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Documentaries on Netflix

A while back Beth and I subscribed to Netflix.  I originally signed up because I wanted to be able to watch a documentary recommended to me by a friend.  After going through the trial period, Beth realized it was an excellent resource for getting TV series (she is currently watching season 4 of Gilmore Girls) so she can keep herself entertained during late night feedings.  Since we became members, I have fell in love with the online streaming.  Netflix has a great selection of documentaries you can watch instantly from your computer.  This has been a great for me as I often watch these while feeding Mikayla or cleaning the house.


I just went through my viewing history to review the documentaries I have watched in the past few months.  You will notice a clear trend towards science / tech related films.  I have many social justice type films in my que waiting to be watched, but I find I prefer shows about the history and future of science.

I have included a brief description and rating for each documentary I have watched in the past few months:

  • Sick Around the World – Frontline program on the health care systems of various developed countries.  While obviously in universal health care, the host speaks to several critics and explores many of the difficulties of such a system. (7/10)
  • The Medicated Child – Frontline program on the increase of medication in children for various mood disorders.  It is eye-opening see the levels of medication some children are on to “be normal” and worrying when you realize how little research there is into many of these medicines. (8/10)
  • Car of the Future – Nova program on alternative automobile technologies with the hosts of Car Talk.  I love automotive technology and “green design” but what seals the deal for me is having Tom and Ray along for their witty insights.(9/10)
  • Beavers – Imax movie on… you guessed it… beavers.  Helped pass the time while cooking dinner one night, but not very insightful or captivating. (6/10)
  • The Manhattan Project – short Modern Marvels documentary on the making of the atomic bomb.  I have done quite a bit of reading on the subject and this was a great survey of the process.  (7/10)
  • Rat Attack – Nova program on the 48 year cycle of bamboo fruit and the subsequent rat explosion in south central Asia. The lead scientist on this program was a bit of a goof ball, but the coorolation between rat populations and the food supply was fascinating. (8/10)
  • The Spy Factory – Nova Program on the NSA and their role in responding to the September 11th attacks.  The title is a bit misleading, this documentary really had nothing to do with spies and everything to do with how the NSA has used technology to track terrorists (and citizens).  (8/10)
  • Blue Planet – Multi-part documentary on oceans and ocean life. I have only watched a few parts off and on, but the footage is incredible and the story lines are excellent. (9/10)
  • The Natural History of the Chicken – Documentary on the roll chickens play in American life. Watched this with Dad when he was here.  Entertaining, but a bit scattered in scope. (7/10)
  • King Corn – Documentary on American’s reliance on corn and the dangers of it. I became interested in this after watching the director on The Daily Show.  I haven’t finished it yet, but have enjoyed what I have seen. (7/10)
  • The Great Robot Race – Nova program on the quest to produce fully automated off road vehicles and the competition surrounding it.  I love shows on emerging technology and this program did a great job of covering the science / tech while providing a captivating story line.  (9/10)
  • Man on Wire – A documentary on one man’s covert attempt to tight rope walk between the twin towers. First heard about this documentary from Patrick Schreiner.  I was not familiar with the story so it was fun to watch it unfold.  The interviewees were so excited to tell their story that it really pulled you in. (8/10)
  • Extreme Ice – Nova Program on the changing landscape of the polar ice caps.  Originally watched this on TV when it aired on KET, but rewatched it later.  Interesting to see the physical changes of such desolate places.  To make it even better, one of the helicopters shown in the film is one of the first helicopter I ever rappelled out of: N193EH.  (8/10)
  • Born into Brothels – Documentary from a photographer on her time with children of prostitutes.  The message of the film is strong enough to get you through the slow sections. (8/10)
  • Helvetica – Documentary on the history of modern type design and the place the ubiquitous font Helvetica.  I first became aware of Helvetica through a friend of mine Jon Merklin.  The documentary is actually quite fast moving and interesting despite the seemingly mundane topic.  I even wrote a blog post about it earlier: Evolution of type design and the quest for Christian truth (9/10)
  • Stealth Technology – Modern Marvels program on the history and development of stealth technology. Yet another technology type documentary that is entertaining and enlightening. (8/10)
  • Nobelity – A series of interviews with Nobel laureates about the future of the world and challenges we face.  I watched this at the recomendation of a friend.  A bit slow moving, but the final interview with Desmond Tutu makes it worth watching the whole thing. (8/10)
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