'll Be Gone in the Dark all the more devastating, but the courage and resilience of the survivors, as well as the people closest to McNamara, offers hope that good can prevail.
Fans of Succession will want to watch The Rise of the Murdoch Dynasty. This three-part BBC docuseries covers the incredible power amassed by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who wields global influence in practically every facet of human existence. You'll learn about his influence in British government and the rise of the extreme right in America, with a new understanding of just how much goes on behind the scenes. You'll relive the phone hacking scandal that shook Murdoch's empire ten years ago after an anonymous whistleblower reported that Fox-owned new organisations had hacked phones, bribed police and exercised improper influence in the pursuit of more power and more influence. And you'll get insight into the sibling rivalry and family drama that could very well threaten democracy as we know it.
The crushing stories from the survivors of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein fuel this docuseries. With Epstein now deceased, having reportedly committed suicide while in prison, attention has turned to co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell, who was finally arrested in July 2020. This series investigates what can happen when people with power exploit those without it. Even if you know the facts, hearing the stories directly from the victims sparks empathy for people who you might otherwise write off as being complicit. Based on James Patterson's 2016 book and was known only as "The Florida Project" and kept on a secret server while Epstein was still alive, which goes to show just how much power he had and just how far he went to keep it.
This Emmy-nominated Netflix original series follows the underdogs of junior college football—the teams that don't get much national attention. Season five follows the Laney Eagles, the 2018 national champions with a whole lot to prove, led by a powerhouse coach on a mission to unite the team in the face of one setback after another. Injuries, anguish and personal demons plague the players who find support in their community and rally together to make it through. Last Chance U is all overcoming adversity and coming-of-age and against-all-odds successes, as well as devastating failures, and like all good football stories demonstrates just how important the game is to the young men who play it. Dip in to this series at this year's fifth season or go back to the start, and stay tuned for a scripted series based on the series' first two seasons, produced by and starring Courtney Cox.
A fast-paced quiz show where the only way to win is by stealing money from your opponents. From the creators of Enron and Going Clear comes an all-new Netflix Original Documentary Series exposing the greed, corruption, and crime spreading through our global economy. Dirty Money is now streaming on Netflix.
Founded in 1935, The Fellowship (also known as "The Family") has been described as one of the most politically well-connected—and most secretly-funded—groups in the United States. It has been reported that senators and congressmen have worked with the group to pass legislation, blurring the line between church and state and affecting the lives of anyone at odds with the conservative Christian belief system. The Family is another docuseries that uncovers what can happen when one person or group wields too much power.
Binged every season of RuPaul's Drag Race and want more? Werq the World is the docuseries for you. The series documents the biggest live drag tour in the world, which features drag queens from RuPaul's Drag Race in an ensemble stage show. Touted a backstage pass and intimate portrait into the global phenomenon of drag, it's also the perfect introduction for anyone who is unfamiliar with Drag Race and how the artform has influenced pop culture more generally for decades.
This groundbreaking documentary series exposes the criminal priests and brothers of the Catholic Church who talk for the first time about their horrific crimes. Brace yourself before viewing, there is little room for light in this three-parter, with award-winning reporter Sarah Ferguson refusing to indulge the two men responsible for some of the most prolific and notorious child abuse in Australia.