Top 10 Best Educational Documentaries on Netflix 2023

Filed in Articles by on February 4, 2023 0 Comments

Looking for educational documentaries to watch on Netflix? There are many documentaries available on the Internet that can spark your interest and teach you about the different realities of life. A must for parents and teachers, these top-notch Netflix Educational Shows and family films explore the weaknesses of the education system around the world and the challenges students face in achieving their goals.

Netflix Educational Shows

These short films and top documentaries on Netflix were created in hopes of inspiring educators and policymakers to take action. Comparable to the works of famous non-fiction film-makers of today such as Andrew Jarecki (Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst), Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing), and James Marsh (Man on Fire), here’s a guide to the best, some Oscar nominated, and eye-opening Netflix education documentaries out there that all men and women would love to watch.

Best Netflix Educational Documentaries

Here are some of the best Netflix educational shows and documentaries to watch

1. If You Build It

Directed by Patrick Creadon

If You Build It is a 2013 documentary film directed by Patrick Creadon, produced by Neal Baer, and filmed on location largely in the town of Windsor and surrounding Bertie County, North Carolina, the state’s poorest county.

The documentary follows a year in the life of an innovative, design-based high school program, culminating with the design and sixteen-week construction of a farmer’s market pavilion, the only farmer’s market pavilion in the U.S. designed and built by high school students.

2. Race to Nowhere

Directed by Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon

Race to Nowhere is a 2009 top Netflix documentary film written by Maimone Attia and directed by Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon. Part of the power of Race to Nowhere is in its personal story. The film came into being after director Vicki Abeles discovered that the pressures of school, homework, tutoring and extracurricular activities were making her middle-school daughter physically sick. The notion that her daughter – a seemingly normal teenager – had been diagnosed with a stress-induced illness was a painful wake-up call and a catalyst for change.

3. American Promise

Directed by Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson

One of the top Netflix Educational Shows, American Promise is a documentary film spanning 13 years from directors Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson. The film captures the stories of Brewster and Stephenson’s 5-year-old son Idris and his best friend and classmate Seun as these families navigate their way through the rigorous prep-school process. The film is set against the backdrop of a persistent educational achievement gap that dramatically affects African-American boys at all socioeconomic levels across the country.

4. Resolved

Directed by Greg Whiteley

Resolved is a 2007 documentary film concerning the world of high school policy debate. The film was written and directed by Greg Whiteley of New York Doll fame. The film captured the “Audience Award” title at its debut on June 23, 2007, at the Los Angeles Film Festival. The film was produced by One Potato Productions. The film made its television debut on HBO in the summer of 2008 and subsequently received 2 Emmy Nominations: one nomination for Best Documentary; the other for Editing for the 2009 Emmy Awards held in September 2009. In July 2009 it was released on DVD by Image Entertainment.

5. Approaching the Elephant

Directed by Amanda Wilder

Year one for Lucy, Jiovanni and director Alexander at the Teddy McArdle Free School in Little Falls, New Jersey, where classes are voluntary and where rules created by democratic vote. Wilder is there from the beginning, observing an indelible cast of outspoken young personalities as they form relationships, explore their surroundings and intensely debate rule violations until it all comes to a head.

6. The Wolfpack

Directed by Crystal Moselle

The Wolfpack is a 2015 is another good documentary on Netflix about a family who homeschooled and raised their seven children in the confinement of their apartment in the Lower East Side of New York City. The film, directed by Crystal Moselle, premiered on January 25, 2015, at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize. The film went on to be the Closing Night film at Maryland Film Festival 2015.

7. Girls Rising

Directed by Richard Robbins

Girl Rising is a movie produced by Kayce Freed, Tom Yellin and Holly Gordon at The Documentary Group in partnership with Paul G. Allen and Jody Allen of Vulcan Productions. It was directed by Academy Award nominee Richard E. Robbins and features narration by Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Liam Neeson, Priyanka Chopra, Chloë Grace Moretz, Freida Pinto, Salma Hayek, Meryl Streep, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington. The movie tells the stories of nine girls from nine countries: (Sierra Leone, Haiti, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, India, and Cambodia). Each girl had her story written by a writer from her country and voiced by renowned actors. Their stories reflect their struggles to overcome societal or cultural barriers.

8. On the Way to School

Directed by Pascal Plisson

Getting to school can be more complicated (and far more dangerous) than simply getting into a school bus. For these children (Jackson from Kenya, Carlito from Argentina, Zahira from Morrocco, and Samuel from India) it involves riding a horse, wading rivers, crossing treacherous mountain paths or traversing African savannas populated by lions and elephants. Yet, their minds aren’t concerned with the dangers on their way to school. The only thing that worries them is getting there on time. On the Way to School will make you question all the things you take for granted.

9. Mad Hot Ballroom

Directed by Marilyn Agrelo

The students of several New York City elementary schools learn ballroom dancing and compete in a city-wide dance competition.

10. Brooklyn Castle

Directed by Katie Dellamaggiore

Amidst financial crises and unprecedented public school budget cuts, Brooklyn Castle takes an intimate look at the challenges and triumphs facing members of a junior high school’s champion chess team.

These educational documentaries on Netflix are also top choices for classroom viewing. However, some schools block Netflix. Most teachers download Netflix shows to show their students during class. In legal terms, Netflix doesn’t allow public screenings of content. Some would argue that this doesn’t apply to classrooms. Below are Netflix’s guidelines for educational screenings of documentaries.

For more information, it is best to contact Netflix Help Center.

Netflix: Educational Screenings of Documentaries

Some Original educational documentaries are available for one-time educational screenings.

To find out which titles are available for educational screenings, go to the “Only On Netflix” section of From here, navigate to “All Alphabetical”.

Titles that are available for educational screening will display the following grant of permission on their details page:

Grant of Permission for Educational Screenings

Netflix is proud to present original documentaries that speak to our users in a meaningful way. We know that many of you are as excited about these films as we are; and because of their informational aspects, you’d like to show them in an educational setting — e.g., in the classroom, at the next meeting of your community group, with your book club, etc. Consequently, we will permit one-time educational screenings of any of the documentaries noted with this information, on the following terms:

  • The documentary may only be accessed via the Netflix service, by a Netflix account holder. We don’t sell DVDs, nor can we provide other ways for you to exhibit the film.
  • The screening must be non-profit and non-commercial. That means you can’t charge admission, or solicit donations, or accept advertising or commercial sponsorships in connection with the screening.
  • Please don’t use Netflix’s logos in any promotion for the screening, or do anything else that indicates that the screening is “official” or endorsed by Netflix.

We trust our users to respect these guidelines, which are intended to help you share and discuss our documentary content in your community.

To the extent your institution requires you to demonstrate that you have a license for your screening, please show them this page.

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